DOCTORAL STUDENTS. To give doctoral students the chance to meet and expand their networks, the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology had been planning to arrange an initial gathering for the new semester. After having to postpone the physical meeting for almost a year, it was finally held digitally last week.
The event turned out well, and afterwards several doctoral students said that they would like similar events every semester.
“I think the event meant more than we thought it would. We have long been aware that many of our externally funded doctoral students feel isolated from other doctoral students, but this event made us aware that we also have university-employed doctoral students in great need of meetings like this. The pandemic and the social isolation are apparent,” according to Mia Ericson, professor of addiction medicine and one of the directors of doctoral studies at the institute.
A fifth of doctoral students attended
Participation was voluntary and no registration was required. Of the 200 or so doctoral students registered at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, about 40 attended the event on Tuesday January 26.
“We were especially happy to see so many externally funded doctoral students able to participate, since we felt it was particularly important to reach out to them. In some cases, they are isolated in their daily clinical work and do not always feel like they are a part of the institute,” says Maria Björkevik, an administrator for doctoral studies at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology who was involved in planning the event.
Answers from the head of institute
The organizers worked with the doctoral student committee to create a schedule with useful information in the beginning of the meeting and more social activities at the end.
“One request from the doctoral students was participation by the head of the institute, as many of them had never met her. Jenny Nyström took part at the beginning and talked about the importance of doctoral students at the institute and her own interesting journey from doctoral student to head of institute. She answered questions from doctoral students about career paths and how they can think about teaching,” says Deputy Director of Studies Justin Schneiderman, who was also involved in planning the event.
The SA-CONE network spoke about how their coaches can support doctoral students in planning their professional role and finding their future career path. The digital meeting was mixed with videos, with six doctoral students from different parts of the institute sharing insights on everyday life as researchers. There was also a fun quiz.
Impacted by the pandemic
The institute also took the opportunity to collect input from the participants. During the break, participating doctoral students answered several questions using an online survey. Eighty-three percent of the respondents stated that their doctoral studies were impacted by the pandemic, where being unable to travel as planned was the most common consequence. About a third stated that they were not able to get as much out of digital lectures as in-person lectures and about as many stated that they had received less supervision during the pandemic and that their motivation had decreased. However, the majority of doctoral students stated that they had a network to which they could turn for answers to questions and support for their particular situation.
“We also asked some questions about other things than the pandemic to see what the doctoral students know about certain topics that we hope they are aware of. The responses will be used in the future as guidance with developing the doctoral program at the institute and to understand what we can do better,” says Mia Ericson.
TEXT: ELIN LINDSTRÖM