From NOVAFRICA to Royal Holloway, University of London!

The NOVAFRICA knowledge center is the main reason why I started my Ph.D. at Nova SBE six years ago. It is hard to pinpoint precisely why I was so enthusiastic about the center. It was the high quality of researchers. The different projects they had on the ground that I could jump right in and collaborate. The variety of topics they were working on. Their experience raising money for research. Their engagement with policymakers and practitioners. The big international conferences they hosted.  The quality of their work that translated into good publications. And so much more.

Looking back on my academic path, there are three characteristics of the center that made me the researcher I am today.

First, the highly collaborative environment across different seniority levels. While in my first year of the Ph.D., I applied for a research grant together with other junior and senior researchers. While writing the proposal, I discussed ideas openly with professors and with the large group of other Ph.D. students working on development topics. During data collection, I worked with masters students that were part of the NOVAFRICA student group. Some of the professors and master students are now my co-authors in different papers. I am proud that these students are now working on their Ph.D. or at international development agencies. 

Inês doing fieldwork in one of the NOVAFRICA projects

Second, the logistic support during all stages of the research process. They have helped me with grant applications, project implementation, and logistics. Also with grant management and relationship with donors and other project stakeholders. This support was provided by the main office in Lisbon and by the local teams in the developing countries where the center works. Their support on the project daily activities and their knowledge about the local culture were invaluable to the success of my work.

Third, the center’s large international network. This comprises many researchers in top schools around the world. NOVAFRICA has increased its international visibility in the last years and that is something we, junior researchers, benefit when presenting at seminars and international conferences. This reputation effect facilitated my own networking and gave me the opportunity to visit a top school in the US for a year. 

All the support I have received from NOVAFRICA allowed me to have a solid Ph.D. experience. I will take everything I have learned to my next professional step as an assistant professor in the UK.

Inês Vilela, Ph.D. candidate at NOVAFRICA, Nova School of Business and Economics.