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2011– 2015




Investigative science outside of academia


Interact and network


A passion for answers and a team with a dog


Serendipity moments and following your passion


Embrace the Change! The key to academic success

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Ansvarig utgivare Johanna BäckstrÜm Skribenter se texterna Redaktion Kerstin Beckenius & Natalie von der Lehr Design & layout Martina Andersson Tryckeri E-print ISBN-nummer 978-91-85681-75-4 Karolinska Institutet Career Service Office Email: career-service@ki.se

Content Ann Fernholm 


Jonas Löfling 


Vicky Sender 


Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson 


Jesper Ericsson


Susanne Wolff


Christina Hultman 


Igor Adameyko


Margareta Wilhelm


Douglas Kwon


Thomas Südhof 


Marko Sankala


Kirsty Spalding


Johan Christenson


Anatoli Grigorenko


Alexander Sack


Malene Jensen


Pernilla Lagergren


Karin Dahlman-Wright


Jonas Klingström


Tuulikki Lindmark


Maria Lindebro 


Andreas Lundqvist


Annelie Brauner


Ulf Tedebark 


Linda Lindberg


Helene Andersson Svahn


Molly Stevens


Elena Gorokhova


Mira Ernkvist


Gretchen Repasky 


Anna Birgersdotter


Sten Linnarsson


Christer Ericsson


Career Skills for Scientists So, what can you be with a PhD? Or let us turn it around. What

can’t you be with a PhD? This is probably easier to answer; you can be anything anywhere as long as you have the right awareness and attitude. We, at the Karolinska Institutet Career Service Office, have tried to answer this question for almost a decade now. The answer though, is based on every individual turning to us. An idea about a doctoral course that covers this topic finally became reality five years ago. The interest in this course has increased every year and, since 2011, we have educated about 150 doctoral students. Today we can proudly present a wealth of career portraits written by the course participants over the years. We could never imagine the course would have such an impact on many of the doctoral students and that the examination task – interviewing two PhDs with a career within and outside academia – was one of the best parts of their education. The course is a collaboration with the Unit for Bioentrepreneurship at KI and the society. It covers the many topics that aren’t available in other doctoral courses – for example the transferable skills that you gain as a researcher. Some of the highlights in this course are: • entrepreneurship • live storytelling of career paths • how to plan your postdoc • networking skills • how to brand yourself • job application writing

It has been as rewarding to us as to many of our doctoral students

during the years. By being the organizers and gaining a fantastic network of course alumni, we can emphasize the importance of starting to think about possible careers at an early stage.

The board of doctoral education at KI also acknowledges the

course by financing 10–15 internship positions every year. All course participants have the possibility to apply for a one month


fully financed internship at a company or organization such as governmen​tal agencies, pharmaceuticals, non-profits and many more. About 60 doctoral students enrolled in the course have had the opportunity to partake in an internship, which has given them a broader network and new skills to use in their education. Some have been recruited by their respective internship companies after graduation and others have continued in academia in a postdoc position with new perspectives. The participating companies and organizations are searching for the high performing doctoral students at KI, emphasizing the quality and market value of a PhD in medical science. We are looking forward to organizing this course for many more years to come, constantly developing the content depending on how the wind blows both within and outside academia. New career opportunities will arise and we are certain that our doctoral students are highly employable with the right combination of scientific skills and awareness of the many career paths. Thank you all for these 5 years of challenging and fun work! KERSTIN BECKENIUS & ANETHE MANSÉN Career Program Managers Karolinska Institutet Career Service


Five years of fun The course “Career Skills for Scientists” is celebrating its 5th anni-

versary and I am very proud to have been a part of it from the very start. In the first year my involvement was somewhat indirect as I was one of those interviewed for the career portraits. Whereas, in the second year I got directly involved in the course by giving a talk about my own career. Since the course participants are assigned to write two career portraits, I also gave some tips on popular science writing and interview techniques, something that improved the quality of the texts immediately.

But the real fun started the year after, when I was asked if I could

give feedback on the career portraits before the participants submit their assignment. Since then my mailbox gets crowded every year with interesting and inspiring people, both within and outside academia. I just love “meeting” all these personalities, learning about their careers and listening to their advice. Every portrait has something that makes me think and reflect and I am amazed by the variety of positions that are represented in the profiles. Some course participants interview the scientist next door or a former coworker, some take the opportunity to connect with a Nobel Laureate or CEO of a big company. The collection you hold in your hand is a selection of all of these portraits and I hope that you are both as amazed and as inspired as I have been.

One thing that strikes me is that the portraits get better every year.

Partly because I have learned what the course participants need to know and how to encourage them to be more creative and daring when it comes to writing. Maybe my own career move – from scientist to journalist – is also an inspiration. After all, science and journalism have a lot in common: you start with a good question, do your research and then sum it up. As a scientist you are already used to working hard for little pay and you have gained many skills that you are not aware of but that you can implement in many other jobs, like in journalism. You just need a few tips and a push in the right direction and all of a sudden you can pursue a scientific career with a pen instead of a pipette.


If you can do science, you can do anything; I could not agree more

with the message that KI Career Service is trying to convey.

I hope that I will be a part of the course for many years to come. I

want to continue both inspiring and getting inspired and meeting many interesting scientists – both in real life through interactions with the course participants and via my mailbox when meeting the persons who are portrayed.

NATALIE VON DER LEHR, PhD in Molecular Biology Freelance Science Journalist at NatScience and cofounder of RadioScience, a podcast about science

Note: Some of the persons who are portrayed have moved on to new jobs and positions. The texts represent their position at the time at which the portraits were written – you can find that information underneath each text.

Photographer: Renaud Huynh, Museé Curie.


Ann Fernholm “I was driven by the idea of investigating the research world. I felt that some researchers mostly were trying to prove their own hypothesis, instead of seeking the truth.”

INVESTIGATIVE SCIENCE OUTSIDE OF ACADEMIA Ann Fernholm is a science journalist and has published several books that are popularizing science. With a doctoral degree on her CV she is not afraid of questioning scientists and uses research studies for investigative journalism. I meet Ann Fernholm for lunch at Medborgar-

platsen, close to her work place where she sits together with other freelance science writers. As we pick up food at the lunch buffet I notice that she doesn’t take any rice and I ask if she follows the LCHF (low carbohydrate, high fat) diet that she writes about in the book ”Ett sötare blod” (A sweeter blood). She answers that she doesn’t follow it strictly, but tries to eat less carbohydrates.


The book is about how the increasing consumption of sugar, in different forms, the last decades has affected our health, and particularly patients with type-2 diabetes. The book has become very well cited and although its main focus is on research studies, it has been compared to a thriller. Long before Ann came to the stage of publishing a book, she was a PhD student in biochemistry at Uppsala University. She graduated in 2001 with a thesis about glutathione transferases. However, even though she liked the group members, she did not find the research area very exciting. The semester before her thesis defense, she took an evening course at ”Poppius” journalist school. After receiving her doctoral degree Photographer: Mia Carlsson, Natur & Kultur

Ann got an offer for a postdoc position at Harvard School of Medicine, but turned it down to pursue a career in journalism. “I was driven by the idea of investigating the research world. I felt that some researchers mostly were trying to prove their own hypothesis, instead of seeking the truth,” Ann says. LIFE AS FREELANCE JOURNALIST

Ann prefers to work as a freelancer, since she likes to be her own boss. Today she regularly works with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. These jobs give her financial security and allow her to work on other topics that interest her. Ann has often contacted journals and other media with her own ideas for articles or TV programs. Once she met the doctor who took care of the first HIV patient in Sweden, which inspired her to make a TV documentary about how HIV first came to Sweden. Another time she attended a conference when a medical doctor leaned forward to her and said “Nobody has ever shown that sun creams protect against melanoma”. She investigated the statement, which turned out to be true; suncream only protected against the sunburns, not against cancer. For that feature she received an award for the best science journalist of the year.

The LCHF diet has therefore become a highly controversial subject with some governmental agencies sticking to the old diet recommendations and a few researchers, doctors and bloggers pushing for new guidelines,” she says. Ann gets very enthusiastic when she talks about nutrition research, and I feel more like I am listening to a researcher than a journalist. With her background in biochemistry she can truly be an investigating science reporter by reading the original research reports. She has become very critical to how the studies are designed. “I can sometimes wish that I could go back to research now and do some really well designed studies about the effect of carbohydrates. After investigating research studies for these years I would probably become a much better researcher,” she says. ANDREA BJÖRKMAN, 2014

From internship to investigative journalism Thanks to her work on popular science journalism during her PhD, Ann managed to get an internship at ”Ny Teknik”, a weekly news magazine about new technology. The timing was right – in 2001, George Bush had just forbidden research on embryonic stem cells and the area received a lot of media attention. Ann’s special knowledge was then appreciated at Ny Teknik.


When Ann was writing about children’s health she came in contact with a person having type 2-diabetes that had changed to the LCHF diet. The change had decreased her blood sugar levels dramatically and she no longer needed to use insulin shots. Ann continued to dig into the subject and discovered numerous studies indicating that LCHF diet would benefit type-2 diabetes patients. Still, many of these patients were recommended another type of diet from the medical care. One brochure suggested meals including white rice, desserts with pancakes and an afternoon snack containing a bun with sugar. “The paradigm stating that fat is bad and leads to high blood cholesterol is about to change.

After that Ann has worked at many places, for example: •

Utbildningsradion, which makes educational programs for television.

Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet

The Swedish Research Council

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

The San Francisco Chronicle (with a scholarship for innovation journalism).


Jonas Löfling “The only thing I miss about academia is the flexibility” When Jonas Löfling started looking for jobs outside the academic field, he got in contact with a recruitment company that matched him with a vacant position as environmental microbiologist for AstraZeneca.

a postdoc at the University of California in San Diego. For three years, Jonas stayed in the lab in San Diego, studying glycans and publishing excellent science but also enjoying the Californian life style.

Jonas contacted a recruitment company about a

When leaving San Diego, his interested shifted

job advertisement and was invited for an interview. It was the consultant that decided that Jonas, because of his background in microbiology, would be very suitable for a position as an environmental monitoring engineer at AstraZeneca. “It was a coincidence that I got the position that I have today,” he says. “My job is so diverse, I really like it,” he adds. Besides keeping the numbers of microbes and particles in the production facilities low, he is also writing risk assessments in order to ensure the quality of the pharmaceuticals they produce.

back to bacterial interactions with host cells. Therefore, he got in contact with professor Bir­ gitta Henriques Normark from Karolinska Insti tutet who offered him a postdoc position that later turned into an Assistant Professorship.

Although he enjoyed the flexibility that comes

with a research position at the university, he was aware of the difficult funding situation. “I am quite disappointed by the fact that scientists will be mainly judged by the impact factors of their publications instead by their scientific ideas. Therefore I do not regret leaving academia.”

His scientific career started with studying biolgy

at Stockholm University. Afterwards, Jonas did not know whether he wanted to stay in academia or not. He did not really enjoy lab work but he also felt that he had too little information about opportunities outside university and therefore applied for a PhD position at Karolinska Institutet. The project focused on the interaction of bacterial proteins with the human immune system, concentrating on proteins covered with sugar molecules, so-called glycans, playing an important role in bacterial attachment to cells.

During his PhD studies, Jonas was a member of

a biology network where he got in contact with 12


Jonas Löfling Education: Master of Science from Stockholm University, PhD from Karolinska Institutet 1999–2006, Postdoc at the University of California San Diego 2006–2009, Karolinska Intitutet 2009–2011, Assistant Professor at Karolinska Institutet 2011–2013. Job: Environmental Monitoring Engineer at AstraZeneca 2013–present Hobbies: Climbing, Surfing, Chess, Photography

Vicky Sender “I really enjoy the challenges I encounter within an academic career” Vicky Sender Education: Diploma in Biology from the University of Rostock (Germany), PhD from the Research Center Borstel (Germany) Current Position: Postdoc at Karolinska Institutet in the group of professor Birgitta Henriques Normark

Vicky Sender built her scientific career in steps. The skills she gained during her undergraduate and PhD studies helped her finding her postdoc. Now she is ready to climb up the career ladder in order to start her own research group. Vicky Sender is planning the next step of her career, being either

another postdoc position or the application for a grant in order to finance her own research and/or start her own group. ”To become a successful scientist, you need to be curious, able to motivate yourself and to focus on your research,” she says. Additionally, she gained different skills during the years in academic research adding up to her expertise today. Early in her career, already during her undergraduate studies at the University of Rostock, Vicky learned to plan and perform her experiments independently. She obtained the ability to write scientifically, as well as conceptual planning. The postdoc position in the group of Birgitta Henriques Normark taught her to coordinate several projects and to manage collaborations. “It is important to plan your next career steps well in advance in order to prevent big gaps in your curriculum vitae,” she says.

Additionally, she took several opportunities to expand her know­

ledge and expertise about work in academic research by attending courses and conferences, organizing scientific meetings and of course writing grant applications, an essential skill of a group leader. Being aware of the fact that academic research is a very compe­titive

field, she is still looking forward to the challenges waiting for her. “I know it will be tough to get funding and manage several people but I really like the fact that this job is almost never routine,” she says and adds: “And of course I really like the flexible working hours.”


Photographer: Stefan Zimmerman


Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson

Photographer: Gunnar Ask

Harriet’s career advice: Build your network, sell yourself, unashamed. Be proud of what you have achieved, make yourself visible. Be brave and make contact with powerful people. And do a postdoc.

I took this task as an opportunity to talk to one of the most inspiring persons I have met at KI, Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, former president of Karolinska Institutet and now professor at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. The interview took place in one of the small, eighteen-century houses right in front of the brand new futuristic auditorium. When interviewing Harriet, her enthusiasm is radiant; her eyes are practically shining with focus and drive. “I have been doing the most interesting, rewarding and fun thing I can think of. I still am, and it’s almost too good to be true,” she tells me. At the moment, Harriet has a position as professor of physiology at

KI, and also has commissions both nationally and internationally. She is finally doing research again, which is great fun! “I have just recently been to Danderyd Hospital and taken muscle biopsies,” she proudly tells me. Her research is focused on diabetes type two and how muscle exercise is connected to insulin sensitivity. Her main area of medical expertise is clinical physiology.


How did she end up here, in the old wooden

house at KI doing research on diabetes? Harriet tells me she never quite had a plan for the future, it was more like the parts of the puzzle pieced themselves together in a good way. And although this worked out very well for Harriet, she recommends that you do have a plan. Her plan, such as it is, has mostly been that “it’s such great fun!” A great plan, in my humble opinion. Harriet has always been interested in finding out things. Her interest for physical training and medicine and health care has formed her path. She started out at GIH – the Swedish school of sports and health science. There, it so happened that the lecturer in physiology was professor Åstrand, who very vividly and enthusiastically described how the body works. Harriet’s interest for physiology was sparked, and decided to get at least a Bachelor of Medicine. While studying medicine and doing research at GIH on the side, she realized that interacting with the patients and working in the clinic was very rewarding and interesting, and she became a medical doctor (MD). All this while doing research, and sometimes jogging with diabetes patients in the woods behind Huddinge Hospital. As a PhD student, Harriet had very good supervisors. They taught her to think for herself and she learnt how to reason, how to answer questions and how to design experiments. This is something she has tried to teach her students as well, with somewhat varying results, she admits. After defending her thesis, Harriet managed to

squeeze in a postdoc amongst research, working as a physician and raising children. She and her husband got funding for postdocs in the United States, as she felt it was natural to go abroad to broaden the perspective. After the postdoc, Harriet chose to continue to combine research and clinical work as MD with building a research group, to supervise PhD students, publish and apply for grants and all that. This she did for ten years. “It was great to have the privilege to do the most rewarding and fun things you can imagine, and on top of that get paid to do it.”

The turning point in her career came when the

Medical Research Council called and asked her to become vice secretary. Thus, she began the path of more research-administrative responsibility that a few years later led to her becoming the first and, so far, only woman director of KI. The decision to eventually accept the director candidature was not easy, as it would mean putting her research on the back burner for a long time to come. Yet, she felt that it was rather safe to accept; she was sure she would never be elected as KI had never, in its then nearly 200 year long history, had a woman director. This would however change. Before all that happened, she became Dean of Research at KI as well as first secretary of Medical Research Council. She believes that this primed her for the director post.

“Freedom and privilege to create new knowledge” But exactly how much did KI change during

the nine years with a woman director? When electing her successor in 2012, there were no women candidates, nor were there for the dean positions. Harriet feels that this points towards a backlash in the equality development. She does not know why no women entered the candidature, but speculates: “It could be that few women are prepared to face the kind of pressure that comes with this position – from the media, from within KI, from politicians – and as a woman you face even more pressure.” As the first woman on the post, she felt that some of the male structures at KI had a hard time dealing with her. Despite the director post being such an exposed position, it was also great fun. “KI is regarded with great respect, especially internationally, and I felt proud to represent our University.” 15

KI secured large grants during her period, and she began promising collaborations such as the SciLifeLab. She also completed a successful fundraising campaign, bringing in one billion kronor to Karolinska Institutet. Now, when she has finally returned to research,

she relishes in the newly given room to think, to ponder and process. There was perhaps too little time for this as director of KI. “I think about the overall way we do health care. There is too much focus on curing sickness, and too little on how to prevent it. Society cannot afford this imbalance,” she says. She enjoys putting her unique competence, experiences and network to the best use. She is often asked to give lectures, talks, advice, to participate in almost anything and everything. She only says yes if she feels this is something where her experiences will make a difference. In the future, she looks forward to being further involved in research. However, not by having PhD students, but rather as a senior support for her group. She has also been asked to sit on some boards.


I inquire why the academic research, and not

the industry, has been so appealing to her. “The freedom,” she answers. “The freedom, and the privilege, to pose your own questions and to do research and find the answers. To create knowledge.” SOFIA STENLER, 2013

Mini CV: Resumed professor position at KI: 2013– President at KI 2004–2012 Secretary of Medicine at the Research Council: 2001–2003 Dean of Research at KI: 1999–2001 Professorship in Physiology at KI: 1998 Docent at KI 1988 PhD at KI 1987 MD at KI in 1986

Jesper Ericsson

INTERACT AND NETWORK Apart from laboratory work, Dr. Ericsson had a keen interest in the possibilities of commercializing science during his PhD studies at Karolinska Institutet. He took several approaches to find his current employer during his PhD studies. “I always had a keen interest in combining science and business and always made it a point to develop my skills in both those fields during my PhD studies. While spending a lion-share of my time working at the lab, I did evening cour­ ses in entrepreneurship, to build networks for life-sciences,” he says. During his PhD Dr. Ericsson had a six months

internship at an American company, where he became acquainted with active decision making in an industrial setting. “Moving from science to marketing has facilitated my understanding of the business world. I use my scientific understanding to explain to customers, who are mostly scientists and academics, and get my products sold. So in a way I translate my scientific understanding to sales and marketing,” he says.

Right from the earlier period of his PhD studies

Dr. Ericsson was determined to enter industry and ensured he was building skills necessary for that. Today he is the sales manager at BioLamina AB, Stockholm, Sweden and his work involves talking to customers worldwide and to sell pro­ ducts of BioLamina.

Photographer: Ulf Sirborn

“Every day is different as it involves interaction with customers either in person, telephone or video chatting.” He got his present job by mingling and empha-

sizes that one must network, go for seminars, workshops and meetings organized by the potential prospective companies.

The valuable transferable skills that he gained

during his PhD is to critically question things, scientific reasoning, problem solving, data presenting, making logical claims and working in a group and gaining knowledge based skill, all of which help his job. After being in the industry he boosted his sales and marketing, project management, public relations and communication skills. His advice to a PhD student hoping to enter

industry is to be strategic as early as possible. “Know your goals, work on it and remain optimistic. Many PhD students falsely believe that right after their PhDs there are several jobs waiting for them, but it can be as competitive as academia. Opportunities in industry are rarely announced, hence networking is very important. You also have to know the market and to know the market you need to interact and network!” FIROZ ROSHAN KURUDENKANDY, 2015


Susanne Wolff


Photographer: Søren Svendsen

“What is the driver for you?” Susanne Wolff, an expert on diet, nutrition and health, knew early that her goal was to improve people’s awareness of the importance of nutrition to human health and make them aim for a healthier lifestyle. “The best thing with my job is that I am able to impact both our products to make them healthier and people’s knowledge around nutritional wellness.” Susanne Wolff’s current position is Nordic

Nutrition, Health and Wellness Manager at Nestlé Copenhagen. Her role in the company is to improve the products in a nutritional way in terms of reducing sugar, salt and fat and increasing wholegrain. Another very important aspect of her job is to educate the personnel in basic knowledge of nutrition and improve their personal awareness around nutritional wellness in daily life.

Her career started with a Bachelor of Science in

Food Engineering. At the end of the education she did a half-year internship in Australia working on how starch impacts development of diabetes. This caught her interest in how nutrition affects health. Therefore, when she came back to Denmark, she continued her path by completing a Masters of Science in Human Nutrition at Copenhagen University. After her studies she was very eager to use her

gained skills so she took a job at a hospital close to Copenhagen at the department of nutrition. Here they studied how to prevent and treat obesity as well as handling patients with lack of nutrition.

After two years a project was set up with the aim

to prevent obesity among overweight pregnant women, which also become Susanne’s PhD project. At this point Susanne had already become the head of the department at the hospital.

“Combining this position with a PhD was challenging but very inspiring. I could directly see the use of the project and how it could help the women,” she says. After her PhD she continued her path in human health with a postdoc at the Institute for Preventive Medicine. The postdoc project was a register based cohort study analyzing the development of obesity among Danish school children and impacts in their later life. “Looking back at my PhD I feel that it opened many doors that made me capable of looking at a project from an overview as well as down to details. Another important thing I learned was to discuss science and to communicate it to the public.” During her maternity leave she started think-

ing about where her career was going, what her drive was and where she saw herself in the future. She decided that her drive was that she wanted to implement all the knowledge she had gained. To her luck the National Board of Health in Denmark announced that they were looking for an expert on obesity and nutrition. Susanne fitted perfect and got the job. The position involved making public campaigns about obesity and nutrition, and how laws could be implemented to decrease obesity, such as sugar taxations.

Susanne has now worked at Nestlé for four

years. She says that her PhD has been very important since it has given her the ability to read scientific articles, determine what the most important is and the ability to communicate the science to consumers. “Think really carefully about what the driver is for you. Know your stomach feeling and be true to yourself!” is her final advice to PhD students. SUSANNE VON STOCKENSTRÖM, 2015


Christina Hultman

NO TIME TO RETIRE On a cold morning at the beginning of February I found myself in the office of Christina Hultman, Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet. The cold on this particular morning had found its way also to my inside, and the embarrassment over my heavily running nose switched to curiosity when Christina out of the blue started talking about her career. It was impossible not to feel the air of enthusiasm and Joie de vivre surrounding her. I was there to retrieve a copy of an ethics permit, but I soon re-

alized that this would be just the right person to inspire young people just about to take their first steps into the unknown realm of the post-PhD world, eagerly seeking advice of the older and wiser. I asked her if she would consider expanding on the topic in an interview. With a flattered smile she agreed.


Photographer: Stefan Zimmerman

Christina was born in 1946 in Uppsala and at

research as a young scientist is a real discouragement, making young scientists choose alternative career paths.

age 22 earned a bachelor degree in psychology. At that time, she didn’t regard continuing with an academic career as a proper job, and instead focused wholeheartedly on her clinical work. Always in search for new challenges, she further specialized in her field, managing the development of the department work and doing extra time as a public relations manager of her clinic. Her engagement reached far beyond her clinical work, as she juggled responsibilities as president of the psychologist union and as director of the medical history museum in Uppsala.

rigidity in the system, and that sometimes you need to know what buttons to push to make things happen, she has to think hard to come up with examples of obstacles. “Of course I have very real examples of people judging me to be too old to be starting up research but on the whole I have not experienced any substantial difficulties,” she says.

It was not until she reached her 40’s, and real-

That however is related to an advice that turned

ized that pursuing a clinical career in Uppsala did not provide her with the challenges she wanted, that she was ready to take on the academic world. Once defending her PhD she was however again lured back into the clinical world by the tantalizing job offer as head of her clinical department. “In retrospect I’ve never been very goal-oriented, I have been motivated by challenges and the prospect of learning new things. The basis of decisions regarding my career has often been guarded by a pleasure principle,” says Professor Hultman.

A turning point in her career came when she

applied for, and received funding as an assistant professor from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet). “It was a big personal step for me,” she says, “daring to move to Karolinska Institutet, not really knowing anything about epidemiology, it was like starting my career all over again.” I ask her whether she had enough support in the academic setting during her startup period, and if she experienced any significant obstacles once starting her academic career. There is of course a specific reason for me asking this particular question, a reason I believe I share with many PhD candidates at Karolinska Institutet. The feeling that it is next to impossible to start up your own

Although she confirms that there is certain

out to be one of the more valuable moves of her career. Upon startup, a fellow epidemiologist told her that the key to success was to get an internationally renowned mentor, a person that the Swedish scientific society holds in high regard. At the time psychiatric epidemiology didn’t really exist in Sweden. So when she found herself listening to a talk by Robin Murray, a world authority on psychiatric genetics, she decided to contact him without further ado. “I have always been a little disrespectful, not really grasping the convention,” she says. So sending him a copy of her thesis she asked if he knew someone that would be interested to be a collaborator on her new research. Luckily, Murray accepted the invite himself, and she thinks that this has been crucial to her success. “In a small country like Sweden it is decided at a very early stage whether the scientific community – and the decision makers within – thinks you are worth supporting or not.”

With a hint of surprise in her voice she tells me

that she was already old when she earned her PhD – 49 and a half she points out – and that she never expected things to turn out so well. With an amused look she continues telling me that she was invited for dinner at the Vice-chancellor’s upon reaching retirement age, and was presented with the question “what have you achieved here at KI?” The short reply was: “Not enough!” 21

So with no ambition to retire she continues her work at a steady pace. “I became Professor so late in life and I haven’t finished my mission yet. I hope I can use the reputation and personal brand that I managed to build to support and finance young researchers in my field.” With her story she hopes to inspire young PhDs

not to be too impatient, and not expect your every career move to be a perfect one towards your goal.

“After years of work many people realize that all the skills they acquired over the years converge, lifting your expertise to a totally different level. You will end up in right place eventually. It is so fantastic to do research, so many possibilities and paths, so don’t give up if you really have set your heart on continuing with academic research. And get yourself a mentor,” she says. Leaving her office I feel lighter, the optimism and high spirits she transmits still lingering inside me, and I find myself thinking that anything is possible. MAGDALENA KEGEL, 2014


Igor Adameyko “Go wild and do whatever you have to do to be able to do what you like” Having always been enthusiastic about science, Igor Adameyko is living his dream and is now leading his own research group at Karolinska Institutet. Coming to Igor’s office feels like entering a jun-

gle – plants as far as the eye can see. Both desks, his own as well as the desk where he welcomes visitors, are barely visible under all the green. It is a very relaxing atmosphere, and as we start talking I quickly notice that his passion for science is even bigger than the one he has for plants. “I always knew that I wanted to do science. I never had any doubts,” he says. He laughs when he thinks back that his father, a physician, was not particularly happy with that choice. He did not consider it to be a proper job, but Igor, at that time, did not care about the money but just wanted to follow his dream. After achieving his PhD in molecular biology in Russia, Igor moved to Sweden for his postdoc and is now leading his own group at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, concentrating on different aspects of stem cell biology. The way to the top of the pyramid is tough and hard work, and there are many problems and fears one has to face on the way up. “One needs some naive stupidity to become a successful scientist,” he says with a smile in his face. But he tells not to worry.

“Before you hit the problem, don’t think about it. You will solve it once you are confronted with it.” Before he had his own group he had troubles to focus on writing. Now, as he no longer can

procrastinate, he can easily write ten pages a day if required. “It is all training. Like going to the gym. Every time you go it is a little bit easier.” Igor has currently gone through the process of hiring postdocs and is full of advices how to select and approach potential postdoc labs. His suggestions remind me of an instruction manual for assembling IKEA furniture. It is very simple, one just hast to follow some logical steps. According to Igor it all starts with defining the

areas you are interested in, by screening through table of contents of different journals. The title should want you read the whole article and spark your interest to work in that lab. Choosing five to six labs of each area of interest and collecting publications of each lab over time is the second step. After some time has passed, reading the articles will uncover whether you still would be interested in working in that lab. The final step is to send an email to the PI, and also for this last step he gives me a quite specific advice. “PIs want someone who is smart and enthusiastic. Do not write a standard email that you send to hundreds of labs. Personalize it, and show that you are really interested in getting a postdoc position in that particular lab.” Most crucial, in his opinion, is to be honest and to not formulate your emails excessively formal. “Go wild and do whatever you have to do, to be able to do what you like,” is his last and important advice. MARIA HÖLZL, 2015 23

The Career Service Office educates doctoral students and postdocs in blogging by organizing workshops held by a science journalist. This is a chance for you to communicate the life as a researcher at Karolinska Institutet and the life in Sweden. The blogs are published at wordpress, on the Career Service webpage, on Facebook and twitter. We are always looking for new researchers to join our team of digital ambassadors.


Photographer: Nina Milenkovic

Do cars and grants have anything in common? POSTED ON 4 JUNE, 2015 BY ELA KOSTRZEWA

Recently, I have overheard this conversation between two researchers in a coffee-room: – So, are you expected to submit some grant proposals soon? – Well, it’s not that I have to do it but if I would like to get a job after this postdoc, then I should. I could, of course, potentially, get a position for another postdoc at a lab which already has funds but in a long run this is not good for me. After third postdoc the latest you are expected to start a research group with your own grant money. While submitting a grant-application, you should show that you have received some grants before. In other words, to get money, you should show that you were able to get money before. – Hmm, this is an intriguing system. It reminds me of the situation with owning a car. To own a car, you should live in a culture that introduces you to the concept of owning a car. Not to mention that you have to be able to afford it. On top of that, somebody has to drive you to the car dealer! How would you get there otherwise? – Oh, you won’t believe it! Last weekend I biked to a car dealer and I entered their garage wearing a bike helmet! – That must have been weird! – It was strange indeed. They seemed quite surprised… They probably wondered: ‘What kind of person comes by bike to a car dealer? How can you buy a car if you can’t even afford to rent a car?’ That’s what they thought for sure. That is just how I do it; I always go against the system. But that is not smart. Believe me: go with the system. It’s way easier. I wonder what would be an analogy in the grants and science context to this bicycle helmet… Would it be getting funding for research using the crowdfunding?

https://researcherblogski.wordpress.com/ 25

Margareta Wilhelm

A GROUP OF HER OWN THANKS TO TRUE MOTIVATION Margareta moved with her family to Toronto in Canada to do a postdoc after she had finished her PhD. It turned out to be one of the best experiences in her life, and it was the starting point for her present career as a recognized scientist at Karolinska Institutet. Margareta’s true passion for research and gut feeling guided her through many important steps on the way. “To go for a postdoc was the only choice for me. No other alternatives existed in my mind.” Margareta sits back in her chair and smiles as she remembers that time, already 10 years ago. Margareta did her Masters in molecular biology up in Umeå, at an Institute where the atmosphere was very research-orientated, and hence she started to look forward to going abroad early on during her studies. Margareta next went on to do her PhD in tumor biology at Karolinska Institutet (KI). Soon after she had defended her thesis, Margareta’s and her fiancé Håkan’s first 26

child was born. Håkan had also just finished his PhD but in contrast to Margareta, he was not sure at all that he wanted to go for a postdoc. “I had to persuade him, and I told him that if we are ever going to do something like this together it has to be now, before our son gets too old. So Håkan got to choose any city in the world, as long as we would go for a postdoc together,” Margareta says and laughs. Håkan picked Toronto since one of his favorite

labs was situated there, and that was fine with her. Margareta spent much time during her parental leave looking for postdoc positions, and she went for three interviews before she made up her mind. It turned out to be an easy choice in the end, since everything clicked with the research group of professor Tak Mak at the University of Toronto. She thought that both the project itself and the people in the lab felt right.

Once in Toronto, Margareta really enjoyed her time as a postdoc in Tak’s laboratory. “I think that doing a postdoc in a lab like that is more efficient compared to most labs in Sweden. Over there, you can focus entirely on your research, since you don’t need to think about administrative tasks, like applying for funding. Just take the fact that Tak had 15 lab assistants for 20–25 postdocs, and I hardly even had to supervise students.”


important advice is to constantly apply for all types of funding, so that the committees recognize your name. “It makes you show yourself, and you have to be seen in this business! Actually, I could never have imagined how much help Tak would mean for my career. He has always pushed me in front of himself. Also, both Marie and my boss during my PhD, Klas Wiman, have always been there for me. One should not underestimate the importance of getting support from more senior and already respected researchers.”

Margareta developed a lot during her postdoc.

Margareta is grateful for all the help she got, she

She learned many new methods and how to work with animal models, and she developed skills in how to become a project leader. She was also lucky since she could take over a project which was already up and running, and from which she got preliminary data to build further on. Most importantly, she could take the project with her when she later went back to Sweden. “An important tip is to ask this question already at the interview, since it will impinge on your whole career,” she says. Except from the research part, private life was also convenient in Toronto since she and her small family lived only 300 meters from the lab, and the hospital where they both worked provided a daycare center.


After 3,5 years in Toronto Margareta and Håkan decided to move back to Sweden. Just like last time they moved, they felt like it’s now or never, since their son was already getting adjusted to Canada and they felt like they could easily have stayed there forever. “During the first year back in Sweden I constantly missed Canada,” Margareta says. When she came back she didn’t have enough

funding to be independent, but she was supported by a more senior researcher, Marie Arsenian Henriksson, at the department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology (MTC). Margareta joined Marie’s group until she had gotten enough funding to start up a group of her own. She thinks that one

emphasizes however that she would not have gotten where she is today without all the hard work. “Being able to produce good scientific results is essential for being a scientific leader,” she points out.


The hardest part after getting enough funding to start up her own group was to find group members, since it was difficult to tell if a person was suitable for the job or not. Eventually, she learned that trusting her gut feeling works well most of the times. Margareta believes that being an Assistant Professor is like managing your own company, since you are responsible not only for the research, but also for the financing, administrative things (which she personally thinks are really boring), and for promoting yourself and your group. “My stress levels are constantly high, through the roof actually,” she says while stretching up her arm, laughing. “Most of the time it’s a positive type of stress but sometimes it boils over.” This type of job situation might seem almost im-

possible to handle for most people, but Margareta believes that the key is true motivation. “You have to love research and science; otherwise I think it’s impossible. If you have the interest and the drive, most things will work out automatically in the end. I have always done what feels good right now, and never thought so much about the future. It has worked so far,” she says and smiles.


Douglas Kwon


Photographer: Melis Anahtar

Illustration: Douglas Kwon

A PASSION FOR ANSWERS AND A TEAM WITH A DOG Even on the phone I am aware of Douglas’ strong passion for his work, he is a trained medical doctor but during his clinical years he saw many issues in the clinics which lacked answers, and he wanted to be the one addressing the questions such as ’What is the mechanism behind this?’.

asked about the type of training he missed out on in his academic education, the answer was management: how to hire people, how to deal with conflicts and how to create a team culture. ”I have read a lot of team management books in order to understand team dynamics.”

After finishing his postdoc in the 90s, HIV was

The rest is learning by doing. New applicants

a topic with even more unanswered question than now, so he decided to focus on HIV. Today, he is a physician scientist and Director of Clinical Operations at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard and his group works on the application of new technologies to the study of immune responses against HIV at mucosal surfaces. Now and then he returns to the clinic to treat patients. ”It reminds me why I do this and it is a great source of interesting questions that need to be answered.”

should match the lab’s values: passion for your work, honesty and the willingness to work in a team and to contribute to creating a culture. These are also the criteria he applies to his collaborators. ”They need to match my personality and do great work, when interests are complementary, networking and collaboration should happen organically.”

The Kwon lab sticks out on the Ragon Institute

1. Be honest and ask yourselves “What work environment do I need?”

website. For instance there are tabs for ’lab life’, capturing moments of activity in and outside the lab, and ’lab personnel’, presenting all group members, including the lab dog Boomer! I got the impression that Douglas has an interesting and, based on my experience, quite unconventional approach to managing his team. When


Douglas’ advice to PhDs:

2. Is research really what I want to do? Don´t assume postdoc is the natural constitution. 3. Be balanced and anchor yourself outside the lab.


Thomas Südhof

Photographer: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media AB

HOW A NOBEL LAUREATE SEES HIS CAREER Thomas Südhof is the most successful scientist I have met in person. As a PhD student working on a related topic, I was lucky to meet him when he was awarded with the Nobel Price 2013 in Stockholm. Now, more than a year later, I wondered whether he was still interested in speaking about his career to me. I can only imagine how many interviews he must have given in the last year. But Thomas Südhof did take the time for the interview and his answers were surprising. Thomas Südhof is very happy in his current position. Over all these years, he never lost his appreciation for science since he strongly believes it is extremely valuable to society. He finished his PhD at the University of Göttingen, Germany. There, he discovered his interest in vesicle transport within cells. That time, he explains, was one 30

of the most important in his development as a scientist. Being left without supervision in the lab, he was given the possibility to become creative, independent and to do a lot of important mistakes. Now, he smiles about that time. “It was scientifically really stupid what I did in the lab there,“ he says, emphasizing that he would not want to change any of the steps in his career, early or late. GUT FEELING ALL THE WAY

Surprisingly, Thomas Südhof does not see himself as a strategic thinker at all. He never had a 5-year-plan or even a clear idea of which concrete position to aim for next. The fact that he went to science and did not become a medical doctor was a gut feeling decision, made in the last second. Similarly, years later, after he had

become a group leader and assistant professor in the US, he was recruited back to Göttingen, to help build up the department of neuroscience at the Max-Planck Institute. But soon he had to make a difficult decision. Staying meant to adapt to the new structure and philosophy, which was not according to what he had expected, nor was he completely agreeing with them. Moving back to the US meant a hierarchical step downwards compared to the current position in Göttingen. Finally, going back to the US was a gut feeling-based decision as well, he states. HARD WORK AND LITTLE SPARE TIME

However, Thomas Südhof is a scientist of the “old school“, conventional type. His career mostly is the result of hard, enduring and incredibly focused work, combined with a remaining fascination for cellular processes. When I ask him how he manages to maintain his daily energy, he admits: ”I am an extremely bad example for a healthy work-life balance. I don´t have much spare time, and the little I have I spend with family and friends.” Just like now, as we conduct this interview, as he is waiting for his children´s swim class to end.

to his experience, scientists rarely become better leaders than the supervisors they once had worked for. He also experienced that many top labs offer extremely variable atmospheres, and that, too, makes it very difficult to directly apply common business-tailored management strategies to scientific environments. What position would he apply for today, if he

had to start over? “I would try to get a group leader position with less people but complete financing, thus allowing for full focus on the actual science, and experiencing the delightful absence of the tiring grant pressure.” MARTHA-LENA MUELLER, 2015


Being a successful scientist with an own research group of course also demands nonscientific skills. The abilities he appreciates most in his co-workers are curiosity, honesty and independence. When we speak about people management, HR and how to become a good leader, his answer is passionate and straight. “So much is talked about that. Transferring the business world ideas of leadership and people management to academia is mostly nonsense.“ Most research groups are much smaller than the companies where HR departments and management strategies are crucial, and from which the concepts and development arose worldwide. He thinks it probably is most valuable to young scientists to identify excellent mentors during their career, the subject does not even matter, and learn as much as you can from them. According 31

Marko Sankala


Photographer: Anders Norderman

PROFESSION SCIENCE: SEVEN QUESTIONS TO MARKO SANKALA Marko Sankala is a Sales Development Manager - Life Science Specialist for Sigma-Aldrich in Helsinki. He spends his days meeting with clients, presenting new products, selecting and contacting new customers, and discussing their scientific research.

What do you like about your job?

Have you ever thought about a postdoc, Marko?

I am a Life Science specialist; there is no way I could get this position without a PhD and research experience. It is very important in the approach to the customers too, being able to say that I have worked in a lab builds up trust and familiarity, it is very useful. My background helps me in screening for new clients as well. Just by looking at the lab homepage I can figure out what kind of research they do, what techniques they might use, and what instruments and products they could be interested in. My experience at KI makes me very good at my job. But not everything has been easy.

Well, after my PhD at Karolinska Institutet I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a postdoc. My boss kept me in the lab as lab manager for two years after my graduation. I applied for a postdoc fellowship – nice group in Finland, cool project, three years grant. In the meantime my boss got a call from INVITRO, their CEO was looking for somebody with a PhD that could talk in Finnish for a sales representative position. I fitted in perfectly, and I got the job.

What happened to the postdoc position?

After six months at INVITRO I got the postdoc fellowship and I was asked to either go or give up the money. I felt that six months were not enough to decide to leave a job, and I wanted to stay a little longer before making up my mind. There’s always time to find a postdoc position if you want to go back to research. In the end I like this job so much that I have never regret my decision. How did you end up at Sigma?

I knew a guy working at Sigma, he let me know that they were looking for somebody with my experience and language skills at Sigma in Finland, for a Sales Manager position. I called the Finnish office directly, and met their manager – who was in Stockholm – straight away. I didn’t know anybody in the company, the environment was less familiar than the one in INVITRO, but I was confident in my experience, and I had many customers that knew me already.

I love my job. I like to contact people and visit new labs. New products are coming all the time, I like to see how they can improve research, I find it very exciting. I was tired of lab work! How did you gain the skills needed for this job?

What do you mean? What do you think was missing in your background?

Well, how to sell a product was not included in the PhD! It has been very difficult for me in the beginning; calling people I didn’t know, trying to describe what I could offer them in exchange of their precious time and persuading them to give me an appointment. The company offered only a very short introductory seminar about “selling tools”, and I had to study a lot to learn everything about the different products. Do you have any advice for PhDs looking for their way in Life Science?

Oh, yes! Be very active, show your interest for the company, even if there are no openings at the moment. Send your CV and they will remember your enthusiasm and call you when they will have a position available. RADIOSA GALLINI, 2012


Kirsty Spalding

SERENDIPITY MOMENTS AND FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION Kirsty Spalding is originally from Perth, Australia, and never imagined that she would become a research group leader in Sweden. Now she is Assistant Professor at Karolinska Institutet and the focus of her research is the origin and turnover of adipocytes, their progenitor cells and lipid stores in lean and obese individuals. Her story is full of serendipity moments and the path that brought

her where she is today has revealed itself as it was walked. “I never had a clear career path in my head when I was about to finish my PhD. I just rolled into it. I think I ended up where I am because I love science and the nature of it, the curiosity, but I didn’t recognize it from the beginning. I love problem solving, not learning techniques.” CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

During her PhD in Neuroscience she won a scholarship to go abroad for one year and she immediately thought of going to Europe. It was again by fate that she decided to come to Karolinska Institutet – by chance she attended a lecture by Jonas Frisén and became really excited about the topic of stem cells. She and Jonas immediately clicked so she came to KI in 2001 and did a project for one year in his group before finishing her PhD in Australia. The project was extremely exciting and challenging and focused on developing a technique for carbon dating of cells based on C14 levels


in genomic DNA. It took four years until she published this work, but it was well recognized and published in Cell. During this time she also had a job offer in Australia to work for a venture capital firm liasing between them and academic institutions. “Even though it was a dream job, the project with the carbon dating was way to exciting, I felt simply I couldn’t give it up. Working in research gives me freedom, freedom of thoughts and time; going to industry and making more money but losing all this freedom is just not something that would make me happy,” she says with sparkling eyes. FROM POSTDOC TO INDEPENDENT GROUP LEADER

Two years into her postdoc she received an Assistant Professor position from the Swedish Research Council. The toughest thing for her was to delineate from Jonas’ research and do something completely new. She continued the projects with Jonas for two years before making the decision to become independent and start to work on adipocytes, an area of research that attracted her due to the many unknowns and also since obesity has become a major health concern. Today her research group has one PhD student, three postdocs, a lab manager and a technician and their research is published in

Nature and other top journals. “Go abroad for a postdoc and then come back, keep in touch with senior people here and network with those you meet abroad. I also encourage people to become independent as soon as possible,” she concludes her final advice to PhD students who are about to finish their PhD and plan for an academic career. SPERANTA PUIAC BANESARU, 2013

Physiology instead of Psychology Kirsty’s journey started with a degree in Psychology and Exercise Physiology because she likes sports. “Biology was always a topic that I enjoyed and came easily, so I combined them in that regard,” she says. She quickly discovered that she wasn’t passionate about psychology and it was purely by chance that she took classes in physiology since they were listed alphabetically next to psychology. Her first lecture on single cell physiology fascinated her and that was the beginning of her career in biology.


Johan Christenson


Photographer:Dan Coleman

OFF THE BEATEN PATH From clinician and scientist in pediatric neurology to Global Product Director at Astra Zeneca to venture capitalist in life science – Johan Christenson’s diverse career pathway fascinates. As partner of the venture capital firm HealthCap, no days are alike. “My work consists of two main parts. I meet with companies, entrepreneurs and scientists to find new promising products to invest in. I work with the companies we have invested in by joining their board and setting up business strategies.” FROM HOSPITAL TO INDUSTRY

Working as investor is not what Johan had in mind when he started medical school. After defending his thesis in Neurosciences in 1991, Johan pursued a clinical and scientific career in pediatric neurology. He had only one year left on his pediatric residency, when he decided to switch hospital for the industry. “To leave the hospital was a tough decision, but I felt dissatisfied with the bureaucracy and lack of flexibility surrounding my working environment. I had a friend who had repeatedly asked me to join him in the pharmaceutical industry, and finally I took the leap.” As project director of the newly established unit on pain control at Astra, Johan received all the freedom he had lacked at the hospital and thrived. He advanced quickly and was soon given an international role in the company. By that time, Astra had merged with Zeneca. The company culture was changing, and Johan felt that it was time to move on. BECOMING YOUR OWN BOSS

A game of tennis lead to his next move. The fellow-player was director of venture capital at SEB. They were looking for someone to supervise their life science investments. Johan was recruited. He had no background in financing, but his experience from Astra Zeneca and knowledge of medicine came well into place.

When three former colleagues from Karolinska Institutet invited Johan to join their venture capital firm HealthCap as partner, he agreed and went from being an employee to employer. That was 12 years ago. In spite of Johan’s diverse career path, there is one thing in common. “The red thread is my interest for applied medicine – to find out how research and inventions can benefit the patients.” THE LEGACY OF A PHD

Johan emphasizes three main lessons from his PhD. “I learnt the importance of team work and to work with people from different cultures. I learnt to be perseverant and to not give up in spite of disappointments.” If there is anything Johan lacked during his PhD studies, it is to adopt a helicopter-view when formulating research questions in order to understand how your research can contribute in a larger context. “I also wish that we had had more exchange of ideas and information with other scientists, key opinion leaders and people from other fields.” SCRUTINIZE YOURSELF!

Johan’s final advice is to thoroughly think through what you want. “Ask yourself what you enjoy to work with. Don’t choose a job because it is cool. Choose what you think is fun.” WENJING TAO, 2013

Top five advices for a successful and diverse career 1. Listen to your gut feeling 2. Work hard 3. Have fun 4. Be prepared to change your direction 5. Play tennis!


Anatoli Grigorenko

MULTI-TASKING IN THE ENTREPRENEURIAL WORLD When I asked Anatoli Grigorenko for an interview he warned me that his career path might not be a very typical one, but that was exactly why I wanted to learn more about it. He received his PhD in 1995 in Moscow and is now co-founder of Y-lab, a company that provides tailored health and performance improvement programs to individuals and companies. For the first years after his PhD he worked as a postdoc in Sweden, but then he decided to leave the academic path and to put his knowledge to use on the free market. “So you guys know everything about training?”

That was the question of a Swedish woman who was visiting his lab in Moscow. At that time, Anatoli was doing his PhD at the Russian State Academy of Physical Culture and Sports and he was happy to discuss questions about how to measure health related effects of training with her. It turned out they had lots of things to discuss. So, after his PhD in 1995, he moved with her to Sweden where they not only started up Y-lab, but they also became a couple. Initially, his wife ran the company while he helped out next to his work as a Research Associate at Karolinska Institutet and at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences. During the first six years, Y-lab was mainly focused on research and development and on providing education for trainers, instructors and teachers. Then, in 2001, they opened the wellcare center in the heart of Stockholm. “We wanted to work with the whole person,” says Anatoli about their motto. That means considering both physical and mental factors in a person’s health. 38

“I like to be close to the actual results of what I’m doing”

During a typical day, Anatoli does a variety of tasks; he makes economy plans, checks contracts, pays bills, meets customers, performs measurements or prepares lecture material. “And I change lamps, too! What comes along with moving into the entrepreneurial world is multi-tasking,” he explains. Although he likes the diversity of his work a lot, it can also be frustrating at times, for example when different tasks collide. One of the best parts of his job is that he is often very close to the outcome of his work. Seeing that his training plan for a customer works out or that his students gained a lot of knowledge during a course is very rewarding for him. “Systematic thinking and troubleshooting”

Those were the most useful skills he acquired during his PhD. The importance of his PhD topic was, as he says, close to zero. It was way too specific. However, at the time prior to his PhD, his lab worked with performance limiting factors in elite athletes which was of very high value for his later career. “Follow your interest and study the market”

For PhD students who consider leaving academia he suggests to study the market and explore opportunities of how to utilize your knowledge. Especially in health related areas, more people are needed who can bridge the gap between academia and industry, he explains. DIANA MÜSSGENS, 2013

Alexander Sack “I kept my options open until the very end” Alexander Sack, Professor of Neurocognitive Psychology at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, started his career as a psychology student in Frankfurt, Germany. He simultaneously worked at a consultancy company to finance his Masters’ studies. Although the company offered him a job as a consultant, he decided to follow his passion for research and for the emerging tools in the Cognitive Neuroscience field. Yet, he always told himself that doing a PhD did not necessarily mean that he had decided for an academic career. During his PhD he fully focused on his project without making any strategic plans. Now he is professor, but he kept his option to go back into the free economy business open until the very end of his PhD. His first postdoc position was the result of what he calls a few nice publications that raised the awareness of a renowned Professor in the field, who offered him a 2-year fellowship in his lab. “My postdoc was a prolongation of what I did before”

Both methodologically and content-wise his postdoc was a prolongation of his PhD research. One of the most valuable experiences from his PhD studies was to work in an interdisciplinary team of psychologists, psychiatrists and physicists and to find a common language across scientific disciplines. Being part of a group where he would explain the statistics to physicians and the psychiatrist would tell about psychiatric brain disorders was very inspiring for him.

“As the career advances a researcher more and more becomes a manager”

Some things that his PhD did not prepare him for were making business plans, being responsible for large budgets, supervising large groups or dealing with contracts and financing. Yet, he thinks that no one in the field is really prepared for this and that one just slowly grows into this role. “I can do my research”

What he likes the most about his current position is his independence. In his research he combines various brain imaging and brain stimulation techniques to investigate mechanisms underlying visual cognition, attention, learning and memory. He likes having a nice group of PhD students and postdocs in which he can follow his own lines of research. He is very happy to be in an inspiring environment with an excellent infrastructure and that he can help young researchers to get their career off the ground. “Love what you do”

Lots of energy, mixed with skills and a hunch of luck could be his recipe for an academic career. “The 10–20 percent of PhDs that end up in tenure-track academic jobs are probably the ones that really full-force go for it, don’t question it, are good at it, and were lucky to be at the right time at the right place,” he says. He advises current PhD-students to have focus and passion. “Concentrate on your PhD, love what you do, and maybe, if you want to think a bit strategically, try to give your own research a unique twist.” DIANA MÜSSGENS, 2013 39

Malene Jensen

? Calti Group AB (self-employed) Founder & CEO





n ti o Project va o n


WHAT DO YOU DO? ”After finishing my PhD I was sure I wanted to move on from academia, preferably to the pharma/biotech industry, but I did not know how.” Somehow investment banking and analytic work seemed to be the right choice and Malene went ahead and asked people in the industry ”What do you do in jour job and what do you look for in a candidate?” The answers helped her to get and prepare for

job interviews. The result of a personality test in a job interview made the recruiter state, ”you are not an analyst, but you have the profile of a project manager!” This was a turning point.

Malene reflected about her strengths & drives

and realized that in order to get a project management position in the pharma/biotech industry she needed either experience in this industry or experience in project management. In order to find a job in project management, she reached


out to her network and was invited to AEC, a company selling IT solutions for project and portfolio management in a variety of businesses, where she started as project engineer. This job included various tasks such as project management, teaching and a lot of customer contact, which she enjoyed. Missing being able to apply her science background she remembered her original plan to work in the pharma/biotech industry. A former colleague during her PhD time at KI

had started at AstraZeneca and she went to ask him ” What do you do in your job?” – and went on to apply to a position in Astra Zeneca for which she was hired. ”I was a 2 out of 3 fit – I had relevant scientific background from my PhD, I had project management experience but I lacked experience in the pharma industry.” From there she developed fast from managing one clinical project as Study

Delivery Leader to more clinical projects, being Program Leader and finally Director, supervising the general management of the clinical projects. AstraZeneca was great for her career development as the company invested in for example leadership courses and has been very supportive, even after the clinical research site in Södertälje was closed. That was another moment for reflection and the insight that it was time to start a business of her own arose. Her first customer was part of her KI network, her former PhD supervi-

sor who had started a company. She advised him on their project and her company Caliti Group AB was born. Her current position as project manager at Innovation Office (KI) came as an offer through her network – a ”fun job, connecting industry and academia”. Her advice is to focus on your strengths, use your network and reach out to people with interesting positions and ask them ”What do you do?” SUSANNA BÄCHLE, 2015


Pernilla Lagergren


Photographer: Johan Bergmark

CARING FOR PATIENTS Becoming the youngest professor at Karolinska Institutet was nothing she had planned for at all. Still, what drives her are not academic titles, but to make life better for patients with oesophageal cancer. The caring for patients is really all Pernilla Lagergren has had in mind throughout her career as a researcher. Pernilla started her career as a nurse at Piteå

Lassarett, but before settling down she wanted to try something else and moved to Stockholm, thinking it would only be for half a year. But at the upper gastrointestinal surgical ward she got more and more involved with the patients and she felt that the academic environment suited her perfectly. As the contact nurse for the patients who had had surgery for oesophageal cancer, she naturally started to question why they were treating patients in a certain way and made up hypotheses of how they could make it better for them. That was the starting point of her doctoral studies and became her own branch in the research group: Health related quality of life, trying to improve the wellbeing of the patients. “The most important thing in the start of my career as a researcher was the stimulating environment in the research group I belonged to. We were close to the patients and everyone was working towards the same goal.” Research about health related quality of life

measures how the patients actually feel, their subjective feeling, in contrast to having mortality or a specific value of a blood test as an outcome. It is a hard thing to measure but yet important, maybe even more important than other values. Around one year before her dissertation she

decided that she wanted to go abroad to do a postdoc, an important step in her career. She started to search for potential collaborators in the reference lists in her manuscripts and basically just contacted one of the frequently quoted researchers. One and a half year later, with a

PhD, she published an article together with that researcher from a research centre in Bristol. “I’m very determined, so I always get things done and never give up. I’m also very structured and organised and hopefully I have inspired people in my surroundings.” Since then, her career has gone straight up, but

as she sees it, she has just gone with the flow, doing what she feels is important. In 2011, at age 34, she became a professor at Karolinska Institutet. The only drawback, she says, is the lack of continuous contact with the patients. “I miss the work with the patients, it’s the patients who inspire me.” So for the future, Pernilla will continue to care

for the patients and as she does so, her career will probably continue forward as it has been a winning concept so far, both for her and for the oesophageal cancer patients. LOVISA BACKEMAR, 2015

Top five advices for a successful academic career 1.

Find a good supervisor and research group


Plan sooner than later


Find your interest


Be curious


Follow your heart

What is the secret to Pernilla’s rocket career in academia? “My main goals were never the titles, but I did what I thought was fun and interesting. I taught because I liked it, and not because you need teaching hours to get a certain position. If you follow your heart, the rest will come. That I believe is the most important success factor.” WENJING TAO, 2013


Karin Dahlman-Wright

GOOD ENOUGH MAY WELL BRING YOU TO THE TOP Professor Karin Dahlman-Wright, 53, is at the top of an excellent career in the field of life science. Although her CV reflects an almost perfect journey to the top, Karin takes care not to be too much of a perfectionist and in fact, she has never had a proper career plan. Rather, she has been guided by her ability to see and grasp opportunities that have been given to her. 44

Photographer: Stefan Zimmerman

“Sometimes, it seems to me like my career is a coincidence,” she humorously says.

useful experience. I was allowed to make some mistakes and to learn from them,” she says.

I have caught a glimpse of Karin Dahl-

Karin seems to be driven by a will to constantly

man-Wright, the head of the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet (KI), every now and then through my years as a PhD student here. Despite all her responsibilities, she strikes me as unusually cheerful and untroubled. Today, she is sitting in a couch in one of the lunch rooms in Novum Research Park in Flemingsberg, sipping a cup of tea, and looking back at her career with a smile. Karin discovered a passion for research during

her final year of studies at Chalmers University of technology. As part of an exchange program, she was offered to attend the Masters program in Biotechnology at Imperial College London, and came in contact with many excellent scientists in the field. Jan-Åke Gustafsson, professor at KI, convinced Karin to come to the newly established Center for Biotechnology at Novum and in 1987 she joined a small but tight group of dedicated PhD students. Karin did research on hormone receptors and published papers in several highly ranked scientific journals. She remembers that she did not quite understand how successful her project was at that time. “I have never published in such highly ranked journals as I did when I was a PhD student, and I am not sure that this early success was an all good thing,” she admits. This is probably one of the reasons why Karin

develop and learn new skills. After six years, she returned to KI as group leader, continuing her work in molecular endocrinology, and as head of the Service Unit. When Jan-Åke Gustafsson left his position as head of the department in 2009, it was natural for Karin to take over. She is now also head of the Bioinformatics and Expression Analysis (BEA) core facility at KI and a director at the SciLife laboratory, and was recently appointed pro-dean of Infrastructure at KI.

Karin strikes me as a natural born and raised

leader. Her years as a PhD student trained her to be independent, while her years in the industry provided excellent leadership skills and the ability to work for an organization or a company as a whole. Being the mother of no less than five children has taught her to make decisions and to prioritize. “A good leader is clear, transparent, communicative and accessible,” Karin says.

Notably, Karin states the importance of not

being too much of a perfectionist and to stay positive to survive at higher positions. While always taking full responsibility for her decisions, she does let herself get completely bogged down when things go wrong. This is clearly one of the keys to her successful and long career. ULRIKA AXELSSON, 2015

soon started pursuing leadership positions and more administrative work. She always had her mind set on the industry, and during her years as a postdoctoral researcher she started looking for a job outside of academia. Despite just having earned a grant from the Swedish Research Council, she took the brave decision to follow her heart and leave academia for the pharmaceutical company Pharmacia & Upjohn in 1995. “Being a group leader, and eventually section leader, at a company at such young age was a 45

Jonas Klingström

“The reward is the feeling of making a change” Jonas devoted his doctoral thesis to the pathogenesis of Hanta virus, a zoonotic disease that can cause the life threatening condition known as hemorrhagic fever. His focus was on developing animal models for Hanta virus, and to a limited extent to look at natural virus transmission in nature. He got his doctoral degree in December 2004

and stayed at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Diseases (SMI), where he had done his thesis. He got various temporary projects at SMI and applied simultaneously for a postdoc grant from


a medical foundation called SSMF, which he also got. Thus, after two years at SMI he started his postdoc and studied the innate immune response during Hanta virus infection in man. Today, Jonas is a research assistant (awarded from the Swedish Research Council) since two years and is still doing molecular research on Hanta virus at SMI. He has three PhD students, whereof one is close to dissertation. His group’s research is his big passion, but he emphasizes that he will stop the very same day he gets bored of it. “Science has to be fun, and the reward is the feeling of making a change, to contribute!”

Personal contacts have had a very limited, if

any, impact on his position today. He applied for a position and was evaluated solely on a professional basis. He speculates, however, that this will soon change as the universities will have autonomy to employ academic scientist for higher positions. Even though he made his way from PhD student to group leader in a fairly short time, he concludes that he had never intentionally planned to follow this career path. “It is difficult to plan your future career while finishing your thesis, and once finished, one has to be open-minded to see the opportunities that arise,” he explains. Conducting academic research is heavily de-

pendent on raising money, and it is understandable that many PhDs decide to go to the industry, or to another company. That route is in many ways safer both economically and professionally. “It is indeed tough to get started as a young scientist with limited funding. The advantage is that it is easy to quit. If everything goes wrong, you can quit your scientific career from one day to another, so why not give it a try then? It is not a life-time commitment,” Jonas declares. His PhD period prepared him for the career as a professional academic researcher, but he would have appreciated a PhD course oriented in business administration and basic law. “This is mandatory knowledge once you decide

to follow your own research path. Having your own group is like having your own business; you have to deal with things like salaries, employees, tax regulations and funding,” he explains. Jonas emphasizes the importance of going to

international conferences to establish collaborations and extend your professional network. Speaking from his own experience, he recommends young scientists to seek collaborations outside their own research area. “If you manage to find a research questions that interests various kinds of researchers, everyone will gain on the collaboration since there will be no conflicts of interests, but plenty to gain for everyone involved,” he says. Jonas has initiated collaboration with immuno­ logists studying apoptosis, which is also a central part in virology and infection of Hanta virus. The scientists involved in the collaboration have different interest but with a common question. Lastly Jonas also states the importance of writing good applications when applying for grants. “Make a good application and spend time doing it! It will be a good investment in the future.” ANNE TUISKUNEN BÄCK, 2011

Note: The Swedish Institute for Infectious Diseases (SMI) has changed name to Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten)


Tuulikki Lindmark

TUULIKKI LINDMARK LIKES TO HELP PEOPLE. SHE CAN HELP YOU FIND MONEY. Are you a researcher or an entrepreneur in a small enterprise? Either of the two – you want to talk to Tuulikki. She is the director at the SwedenBIO EU Support Office with the mission to assist small and medium sized Swedish Life Science companies finding their way into the EU framework programs. The office’s advices are tailored and free. Tuulikki was not born a director. She was not even born in Sweden,

but moved there from Finland as a four-year old girl. She studied to be a pharmacist and finished her PhD in 1997. The expert and managerial positions she has held since have varied and have been many in number.


Photographer:Mikael Wallerstedt

“You can feel the frustration,” she says. “People have good ideas and need money to instrument them.” And yes, there are things in her work she would rather do without. EU bureaucracy, for example, and political struggles. “But you learn!” “One needs help. In the life-science business, everyone has a different point of view. The biochemist sees one thing, the analytical chemist sees another. The doctor, the toxicologist, the pharmacist. We won’t go very far if we only live in our own heads. We must work inter-disciplinary.” But how? How do I take on pursuits unexperi-

enced? How did you do it? “Do it. Even if you don’t know a lot of it, most often you know something,” she assures and smiles.

For which qualities have you been appreciated?

She does not answer but I insist – I have read your CV and the previous CEO has spoken warmly about you. You are appreciated. Tell me Tuuliki!

“I am straight-forward and honest. I am in clear in communication,” she says after a while of silence. “I like to deliver, I feel good when I have delivered. I like to help people on their way. I have become engaged with various things also outside my professional life, my children’s school trips, their sport activities,” she explains. Tuulikki hopes for more political will for the

Life Sciences. Clinical trials are an area where Sweden should not lose in strength, only then will patient care improve and the society benefit. So which positions can a pharmacist with a

doctorate take on? The answer is whichever. A pharmacist is educated in many disciplines. You have deepened your skills by doctorate training and can go in whichever territory. YULI CAO, 2014


Maria Lindebro

“How do you see yourself in two and in ten years?� Maria Lindebro is currently Sales Account Manager at Leica Biosystems. She did her PhD at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) at Karolinska Institutet 2002 after which she did a six-months postdoc at the Cancer Center Karolinska (CCK). She left academia due to a job offer from Invitrogen, later she got recruited by VWR. After that she applied to Qiagen, where she worked for six years, until she got headhunted for her current position at Leica Biosystems where she is responsible for Immunohistochemistry and in-situ hybridization automation systems for clinical laboratories. 50


Maria is responsible for thirty customers in the whole of Sweden for imaging systems in clinical laboratories. She mostly works from her home-office to coordinate via e-mail and phone between the headquarters in UK, local representatives and different customers in Sweden. Beside that, she visits different customers and laboratories to discuss product solutions. She travels frequently within Sweden, which can extend to business trips for several days and also goes to the London head office occasionally. Working from home gives her a certain amount

of flexibility, but has also the drawback that there are no colleagues close to talk to, she says. SKILLS FROM THE PHD STUDIES AND AFTER

Analytical capabilities, the ability to be unbiased and questioning the own perception, critical thinking and problem solving are skills that Maria lists that she acquired during her PhD. However, with respect to her career, she also points out that these skills can be problematic in the industry. People that question things critically and find it difficult to comply are not very favored in industry, she explains. Being a “leader” tends to be more required in academia, where you need to pursue your own projects, while in industry you need to be more like a “follower”. However, if you do not have leader skills it will be difficult to have a career in industry as well as in academia, she emphasizes. Skills that she acquired after her PhD are people and collaboration skills, which came along with having to interact with many different people for different products. Often reasoning with people and finding optimal solutions for both the customer and the company is a challenge, she says. To educate herself further in that aspect, she did university distance courses in psychology and behavioral science, which she says proved to be beneficial for her work.

situation cannot allow that. Try to plan ahead she suggests, and consider where do you see yourself in two or ten years. And once you decide to leave academia, it is hard to come back. CREATE YOUR SITUATION!

A PhD student has usually very narrow expertise. Maria therefore suggests widening your scope by additional courses, for example in psychology, behavioral science, economics or law. Also an external mentor is in her opinion a very good help to reflect upon your career situation. When it comes to jobs outside academia, she suggests familiarizing oneself with the organizational structure of the companies of interest. A question to think about is: “What is my position in the process of making decisions?” Beside that, with a fresh PhD degree and no experience of life outside academia, prepare yourself for the nonacademic world and think about: What salary can I expect? How is a contract supposed to look like? Unions like Naturvetarna are helpful resources for that. “Make demands, but be humble,” Maria says. Regarding networking, Maria remarks that LinkedIn is indeed a good way to be out on the market, since LinkedIn is nowadays the most common way to get a job. IRINA PADER, 2014


“What phases of life do you want to go through?” is a question Maria advises everyone to think about when considering future career options. For her, personal circumstances favored the step to leave academia and accept an offer from a company. Getting a postdoc position after the PhD is easier than getting a good job in industry, Maria says. But at some point one needs to make a choice – do you want to have a family and which role do you want to have in your family? How devoted are you to science? In order to be successful as a postdoc and continue with an academic career, Maria remarks that 100 % performance, seven days a week, might be necessary all the time and that sometimes the personal

Questions to ask yourself: 1. What phases of life do you want to go through? 2. How devoted are you to science? 3. Do you want to have a family and what role do you want to play? 4. How do you see yourself in two and ten years?


Photographer:Lydia Polimeni

Andreas Lundqvist

PLAN AHEAD AND KNOW WHAT YOU WANT When starting off in a totally different field compared to the environment he works in now, Andreas Lundqvist did not know where he would end up. Now he manages his own lab with three PhD students, the future seems very structured and full off interesting research.

going overseas to work at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States. “Since I had just finished my halftime there was still some work to do but he said; work late and work Saturdays, then you can come as soon as possible.”

Today Andreas Lundqvist is an associate profes-

Andreas never hesitated on going further in

sor at Cancer Center Karolinska, working with NK-cells and their function in immunotherapy. This has been his area of interest for quite some time. “I actually started as an engineer at KTH, but then I did my PhD-studies in Rolf Kiesslings group back in 1998,” he says.

Andreas met his “postdoc supervisor to be” at a

conference in Sweden just after his halftime and already at that point there was talk about him 52

aca­demia, he always knew what he wanted. When the opportunity to work with dendritic cells at NIH came up the choice was clear to him and money was no problem. “At NIH one doesn’t really need a stipend, they have lots of cash. However one needs to learn how to be economical in order to not waste anything, since it is the government’s money. I applied for several stipends later and received some, which I used to move overseas.”


To return to Cancer Center Karolinska (CCK), where he started as a PhD, was not the only opportunity after his postdoc, but the already established contacts and closeness to his family made the choice easy. ”I did my PhD at the same department so coming back was no problem for me. I was also considering to start in Uppsala but I chose KI for both family reasons and work opportunities. I knew the head of department here at CCK and also my old supervisor.” In the beginning he had ideas that he should continue to work in the lab but also be a group leader. However he soon had to give up this in order to manage all applications and economic matters. During his postdoc he really got to practice his

management skills, however he did not learn as much about economy as one has to in order to be a group leader, these skills he had to gain afterwards.

“You need a certain level of tolerance against budget-stress if you are going to be a group leader,” he says. Today he manages three PhD students in his own lab at CCK but he emphasizes that one cannot have the money for all projects at the same time. He explains it as a sort of game where the first investment leads to a paper, which in turn could lead to a grant and this grant will in turn finance the next paper. It is all about how much one is willing to invest depending on the possible output, either you get the money or you don´t. CECILIA NORDFORS, 2014

Andreas most important advice for a PhD student: “Plan you’re future when you have had your halftime, don’t wait. Find out what you want and work towards that.”


Annelie Brauner

YOU NEED TO GO OUT ON A LIMB TO REACH THE STARS IN THE ACADEMIC WORLD Annelie Brauner is a medical doctor and a successful professor at Karolinska Institutet with a true researcher soul. Her never-ending curiosity drives her academic career forward. However, her career has not been a walk in the park: during her PhD studies she had several setbacks. When looking back she wonders how she managed to get trough these. She is convinced that in order to have a successful academic career you need to have patience, persistence and the ability to embrace and learn from the bumpy road that all researchers travel along. Over a cup of tea, Annelie Brauner and I sit down to discuss her

career path at her office at the department of Clinical Microbiology at the Karolinska Hospital. Her office has a very characteristic professor style with books and papers spread out everywhere. After finishing her medical degree at Uppsala University she

started working full time as a medical doctor (MD) in combination with full time PhD studies at KI. “My career path was not easy and I wonder how I managed to continue and to keep my motivation after my first four years of 54

PhD studies when none of my four manuscripts where possible to publish. These projects were doomed from the start, which was something that I of course did not know. I got a real punch in the face, when I realized that all my really hard work and struggle had been in vain.”

“I would never work 100% as a researcher only, I need the clinical questions,” she says with a smile. “Of course the medical profession also gives me the security that I would not have if I worked only as a researcher.”

Instead of being upset, she continued with an-

nies offering her great salary and exciting possibilities, but she has always said no. “I did not want to give up my interesting research and money is not everything, for me the most important thing is to follow my heart,” she explains.

other four years of PhD studies in another group after this setback. How did you keep your motivation? “I do not really know, looking back at it, I actually do not know,” she answers thoughtfully. “But I think my never-ending curiosity for how things work and that I still wanted to know the reason for the clinical factors that I saw each day in my patients at the hospital.”

During these years, she combined clinical

work and her PhD studies and she also had two children. Annelie and her husband worked hard and both put a lot of time into their careers. Annelie’s husband defended his PhD in Uppsala some years earlier and he also worked as a MD at the Karolinska Hospital. They lived close to the hospital, and at this time, about 35 years ago, there was a grocery store, post office, bank and a day care for children at the hospital. The close proximity to daycare and work made the daily life easier. At the daycare there were a lot of children from MD families, and there was nothing strange with the children staying at daycare from 8 am to 6 pm. “If we would have had to commute long distances each day, it would never had worked,” she says. PATIENCE, ENDURANCE AND FAITH

During her years of PhD studies she learned the important skills of patience, endurance and the ability to never lose faith. She has a lot of use for these skills today as a group leader and professor. Her current position is 30% researcher, 30% teaching, 20% principal for ST education and 20% as a medical doctor. She finds the possibility to combine clinical work and research very rewarding.

Twice, Annelie has been headhunted by compa-


We start to talk about the society and how research is not supported enough. “It is a hard situation for young researches in academia, especially now when the research assistant positions have been removed, there is no longer any clear career path. For women, everything is also a bit trickier, since you are the one being pregnant and breast-feeding, there is no natural equality. Everything is easier if you are a man, the society is built on a male structure. Listen to your gut feeling – if you feel that you become a bad mother or partner not doing the things that you love, like a research career, go for it and you will not regret it,” she concludes. CHARLOTTE HEDSKOG, 2012

“Not everybody can be the next Pavarotti” – Anneli Brauner’s advice to PhD students who would like to stay in academia “First think about why you are doing a PhD. Is it because you really like it or is it because you did not find anything else? Not everyone can be the next Pavarotti – most people will end up in the chorus. Only the researchers that dare to take risks and reach for higher goals will reach the stars and higher impact journals. Try to find a good mentor, preferably someone who has come far in his or her research career and who can help you when you reach a dead end.”


Ulf Tedebark LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU WHILE YOU ARE BUSY MAKING OTHER PLANS Follow the career steps of Ulf Tedebark , staff scientist at GE Healthcare

No jobs available after Bachelor degree so I went on to do a PhD Ulf Tedebark completed his Bachelor degree in Chemistry at Stockholm University in 1989. Then he continued for a PhD in the same university working on carbohydrate chemistry. “Oligosaccharide synthesis is extremely time consuming to the point where you start making new compounds!” During the second year of his studies he already knew that he wanted to go to Canada for a postdoc and even met a professor from Canada at a conference. But then he decided to buy a property with his girlfriend close to Stockholm. During the last year of his PhD, he was preparing for a defense and building a house at the same time! “Don’t sleep, work efficiently, you can manage!”

Location became more important – there were still no jobs available so I went for a postdoc! As a postdoc you need to have new ideas and deliver deliver deliver! Take the best parts of people around you and change your project. A year before Ulf Tedebark graduated he went to a conference and met a professor from Denmark. This professor was later the opponent in his defense. Location being closer to home, he then decided to go to Denmark for a postdoc. Everything worked out; the group had an EU financed grant and accepted Ulf as a postdoc. Working on oligosaccharides during the PhD time, he decided to work on glycophosphates and peptides this time.


Academia or industry? I was open to both sides. If I did not have my postdoc degree, I would not be sitting in this office talking to you now. After finishing the postdoc he applied for both academia and industry. He did not get grants from academia but he got two job offers; one from Pharmacia and one from GE Healthcare (former Pharmacia Biotech). They called at the same time and Ulf decided to go for GE Healthcare. This was almost 14 years ago.

In a company you are a part of a big thing and money is never an issue! Academia is a constant chase of money but you are more free! In academia there is time but no money; in industry there is money but no time! In the company he has 70% administrative work and 30% lab work. He is working on solid phase synthesis of oligonucleotides and peptides and trying to make the system more efficient according to customer needs. He negotiated with the company and now he can use 15% of his time doing research, as he wants.

My PhD gives credibility to me especially towards people that don’t know me. You start at a higher level, you know how to be independent and finish your task. That’s what you do in industry; finish the task that is given, with your teammates! He still has one foot in academia by collaborating with other companies and universities. This is a “win-win” situation; if he can produce more publications the customers will trust him more.

Be the driving force as early as possible and ask yourself in every step: what do I want? BURCU BESTAS, 2013


Linda Lindberg

CONTACTS ARE EVERYTHING The successful scientist Linda Lindberg is convinced that the right contacts are the key element for finding a job in the industry after your PhD studies. Her two postdoctoral positions at Karolinska Institutet had a strong connection and collaboration with biotech companies and therefore she managed to establish what turned out to be a fruitful network. “Without my contacts, it would have been much harder to get the position as a Project Leader at the R&D department at Cepheid, which I have today,” Linda says. With a warm fish soup in front of us, at the nice lunch restaurant adjacent to Cepheid’s office in Solna, I ask her about why she wanted to leave the academia and go to the industry. The answer comes fast and naturally. 58

“During my PhD studies I saw the struggle of my supervisor to get everything working and I quite early made up my mind,” she says with a smile. Linda started her PhD in 1999 at department of

Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) at Karolinska Institute. During the time as a PhD student she learned working independently, which is something she finds very useful at her work today. The knowledge about molecular biology techniques is another skill that has been most bene­ ficial for all the jobs she has had after her PhD and also for her present position at Cepheid.


After finishing her PhD in 2003 she was offered a postdoc in collaboration with Karo Bio AB. For

6 months, she worked closely with the company and wrote an appreciated review article and also took part in a patent application. She found Karo Bio AB to be a very interesting company and she would very much have liked to stay, however after her maternity leave there were no positions available. Linda started to apply for jobs, but it was hard to find something since PhDs are overqualified for basic technician work and lack competence when it comes to management. Instead, she found a second postdoc position at the department of Clinical Immunology at KI, with a close collaboration with the company AbSorber AB. This position was the beginning of more than five years of productive and exciting work at a research based company. After less than two years as a postdoc, Linda got a position as a Senior Scientist at AbSorber AB. A position where she still had a foot in the academic world due to the strong collaborations with KI, but also a secured employment. Her work generated several publications and a second patent application. However, after four years, in 2011, she started to feel the need for new professional challenges and when she got the opportunity to work as a Senior Scientist at Cepheid she did not hesitate. “Here, my former college at AbSorber who is now the research manager at Cepheid was a valuable contact,” she states and smiles. Already after tree months Linda was promoted

to a Project Leader position at the R&D department at Cepheid. This position is a management position with no laboratory work. Linda leads the development of real-time PCR methods for diagnostics of viral infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B virus, which is something that she finds both interesting and important.

of course contacts are also a big, or maybe the biggest key for success. As a woman it is also important to have a family situation where both parents take equal responsibility for the children, otherwise it is really hard to make a career.” On the way to the coffee machine and the im-

pressive dessert buffet, I ask Linda what advice she has for PhD students today. “If you know where you want to go in the future, try to find the right contact early. And do not forget that it is never wrong to send in application spontaneously to the companies that you are interested in, here at Cepheid for example, we have hired several people that send in their application spontaneously.” CHARLOTTE HEDSKOG, 2012

“If you know where you want to go in the future, try to find the right contact early. And do not forget that it is never wrong to send in applications spontaneously to the companies that you are interested in."


So what were the key factors that affected Linda’s career path? “I think it is mostly coincidence that decides where someone ends up, but also the fact that there are limited choices when the competition is so hard in the life science industry. But 59

Helene Andersson Svahn

Photographer: Marcus Marketic

KTH NANO BIOTECHNOLOGY – TANGENCY OF ACADEMIA AND INDUSTRY Dr Helene Andersson Svahn is a professor in Nano Biotechnology at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and has devoted her carrier to the vibrant area of Nano Biotechnology in the interface of academia and industry. Dr Helene Andersson Svahn started her scien-

tific career by joining the civil engineer program in molecular biotechnology. After three years of continuous studies directly after high school it was time for a break, which was spent in Switzerland doing research in the very early embryo of a project that later would become the company Picovitro. During a conference she got into contact with a similar group in Toronto, which led to a diploma work. At this moment


Dr Andersson Svahn was about to start her PhD studies, but went back to Sweden after some unfortunate circumstances. The department for Signals, Sensors and Systems

at the Royal Institute of Technology had at this point announced for a PhD student in the newspaper Ny Teknik, and Dr Andersson Svahn applied with low expectations of getting the position. Fortunately enough the department had decided to turn their interest towards the biotechnology field and she was recruited. It was a tough start with a lot of new technologies to learn for a molecular biologist, but things eased up when Professor Matthias UhlĂŠn suggested a project involving a miniaturization of the pyrosequencing format.

After her dissertation Dr Andersson Svahn had

ship from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. By accepting the offer the formal strings to her old supervisor were cut, which is something she argues is important for your development.

no intent of starting an academic carrier and rejected an offer to become a postdoc at Harvard University in order to start working with micro­ chips at Silex Microsystems instead. During this time she did get a good network, learned a lot about business, marketing and sales. It was a decision without regrets. After four years the 15 person strong entrepreneurial company had grown to become a 60–70 person company with a more industrial approach and it became time to leave.

biotech company Picovitro, the technology she had been working with in Switzerland, turned up. He had the company and all the patents, but no person to run it except Dr Andersson Svahn who knew exactly what it was all about. She became the CEO.

Dr Andersson Svahn had never really left the

Today Dr Andersson Svahn is working with

academia fully and maintained a 10% employment including being a co-supervisor. This had generated a few scientific articles which were of great value when Dr Andersson Svahn wanted to return to academia. Mathias Uhlén made an irresistible offer to start up the Nano Biotechnology group at the Biotechnology department of KTH when she was awarded a research fellow-

Unexpectedly the financier of the newly started

increasing the sales at Picovitro, being the president of the Young Swedish Academy of Sciences and supervising her group. This of course takes a lot of time but is automatically regulated by her kids, and now that she got all the tools it is time to make the most of it and deliver some good results. JOHAN SEIJSING, 2012


Molly Stevens

HARDCORE SCIENCE Professor Molly Stevens is one of a kind female scientist whose achievement can overwhelm many people and be an inspiration to women in science. It’s rare that you can read about the same person in Vogue, Lancet, Science, Nature, The Guardian and The Times at once. Even though her list of accomplishments is long and prestigious Molly is really a nice and relaxed person. I met and approached her for the first time

last year when she was giving a lecture during a meeting and she was really easy to talk to. When I visited her lab I noticed that she has personal relations with her students even though she has over 50 people in her group. Moreover, in addition to managing a big group, publishing really well in the top scientific journals, receiving several awards, applying for patents, founding companies, appearing on TV and radio, she has a family and three kids. How can she mange it all? Molly Stevens’ scientific career to become the

queen of regenerative medicine started with an undergraduate in Pharmaceutical Science at Bath University, followed by a PhD in biophysics at Nottingham University and the postdoctoral research at MIT in tissue engineering in the Robert Langer group. Since 2004, she has a big and successful research group at the Imperial College London. She is a professor of Biomedical Materi-


als and Regenerative Medicine and the research director for Biomedical Materials Science in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering. To mention just a few of Molly awards, in 2006 Molly was the first female, who received a Royal Pharmaceutical Society conference science medal in its 40year history. In 2012 she was awarded the EU-40 prize from the European Materials Research Society jointly with Professor Francesco Stellacci. The award recognized their excellence and achievements in the field of materials research by scientist under the age of 40. Molly Stevens multidisciplinary research group

is based on high quality research with its applications to human health. Her lab develops novel application across nanotechnology and regenerative medicine that could be commercialized and used in clinical studies for global health applications. Molly passion for science gives her a driving force and makes her an inspiration for every future scientist.

“I definitely feel that working on things that have the potential to really help people is absolutely what I want to do”. MICHALINA LEWICKA-YAMMINE, 2014

“I am really into the hardcore science, the fundamental science. I have always been very interested in that.�

Photographer: Christian Richters, Imperial College London


Elena Gorokhova

EMBRACE THE CHANGE! THE KEY TO ACADEMIC SUCCESS Elena received her PhD in Systems Ecology (unit of Marine Ecology) at the Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University. After defending her PhD, she became a postdoctoral researcher in Evolutionary Population Genetics at Arizona State University, USA. The jump into the new field was something that she now describes as a complete change of the subject. According to her, it was an important twist in her career, which she now views very positively. However, when working in Arizona, she had started missing the marine science and not the least the research cruises. Eventually, she went for a shorter postdoc to California, where knowledge in both ecology and population genetics were in demand and allowed her to join a very dynamic and intellectually rewarding scientific community.


“I really enjoyed the research and the stimulating environment including all the collaborations with different groups, she says. “I also grew up immensely as a scientist and learned to appreciate interdisciplinary approaches in about everything in life.” BACK TO STOCKHOLM

While still in the USA, Elena applied for a research grant giving her an Assistant Professor position at Stockholm University. Even though she enjoyed her work and the atmosphere at the time, she recalls thinking that a more permanent position in science would help to be more productive professionally and give some stability in her personal life. When she found out that the grant application was approved, she decided to move back to Stockholm.

“The choice was not easy to make by any means and essentially it was very much of a practical decision for me.” She moved back to Sweden and has since enjoyed a rather “smooth path” in her academic career, eventually becoming a professor.

“Also changing your working environment, even as little as moving from one research group to another in the same institution, is healthy and can teach you another academic culture, not to mention skills,” she emphasizes. SIIRI LATVALA, 2015


In general, Elena considers the first five years after PhD as “the window” for establishing oneself as an independent researcher. This is the time to take risks, try new things and get rid of the tunnel vision that many PhD students develop towards the end of their studies. She also views it as the most unpredictable and tough period in an academic career. “In my view, the crucial step that promoted my career was the leap into a new field. Now, when I participate in many committees and evaluate candidates for different positions in academia, I see that ability to change the field of study is considered a great asset in science,” she says. According to her, curiosity, ability to adapt and to look at a problem from a different angle are the prerequisites for a successful academic career. She also underlines, that by jumping into a new territory, one can understand much more about one’s own research. This is also helpful for becoming a fruitful collaborator who can handle information coming from different fields. Fearlessly collaborating across disciplines will, according to her, introduce you to new ways of thinking and put forward novel questions.

Show your independence According to Elena it is vital to show, as early as possible, that you are an independent thinker, which is essential for becoming an independent scientist. •

Writing and publishing papers without your supervisor(s), already as a PhD student, can help you to prove the independence to yourself and your peers. Of course, as with any other authorship issues, you should discuss this in advance with your supervisors and any other researchers who might be involved in the idea development and/or obtaining the data.

Being able to show that you can attract funding to pursue your ideas is important as early as possible in your career. “For a PhD student, even small amounts count,” she stresses. According to her, even showing the negative funding decisions in the postdoc application can be a good idea as a proof of being active. For attracting funding, she gives one clear advice – go for crazy ideas and be in love with your science!


Mira Ernkvist

EXPECTATIONS AND EXPERIENCE Mira Ernkvist, PhD in Oncology and Cancer Biology, had already looked for postdoc positions in England, when she identified her true match during a mentorship program. At that point she was only a call away from moving into industry. Now she is country medical manager at Roche. 66

“I wouldn´t change a thing. Doing a PhD was very important for my personal development, but also prerequisite for the position I have now.” “I got told that the natural step after a PhD was to do your postdoc abroad,” Mira explains. As an exception to most PhD students, she ambitiously started to look for postdoc positions already half a year before her PhD defense. However, the decision to move away was not only about her. With a husband to face an important career step and a family in Sweden, Mira started to reconsider her choices and got involved in a mentorship program at Karolinska Institutet, where she got her PhD. During weekly meetings with her mentor pondering over her choices and chan­ ces in science, she gradually started to find out about her fit. “Maybe I am just not the perfect person for this environment,” she identified. “So I started to turn academia my back and looked out for jobs in industry.”

She was simply not prepared for this kind of job and position at university. However, with no experience and starting in an entry position, nobody expected her to perform directly. After some time, she started to move up the ladder inside the company. “If you are doing your job well, you get opportunities,” she reasons about her gradual development from sales over product management to her present position as a country medical manager. Modestly, she tells about her everyday occupation, reciting, that she once started as being one of the first PhD’s Roche hired in Sales. Today, Mira is the medical expert in lung cancer at Roche and is responsible for various different tasks. A COMPARISON OF NOW AND EARLIER


With most job descriptions demanding experience in the field, Mira decided to just give it a chance. “So I called for this job at Roche, even though they wanted someone with experience – and I was lucky,” she goes on. When putting down the phone, Mira had managed to be recommended for another job than the one she had actually called for. STARTING AGAIN FROM “ZERO”

“I was open, interested and had worked in the field of blood vessel formation,” she points out as the reasons of receiving her entry position. Mira started as a product specialist in Sales with a strong connection to her PhD studies. “It was a shock,” Mira remembers her first days in the company.

After Mira, Roche has hired several PhDs for several positions. “PhDs usually have to start at the same positions as people without a PhD, however, getting better salaries and often better opportunities to move to higher positions,” she explains. The problem lies within the assumption of a lot of PhDs that they are able to start in leading positions without any experience in industry. “All experiences are experiences,” she however finally advises. “It is important to find out about yourself and not being afraid to start in lower positions.” Ending this very inspiring talk with Mira, I realize, that she now easily slipped into the role of a mentor for me – probably without even knowing. ANJA REITHMEIER, 2015


Gretchen Repasky

IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY, DON’T DO IT Gretchen Repasky always wished to live abroad. When her husband got a position as a group leader in Finland they moved to Helsinki where Gretchen started her work as coordinator of research training and senior researcher at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) at the University of Helsinki. Even though there are phases when it is hard to live away from home, Gretchen is happy with her life. QUALITIES A SCIENTIST SHOULD HAVE


Good working ethics Persistence and endurance to be able to ride the rollercoaster of academic research with all the ups and downs

1. Ask questions. If you don’t know what questions to ask, find someone who knows the right questions. That is an opportunity to find out if you will actually like the position. Otherwise you might realize too late. It also gives you more confidence when applying for it.


2. Remember your everyday work impression. Your current colleagues will become potential references or collaborators. Hence, it is advisable to show professional behavior even in the lab.

For Gretchen networking is very important. Her advice is to start a couple of years before graduation. Networking should help you to collect information and to connect yourself to the scientific community. The best way is to network in person, but virtual networking is getting more and more important. There is not only LinkedIn but also collaborative projects and funding which are good ways to get connected.

3. If you are not happy, don’t do it. It is not a personal failure to step back from a position you don’t like. You should love what you do. MARCEL FRANKOWIACK, 2013

LANGUAGE English is the language of choice in any international research institute, but fluency in the local language is the key for integration into society. Gretchen speaks basic Swedish, an official language in Finland, which helps her to stay connected with the world outside the academia.


Photography: iStockphoto

Photography:Tom Tits Experiment

Anna Birgersdotter

FOLLOW WHAT YOU LOVE AND YOU PROBABLY WON’T FAIL Anna Birgersson completed her PhD in 2008 at MTC, Karolinska Institutet. She was quite happy to work on Hodgkin lymphoma, because of the direct medical relevance of her work. Even though doing research was the great way of feeding her hunger for knowledge, she soon realized that she does not enjoy all aspects of science but loves writing. After her PhD, she first wanted to continue with

a postdoc in the US, but things did not go as planned. The lab did not receive funding and therefore Anna stayed in Sweden. She applied for some small funds and received some of them. Then, she started blogging about science news. She met a former KI student at a party and mentioned her blog; this helped her to find a science communicator job at Sweden’s biggest science center, Tom Tits. Her job requires organizing science events for

the public. She arranges science exhibitions aiming to spark interest in science and technology through desire and discovery. For example, last year she was involved in organizing an exhibition called “Body Worlds”, which was about how our bodies look. The exciting part was that the

exhibits were real bodies or parts of it, donated by people who wanted to increase our understanding of human anatomy. Another goal for Anna is to bring focus on doctoral education. She believes that PhDs are a category of people capable of doing theoretically anything and that most organizations underestimate that. Working outside academia has its challenges so

one must be prepared. Thus Anna recommends students to learn as much as possible during their PhD, take relevant courses, attend social events and enhance your network. Furthermore, one should be open and prepared for new opportunities. She emphasizes the abilities PhD students gain for non-academic environment. Learning how to troubleshoot, working with all kinds of people, learning how to simplify complex concepts and convey your message while being analytical is some of them. After talking to her, I realized that it was exactly what I needed to know; is it the planning or following your interests that leads to successful career? “Follow what you love and you probably won’t

fail,” concludes Anna.


Sten Linnarsson


Photographer: Stefan Zimmerman

IT SHOULD BE FUN TO GO WORK Sten chose to do a PhD in biology because it seemed like an interesting thing to do. That was the general aura during the interview – to pursue something that seems interesting. This is mostly because Sten considers himself a smart and quick learner; therefore, he believes he can do any job in any fields as long as it is interesting enough. Sten did his semester project at Patrik Ernfors’

lab at KI and that led him to do his PhD at the same lab. Back then there was not much of project planning, thus he changed his project scope quite often. After his PhD, Sten founded a company named

“Global Genomics AB” and ran it for six years, first as CEO and then as CTO. This was a venture-based startup company, where he developed DNA sequencing methods and patented various related technologies. In 2007 he started working as an assistant

professor at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet. “That was like coming back to home,” he says.

However, the academic world has its own

challenges. According to Sten getting funding is the most important one. Then comes building a group and finding people to work well together. Only after having received the prestigious ERC starting grant he had secured the funding for couple of years, which also helped him to get other grants. Another important challenge in his current job

is leading a fairly large group of scientists. Moreover, supervising scientific projects takes half of his daily time, while the rest goes for administrative matters, answering emails and communicating with collaborators. Sten has achieved a pretty good balance between his personal life and work. He is a father of four sons, all very tall as their father. Sten recommends PhD students to do things

they are passionate about. It should be fun to go work. Moreover, it is very important to learn how to communicate; both with people and computers. For example, it is very crucial to learn how to write scientific articles to communicate with other scientists and write computer programs that do certain tasks. ILGAR ABDULLAYEV, 2014


Christer Ericsson

Photographer: Ulf Sirborn

EMBRACE YOUR CIVIC RESPONSIBILITIES AND MOLD YOUR OWN WORK ENVIRONMENT TO BRING INNOVATIONS TO THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM Christer Ericsson, PhD, is a senior scientist at the department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology (MTC) of the medical university Karolinska Institutet (KI). He investigates circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and along with his academic research at KI, he is involved with the development of a novel kind of instrument to diagnose spreading cancer with a simple blood test by the precise detection of CTCs. The instrument is developed in a medtech-startup company (iCellate®), which is a spin-off from KI. The service provided by the instrument could have a large clinical impact in the near future. 72

Christer is an interest-driven scientist, true to

his original interests and clear about his goals. “I handpicked my initial PhD research lab very carefully, also at KI, to work on a difficult but ultimately satisfying and productive project.”

As a result he got recognition and received

helpful fellowships, which allowed him to continue his research interests overseas, at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California, and later at the State University of New York. Christer eventually came back to KI and worked for a period of time on a national platform for large-scale biology.

“It was during this period that my interest evolved from using model organisms to work directly on human tissue. It is important to work in an informed way, not at least when it comes to sample collection. My current utilization interest is to take a new kind of clinical sample, circulating tumour cells (CTCs) from regular blood samples, and use them in ways that correspond to the needs of the healthcare system.” These efforts have received a lot of interest. Christer finds this gratifying. “It is an interesting experience to go through this process and very satisfying to see the utility of your research because that is the ultimate evaluation of its relevance.” In what ways have Christer’s career choices and

the combination of the two paths been beneficial for him? “I think that the two career paths should not be separated. To separate them is artificial. Instead, it is essential to keep track of what the realities are when we measure performances.” A set system with defined career paths is not an ideal way forward, in his opinion. Rather it is important that the right person finds the right position at the right time. Of course, it is highly motivating to work relatively without artificial impediments and have the freedom to be creative. “I believe we as humans have a natural tendency for doing useful things. We need to be careful when applying evaluation criteria for work performances so that they do not distort that natural tendency. Real life utility pays off for ourselves, the groups we work in, our institutions, and for society as a whole.”

Christer believes that PhD research students

and postdocs need to “embrace a civic responsibility” where they do not just accept things how they are, but rather seek to improve their work environment from their own individual platform to help mold an even more productive environment. It is in constantly seeking to improve not only ourselves, but also our environment, that we

will also experience our full growth as human beings, and the satisfaction of giving back selflessly. “Furthermore everything changes and one should constantly reinvent oneself and one’s career, which is ultimately even more satisfying since it is in line with our human nature. We are very fortunate to live at the time when this is increasingly possible.” Sweden rates very highly in various interna-

tional measurements for life satisfaction and economic performance per capita, and this is not by chance. “We have gone through a remarkable development in the last 150 years and a period of tremendous progress from a less than favorable starting point. We have adopted a strategy based on a work ethic, modesty and of trusting cooperation. Based on this foundation we are in a good position to improve even further. The sense of cooperation and low level of prestige allows us to evaluate and re-evaluate ourselves as a society and find new ways forward. This I think is a major opportunity for the future.” Why have we not reached the ideal alignment

between the interests of society as a whole and those of students and young researchers in biomedicine, even though there is a lot of common ground? Why is it so difficult to introduce innovations in the healthcare system even though everyone will benefit from the new discoveries, inventions, or innovations? “I think one major bottleneck for example for the start-up companies is the difficulty of gaining access to and testing innovations in the healthcare system.” We have well-meaning rules in the healthcare system that have unintended side effects in limiting the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. Therefore, we as a part of the community, should take more interest in shaping the future infrastructure in order to align the national aims and personal incentives. “As we gradually identify and remove the structural impediments to realizing the common 73

grounds between society and the personal incentives of life science researchers and innovators and implement changes, the outcome would be more patient benefit, better health care system, and more satisfying jobs with a sense of serving the common good and with constant improvement, which will in turn may improve recruitments in the health care system as well.” The tumour biology program at KI is a highly

rated one that has gone a long way to use all the current knowledge in teaching and learning activities. Christer finds this impressive. “A scientific degree from KI certainly caries a lot of weight internationally, perhaps more than we who work here understand.” This, he thinks is partly based on the history including the requirement for high impact publications, which is not always the case in other places. Christer reminds us not to get lost in the race for productivity and find ways to develop our own long term personal goals at the same time. Then he draws our attention to the improvement of the learning potential that exists outside established teaching and learning practices as traditionally defined, including the psychosocial context, including students informing themselves about the potential career possibilities and molding their own work environment, and that of their future peers. We need

to inform ourselves about the requirements in future job opportunities and acquire and document the required skills that are appropriate for such opportunities. Christer also highlights a major lack of new start-up companies to use the “fruits of research and make it into new services or products” and hopes for an improvement in the number and quality of such companies in the future. “There is a large amount of excitement and opportunities in this particular area and I think the research situation is such that there are many scientific and medical problems that were not addressable until recently, but are now, and we need to take advantage of that.” At this point, I wondered what Christer’s big

challenges had been in his early PhD and postdoc years and whether I can benefit from that experience. “I was focused on finding a pre-existing scientific environment that would suit me, rather than working on shaping a productive environments for myself.” Thus, for him it has been a “long journey of selfreflection and feedback”. His compelling suggestion to us is to seek to understand the system we are operating in better and work to improve it further. KAVEH M GOUDARZI, 2015


Photographer: Gunnar Ask

THE UNIT FOR BIOENTREPRENEURSHIP – Research and education in innovation and entrepreneurship The Unit for Bioentrepreneurship, UBE, focuses

on education, development and research within the fields of innovation and entrepreneurship. The vision is to challenge established ways of thinking and prepare professionals in the health industries to manage the unexpected. As an academic unit at KI, UBE can be considered as the first proactive link in KI’s innovation system.

A two-year global Master’s programme is

offered at the unit, together with programme elective and single subject courses. UBE is the KI node of the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship (an academic collaboration between KI, the Stockholm School of Economics, the Royal Institute of Technology the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, and Stockholm University) proving interdisciplinary education.

Research on innovation and entrepreneurship at

UBE aims to generate knowledge and to develop the innovation system. Examples of research projects include the KI Intellectual Property

database, knowledge transfer projects, studies on the hospital’s role in innovation and open innovation between industry and academia. COURSES FOR PHD CANDIDATES

Exploring entrepreneurial opportunities in research (1.5 credits) What is entrepreneurship, and how can it be used in the doctoral education? Practical tools to use in ones own project. Initiating entrepreneurial thinking in connection to research (1.5 credits) Selection of lectures from the courses offered within the framework of the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship (SSES). From science to business – Concepts in biotechnology (7.5 credits) Effective tools for a broaden understanding of the Life science business context and a broaden perspective of career alternatives.


YOUR FUTURE – YOUR CAREER The Career Service Office at Karolinska Institu-

tet works to educate and advise students, doctoral students and researchers for a future career inside and outside academia.

Studies at different levels within medical sci-

Company mingle and presentation of internship projects

ence at Karolinska Institutet prepare you for a broad range of career opportunities. You may pursue an academic research or teaching career, specialized in your chosen field but also a career in the industry or other organizations.

CV seminar and Linked In workshops

We have seen that organizations value the quan-

Training program for European Research Council grants applicants

titative, analytical, and logical skills developed as an undergraduate, graduate or post graduate at Karolinska Institutet. Organizations such as government agencies, biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical firms, scientific newspapers, museums, scientific consulting firms or starting your own business are some common career paths. There are also career opportunities in global

and public health such as health services administration, biostatistics, epidemiology, behavioral science, maternal and child health, nutrition and more.

Career Service offers a varied curriculum of

courses, seminars and workshops to our students, doctoral students and postdocs. We also run a doctoral course as well as financed internship programs for PhD students and postdocs. Take the opportunity and join these activities during your studies and work at Karolinska Institutet. It is your future – your career!



Popular science writing workshops Career coaching in group

Company presentations Scientific and grant writing workshops Career insights with alumni presentations How to apply for Marie Curie fellowship for postdocs Postdoc career planning workshops In addition to the curriculum the Career Service

Office arranges more career activities in collaboration with the student associations, KI Alumni, Post Doc Association, Junior Faculty, Grants Office, Unit for Bioentrepreneurship, Innovation Office and many more. These events you can find on our webpage, Facebook page and in our newsletter.

CONTACT DETAILS https://internwebben.ki.se/en/career-service (here you can sign up for the newsletter) http://ki.se/en/education/career-service https://www.facebook.com/kicareerservice?ref=hl Twitter: KICareerService Researcherblogski.wordpress.com Studentblogski.wordpress.com Instagram: @kistudentblogs @kiresearcherblogs Email: career-service@ki.se Visiting address: Berzelius väg 3, floor 5, Solna Campus Kerstin Beckenius, Career Program Manager Anethe Mansén, Career Program Manager Emma Hägg, International Communications Manager

Photographers: Olle Nordell & Camilla Svensk


Profile for Emma Hägg

A phd can take you anywhere  

In this magazine Career Service has selected and published a number of career portraits written by PhD-students in the course Career Skills...

A phd can take you anywhere  

In this magazine Career Service has selected and published a number of career portraits written by PhD-students in the course Career Skills...

Profile for emmhof