Attending the Monday seminar of VTE is an important part of doctoral training. The seminar serves two purposes. First, it provides support for the research of the doctoral students. Second, it provides a possibility for learning and improving scientific presentation and argumentation skills in English. Regular participation in the seminar is therefore vital for successful training as a researcher. The seminar also helps to integrate students into the wider population and health research community.
Active participation is necessary for the effective functioning of the seminar. In addition to presenting one’s own research, it is essential to attend the sessions as well as read and discuss the papers of the other participants. This helps you understand the decisions related to methodology and research settings, learn the important skills of scientific presentation, discussion and argumentation, as well as helps you to be informed of the contemporary empirical research in the fields of population and health studies. The seminar is an effective learning environment only if PhD students actively participate in it. Therefore, participation will be actively monitored and recorded and study credits will be granted according to it (0.25 credits for attending, 0.5 for acting as a commentator and 1 for presenting). Moreover, please note that from January 2018 onward, PhD students are only allowed to present their own work if they have attended at least 60% of the seminar sessions the semester before. Exceptions to this rule include, for example, parental leave, military service or an exchange visit to another university with active participation in a corresponding seminar.
Papers presented in the seminar are research plans, article manuscripts or thesis summaries. Students are encouraged to first present their research plans; during the research process article manuscripts, and finally, their thesis summaries. The students will send their seminar paper to the VTE coordinator as an email attachment no later than previous Thursday noon. The coordinator will then distribute the paper to the seminar participants through the seminar mailing list. In order to ensure the quality of the presentations, supervisors must accept the paper to be presented. Thesis supervisors are expected to participate in the seminar when their student is presenting a paper.
The distribution of the seminar papers is via the VTE mailing list. The current coordinator of VTE – Hannu Lahtinen (hannu.lahtinen (at) helsinki.fi) – maintains the mailing list.
In addition to scientific feedback, the Monday seminars provide a possibility to practice delivering scientific presentations and giving constructive feedback to others. A presentation should last between 20 to 30 minutes, addressing the contents and problems of the seminar paper. Special attention is given to the quality of the presentations, for instance, the Power Point slides should be clear and carefully designed. At the beginning of the presentation, it is recommended to briefly remind the seminar participants about the overall progress of the dissertation project and how the current presentation contributes to that work.
After oral presentations, there will be time for comments and discussion. A student commentator will be appointed for every paper. Commentator should prepare their comments in advance and be ready to discuss the scientific weaknesses and merits of the presentation for about ten minutes, after which there is open discussion. The aim of the comments and discussion is to focus on major questions instead of details and minor mistakes. The presenter will lead the discussion and give the floor to speakers.
Obtaining seminar credits will require active seminar participation. Doctoral students are recommended to present their work in the seminar approximately 5-6 times; thus presenting their research proposal, sub-studies and a summary. Similarly, students are expected to act as commentators for approximately same number of times. Overall, active participation is required.
Seminar participation is monitored and study credits are given only for active participation. In the VTE seminar study credits will accrue in the following manner. Each seminar presentation corresponds to 1 credit; being a commentator 0.5 credits and active participation 0.25 credits for each seminar session. It is advised that students actively participate in the seminar from the beginning of their studies in order to guarantee that their graduation is not delayed.
In addition to the seminar, VTE hosts other events, such as visiting lecturers, and courses in collaboration with other centers providing doctoral training. The doctoral training also includes teaching in researcher skills, such as scientific English, conference presentation, research ethics and the publication process. Information about these events is distributed via the mailing list. Students and supervisors are encouraged to propose events they think important.