PhD student reflects on outstanding academic journey

Thu, 17 Jun 2021 16:19:00 BST
(Pictured above) PhD Researcher Julze Alejandre
(Pictured above) PhD Researcher Julze Alejandre

A PhD student at GCU has received an impressive number of scholarships throughout his academic journey, and has now been awarded a scholarship to study at an American University. 

PhD Researcher Julze Alejandre has successfully received a scholarship to attend a summer school at Columbia University, with the aim to enhance his quantitative methodology for his research project. 

We spoke to Julze about the process behind applying towards the scholarship, as well as his successes through his academic journey so far: 


Firstly, how do you feel about being awarded the scholarship to attend the Columbia University? 
I’m grateful. I know getting into these summer courses is very competitive knowing how prestigious Columbia University is and the calibre of applicants all over the globe. I’m just thankful that I was able to hand in an application that is not just worthy to get into the course, but also a scholarship to cover my participation as well. I am also grateful to the support of the people who motivated me to hand in my application. 


Could you describe what the application process was for the scholarship?  
It was pretty straight-forward. I had to write an essay demonstrating how my participation in the course will benefit me and my research. After doing my PhD progress report last year, I knew I will be employing a mixed methods research so I mapped out what skills I would need in order to employ this research method. One of them is conducting a survey generating big data. That’s what I wrote in my application; how my participation to the summer school on population sampling and analysing survey data will help me implement the quantitative phase of my research. 


You have now gained a number of scholarships over the last few years – how much has this supported you on your academic journey so far?  
Coming from a developing country where getting into international educational institutions is a privilege of the few, I would say that these opportunities help me a lot as I navigate through my academic journey.  
It’s not a choice of wanting to gain many scholarships but more of choosing between foregoing such opportunities because of lack of resources and looking for ways to have a shot at these opportunities. In my case, I always have to choose the latter. Before doing my PhD as the first Hydro Nation scholar of the Scottish Government at GCU, I did my masters at Bangor University in Wales, as one of the UK government’s Chevening scholars. These support mechanisms help get into some of the world’s prestigious Universities and develop as a leader in my field. 
I know that being a PhD researcher requires a certain degree of independence and that involves knowing your training needs. It comes with an understanding that I don’t know everything and these opportunities will serve as building blocks of my research and professional development. Just when I started my PhD in 2019, I was offered a scholarship to participate in an advanced course on health and climate change with the Johns Hopkins Fall Institute in Barcelona, Spain. That helped me further understand the relationship of health, environment, and climate change which are the core topics of my research project. 
In 2020, I received a scholarship from University of Michigan to participate in their Mixed Methods Programme where I learnt how to develop a mixed method research protocol and the tools that I need implement this. Now, in 2021, this summer course and scholarship from Columbia University is an opportunity for me to learn tools and techniques on how to implement the quantitative phase of my research. 


What are your next steps now that you have gained the scholarship for Columbia University? 
My next steps would be enhancing my quantitative methodology for my research project using the techniques and tools that I will learn from this summer course. I just finished with the data collection for the qualitative phase of my research and now preparing myself for the quantitative phase, so this opportunity just came in the right time. 
I am also one of the co-founders of a science community in the Philippines called Science Chat PH and one of our goals is to help early career researchers build their research skills and widen their opportunities for higher education, so I’m happy to partake any learnings I receive from the course to this community. If there’s an opportunity to share this at GCU, maybe through teaching, then I would be very happy to take that opportunity too. 

Find out more about scholarships available at GCU on their website 


By Rachael McAlonan 

Got a SCEBE or GSBS story? Email me at or connect with me on social media  here