Free to be dynamic
A long way from home, Marko Pahor is determined to make the most of his sociology fellowship abroad. The young Slovenian tells us about his experience as a Marie Curie fellow in the Netherlands.
Perseverance has paid off for Marko Pahor. It was second time lucky for the 28-year-old Slovenian researcher when he was accepted as a Marie Curie fellow in sociology at the Interuniversity Centre for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS) in Holland. One year into his fellowship, he is glad he went the extra mile.
"The fellowship has allowed me to work in a new environment where I'm in contact with some of the leading authorities in the field," he says. Interestingly, it was one of the luminaries in Pahor's chosen field who first put him on the ICS's trail.
"At a conference in Budapest, I met Tom Snijders, who is a leading authority in the evolution of social networks, and through him I learned about ICS and the possibility of going there for a year as a Marie Curie fellow," Pahor explains. Now Snijders is one of the young Slovenian's professors at ICS.
ICS is located at three universities in the Netherlands and its main objective is to integrate various sub-disciplines in the social sciences by bringing together researchers from across Holland and beyond.
"Marie Curie fellows offer our regular PhD students valuable contacts with PhD students from other countries," explains Rie Bosman, a professor at ICS who oversees the fellowship programme. "They also offer the ICS the opportunity to establish or to strengthen the ties with foreign research institutes and researchers."
Pahor's research is in the field of economic sociology. For his PHD at ICS, he is looking into corporate networks in Slovenia, particularly the evolution of ownership networks. "It is very exciting to do such research on a transitional country, because the whole process of network formation that took decades in 'developed' economies, is accelerated to only a few years."
Corporate networks was the subject of Pahor's MA at Ljubljana University in Slovenia, where he also did a year of a PhD course before moving to Holland. "My masters got me interested in corporate networks. My thesis gave a static description of the structure of these networks. However, I also wanted to examine their dynamics," he notes.
Marie Curie has helped the young researcher, who found teaching was slowing his progress with his PhD in Slovenia, to concentrate his efforts on capturing that dynamic. "One of the good things about the programme is that it provides enough funds. You don't have to worry about survival and you can concentrate on your work," he says.
He thinks the Marie Curie programme could be improved by showcasing the work of its fellows. "It would be nice if there was the possibility to publish the results obtained during the fellowship in a dedicated publication. This would help young researchers, such as myself, who usually have to wait years to get their first decent opportunity to get into print."
His dedication and enthusiasm are such that his only other complaint about his fellowship programme relates to opening hours. "For someone who is abroad for work, weekends don't really mean much, but the ICS Groningen site doesn't allow 24/7 computer access," he laments.
The devoted young scholar has found a solution in the form of the campus's main library, which is open at the weekend. Another worthwhile weekend pursuit is learning more about his host country. Being abroad, Pahor admits, has helped him pick up a new language and become familiar with a different culture.
Once his fellowship ends, Pahor plans to return to his teaching post at Ljubljana University for a year. He then intends to move on to new pastures in Slovenia or elsewhere in European academia.