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Published: 09 Nov, 2020

Business contacts led to a job after graduation

PROFILE Jonas Westberg was one of the first doctoral students who began at the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation (IDS) at its start-up in 2008. The opportunity to interact and collaborate with an industrial partner Siemens gave him a foothold into a world that can differ a lot from the academic world.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

Jonas is originally from Umeå, but moved to Gothenburg after graduating gymnasium to study in the Master of Science in Engineering Programme in Engineering Physics at Chalmers University of Technology. In his master’s thesis, he studied a scalable way to manufacture graphene, which was a fairly new discovery at the time.

“After graduating from Chalmers, I decided to move back to Umeå again and found a doctoral studentship’s position in laser spectroscopy at Umeå University. The project was part of the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation and was co-financed by Siemens Laser Analytics,” notes Jonas Westberg.

Chance led to a doctoral studentship

The fact that he found his way to the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation was mostly by happenstance. He was initially most interested in the field of lasers and Ove Axner, a Professor at the Department of Physics at Umeå University, mentioned that he had two projects were looking to be started, one of which was in collaboration with the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation.

“I thought the industrial concept sounded exciting, so I chose to apply for that position. The project was about measuring gas concentrations using lasers. Simply put, we can say that we built very sensitive gas detectors which can be used in i.a. process industry, medical applications, and atmospheric studies.”

Something that distinguished the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation from a “regular” doctoral studentship, was, in Jonas’ opinion, that here he was given the opportunity to get to know doctoral students working with research in completely different disciplines, due to that the School borderless in terms of -faculty, plus there is also the possibility to interact with an industrial partner. It provided an insight into a world that can differ a lot from the academic world. 

Postdoctoral fellowship in Princeton

After receiving his PhD degree, via his contacts at Siemens’ Jonas Westberg received a job offer from Emerson Process Management in Gothenburg.

“I was involved in developing an instrument based on laser spectroscopy and after a short time there, I received an offer for a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University in the US, and I spent about five years there, from 2014 to 2019. First as a postdoctoral fellow and later as an employed academic researcher.   

  For a long time, the research group in Princeton has been funded by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and currently it is studying background levels of various substances in the gas phase in the urban environment. The instrument that Jonas Westberg has been involved with and has developed has been used in a measurement campaign in downtown Boston.

After five years in the United States, Jonas Westberg was offered a position at NEO Monitors AS in Oslo and after a while he felt that the timing was right to look closer to Sweden again.

“My work here focuses on the development of laser instruments, with a focus on signal processing.” 

How was your experience with the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation?

“Exceptionally positive. In Sweden, often a studentship is similar in some ways with a regular job, meaning that one starts at a random time of the year and you take courses when it best suits you, in your own time. One then loses the feeling of belonging to a ‘group,’ and it easy occurs that one can think that others do not experience the same problems that they themselves experience. With the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation, you can belong to a small ‘class’ – similar to the system in the United States where most commonly new doctoral students start at a particular time of the year and thus annual classes (“first year,” “second year,” etc.) are established. This facilitates the discussion of any problems that might arise, in a way that typical Swedish doctoral students may not be able to.”

“During my time as a student I also experienced good cohesion, probably reinforced by a lot of study visits and trips we made together, but unfortunately I currently have no contact with my course colleagues. Everyone easily spreads out around the world and there is no natural forum to stay in touch.”

Looking back, what did you think was especially valuable about the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation?

“The most valuable thing was probably the network and networking. My business contacts meant that I was immediately able to find a job after graduation, and my time in the United States and now in Norway has also been made possible by the contacts I made via my doctoral project at the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation. In a relatively small industry such as laser spectroscopy, it is extremely valuable to have personal contact with experienced individuals, both in the business community and the academic world.”  

“I have found that some courses were more valuable than others. Patents and intellectual property rights is a course that in my experience gave me a good basis when I later came to the United States where writing patents is a larger part of the academic work than in Sweden. Presentation techniques is another course that was very good to have participated in. Generally, oral presentation is not prioritised in Sweden and I find that in this regard the US, for example, is far ahead in this aspect. The ability to present and answer questions is more important than many people think, and in this regard, it is important to have as many opportunities as possible to practice. The Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation gave regular opportunities for practice in this regard.” 

 

Some quick facts:

Lives in: An apartment in Oslo
Favourite food: Everything and a lot
Unsuspected talent: Patience
I like to: Work out
Me, in three words: Persistent, endurance and stubborn