As a partner in the International Institute for Environmental Studies (IIES), the students of the University of Eastern Finland were given an opportunity to participate in the 2nd IIES Graduate Students Forum in Hong Kong. Our PhD student Timo participated in this forum that was held November 2-3, 2018 at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). The forum was conveniently scheduled right after the 11th Sino-French International Workshop on Contaminated Soil Remediation in Guangzhou, where Timo and another PhD student in our group, Bhabhishya participated at the end of October.
The topic of the Graduate Student Forum was water and soil contamination and remediation. For two days, graduate students from all over the world presented their research. Talks and discussions were also organized on the topics of writing a good scientific paper, how to get along with one’s supervisor and how to manage time during graduate studies and research.
Timo represented our Ecotox group at the forum and gave a talk about his research topic “Environmental risks of chemicals in effluents discharged from municipal wastewater treatment plants”. Students who performed well in the forum were given awards for different achievements and Timo was awarded for his presentation skills in the forum!
The HKUST campus provided an outstanding arena for the forum. Located at Clear Water Bay, the surrounding landscape is one of the most beautiful in all of Hong Kong. The facilities at the university were also excellent. It is already a great privilege to get to participate to activities like the Graduate Student Forum but to have this kind of event in such an excellent location is truly a dream come true.
Timo was extremely happy with the experience of participating to the forum. Getting to know new people in our field, hearing different views from students around the world on graduate studies and getting to listen to the diversity of student presentation subjects, what more can a graduate student hope for! Our Ecotox group has been involved in many IIES activities before and Timo certainly hopes that more opportunities like this will arise in the future.
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)
Get to know the problem to get it solved. The problem might be something else than it seems at the first glance.
Let your student know that you are willing to help, have common rules for communication.
Have informal discussions (coffee breaks, Happy Fridays).
Make sure that you are aiming at the same goals. Establish a culture.
Stimulate student’s thinking by feedback. Let the student process and understand.
Tips for PhD students
Tell your goals, working style and communication style to your supervisor.
Have goals and structure for all your meetings with your supervisor. Send information beforehand and make memos.
Find your networks and meet your colleagues in informal settings.
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)
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
Apply for open positions and send open applications to local government, central government and third sector.
Look for the possibilities in the private sector. What kind of companies hire doctors from your field? Sell your expertise!
Are there suitable vacancies abroad?
Participate all kinds of job-seeking events and “improve your CV/job interview skills” – clinics. Join a mentoring program.
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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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).
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?
Text and pictures by Kaisa Figueiredo and Kristiina Väänänen
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.
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.
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.
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!
On the 14th of March in 2017 I left Valencia with 30 degrees, nervous but excited, because I knew that an amazing experience was starting. I arrived in Helsinki, and after some delay I landed in Joensuu, where it was full of snow and 50 degrees lower than when I took off. Someone that I didn’t met before was waiting (some hour more because the delay) for me at the airport, Sebastian, who took me to my new home. I couldn’t get in this house if Kaisa hadn’t taken the keys at Joensuun Elli student housing office.
Next day, the experience at the UEF started. Kaisa picked me up, and before arriving to my new office and getting to know my new colleagues, Kaisa went with me to do some bureaucracy. We arrived, and after showing me the laboratories, she introduced me to Kukka, Kristiina, Joan and Bhabishya – all colleagues from the research group. It was time for a coffee for me but lunch for the Finnish people. After this, we made a tour for some high school students that came to visit the laboratories. Next day was the time to meet the supervisor, Jarkko. It was a nice meeting where we started to plan our experiments.
Caffeine and salicylic acid were the compounds that at the end we decided to use for our experiments. Daphnia magna and Lumbriculusvariegatus being our test animals. We started acute toxicity test with interesting results. After these good results, we planned to start chronic toxicity tests with Daphnia magna but these were a bit longer that we thought because there were not enough neonates. Some weeks later, the experiments started with the first generation, followed by the second one. The third generation I could not finish, because my time in Joensuu was over. Kukka and Kaisa took care of the rest of the experiment (thank you once again).
However, not everything was just laboratory in Joensuu. I started practicing some sports (and I am not taking in consideration the rides to the centre by bike). How can I forget the spinning class with Alex (the first and the last one) or the body pump lessons with Kaisa, where I confess the first time I was afraid but then I liked it. The Finnish Conference in Environmental Science was also nice, where I had two posters and one oral communication. I spent lot of evenings with friends I met in Joensuu in JetSet bar, drinking some beers, playing board games and talking about life, something that I loved. In July, it was amazing the Ilosaarirock festival where I was volunteer and I could enjoy one of my favourite bands, Imagine Dragons. If I have the chance, I would love to come back once again to the festival.
August arrived, I had not realized it, and there was not snow anymore. Finally I went to Koli, a beautiful National Park with my lab colleagues, my friends, and I fell in love with those amazing landscapes. The day arrived, 21st of that month, Kaisa picked me up as lot of days during these five months. But this time our destination wasn’t the university for working or hunting Easter eggs, we stopped at the train station. I loaded the suitcases, full of new knowledge, amazing experience and friends while we made the last pictures. The adventure arrived to the end but feeling that I will be back to this city called Joensuu.
Thank you for bringing to me this amazing opportunity.
Text by Eric Carmona Martinez.
Photos by Eric Carmona Martinez and Kaisa Figueiredo.
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).
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
The public examination lasts usually from two to three hours and it is a combination of interesting discussions and tough questions.
Finally, everything is over and it is time to celebrate. Krista served some sparkling wine and snacks after the examination to celebrate the occasion.
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).
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.
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.
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!
Altogether 28 students and 12 teachers & assistants challenged this topic among others in Greenland and Iceland in July, 2016. Arctic Summer School, concerning effects of climate change on arctic ecosystems and societies, was organized by ABS (Nordic Master’s Degree Programme in Atmosphere-Biosphere Studies), and I was lucky to participate on this course together with four other students from the University of Eastern Finland.
Our group consisted of students from five countries and 13 nationalities: all natural scientists from different fields, and all interested and motivated to learn more about climate change. The principal aim of this course was to enhance students’ understanding of research-society linkages and to increase their capabilities to communicate research findings to different stakeholders. The aim of this period was also to widen the perspective of students within natural science by presenting changes of the cryosphere in the Arctic, research on this topic and its effects on the local societies. In other words, the students in natural science were introduced also to social science methodology. Highly interesting and relevant, I would say!
The setup of the course was interesting: five days in Greenland and seven days in Iceland, long days and hard work. The students were divided into small groups with each one dealing with different data sets in Iceland and making interviews with different organizations in Nuuk, Greenland. The students conducted small projects interviewing local communities, working with data obtained from Arctic and sub-Arctic research stations, visit measurement sites, and learn specific research methodologies in both social and natural sciences. My group contributed to the social aspects by visiting the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Nuuk and revising data on carbon dioxide fluxes in Icelandic and Finnish forest ecosystems, on a comparative approach. Other institutions visited by the groups were the national oil company Nunaoil, Greenlandic labour Union (SIK), National museum of Greenland, Ministry of fisheries, hunting and agriculture, and local fishermen – all providing very different aspects and insights into the changing climate and its possible opportunities, threats and impacts in general. The results from the interviews were presented and discussed in a short seminar and many of the thoughts can be read in climate change teaching in Greenland blog (link available at the end of this post).
The change due to global warming in the Arctic is more profound than in other areas. The impacts can be both positive and negative, and they are already visible in many different ways throughout the nature, culture and society itself. For Greenlandic people, especially for the indigenous Inuit that live on hunting and fishing, the warming climate has set up new problems and challenges in their daily life. Fishermen also find difficulties in seal hunting because of thinning of the ice – whether it is too thin for going on a sledge or by foot, or still too thick to go by boat. Polar bears are facing the same problem and approach villages, therefore causing danger to the people living there. On the other hand, the warming climate will also give new possibilities pointed out by the locals. Fisheries benefit from climate change through growing fish stocks. Warming climate also makes it easier to introduce new forms of agriculture, new crops and new types of cattle into the Greenlandic landscape, although along with the melting ice and growing water flow from the glaciers, summer droughts have appeared making agriculture initiatives more difficult. Nevertheless, the change will lead to changes in living conditions: for example changes in wildlife will have direct consequences to hunting, and changes in sea ice cover will have effects on fisheries.
The most important factor in dealing with a greener Arctic for the society will be the adaptation to a changed environment. Greenlanders are used to dealing with the nature and its unpredictable change. Thus they see climate change as a natural variation of their environment, not only as a new threat, where they will adapt in any case and probably faster than in the other parts of the world.
The course was be held in Nuuk and Reykjavík between 3 and 14 of July, 2016, and it was a joint activity of University of Helsinki, ICOS ERIC, Agricultural University of Iceland, University of Aarhus, Lund University, Estonian University of Life Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, University of Greenland, and Greenland Climate Research Centre.
As outcome of the course, the students prepared blog posts that can be read here: