Mr Rudrani Gajraj, Marie Curie Interactive Training Networks fellow at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU)

Categories: Meet the researchers


''EURAXESS was much needed by me at that moment in my life through which I got Marie Curie Interactive Training Networks fellowships. It gave me the exact opportunity I was looking for and my research interests matched with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) and ECORISK2050’s goals. It has offered me a place to enhance my career, employability and skills development. I will have the chance to participate in trainings, summer schools, seminars, workshops from private organisations and universities across Europe. A researcher cannot expect more than that and therefore I feel very fortunate.''

What was your main reason for coming to Austria/BOKU?

BOKU is known for producing quality results in a situation where agriculture is challenging due to climate change issues. Austrian agriculture is confined to certain regions due to mountains and maintaining crop productivity with the help of precision agriculture and quality research is something every agricultural researcher wants to learn. So, after applying at the BOKU and several other places in the EU, I accepted the offer from the BOKU.

Since when have you been living in Vienna?

I have been living in Vienna since January 2019.

Tell us a bit about your research and your educational background.

I am working in a Marie Curie project ECORISK2050 focusing on the effects of global change on the emission, fate, effects, and risks of chemicals in aquatic ecosystems. Being an early stage researcher, my job is to identify the challenges of pest pressures and chemical inputs regarding farming options in the future broken down to farm level (bottom-up approach), involving partners in the field of pest monitoring and warming. Hot spots of critical chemical emission risks (e.g. based on representative information of land use, orography, the timing of crop management options) will be identified, additionally using local datasets and considering multiple weather risks. So I have to understand how pest pressure and related critical chemical emission risks in agriculture will change in the future due to climate change.

I came to Europe in December 2015 through an ERASMUS semester exchange programme during my bachelor’s studies and got another offer soon before finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences. The opportunity was from Erasmus Mundus again and I got the chance to get a Joint Master’s in Plant Health dual degree scholarship in Germany and Italy during 2016-18. During those years I utilised my time to broaden my knowledge base and expertise in agricultural sciences, especially in crop protection, and updated myself by working for short periods with United Nations and Federal Research Institutes in Germany. Passion for acquiring research knowledge never died and, eventually, moving to different cities helped me to gain multi-cultural skills and increase my academic network. So, the experiences made my journey wonderful.

What were the biggest challenges you had to deal with before and after your arrival in Austria?

I was fortunate enough because of my professor’s guidance, who helped me in arranging accommodation and residence permit applications. During the time I finished my master’s degree I was staying in Padua, Italy, and direct bus connections to Vienna helped me to overcome the transport challenges.

What role did EURAXESS / our website www.euraxess.at play in this process?

As we know how hard it is to find a suitable Ph.D. position EURAXESS is a platform that helped me in accomplishing my task. It helped me to find the right places, and their filter search is fantastic. EURAXESS guided me very well in how to make my application successful and I got great contact support. I feel the EURAXESS portal is like an ocean where you can find a fish of your choice.

What surprised you most when you moved to Vienna?

The superior quality of life in Vienna is what surprised me as I am a nature-loving person and I got to see numerous parks, hills, forests and nature spots. Stress-free environments always boost health, mind, and soul. The cultural atmosphere, maintaining traditions, artistic architecture is what surprised me.

What is the main difference between Austria and India in your opinion?

Weather, climate, food, culture, and traditions are different. I find more organised systems in Austria like the practice of mechanised and scientific agriculture. As India is vast we get to see a lot of complexity and unity in diversity everywhere, which I feel cannot be found anywhere. The struggling life in India shapes the person according to their perseverance. Competition in every field is huge, and it depends on the individual drive towards their goals and ways followed. Generally, a girl in India is still societally controlled and requires more parental support and most of the time they are not allowed to make personal decisions in life due to family issues. So, personally I feel good for the efforts made by the European Commission in promoting gender equality in academics.

What do you miss most from your home country?

I especially miss my mom, dad and professors from my alma mater. Indians and spices cannot live apart, and without spices our life is incomplete. So, street food and homemade food are what I miss a lot.

What about your plans – professional and personal?

It is my time now to give the EU back with my research and innovative potentials because the EU raised me and gave me the dignity to excel in my life, as my academic life turned unexpectedly and bringing me on the international platform is unforgettable. So, professionally I will expertise in agricultural research for approximately five years and later on look for work in international global agricultural organisations like UN, FAO, CGIAR, etc. Meanwhile, personally, gaining entrepreneurial skills and finding possible ways for the upliftment of agriculture in rural domains of India and therefore investing my mind in mushroom business with the hope of implementing additional farming techniques in the future along with my friends in India. As someone who has observed and compared the agriculture practised in two different continents I would love to transfer the skills gained in Europe to India in the near future.