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So can alumni structure their research career

Alumner i gruppbild.
Fr. left: Nilla Andersson, Susanne Iwarsson, Cate Pemble, Mahwish Naseer, Anna Nivestam, Sadhana Jagannath, Maria Glans, Mary Njoki, Ana Luiza Moraes, Amy Prescott, Theresa Westgård, Wenqian Xu and Katarina Billing. Photo: Lill Eriksson

Eleven postdocs from around the world, with a particular interest in research in ageing and health, visited Lund University at the beginning of the new year. Mentoring programs, constructive feedback on project proposals, CV and career plans were on the agenda when the national research school SWEAH arranged a workshop.

The workshop on mentoring on 25th January was held by licensed psychologist Katarina Billing. She is an external consultant who is hired by various universities.

– There is high competition and many researchers are fighting for limited resources. And now these young researchers face many choices – should they become leaders, continue research, become teachers or go more internationally, she says.

The postdocs get to learn about interpersonal relationships, balance in life and how to create a career that is sustainable in the long term. Billing also held SWEAH's latest mentoring program in the pandemic year 2021. Getting structure in life was something that participants at the time particularly appreciated. And now.

Porträttbild Sadhana Jagannath
Sadhana Jagannath. Foto: Lill Eriksson

I need a structured development, to be pushed in the right direction so I can move on independently later. I think it's a good idea to have time to reflect and develop yourself professionally, says Sadhana Jagannath, one of three postdoctoral fellows from the University of Stirling in Scotland.

This mentoring support is not provided there and few dedicate their own time to such, she says.

Eleven postdoctoral fellows from Sweden, China, India and Great Britain are participating in this particular course. Six are SWEAH alumni, including from Bangladesh and Brazil. Most of them are connected to the national research school SWEAH, but also from Scotland with whom SWEAH has some exchange thanks to SWEAH's coordinator, Professor Susanne Iwarsson's network.

Signing up for the mentoring program is voluntary. Only two on the course are men.

Porträttbild Katarina Billing.
Katarina Billing. Foto: Lill Eriksson

We talk about the future career, collaboration issues and gender issues - a research career is more difficult for women and everyone else outside the norm in the academic world. It's quite stressful, so it can be nice to talk to someone who can support the choices forward, Katarina Billing continues.

She also has preparatory talks with the nine mentors before the mentoring program, so that both parties enter their respective roles in the best possible way. The mentor is always from a different university than the mentee. Essential is that the motivation is there and that they are both willing to invest, eight meetings in a year.

Read more about SWEAH's mentor program.