Research speed dating, connectedness and comradeship

In the wake of this week’s research speed dating -event I wanted to briefly reflect on why we host such events in the first place.

I guess its easier to start from the personal experience. When I started my PhD studies in 2014 I was struck by the loneliness and disconnectedness the job entailed. In terms of contacts and networks I came into the academic world empty handed. Sure, couple of professors had vouched for me. But I had no academic connections beyond them. Thus I banked on working under their guidance and on the ideas they threw in front of me.

Of course it didn’t work out like that. During the first few months it became apparent that our research interests did not match at all. After giving my position some thought I decided that I should pursue my own path. Hence I started drafting an idea about a research project that was familiar to me from my previous work. The only problem was that I did not have any contacts that could have helped me out. Not even a supervisor.

What ensued of this decision was 8 months of research I did pretty much by myself. On paper It doesn’t sound like much. But when it’s your first effort at research and you have nobody backing you or sharing ideas with you, desperation can set in. Especially when you know that your next year’s funding depends on your ability to convince senior professors that you are making progress on something relevant. I was really alone with my work, and I considered quitting every week. I felt lonely in a job I thought was my dream.

Eventually, I found my way out of the dark cave and found a really good supervisor and several other contacts. Luckily I also made a few friends. But the whole experience left me wondering. Should I have put a better effort into networking in the first place? And if I should have, how on earth would I have done that?

When I joined Aallonhuiput board I realized that my story wasn’t really unique. The doctoral student survey we did last year indicated that only less than half of doctoral students easily find co-authors for their work.

survey_collab

Picture: Results from the Doctoral Student Survey done in 2015

It seems that many doctoral students are struggling with the same issues as I did:  lack of research networks and longing for professional comradeship.

We have recognized this at Aallonhuiput. This year, we are putting a big effort to connecting PhD students with professors, companies and – most importantly –  with each other. We want Aalto PhD students to feel like a community. We want to facilitate collaboration. And most of all, we want you to feel like you are not alone.

The research speed dating event is a tiny first step towards this. Join us in the fun and informal event, discuss your research with your peers and make friends. Let’s make 2016 a year of collaboration and friendship!

Looking forward to seeing you there,

Ville Sillanpää

Aallonhuiput Board

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