Suomen Akatemian deadline lähestyy – oletko valmis?

On se aika vuodesta, jolloin tutkijat istuvat tietokoneidensa ääressä hakemassa rahoitusta tuleville vuosille. Meidän alalla kiihkein hakuaika on syys-lokakuussa. Säätiöiden hakuaikojen päätyttyä ei ehtinyt levätä, sillä Suomen Akatemian deadline häilyy jo nurkan takana.

Postdoc-tutkija Krista täyttää ensimmäistä kertaa tutkijatohtoreille asetetun liikkuvuusehdon (väitöksen jälkeen min. 6 kk työkokemusta muualla kuin siellä, missä väitöskirja on suoritettu). Tämä tarkoittaa sitä, että nyt on ensimmäinen mahdollisuus hakea omaa tutkimusrahoitusta Akatemiasta.

 

Miten käytännön työ on eronnut tähänastisesta säätiörahoituksen hakemisiesta:

    • Laajuus. Ei ole helppoa kirjoittaa 15 sivua tieteellisen tarkkaa asiaa niin, että teksti pysyy ymmärrettävänä, selkeänä, johdonmukaisena ja mielenkiintoisena.
    • Budjetti. Kolmivuotisen projektin budjetti on selvästi suurempi kuin aiemmissa hakemuksissani. Kokonaiskustannusmalli tuo myös omat kiemuransa budjetin suunnitteluun. Huolellinen budjetin valmistelu kannatti, talousosaajamme hyväksyi budjettini ensi yrittämällä.
    • Ajankäyttö. Tutkimussuunnitelman, budjetin ja liitteiden (kutsu ulkomaiselta yhteistyökumppanilta, CV, julkaisuluettelo, aineistonhallintosuunnitelma) valmistelu on hidasta. Onhan kaikki tiedostot nimetty oikein ja onko asiakirjojen asettelu ja kieliasu johdonmukaista?
    • Moniulotteisuus. Tutkimuksen ydinkysymysten lisäksi mietinnässä on kansainvälinen merkittävyys, uutuusarvo, merkitys tiedemaailman ulkopuolella, tasa-arvon ja kestävän kehityksen huomioiminen, omat ja yhteistyökumppaneiden valmiudet, tutkimuksen riskit, vaikutukset urakehitykseen, tieteen avoimuuden kehittäminen.

 

Hakemuksen kirjoittaminen onnistuu Kiinastakin!

 

Tämä ensimmäinen hakukierrokseni on opettanut jo paljon uutta! Kun tutkimussuunnitelmaa joutuu miettimään niin monesta näkökulmasta, kirkastuu tutkimuksen tarkoitus ja kulku itsellekin päivä päivältä paremmin.

Vielä on viikko aikaa hioa ja parantaa. Tsemppiä kaikille kanssahakijoille!

Teksti ja kuvat: Kristiina Väänänen

Reflections from the new field course ”Northern Ecosystems in a Changing Climate”

University of Eastern Finland offered a new field course at the Oulanka Research Station in Kuusamo this September in collaboration with University of Oulu. Timo, a new graduate student in our research group, took part in this week-long Northern Ecosystems in a Changing Climate – course.

The course aims to combine latest knowledge of the climate change to the special features of Northern ecosystems. The course was held at the Oulanka Research Station situated in the Oulanka National Park. Oulanka is a very special place as it is a hotspot of biodiversity in the region.

The research station provided excellent facilities for the course. Several lecturers from both universities gave interesting talks on different topics related to the focus of the course. Field portion of the course included a full day trip to Riisitunturi national park and several smaller outings to sites close to the research station. Both Oulanka and Riisitunturi national parks boast extremely beautiful scenery which cannot be fully appreciated through the camera-phone pictures Timo took during the course, although they do give a hint on what a visitor to these places can expect to see.

Downstream view from Kiutaköngäs waterfall at Oulanka National Park

From the ecotoxicological point of view the course was very inspiring. Learning about the special features of our ecosystems gives so much for understanding how different types of pollution can affect the nature. It is also always nice to hear what experts of their own fields have to say about the state of the environment from their viewpoint. This kind of knowledge can complement ecotoxicological research greatly!

Text and photos: Timo Ilo

 

A giant leap from academia to government

How would a biologist who has worked at academia and research throughout her whole career adapt to working in environmental governance? This sounds like a rather giant leap, but is it really so? Our post doc Kaisa was offered an opportunity to work at the North Karelian ELY Centre (Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment) for six months, beginning from August, and she happily accepted the challenge.

But what exactly are the ELY Centres, and what do they do?? The official website says that the ELY Centres are responsible for the regional implementation and development tasks of the central government. Finland has a total of 15 ELY Centres, which are tasked with promoting regional competitiveness, well-being and sustainable development and curbing climate change. Their three areas of responsibility are 1) Business and industry, labour force, competence and cultural activities, 2) Transport and infrastructure and 3) Environment and natural resources. The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) promote regional development by managing the central government’s implementation and development tasks in the areas coming under them. Together with the six Regional State Administrative Agencies (Aluehallintovirasto, AVI, in Finnish) they function as the country’s regional state administrative authorities.

Kaisa has been positioned to the Environment and natural resources area (3) of responsibility, at the unit of nature and land use. Her core responsibility there is to write a new the plan of use and maintenance of Lake Pyhäjärvi, in Karelia Finland. The work requires collecting large amounts of information from many sources, co-operation with other authorities and local interest groups, and of course, planning and writing.

Well, Kaisa, what was the first impression after having started at the new job??

  • This is so easy to answer. The first impression was clear: I do not know anything about anything, and I will never be able to learn these things. Everything is new and completely different from what I have done before, EVEN though my PhD thesis had a clear connection with the environmental governance, and purpose to help the authorities in environmental monitoring and decision-making.
  • University education does not really give abilities for working for the government. In other words, did I spend all these years at the university for nothing??? Is research important for governmental decision-making after all? Why wasn’t I told that GIS is such an important tool for environmental workers?? Or that I should also know something about environmental law, which never really was any of my priorities at the university. Why oh WHY?
  • I am a researcher, what the hell am I doing here in this governmental office??? I used to have academic freedom, and now I am engaged to employee time tracking, and supposed to follow the “virastotyöaika”.
  • And my favorite office mates Krista and Kukka are far away now that I would need them most! I miss our coffee breaks, too.

Now after one month of working there, she has maybe changed her mind a little bit. Let’s hear it:

  • After all, I might know something. At least I know a lot of people who know about something when I do not. I have managed to create a large network of professionals around me during these years, and I know where to find information, when needed. I also know very well about what is going on in research on my field at the moment. I can write reports, I can find and separate the vital information among all the information of the world, which is huge. I get along with different people, and I can prioritize.
  • Even GIS can be learnt quite easily, and everything else, too. It just takes time, and goes slowly, step by step. Co-workers have been great, understanding and helpful. Every day I learn new things and the work itself goes more smoothly.
  • I could easily realize since the beginning, that biologists do work on a wide range of jobs, and research is only one of them. This work is a lot about planning, writing, managing many things and projects simultaneously. Isn’t this exactly what I have learnt at the university all these years? Time tracking is not so bad after all. Somehow all this pushes me to use the working hours more effectively.
  • Office mates here are great, too. And I have to admit that I come to work happily every morning – no matter how busy and intensive life has become recently. During our daily talks about work and beyond I have learnt so much.
  • Lunches are better here than at the university campus, and coffee is not so bad either.

Text and photos: Kaisa Figueiredo

6 reasons to gain international research experience

    1. Learn more. You can learn new research methods, use new instruments and find a whole new way of doing research.
    2. Boost your career. International research period will look good on your CV. At least in Finland, your research career path will be a bumpy one, id you do not have enough international experience.
    3. Get money for your research. Since it is not so easy to go abroad, there are fewer people after the money. Your chances of getting money are better!
    4. Networks, networks! You have a great opportunity to meet other researchers. It could lead to new, co-organized projects in the future.
    5. Superb transferable skills. What an opportunity to improve social skills, adaptivity, coordination skills, and so on.
    6. Language skills. If you are going to a country, where your native language is not widely spoken, you have a wonderful chance to improve your language skills. For us Finns, this part is easy, since there are no other countries where our language is spoken.

This topic was inspired by the current status of our research group. Our post doc researcher Krista just started her 6-month research period in Nanjing University, China. Her work will include environmental chemistry research in one of the top universities in China. The project is funded by Outi Savonlahti fund, International Institute for Environmental Studies, and Nanjing University.

Nanjing University, School of Environment

 

Text and photos: Kristiina Väänänen

How to improve PhD supervision?

Are you a great supervisor? Or are you a PhD student, who is excellent in getting all the supervision he/she needs? If not, read our tips for improving yourself!

University of Eastern Finland and TOHTOS project co-organized a seminar and a workshop for PhD students and their supervisors. Our aim was to find the best practices and tools for successful supervision. Here is a list of our results:

Tips for supervisors (by Sanna Vehviläinen)

  1. Get to know the problem to get it solved. The problem might be something else than it seems at the first glance.
  2. Let your student know that you are willing to help, have common rules for communication.
  3. Have informal discussions (coffee breaks, Happy Fridays).
  4. Make sure that you are aiming at the same goals. Establish a culture.
  5. Stimulate student’s thinking by feedback. Let the student process and understand.

Tips for PhD students

  1. Tell your goals, working style and communication style to your supervisor.
  2. Have goals and structure for all your meetings with your supervisor. Send information beforehand and make memos.
  3. Find your networks and meet your colleagues in informal settings.
  4. Balance your working life and free time.

 

Wish to read more tips and some research background on the subject?

Text by Kristiina Väänänen, pictures Pixabay (CC0)

UEF Ecotox goes SciFest® with science-oriented day care centre Pilke Loiste

Joensuu has been hosting the yearly international science festival SciFest® already since 2007, bringing together thousands of school kids, high school students, and teachers to discover new experiences and learn about science, technology and the environment. SciFest takes place every spring and is free and open to everyone.  This year was a very special year, since for the first time in the history of SciFest, also early childhood education, Pilke Päiväkodit, was represented as an organizer of a workshop.

Early childhood educators of Pilke Loiste and Hepokatti ready to welcome the first visitors to the workshop.

In the neighborhood of Rantakylä, Joensuu, we have a science-oriented day care centre Pilke Loiste. The day care centre has been operating since August 2017, and has been an excellent addition to the educational diversity of Joensuu. The day care centre Pilke Loiste has initiated co-operation with the Science Park of Joensuu, KideScience and their superb teacher Niko Kyllönen, as well as Luma-keskus and some researchers at UEF. They even participated the Epic Challenge project earlier this year with great success and had a chance to meet astronaut Dr. Charles Camarda.

But what does this have to do with our Ecotox group, or this blog? Well, our post-doc researcher Kaisa obviously signed up her two children into Pilke Loiste already months before it was officially opened, and all this has been a huge success in terms of excellent early childhood education AND education in science. As a mother of two, and as a researcher, Kaisa has been in close co-operation with the day care centre since its early days, and SciFest did not really bring an exception to this either.

A research scientist and her preschool-aged son representing Pilke Loiste at SciFest 2018.

We started to the plan the workshop already months before the actual event. The idea was to combine science with arts in some way, as this was the specific theme of SciFest this year. We joined our forces with a music-oriented day care centre Pilke Hepokatti , located in the neighborhood of Noljakka, Joensuu. Since the target group of the workshop were children between 5-8 years, we wanted to bring some simple scientific experiments into the workshop.

The first experiment was to fill a balloon without blowing – using only vinegar and sodium bicarbonate, in order to make the children understand reactions between chemicals. Another experiment was about surface tension – how many water drops could a coin tolerate on its top before sinking from the water surface? Kaisa then came along with a third task to the workshop – creating a food chain/web together with the children, using special educational cards from WWF, meant for learning biological interactions between organisms. Additionally, on the first day of the festival the kids could also create their own music using iPads lead by the head of music-oriented day care centre Pilke Hepokatti.

Pupils from Kanervala school working on a food chain.

To give a better example of the biological diversity of the Finnish lakes and rivers, Kaisa brought some live organisms (water fleas, Oligochaete worms and Chironomids in real water/sediment) from our culture room to present to the kids. Surprisingly, most of the children had no clue about what a water flea was, or that there exists life also at the bottom sediments of our lakes and rivers. This definitely was a nice opportunity to introduce our aquatic research of UEF EnvBio and Ecotox to visitors of the workshop. We held the workshop during two days, from 9-12 both days, and approximately 60 visitors participated the workshop each day, added with some international groups from Iran and Germany, that were very interested in our workshop and the educational concept of Pilke Loiste in general. The feedback about our workshop was very positive overall.

I have been permitted to report now, that the next year 2019 Pilke Loiste will take part in SciFest again as a workshop organizer, and Pilke Loiste has also been invited to join the strategy group of SciFest, to make the event even better in the coming years. This definitely was a huge success, and an excellent opportunity to bring science-oriented education some publicity.

Laboratory organisms meet SciFest 2018.

Quick facts about SciFest 2018: More than 9000 participants, over 30 countries, and 70+ workshops. We will meet again next year in April 25-27, 2019!!

Text and photos: Kaisa Figueiredo

Due to restrictions in rights of publishing photos of other children, mostly Kaisa’s own kids appear in this blog post (with the kind permission of their mother).

How to find a work after PhD?

You got your PhD diploma in your hand, but not a job. What then? As promised in our previous blog post, we’ll talk about how to find a job after getting your PhD.

If your dream career is within academia:

  1. Write a research plan and apply funding for your own postdoc project. There are several foundations and organizations giving out money for post docs. If you include an international research period to your application, your chances of getting the grant are better. Check the application deadlines!
  2. Apply for open postdoc positions (in Finland and abroad). Check www.mol.fi, open positions in LinkedIn and Twitter, plus open positions in the universities’ web sites.
  3. Contact your networks to ask, if they have anything available: Ask your supervisors and cooperation partners, let the people in social media know that you are looking for a job.
  4. Are there any openings (or possibilities for open applications) in research organizations outside universities? In Finland, these could include Geological Survey of Finland, Finnish Environment Institute, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Technical Research Centre of Finland.
  5. Network! If none of the previous options worked for you, widen your horizon. Go to courses, conferences and seminars. Do voluntary work in your field-related organizations. Join a mentoring program. Learn new and get to know new people. Don’t be shy, go and talk to people. Tell them who you are and that you are looking for a place to do your postdoc.
  6. Make sure that your skills are up-to-date, for example by using the following Research Development Framework.
Research Development Framework by www.vitae.ac.uk

 

If you would like to step outside the academia:

  1. Apply for open positions and send open applications to local government, central government and third sector.
  2. Look for the possibilities in the private sector. What kind of companies hire doctors from your field? Sell your expertise!
  3. Are there suitable vacancies abroad?
  4. Participate all kinds of job-seeking events and “improve your CV/job interview skills” – clinics. Join a mentoring program.
  5. Learn, how to sell your expertise to a company. They are not interested on your publication list or diploma – they are interested in what you have learned during your PhD studies and how can you apply the knowledge to practice.

 

What happened to me once I got my diploma?

I have always wanted to be somewhere in the middle – between the research, administration and private sector. Few months before I got my PhD diploma, I started job-hunting. I polished my CV and elevator pitch with my mentor, participated in an international job-hunting event (thanks SETAC Europe), sent five applications to government jobs, applied for one postdoc position and for two administration jobs in university, wrote a research plan (with international mobility) and applied money from five foundations. What was the result? Two job interviews, one job and one 6-month research grant.

 

Text by Kristiina Väänänen, pictures Pixabay (cc0)

What comes after PhD? Career prospects for doctors

You have your PhD diploma in your hand, what now? This has been a relevant question in our research group during the past few years. In spite of being extremely happy about completing the PhD, there is a nagging feeling in your head: Am I going to find a job and my place in the working life?

According to a study by University of Eastern Finland (UEF), our future is rather bright. The recently graduated Joe Average from UEF is unemployed only for a short period. Within 6 months, Joe finds a job in the field of research. Most likely, he gets a permanent full-time position. His salary is 3 000–4 000 euros per month and he works in a university. Not too bad, isn’t it!

The Joe Average – a new PhD graduate from University of Eastern Finland.

 

After completing the PhD, 20% of the doctors from UEF did not have a job. Fortunately, the unemployment periods were short: half of the people found a new job within the first 6 months, and 24% more within the first year. If there were 100 doctors, 80 of them would find job right away. From the 20 persons without a job, 10 would find one in 6 months and 5 more in 12 months. After one year from graduation, 5 would still be looking for a job.

Doctors get more money and interesting tasks

The working life of recent doctors sounds interesting: Most of the young doctors got better salary, more demanding tasks, and a better position, after having their doctorate. A quarter of them were hired for a new position.

Where are the new PhDs from Ecotox group working at the moment?

Are the people from our ecotox group the Joe Averages? Partly, yes. Almost half of our recent doctors (PhD less than 5 years ago) work in the university as a researcher – half of them in Finland and the other half abroad.  Most of us have had a short unemployment period before finding the job. In most of the cases, we were not lucky enough to get permanent positions. But, on the other hand, we have real salary instead of research grant.

How to become a better contestant in job-hunting market?

If you are still a PhD student, use your time wisely. Pay attention to networking, do your work as well as possible, participate in extra-curriculum activities, spend enough time to learn transferable skills (e.g., project management, communications, reporting, financing). Also, recognize and learn the skills in your own field, which you may be missing. If you already have your diploma in your hands, stay tuned of our upcoming post about job hunting.

One of us is working to find jobs for doctors

The current job of our most recent PhD, Krista, is to help PhD students in developing their working life skills/relevance. The most important goal for her is to help doctors getting jobs, also outside the academia. Latest updates of this Tohtos project are found on Twitter, @tohtos.

Text and figures by Kristiina Väänänen

From MSc to PhD – how the process goes at UEF! Part 2.

Public examination

Public examination, or defense, starts always precisely at noon. Rather strict dress code is taken into consideration. Audience enters to the auditorium at 12, and fifteen minutes later, the PhD candidate walks in, together with the custos and the opponent. The examination begins with lectio praecursia, a short introductory lecture about the topic of the dissertation.  After that, the opponent gives a short introduction into the topic. Custos, sitting between the candidate and the opponent, has an important role in the defense: he opens the public examination and is responsible that everything goes by the protocol. Also, he has to make sure that the opponent and candidate do not end up in a fight. During the examination, the opponent makes questions to the candidate – sometimes very easy ones, sometimes rather difficult. The candidate’s task is to answer to the questions as well as he/she can, and to have interactive conversation upon the topic with the opponent.

Some tough questions in Krista’s public examination.

Finally, after opponent’s final statement, the custos closes the examination. But before that, the doctoral candidate must turn to the audience to ask, if someone has something to say against the thesis. Usually no one raises the hand. In case someone does,  the PhD candidate should politely invite him/her to the karonkka party later in the evening (and the person making the question should politely reject the invitation). Duration of the public examination is normally 2-3 hours, but in the official rules, the opponent can spend up to 5 hours for examining the thesis. After examination, the audience is invited for coffee and cake, or sparkling wine and snacks.  This is normally the moment, when the PhD candidate can breath freely for the first time!!

It is time for some snacs after the public defence.

Karonkka

Karonkka is a well-prepared dinner party in the honor of the opponent, usually held in a restaurant or ball room with a fancy dinner and appropriate drinks. The evening begins with a toast proposed by the PhD candidate, followed by a dinner. Later on, it is time for the speeches. The PhD candidate is  the first one to give a speech and thank everyone who have had a role in the process of thesis making, such as the opponent, custos, supervisors, colleagues, co-authors, friends and family. In this order. There is also an unwritten rule saying that everyone whose name has been mentioned in the speech, must give a speech too. Family members may, however, skip giving the speeches, if they wish. Toasts are proposed between every speech, and the PhD candidate must make sure that the opponent’s glass is never empty. At the same time it is good to take care that your opponent does not drink too much! (Yes, we have also experienced this).

Take enough time for your Karonkka preparations! Krista is preparing her decorations.

Degree certificate

Finally, after the public examination and karonkka are over, the opponent has two weeks to give his or her statement on the thesis and defense. The faculty board must accept the defense and decide on a note: accepted or accepted with honor, which approximately 5% of of the doctoral theses are awarded with. Only after this the candidate can apply for a degree certificate and call him/herself  a doctor.

Universities arrange conferment ceremonies every now and then, approximately once every 5 years. The next ceremony at UEF in Joensuu will take place in 2019. These are 3-day-long celebrations of appreciation for persons who have completed their doctoral degree. Participation is not compulsory, but at least in the past a doctor received a permission to use the doctoral hat (or sword in some faculties) only after being ”promoted” in a doctoral conferment ceremony.

Let us introduce our two newest doctors: Kaisa and Kristiina! (they do not yet have the fancy, doctoral hats) Congratulations!! Who shall be the next?

Kaisa and Krista got their doctorates!

 

Text and pictures by Kaisa Figueiredo and Kristiina Väänänen

 

From MSc to PhD – how the process goes at UEF! Part 1.

Every university and institution has its own requirements and procedures for the PhD thesis, defense and everything related to it, beginning from the process of applying for a PhD student position. From time to time we hear experiences from our neighboring countries through colleagues and co-workers. There are many differences between the processes, but also, many similarities. One thing in common is the thesis. Every PhD student must write a thesis, and have a public examination upon the thesis.

We have already written many posts about the daily life of a PhD student, so we will not go into details in this post. You can read more for example here, here and here. From now on we will concentrate on what happens, once the thesis is about to be ready.

Checking the layout practices from the previously printed PhD theses.

The process of thesis making

In natural sciences at UEF, a PhD thesis consists of 3-5 scientific articles, of which at least two must have been peer-reviewed and published (or at least accepted for publication) before public examination. The PhD thesis includes a thorough summary, where the most important findings of the articles have been summed up, to make a readable context that makes sense. At UEF, all PhD students are in a Doctoral School, consisting of 15 different doctoral programmes. Most of the biology students, Kaisa and Kristiina included, have made their thesis and studies at the doctoral programme of environmental physics, health and biology. The doctoral school and  programmes offer courses, and in some cases also grants for PhD students.

It is hard work to get data for you PhD thesis! Sampling campaign in Lake Junttiselkä.

Preparing for the pre-evaluation and public examination

When the thesis is ready, the main supervisor (in co-operation with the faculty officers) proposes two pre-examiners for the thesis manuscript. Not just anyone can act as a pre-examiner, because there are many requirements for one: Must be an experienced scientist, preferably a professor or at least an adjunct professor (we call it ”dosentti” here in Finland). Also, the pre-examiner is not supposed to have any co-operation with the PhD candidate, not reside at the same department or even the same university. Preferably, at least one of the pre-examiners should from a foreign country.  The pre-examiners are given two months for examining the thesis before they need to give a statement for accepting it or not. In some cases, the pre-examiners provide useful tips for improving the quality of thesis, which should be taken into consideration before sending the thesis to press. Since at least two of the articles of the PhD thesis have already been peer-reviewed and accepted, and also the supervisors have proofread and accepted the thesis for pre-examination, the statement is positive in most of the cases. But the process in still important for maintaining the quality of the theses.

The dean gives a permission for defense (väitöslupa) only after two positive statements from the pre-examiners. Then, the thesis goes to language revision and finally to press (Grano at UEF). This process might take up to two weeks, or even longer, if the first draft does not come out in a perfect shape. The printed books get delivered to the candidate before defense, and one copy must be delivered to the library at least 10 days before the defense. Also, a publishing agreement must be written with the UEF library. The library officers offer the key words and classification number for the thesis. This must all be done before sending the thesis to press. A press release must be prepared too, following the instructions of the communications and media relations department.

Also, a proposal for opponent and custos must be made in advance for the faculty. However, this cannot be done before the permission of defense has been obtained.

Remember also:

  • Do not forget to send invitations!
  • Official photo must be taken at a local photographer in advance!
  • Agreement on the dresscode together with custos and opponent.
  • Check the availability and reserve the auditorium in advance, otherwise you will not have options!

What to expect for your defence day? Stay tuned for part 2!

Text: Kaisa Figueiredo

Photos: Kaisa Figueiredo and Kristiina Väänänen