Laura Tünnermann and Tinkara Bizjak standing next to each other in front of a painting with orange treesThe PhD students Laura Tünnermann and Tinkara Bizjak are organising the seminar series "Outside of Academia" at UPSC (photo: Varvara Dikaya).

Which career possibilities exist for (plant) scientists outside of academia? Laura Tünnermann and Tinkara Bizjak, both PhD students at Umeå Plant Science Centre, thought that it is not talked enough about this at the university and started to organise the seminar series “Outside of Academia”. Read more about their motivation and how they choose topics and speakers in this interview with them.

You started beginning of this year to organise the seminar series “Outside of Academia”. What motivated you to start this seminar series up at UPSC?

Laura Tünnermann: At the UPSC PhD and Postdoc retreat 2022, it was mentioned that a similar seminar called “Careers outside academia” was organized by former UPSC scientists. We thought that this was a great way to show different career options.

Tinkara Bizjak: Exactly, when you start a PhD it is assumed that you stay in academia, so you are not presented with other career options. That is why we wanted to revive this seminar series.

What is the purpose of this seminar series and how does the format look like?

Tinkara Bizjak: The purpose of this seminar is very simple - we want to show different career options that are waiting for scientists outside of academia.

Laura Tünnermann: About the format, we are trying to organize a seminar once a month. The speakers have about 30 – 40 min to introduce themselves, their background, and their current position. It is very important for us that the speakers explain why and how they left academia. After the presentation, we plan time for a question-and-answer session.

Tinkara Bizjak: The seminar is also always followed by a lunch with the speaker to enable further networking. And we can only encourage everybody to sign up and join the lunch!

How do you choose topics and search and engage speakers?

Laura Tünnermann: We try to find career options that people might not be aware of but are relevant to our participants, for instance, a patent attorney. When we select our speakers, we are looking for someone with a plant science background who did a PhD or even a postdoc.

Tinkara Bizjak: We try to focus some of the seminars on the industry in and around Umeå. We noticed a great interest of our participants in job opportunities in Umeå. Also, anyone who has an idea or a wish can contact us and we try to address it with a seminar.

Laura Tünnermann: After we decide on a topic, we try to find suitable speakers and companies and contact them by email.

What was most challenging and what most inspiring for you so far?

Tinkara Bizjak: The most challenging is to get the contacts. Sometimes it is hard to find their email or get an answer.

Laura Tünnermann: I agree, that is very frustrating, but I think the good feedback from our participants is worth it.

You have so far organised 3 different seminars inviting former researchers that are now working with patents, or in different local companies. Which topics are you planning to cover next?

Tinkara Bizjak: In October we are inviting two speakers who have spent 20 years in academia before switching to the industry. This will be followed by a seminar in November about being a scientific illustrator.

Laura Tünnermann: For next year, we are planning seminars about how to start your own company with the help of the Umeå Biotech Incubator. We are also trying to contact potential speakers from bigger companies like Eurofins or Qiagen.

Did you decide already which direction you would like to go after your PhD – inside or outside of academia?

Tinkara Bizjak: I am not sure yet, but I am leaning towards leaving academia at some point.

Laura Tünnermann: I have not decided yet either, but I hope organizing these seminars will help me with the decision.

More about the "Outside of Academia" Seminar series

Laura Tünnermann and Tinkara Bizjak plan to organise about five to six seminars per year in the frame of the "Outside of Academia" seminar series. The topics they covered so far were "Science & Law" and "Industry in Umeå" with contributions from Nordic Biomarker and Arevo. The next and fourth seminar with the topic "Postdoc in plant science – and then? Two career options" will take place on Friday next week, 13th of October. The speakers will be Rumen Ivanov, regulatory affairs manager at KWS in Germany, and Tzvetina Brumbarova, project manager at the Clinical Trials Centre Cologne, Germany. Both worked first as postdoc and senior researcher in academia before switching profession.

More information about the upcoming seminar on October 13 and the link to the registration form here


For questions or suggestions please contact Laura Tünnermann (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Tinkara Bizjak (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)