Natasha van Horsten is on her way to the west coast of France for her joint PhD in Marine Biology

Read Campus France’s interview with Natasha van Horsten, who is doing a joint doctorate (co-tutelle) in Marine Biology at Stellenbosch University and Université de Bretagne Occidentale in Brest.

What is a "co-tutelle"? It refers to a joint doctorate and means that you are enrolled in two universities (one in France, one in South Africa), have two supervisors, and will graduate from both universities - but you only have one thesis defense.


1. Can you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your PhD research project in France?

My name is Natasha van Horsten and I am from Windhoek, Namibia. Both my parents are originally from Cape Town and I moved to Cape Town for my studies in 2007.

My undergraduate studies was analytical chemistry, I did a National Diploma at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. For my internship, I worked at the water lab at CSIR in Stellenbosch, after which I was lucky enough to be offered a permanent position. I then did my BTech in Chemistry part time, while working at CSIR during which I was introduced to the Southern Ocean Climate and Carbon Observatory research group. I was immediately intrigued and then decided that I want to move over to oceanographic research for my MSc. I completed my MSc in Marine biogeochemistry, a look at Fe and light limitation in Southern Ocean phytoplankton: bioassay experiments, through Stellenbosch University. I am currently registered at Stellenbosch University and in the process of getting registered at the University of Brest, for my PhD which will be looking at the effects of Fe-binding ligands on the cycling of Fe in the Southern Ocean and the seasonal distribution of these ligands.

2. What made you pursue your studies in France?

I was introduced to my supervisor at the University of Brest by my supervisor at CSIR. Our research group had already established a good collaboration with the University of Brest prior to me joining the group. I then spent 3 months in Brest last year, receiving training and analysing samples. During this time I forged a good working relationship with my supervisors and realised that I can learn a lot in France. Working closely with our collaborators will substantially increase the quality of my research. The Fe biogeochemistry facilities at the laboratories in Brest are well established and will facilitate me in my ability to further set up facilities in South Africa.

3. Have you been abroad before?

Yes, I lived in the UK for 18 months after high school, during which time I did some travelling around Europe, France included. I also spent 3 months in Brest last year.

4. Is there a particular reason you chose the city you are going to?

The GEOTRACES (trace metal biogeochemistry) facilities are well established at the University of Brest and I have worked well with my supervisors previously.

5. Where did you find out about the scholarship program?

My supervisor in France sent me an email with a link to the website.

6. What about your stay in France are you looking forward to in particular?

I am looking forward to working with supervisors who are leaders in their field. I am also looking forward to a change of scenery, the opportunity to travel around Europe. I thoroughly enjoy Europe and look forward to spending more time there.

7. Career-wise, what would you like this experience to hold for you upon your return from France?

I would like this experience to put me a few steps closer to completing an impressive PhD and making myself invaluable to the establishment of trace metal biogeochemistry facilities in South Africa. I intend on pursuing a research career in the field and hope to use my time in France to establish myself and make that a reality. Hopefully I can forge more international collaborations for future research.

Find out more about doctoral programs in France by clicking here.

Source: Campus France South Africa

publie le 15/08/2017

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