Tobias Birnbaum (Germany) started a PhD @ ETRO in 2016 after watching an Interview with Peter Schelkens about SoA in Holography. He chose the topic because he is fascinated about this topic, although he was also interested in a Doctoral degree in Mathematics, but ETRO offered research in applied Math in the context of digital holography.
Strengths of the program are facilities, training options, international teams, traveling grants and usefulness/applicability of the work.
Weaknesses of the program are too varied to understand what everyone is doing, therefore often missing out on collaboration opportunities in the same building. I met a team member a researcher in Salt Lake City at a conference that worked exactly on what we needed. As we exchanged contacts, we found out he worked at ETRO one floor above us. Also, all university communication is Dutch, while Brussels is mostly French and speaking and courses can be held in English.
The collaboration with fellow students was truly excellent and enriching. Without it, it would have been a much harder struggle.
Personally, it turned me into a more connected and seasoned researcher. I am confident about attempting research in new teams and publishing as main author.
A golden tip for the future generation: Start assembling bits and pieces of the thesis in a loose structure already from year 1, and don’t only collect text chunks until the last year.
My ideal future looks like leading a team working on a green-technology problem using the knowledge obtained during the PhD.