YOUNG RESEARCHERS. Cecilia Engdahl has recently been appointed chair of Future Faculty. Alessandro Camponeschi is the new vice-chair. All young researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy that have completed their PhD are welcome as members. Doctoral students are also welcome to attend the Faculty’s events.
Since 2006, Future Faculty has worked to promote researchers in the early stages of their careers, including doctoral students, postdocs, research assistants, and associate professors. The network arranges seminars and workshops to inspire and educate young researchers in a variety of areas, such as how the academic career system works and how to write a successful research grant proposal. It also arranges workshops to support young researchers in preparing the necessary portfolio to apply for an associate professorship. The SA-Cone coaching network, started jointly by Future Faculty and the Council for Research (FOR), is another initiative.
Through its engagement in the umbrella organization, National Junior Faculty of Sweden (NJF), Future Faculty has recently expanded its activities nationally and internationally. As a part of NJF, Future Faculty participates in discussions with the Young Academy of Sweden and the Swedish Association for University Teachers and Researchers (SULF) on improvements to postdoctoral positions.
“The objective of these internal discussions is to create a common view on how postdoctoral positions can best be structured. These discussions will form the basis for our recommendations to the Swedish Higher Education Authority,” says Cecilia Engdahl, new chair of Future Faculty at Sahlgrenska Academy.
Another national issue that NJF is discussing is how the proposed immigration legislation may restrict the mobility of international researchers.
New name in the presidium
Future Faculty was one of the first organizations of its kind when it was established at Sahlgrenska Academy 15 years ago. It is led by a board and two of its members alternate in serving first as vice-chair and then as chair.
“Future Faculty has been a safe harbor for me, a place that young researchers can turn to with their questions on how to navigate and advance in the academic system,” says Alessandro Camponeschi, incoming vice-chair.
Both Alessandro’s and Cecilia’s research explores how inflammation is regulated. Cecilia Engdahl is leading a small research group studying how the immune system affects bone growth. Alessandro Camponeschi’s research concerns B-cells and he is currently focused on human B-cell development in health and in acute lymphoblastic leukemia, as well as B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling in B-cell malignancies.
Differences between countries
Alessandro completed his doctorate in Rome, Italy. He came to Gothenburg for a postdoc in Lill Mårtensson’s research group. Today, he is a Swedish citizen and, within a few years, he hopes to establish his own research group at Medicinareberget Campus at the University of Gothenburg.
“I think the dynamics of the academic world are exciting and I want to gain a better understanding on how they work. The academic culture varies a great deal between countries,” he says. Cecilia, who spent time as a postdoc at the University Clinic in Erlangen, Germany, agrees.
“They have a much stricter hierarchy there. Young researchers are not allowed to contact other researchers without first seeking the approval of the more senior members of the group. You are expected to address the professor with their title, never by their first name,” says Cecilia.
“One of the things I appreciate most about Sweden is that it is less hierarchical here and there is a greater interaction among senior and junior researchers,” says Alessandro.
Changes over time
Both Cecilia and Alessandro both agree that the conditions for young researchers have undergone drastic changes over the past ten years.
“The competition has become tougher, and it has become more difficult to find your own research niche. In the past, the opportunity to find a position at a university in Sweden largely depended on whether you had international experience as a postdoc. Now, you also need to be the first author of at least one publication in a top journal when you return, in order to have a chance,” says Cecilia.
“Many young researchers have no hope for a future in the academic world. Part of our job is to raise these issues and begin talking them,” says Alessandro. “I would like everyone interested in issues related to the researchers of the future to participate in Future Faculty’s activities, and this includes senior researchers. This would improve understanding across the different generations of researcher.”
BY: ELIN LINDSTRÖM