On June 1 and 2, UPSC is arranging the UPSC Symposium for Early Career Plant Scientists. The main organizers of the symposium are Stéphane Verger and Petra Marhava, two young group leaders at UPSC. We have asked them about their motivation to organise this event, why they specifically address Early Career Researchers and what UPSC as a workplace is offering to young researchers.

You two are organizing the UPSC Symposium for Early Career Plant Scientists. What is the purpose of this symposium?

Our main goal is to attract very good young researchers to join UPSC as postdocs. UPSC is a great place to work and Umeå is a wonderful and very safe city to live in, but the fact that it is so far north often seems to discourage candidates to apply for positions here. They may be scared of the cold climate and the short days during winter. Inviting young talented researchers to come and present their research here in Umeå allows us to show them UPSC, Umeå and its surroundings, and hopefully convince them that Umeå is actually a great place to work and live.

This concept is nothing that we invented. Similar events are being organized in many other places, and they have also been organized in the past at UPSC. Very good young researchers came to UPSC as a result of them and these researchers have contributed very positively to the research at UPSC and to UPSC in general.

Why are you addressing specifically Early Career Researchers?

The idea behind this initiative is to select strong “early career researchers” for the symposium that have high chances to be successful in applications for postdoctoral fellowships such as those offered by Marie Curie, EMBO and HFSP. These are prestigious fellowships for the candidate and the institute, but we know that it is extremely competitive to get one. We will do our best to have a backup solution in case the applications of the candidates are not successful. There are all the time new postdoc opportunities opening at UPSC thanks to fundings obtained by individual PIs, and those strong candidates could be perfect fits for one of these opportunities.

What is the benefit for the applying candidates?

We think it is a great opportunity for those young talented researchers, who are finishing their PhD or have recently finished, to present their work in an international context. They can meet several PIs and other researchers, discuss their research with them and expand their research network. Moreover, UPSC will cover all expenses for the invited candidates.

What do you think should one think of when choosing a postdoctoral project?

The topic and/or approaches should appear to be significantly different from the PhD work but not too far away, so that you can still justify some sort of coherence in your career. It could also be a major disciplinary change especially if your PhD expertise can bring something new or useful to a different subject or model that you are targeting in your postdoctoral project. Generally, it is important to show that you have thought well and chosen your project (and research group) because it makes sense for you and your career plan. It is better than just taking up any open postdoc position that was available and that you got offered because you weren’t sure what to do after your PhD.

The project should be of course novel and appear generally exciting to the research community, but a key point is also to choose a team and supervisor that you feel comfortable with and that could give you the opportunities that you will need for your future career.

Why do you think UPSC is a good place for an Early Career Plant Scientist?

At UPSC, we have about 30 research groups with strong international reputation that cover a broad range of plant research areas and model organisms and collaborate a lot internally. The institute is also impressively well equipped with different shared platforms and facilities available for all kind of plant research and they are well connected to other facilities on the national level. It is an excellent environment for learning new techniques and acquiring new skills.

UPSC is a very international workplace with more than 40 different nationalities. Out of about 200 researchers, there are more than 100 postdocs and PhD students. It is a very nice, supportive, and stimulating community of young researcher to interact with. They are also very active in organising social activities outside of the working hours like for example cycling, skiing or playing “Innebandy”, a kind of floor hockey that is very popular in Sweden. Even though you might think Umeå is “at the end of the world”, you will see there are many fun things to do.

What do you like most about working at UPSC?

As a PI, it is really great that so many of the resources are shared within UPSC. When new people join our groups, we don’t have to struggle to find equipment that we need for their project or to get the help or training for some specific technique they would like to use. The personnel on the platforms provide excellent support for that.

An advantage is also that we have large open space labs where people from different teams are mixed. Like this you get in contact with people from other groups easily. People collaborate and share openly and it is easy to learn about or be trained for a new technique by a colleague from a different team. We and our group members appreciate this a lot!

More information about the UPSC Early Career Plant Scientist Symposium

Deadline for application: April 15, 2023  


Portrait photo of Petra MarhavaPetra Marhava
Umeå Plant Science Centre
Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Portrait photo of Stéphane VergerStéphane Verger
Umeå Plant Science Centre
Department of Plant Physiology
Umeå University
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.