What is a Post doc?

”Postdoctoral position: a temporary research position, often abroad, intended to give a person the possibility to professionally conduct research, after the completion of their doctoral studies.” This is what you will learn if you google the term. We asked a few of the post docs whithin the Faculty of Science to tell us how they ended up here and what kind of research they are doing.

Amos Turchet

Amos Turchet

Amos Turchet, Italy, Department of Mathematical Sciences.

How did you end up here?

– I started my postdoc position at the Pure Mathematics Section of the Department of Mathematical Sciences in August 2014. I was really interested in working with Professor Salberger and I was lucky enough to pass all the selection processes to get the position, out of almost 150 candidates!

What kind of research do you do?

My research is in the field of Number Theory and it focuses on so-called Diophantine equations, which are polynomial equations where the coefficients are integers or rational numbers. These equations have been studied since the ancient times and they are fundamental to many modern famous problems in mathematics. For example, Fermat’s Last Theorem is a statement about the solution of certain Diophantine equations. They also appear in important applications. For example, whenever an online credit card transaction is carried out, its security relies on some application of Diophantine equations.

What are the differences between being a scientist in Italy compared to Sweden?

– There are a lot of differences between the Swedish system and the Italian one. The main one is the availability of resources that make the job here easier. I also really like the atmosphere of our department, which is very friendly and open. Such an atmosphere is not so common at other universities in my experience.

What are your future plans?

– I would love to stay here, of course. I like my job, my colleagues, the work environment and the city. But I am also aware that I am right at the beginning of my career and it is very hard to get a permanent position at this stage of my professional life. I really hope I will have the possibility to come back one day!

Barbara Koeck

Barbara Koeck

Barbara Köck, Austria, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences

How did you end up here?
I am French-Austrian and grew up in Austria (Vienna), but did my university studies, including my PhD, in France.

After a postdoc in France, I wanted to get some research experience abroad. So I applied to the postdoc offer from Professor Jörgen Johnsson within the Biodiversa-funded SalmoInvade project here at the Department of Biology and Environmental Science at GU.

What kind of research do you do?

– Within the SalmoInvade project, I look at the link between fish behaviour and angling vulnerability. We are using methods from behavioural ecology and different telemetry techniques, combining this information about fish behaviour with angling experiments. We are basically asking: “Why are some fish caught and others never? And what are the implications for fish populations?” What makes this experiment so special is that, in addition to the scientific aspect, it also involves a human dimension, as we work with volunteer anglers and the Swedish Anglers’ Association. Volunteer anglers participating in our experiment provide their knowledge and skills, and they are happy to learn from us and to be part of a scientific experiment. These interactions are extremely valuable and also train us to talk about science in a simple and understandable manner to share our passion.

What are the differences between being a scientist in France compared to Sweden?

– In my experience, I feel that young scientists have more freedom in their research here in Sweden than in France, but this might also just come from the fact that I have been very lucky to work with this particular research group.

Marina Rafajlovic

Marina Rafajlovic

Marina Rafajlovic, Serbia, Department of Physics

How did you end up here?

– I have been (and still am) fascinated by how the world around us consists of so many different living and non-living forms, and yet all the different forms obey the same, universal principles and laws of nature. I wanted to understand these principles and laws. In particular, I chose to study physics as it has both powerful and elegant methods for discovering and explaining the laws of nature. At present, I am affiliated to both the Department of Physics and the Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology (CeMEB) in Tjärnö.

What kind of research do you do?

– My current research aims to understand the principles guiding the evolution of biological species, as well as the consequences these have on the extent of biodiversity today and, potentially, in the future. While we know that many species became extinct in the past, the number of species existing today is huge (more than one million), and some of these will produce new ones through the process known as speciation. An interplay between extinction on the one hand and speciation on the other is what determines how the extent of biodiversity changes over time.

However, we know so little about the causes of either of these two processes. We understand that one factor that can reduce the risk of a species’ extinction is that the species has a strong potential to adapt to spatially and/or temporally changing environmental conditions. Interestingly, the process of a species’ adaptation to spatially varying environmental conditions may eventually lead to speciation. Therefore, to understand the interplay between extinction and speciation, it is necessary to gain a firm understanding of the processes underlying species’ adaptation.

This requires comparative analyses of empirical genetic data and data generated under relevant hypothetical models of adaptation. My research is, thus, highly interdisciplinary and requires competencies in physics, mathematics and biology. For the former two, I am supported by my supervisor, Professor Bernhard Mehlig. For expertise in biology, I collaborate with several members of CeMEB, most closely with Professor Kerstin Johannesson (University of Gothenburg) and Professor Roger K. Butlin (University of Sheffield).

One interesting result from my recent research study (with collaborators Anna Emanuelsson, Kerstin Johannesson, Roger K. Butlin and Bernhard Mehlig) is that when populations of a single species undergo adaptation to two different types of environments, and there is a continuous migration between the populations; genetic differences between individuals sampled from the different populations occur at only a few genes that are physically very close to each other in a chromosome. These genes build a so-called “genetic cluster of differentiation”. The existence of such clusters is consistent with empirical data from a number of model species undergoing adaptation to heterogeneous environments in the face of migration. Interestingly, previous theoretical studies dismissed the possibility of clusters of differentiation being formed in the face of migration unless specific genetic mechanisms beyond those considered in our model are at work. We aim to test our predictions on forthcoming genetic data sampled from a marine snail (Littorina saxatilis), a well-known model system that seems to have a strong potential for local adaptation. This species is interesting in so many ways (for example, it is highly promiscuous), but that is another story.

What are your future plans?
I have two children (aged 2 and 6), and for this reason my plan is to stay in Sweden, at least for the next couple of years. And, yes, I will most certainly continue with my research.

Tinghau Ou

Tinghau Ou

Tinghai Ou, China, Department of Earth Sciences

How did you end up here?

I finished my PhD study at the Department of Earth Sciences. After that I completed a two-year postdoc in South Korea. Early this year I got a postdoc project which was planned to be carried out at the Department of Earth Sciences. So, I am now a postdoc at the Department of Earth Sciences.

What kind of research do you do?

– I am working with the historical changes and future projections in the droughts and forest fires in Sweden, and the impacts of the reduction in the Arctic sea ice on the climate of Eurasia. I am currently leading a project named ‘Droughts and wildfires in Sweden: past variation and future projection’ from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, which will be carried out during 2015-2017.

What are the differences between being a scientist in China compared to Sweden?

– In my experience, one of the major differences between working as researcher in China and Sweden is that researchers normally work together in a big group in China, while in Sweden people normally working alone or in a small group.

What are your future plans?

– One good aspect of being a researcher in Sweden is that it encourages young researchers like me to be independent. This is a good opportunity for me to improve myself as a researcher in Sweden. So, I plan to stay in Sweden for the immediate future.