Kaikki kirjoittajan kristiinav artikkelit

Finding a job outside the research world as a PhD

During PhD studies, quite many of us spend time figuring, what will the working life be after graduation. What can you do to improve your chances outside the academia?

Krista has worked closely with the industry in TOHTOS project, which aimed to develop the working life relevance of doctoral training. After getting her own PhD, she went to project management and development work in university administration. She interviewed doctor alumni and several organizations that hire doctors to find out, how can you find a job outside academia.

What did the companies say, what are the most important skills for PhDs looking for a job outside academia?
  • Problem solving and analytical thinking
  • Presentation skills (written and oral)
  • Language skills (especially for the international students)
  • Marketing & financing
  • Ability to apply their research knowledge and skill to other areas
  • Wide expertise in your field
Is there something you can do during your PhD studies to increase your employability?
  • Do not be too narrowly focused with your interests. Try something new and experience!
  • Go abroad, if you have a chance.
  • Take another minor to learn new. It does not have to be connected to your main research interests.
  • Network! The more people you know, the easier it is for you to find a job. You will get to know different jobs and be aware, if there are new openings coming to the organizations of your interest.
  • Be great at what you are doing and develop those aspects, where you are weak at
How did Krista find her way to administration?
Kristiina Väänänen at her new job as a coordinator
  • I always liked to organize and coordinate things. Besides research, I found passion for digital communication and started learning that by doing. I joined a professional organization and worked as a board member, treasurer and secretary. I did a whole lot of career planning. After graduation, I got an opportunity to start developing doctoral education. Started it, loved it, and here I am. I had to learn a lot of new tools, to create several new courses to teach, and I got a possibility to work in a large project. Once the project was over, I was offered a new, interesting position, and I happily accepted it.
Is a PhD degree relevant to this type of work?
  • My everyday work is not at all connected to those areas, I was studying as a PhD student (ecotoxicology/biology). I am now focusing on international academic affairs and participating in several projects/processes to improve the international studies in our university. But I use quite a lot of my researcher’s skills in the job: I gather vast piles of information and compose understandable, clear and short reports out of them to support the decision-making. I use modeling software to test, what are the real-life consequences of different decisions. I present my work to different types of audiences, network a lot and learn new every day. I need to adapt fast, be fluent in English and understand different cultures. It also helps to understand digital communication and IT systems in my job. I am not doing research, but I am learning something new every day!

Text by Kristiina Väänänen

It is not okay to choose only one method in ecological risk assessment.

Are the metals causing adverse effects to the environment? In the ecological risk assessment of metals in lake sediment, you can choose several types of methods: chemistry, modeling, evaluating local biota or conducting laboratory toxicity tests. How many methods are enough to say for sure?

In our recent paper, authored by Krista et al., we faced this problem. We studied the Finnish lakes under the influence of metal mining and looked at the situation from several different views. In our earlier study, we started with analyzing metal concentrations – high in sediments, moderate in water. We analyzed the water and sediment chemistry – soft waters, high DOC, high seasonal variation in O2. Based on the chemistry and environmental quality guidelines, there seemed to be increased risk in those four study lakes.

In this current study, we included toxicity tests (L. variegatus, C. riparius, V. fischeri, L. stagnalis) to the picture, together with analysis of macroinvertebrate community structures and metal bioavailability & bioaccumulation studies. Bioavailability was studied with passive sampling (diffusive gradients in thin films) and bioaccumulation by collecting and analyzing body residues in chironomus larvae from the field.

Väänänen et al. 2019 (Science of the Total Environment 662:88–98)

 

And the results?
Chemistry and benthic organism community structure analyses showed risks in the most-polluted half of the studied lakes. Clear toxicity was seen some of the tests, but we assume low pH to be the reason of that in most of the cases. Metal body residues were not high enough to induce adverse effects and the bioavailability was not connected to observed toxicities.

  • What did we learn?
    Acidic sediments with high sulfide concentrations are tricky, when conducting toxicity studies. There were a bunch of adverse effects observed, but majority of them could be explained by the low pH (simplified: metals + sulfides + oxide -> hydrochloric acid -> drastically decreasing pH)
  • Different methods may lead to totally different results. Recommendation: Use several test methods to ensure the reliability of your results. Traditional sediment triad approach includes chemistry, toxicity and benthic organism structure. Since metal speciation and bioavailability are important aspects in toxicity, studies of them should be included.
  • Know your environment. It is easier to evaluate the situation, when you have all the information. One day, we will have enough data to build models for those parts of ecological risk assessment that are still missing. Then, all this knowledge can be transferred to administration and routine environmental monitoring.

Text by Kristiina Väänänen, picture by Jenny Makkonen

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

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)

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

Three research grants for us: for nanosafety, method development and metal (eco)toxicity.

In the past few weeks, we have received many happy news in our research group. First, Kukka got funding from the Maj and Tor Nessling foundation for her Post doc project Searching nanosafety: Solutions for testing environmental effects of nanomaterials.

One of Kukka’s daphnids

Next, our group leader Jarkko got project funding (4 years) from the Kone foundation for developing biotests methods for evaluating the ecological effects of wastewater effluents.

Today, Kristiina received a mobility grant from Outi Savonlahti fund (Joensuu University Foundation) for initiating her Post doc project with the focus on metal bioavailability, toxicity and ecotoxicity. The mobility period shall be in Nanjing University, China.

Congratulations for everyone! And many thanks for all our collaborators for your help with writing grant proposals.

Text by Kristiina Väänänen, pictures by Kukka Pakarinen and Varpu Heiskanen.

Two new Phd dissertations from our research group!

Our PhD students Kaisa and Krista have been working extra hard within the past few months. There were many exciting moments with writing the dissertations and planning for the public examinations. In Finland, the dissertation is first sent to two pre-examiners. They shall give recommendations (is the thesis ready for publication or not) and comments for the final improvements. Then, it is time for final polishing and language editing. Finally, we get the book printed and get ready for the public examination and the evening party, Karonkka.

It was a great moment to finally get the book in your hands. Krista’s can be found in here (Adverse effects of metal mining on boreal lakes:metal bioavailability and ecological risk assessment) and Kaisa’s in here (Bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of polychlorinated biphenyls in boreal lake ecosystems:
predicting concentrations with models and passive samplers).

Krista’s final version of the PhD dissertation.

The most exciting moment was just before entering to the lecture hall, Kaisa is here with her opponent Dr. Kari Lehtonen and Custos Dr. Jarkko Akkanen

Kaisa is on her way to her public examination.

The public examination lasts usually from two to three hours and it is a  combination of interesting discussions and tough questions.

Exciting moments at Kaisa’s public examination.

Finally, everything is over and it is time to celebrate. Krista served some sparkling wine and snacks after the examination to celebrate the occasion.

Krista enjoying the sparkling wine after the examination (see the wide smile!), together with her opponent, Dr. Kari-Matti Vuori and Custos, Dr. Jarkko Akkanen

Congratulations to Kaisa, who already obtained her doctoral diploma! Krista’s diploma is still on the way, in the wheels of bureaucracy.

Text by Kristiina Väänänen, pictures from various sources (published with the kind permission of the photographers).

 

Surviving conference in record-breaking heat – even a panda falls into trance!

In August last year we wrote a blog post about the 2nd IIES work-shop that took place in Kuopio, Finland. To refresh your memory, you can click yourself to the post HERE.

This year was the 3rd year that this kind of a conference is held, and the location changed from chilly Kuopio in Finland to super-hot Shanghai in China. Yes, truly overheated…. during the conference week, we experienced the hottest day in Shanghai in its recorded history, which is 145 years.

The conference was held at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which everyone knows for its Shanghai list of top universities in the world. SJTU is the university that originally compiled and issued the list in 2003, which is not known as renowned Academic Ranking of World Universities, ARWU, being among the most prestigious ones globally. More than 1,200 universities from around the world are evaluated in ARWU ranking. The criteria include, among other things, Nobel and Fields prizes, articles published in Nature and Science, and citations. In the latest 2017 ARWU the University of Helsinki was ranked 56th, being the leader among the Finnish universities. The University of Eastern Finland (UEF) maintained its position and was ranked among the leading 301–400 universities in the world, thus being ranked once again as the second best Finnish university. Aalto University, the University of Oulu and the University of Turku were ranked in the rank range 401–500. Congratulations! Like in the previous years, the top of Shanghai Ranking comprises Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Cambridge, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT. Here is more information about The Shanghai Ranking.

The locations of top 100 universities in the world, by www.shanghairanking.com.

Okay, back to the IIES annual workshop. This year the 3rd Annual IIES Science and Policy Workshop was held simultaneously with International Conference on Low Carbon Development—Responding Post-Paris Agreement on Climate Change: Energy Transmission and Innovation which was also being sponsored by the IIES, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University with the GlobalTech Alliance. The two meetings were held simultaneously and offered participants the opportunity to meet colleagues from a wider range of institutions and to participate in both meetings. The participants came from Asia (mostly China, naturally), Europe and North America. There were sessions on atmospheric pollution – health Interactions, collaborative projects – ongoing or prospective, green technology, low carbon economies – technology and policy, soil resources – contamination and remediation, water resources – contamination and remediation. The workshop lasted four days and consisted of interesting presentations, fruitful discussions, conference dinners and informal get-togethers. IIES welcomes everyone to join the workshop next year – although the location remains unknown yet. You can read more about IIES.

Kaisa giving her presentation at IIES meeting in Shanghai.

The Finnish delegation representing UEF this year at the workshop included four PhD students and three senior researchers complemented with two professors. Two researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) added their forces to the Finnish delegation. Our ecotox group sent two final stage PhD students, Kristiina and Kaisa, to the venue with great success! They both had interesting oral presentation regarding their own research areas: Kristiina about metals in environments, and Kaisa about PCBs in aquatic food webs. Both of them had obviously learned the lesson HERE ) and managed to speak and discuss their topics and co-operate with others with great success. IIES is now starting a post-doc program together with Nanjing University, and who knows, maybe this would be a great possibility in the future also for our soon-to-be PhDs at ecotox research group!

Kristiina visiting the world 2nd tallest building, Shanghai Tower.

Photos and text by Kaisa Figueiredo