Eriksholm Research Centre hosts and supervises industrial PhD students on a continuous basis. Over the years it has become evident that they share several challenges. “The industrial PhD students often find themselves in a kind of weird and lonely situation compared to PhD students at universities”, says Alejandro Lopez Valdes, originator of the Eriksholm PhD Academy. “The university-based PhD students benefit from working in an established student environment and culture, typically with direct access to a network of other fellow PhD students at different stages in their PhD projects. This means that the early-stage researchers can harvest from their fellow students’ knowledge and experience”, says Alejandro, and continues: “We experience that the industrial PhD students tend to feel more isolated than their university-based peers because they have replaced the well-known university structure by an industrial organizational set-up with a different focus and governance. In addition to having to learn to navigate a different type of organization they often have to face the various challenges related to their PhD work all alone.”
Besides having an industrial supervisor at Eriksholm Research Centre, the PhD students are all assigned to the same line manager who, up until recently, was Alejandro. Having identified a pattern in the challenges of being an industrial PhD student at Eriksholm, he drafted the concept of a PhD academy which very quickly resonated with the PhD students on site as well as management.
The Eriksholm PhD Academy was kicked-off in November 2020 as an offer to the PhD students on site to attend a variety of activities over the course of a three-year period. The main purpose of the concept is to strengthen the confidence and offer new skills to the PhD students, and, to facilitate becoming part of a sub-network, not only at Eriksholm but with PhD students across the Demant organization.
A buffet of opportunities to learn
Alejandro emphasizes that the Eriksholm PhD Academy is an offer, and it is entirely up to the individual PhD student to which extent they wish to participate and in which activities. And the list is long.
The first year offers basic introduction to various departments and procedures within the entire Demant organization, just as they are invited to take a course in basic audiology. In addition to this, they are offered training in e.g., how to plan an experiment and how to pitch your PhD project on video.
Year two offers a range of opportunities to improve self-knowledge and get insights into areas such as feedback, stress awareness, and management fundamentals, and how to improve presentation and communication skills.
Year three is focused on identifying opportunities for the PhD students to present their work in various relevant contexts, and throughout the entire three-year period, the PhD students are invited to participate in various meetings and events with the opportunity to network, exchange knowledge, and present their project.
“The Eriksholm PhD Academy is a proposed forum for our PhD students to acquire skills together and create a support network for their projects”, says Hamish Innes-Brown, new line manager for the PhD students and will continue to drive the Eriksholm PhD Academy. “When meeting with their fellow students both here at Eriksholm and across the entire Demant organization, the students are supported in building a common identity as an industrial PhD student. They get the opportunity to exchange experiences, learn from each other, and ask questions about how to navigate in the company. Hopefully, as an added benefit, this initiative will strengthen Eriksholm’s collaboration applications by referring to a formal curriculum as an ongoing activity to educate early-stage researchers in innovation and corporate research”.
And it works!
Alina Schulte began her PhD work in November 2020 which makes her one of the first PhD students to get the opportunity to become part of the Eriksholm PhD Academy. “I like this opportunity to talk to and form connections with other PhD students at ERH. As we are all enrolled in different universities and working on different projects under different funding bodies, this is a very helpful initiative to bring us a little bit closer together and give us the opportunity to learn from each other. It enables us to build a sub-network within ERH among students and form an ERH PhD student identity”, says Alina.
Alina expects to get a better insight into the work of her fellow PhD students at Eriksholm. “I expect to learn about and from their projects. Also, I assume that there might be problems or questions that we all face, in which case it can be helpful to discuss this in our meetings and get advice from peers, especially those who are in later stages of their PhD already”, ends Alina.
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