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They create this year's SWEAH conference: "A chance you have to take"

Konferenskommitténs deltagare samlas för teknikgenomgång.
The committee gathering before the two day conference in Norrköping. Photo: Lill Eriksson

On November 21-22, SWEAH's research conference is arranged for everyone who is active in the research school at the 13 affiliated universities – a big event and the first major event for most of the future researchers in the conference committee.

Chairman Mahwish Naseer and the other junior researchers on the committee have busy days. For several months, they have planned this year's SWEAH conference with almost 80 exciting speakers and interesting presentations.

Getting to work on organizing a conference is a chance you have to take if you get it - an opportunity from which you learn a lot; leadership, problem solving and other very important things, says Mahwish Naseer about the assignment.

Portrait of Mahwish Naseer in front of a green tree.
Mahwish Naseer. Photo: Private

She is a postdoctoral fellow at Karolinska Institutet and received her doctorate in October 2022. She conducts research at the Department of Neurobiology, Health Sciences and Society, about older adults seeking emergency care - associated health, care, and social factors.

When she was a PhD student, she participated in both SWEAH's physical conference four years ago and the digital one in 2021. This year, as chair of the conference committee, she has learned how to get stressed researchers to share their findings, program planning and to create a conference theme.

Now I know what close cooperation lies behind such a large conference. Each step needs to be carefully thought through. The assignment has given me more opportunities in my career, I have developed my skills in many different ways – applying for grants, working in teams and planning. It is something completely different to organize the conference than just to participate in it, says Mahwish Naseer.

What has surprised you the most?

In theory, we talk a lot about collaborating with society, but it turned out to be quite difficult in practice. It is important and good that we communicate our research to various social actors. We didn't get much of a response from actors outside the academy, even though we were out in good time - that was unexpected for me. The contact between society and academia needs to be strengthened in general, I also hear that from others.

How have you managed all this alongside your research?

Portrait of Karolina Thörnqvist in a striped blouse.
Karolina Thörnqvist. Photo: Private

–  It has worked well, but it requires good cooperation, planning and distribution of tasks. We who are postdocs are remunerated for the assignment, which is for one year. We have learned to try different paths when we encounter obstacles and SWEAH's management has always helped when needed.

Another member of the conference committee is Karolina Thörnqvist, PhD student at the University of Gothenburg.

It has been interesting and exciting in many ways. I have gained insight into all the different decisions that have to be made to put a conference together, she says.

Karolina works at the Department of Nursing and Health at the University of Gothenburg. Her research project on self-rated health and aging is linked to the Center for Aging and Health (AgeCap), and the idea is to contribute knowledge about the importance of various factors to how older people of different ages estimate their health. She became a doctoral student just over a year ago and has been with SWEAH since January 2023. For her, time has been the biggest challenge with the assignment.

Both in terms of the meetings we had in the committee and communicating with various actors. The most fun will be seeing the final product of the conference on November 21-22, says Karolina Thörnqvist.

The committee consists of three postdoctoral researchers, three doctoral students, a senior researcher and the research administrator for SWEAH. 

Read all about the SWEAH conference.