Article

Innovative PhD Candidates

 

PhD candidates from four different Norwegian universities met in Oslo 5-6 November for the first National innovation workshop for PhD candidates in neuroscience. The event was jointly organized by NNN and the Norwegian Research School in Neuroscience (NRSN). 

The overall aim of the workshop was to make young researchers more aware of the innovative potential of their own research, and how to proceed if they make discoveries that can be developed. Also, the workshop demonstrated attractive career opportunities for the candidates outside Academia, both in private and public sector.

Neurodegenerative diseases account for a large proportion of the public health challenges facing our society. Also, there is a great potential to utilize our improving understanding of the normally functioning brain. Both perspectives pinpoint the need for increased utilization of new discoveries stemming from neuroscience research. The Norwegian Research School in Neuroscience (NRSN) is a nationwide network including 130 PhD candidates in the field. Some of these young scientists will become future research leaders in Norway. However, in a majority of cases, the unique competence of these PhD candidates will come to use in a variety of sectors, from industry to government and funding agencies. More than 80% of people holding a PhD in Norway are not primarily working in research and development. 

NNN takes particular interest in the PhD candidates in the field. NNN includes the major Norwegian research institutions and scientific groups in the field, the technology transfer offices, funding agencies and relevant industry – both the smaller start-up enterprises and multinational pharmaceutical companies. Taking advantage of NNN’s network, the program of the innovation workshop hosted an impressive group of 18 speakers and group session moderators, from venture capital companies, industry, tech-trans offices, Innovation Norway and the Research Council of Norway.

During one of the group sessions, each PhD candidate delivered a two-minute pitch, presenting the innovative potential for their own research. Thepresentation was then discussed by the group leader, and with the other PhD candidates in the group. For some participants it was a challenging exercise to take in the larger picture, by lifting the eye from their very focused and basic research to explaining a future innovative potential. However, the participants reported that such challenges help them see their own research and qualifications in a different light.

During the career session, six representatives of industry, pharmaceutical companies, funding- and government agencies were interviewed by the PhD candidates on three questions: - what is your job about, how does your PhD background help you in fulfilling the demands of the job, and – crucially – how did the group leaders succeed in getting their current position? The presentations of each group illustrated that there are many possible paths to enter a career outside academia. 

An important result of the meeting is that NRSN and NNN through this event have established a new network arena where innovation-oriented PhD candidates in neuroscience can meet and exchange ideas and experiences directly with each other. Future events will aim towards extending this network with new members, to create a stronger platform among future leaders in the field. 

 

Text and photos by Erik Ingebrigtsen.