Hendra Agustian

PhD in Chemistry Education 2020

Your Time at the University

Prior to my PhD, I had been working as a teacher, curriculum coordinator, and educational researcher in Indonesia and the Netherlands. I have degrees in both chemistry and education, so when I came across a call for application for a PhD in Chemistry Education at the University of Edinburgh, I thought it was an opportunity not to miss.

I applied for the scholarship, which was funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. I will never forget that one day before my interview with my supervisor, I received sad news that my father in Indonesia passed away after months of being ill. I couldn’t easily go back to Indonesia for his funeral, so I decided to go on with the interview. It was a mixed feeling when I heard from Professor Michael Seery that I got the position. That said, my time in Edinburgh was amazing. My research in laboratory education was unlike any other research at School of Chemistry, so I often felt alone, but my supervisor has been a great mentor who was not only there for intellectual stimulation, but also personal growth and professional development. I certainly learned so much about myself.

Hendra Agustian

Whilst pursuing the PhD, I received a choral scholarship to sing at a local cathedral choir, sang with the university chamber choir, went on a concert tour to Nice, Cannes, and Monaco, joined the humanist student association and the conferences of Humanist UK, and met some of the most interesting folks. To crown that, Scotland, Scots, and the Scottish accent were just so lovely. I have been living in several European cities, but when I have a chance to travel, Scotland is always high on my list to return to.

Your Experiences Since Leaving the University

As of January 2022, I will start as an assistant professor at Department of Science Education, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Apart from doing research, I also teach courses in didactics and pedagogy. My student populations consist of preservice high school science teachers, PhDs and postdocs, as well as some faculty members at professorial level. Occasionally also medical professionals. Working in Denmark is just great! Healthcare, quality of life, remunerations, all exceed my expectations. I am looking to settle here, after being internationally mobile for more than a decade. I resume Danish courses and try to build a new circle of friends and hopefully a family here, with a dog or three.

In the last few months working on my PhD thesis, I looked for a research position in Europe. I applied for several postdoctoral researcher positions, got rejected by some, and was invited for job interviews by the others. One of these was at University of Copenhagen, Denmark. I lived in Amsterdam at the time, but they invited me to have the interview in person. The field of research is perfectly aligned with my PhD. I was ecstatic when I got a call from Professor Jan Alexis Nielsen to tell me that I was hired. Two weeks into starting as a postdoc, I had my viva voce. Soon after, the pandemic hit us all hard. And once again I had to put my resilience to test, when at the same time I also struggled with personal circumstances. Ever since I moved to Europe in 2009, I learned how utterly important it is to take care of ourselves, not only physical health but also our mental health and wellbeing. I am very glad to know that both Edinburgh and Copenhagen universities put this high on their agenda.

Alumni Wisdom

Please take care of yourself. Being ambitious in terms of career is fine, but also know yourself. Succeeding in something sometimes comes at the cost of your own health, so please be kind to yourself. Know where, when, and who to reach out to when you have any problem, either in study, (part-time) work, or personal life. Your supervisor is the first point of contact, but lovely people at the counselling service are also there to help you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Sing, laugh, be goofy. Also, being a nerd is awesome! Never let anyone tell you otherwise.