Crash course in navigating academic life

Want to learn more about supervisor-student communication, how to deal with failure, how to avoid getting burnt out, de-stressing and relaxation? Then this crash course is for you.

Registration is now closed


Starting an academic career as a PhD or postdoc is often very rewarding as you get to immerse yourself in your favorite scientific challenges, learn new things every day and work with colleagues equally dedicated to science as yourself. However, it often comes with challenges or obstacles that could be related to the scientific work itself, or to the psychosocial work environment. This can for example be problems communicating and collaborating with supervisors and colleagues or what feels like a never-ending series of failed experiments. 

This is the second time this course is arranged, where last year we focused on giving tips and tricks for handling work-related conflicts and how to contribute to a good psychosocial work environment. This year we have shifted the focus to how to deal with the inevitable problems and obstacles you will encounter during your PhD or postdoc contract. This can be failed experiments, getting your paper rejected, misunderstandings and miscommunications or being overwhelmed with your workload. Our goal is therefore to give the participants a set of tools to better handle the stress and setbacks they meet in academia, to recognize signs of being overworked and how to de-stress when it’s needed. In other words, we will be looking for ways of finding peace in the midst of academic chaos. 

Main topics

PhD-vettreglene and practical information all PhDs and Postdocs should know.

Dr. Nina B. Arnfinnsdottir, researcher, NTNU

Doing good science is, and should be, hard. Afterall, we are trying to push the boundaries of human knowledge. But sometimes doing science is hard due to the “wrong” reasons. This can be anything from broken machines keeping you from doing your work, badly planned projects, difficulties in cooperating with your supervisor, lack of funding and materials or miscommunications with coworkers in the lab. Last year, Nina was one of the initiators of this course. After having experienced some of these “wrong reasons” herself and also seeing good friends and coworkers struggling with “wrong reasons” of their own she decided to try and help by arranging this course. She will share the most important lessons she has learned as both a PhD and a Postdoc with a short talk called “PhD-vettreglene”.  In addition, she will go over some practical information that can be useful to know as a PhD or Postdoc, such as what support is available from your union, the local bedriftshelsetjeneste, the university etc.

How to deal with failure 
Henrik Herrebrøden, psychologist, author and PhD student at UiO.

Doing groundbreaking scientific work without a few failures along the way is impossible. Learning how to deal with failures and setbacks in a healthy and productive way is integral to “surviving” academia. Henrik has specialized in the area of performance psychology and has worked with athletes and how they deal with failure. He has even written a book on the subject. And since he currently also is a PhD-student, he has definitely experienced some failures and challenges of his own. He will have a workshop on how to deal with failure and setbacks, divided into three parts:

  1. Before they occur: Topics will include mindset, goal setting, and mental training.
  2. While they occur: Topics will include focus, stress, and self-regulation.
  3. After they occur: Topics will include performance evaluation and attention.

The workshop will be interactive with group discussions and allowing the participants to share and discuss their own experiences.

Yoga for relaxation and mindfulness

Dr. Anne Devismes

Anne has a PhD in nuclear physics from the Technische Universität Darmstadt, and has worked as a researcher at NTNU, but has chosen to leave academia to start her own yoga studio.  She is therefore in a unique position to both discuss the possibility of a life outside of academia and teach us some useful breathing exercises and meditation techniques. She will lead us in some yoga-inspired exercises before talking about her reasons for leaving academia and opening for discussion and questions from the participants.

Stress management and how to avoid getting burnt out
Rune Stuvland, psychologist, Senter for Stress og Traumepsykologi.

Working in academia can sometimes be a stressful experience, with a high workload and many overhanging deadlines. This can, if we ignore the early warning signs, lead to stress-related illness and eventually hitting the famous “wall”. Rune is a psychologist and has over 30 years of experience working with people in crisis. He is an experienced speaker on stress and stress-related illness. He will lead a session on how to deal with stress and difficult situations which includes both short presentations and group work. He will cover themes such as theories on how the body reacts to stress and how that leads to getting burnt out, on identifying different sources to stress, and techniques for handling stressful situations in new and better ways.

Expectations, boundaries, and communication

Borgny Hedvig Wold, Bedriftshelsetjenesten, NTNU

Lacking communication and unresolved expectations can often lead to stress in a work situation. In academia your supervisors and colleagues are typically hired for their excellent academic record, not their perfect communication skills. So how do we best communicate to our supervisor and group members? Borgny will talk about how to communicate your needs, how to set your own boundaries and how to set up expectations for collaboration with both your supervisor and colleagues. She will provide us with practical tools to help you communicate these things in an effective manner. These tools will also help you to have more fruitful discussions and conversations with your colleagues in general.

Preliminary program

Thursday 2 September

  • 10:30 - 11:00   Arrival and check in
  • 11:00 - 13:00   Welcome + Nina B. Arnfinnsdottir: "PhD-vettreglene" and practical things to know.
  • 13:00 - 14:00   Lunch
  • 14:00 - 17:00   Henrik Herrebrøden: How to deal with failure.
  • 17:00 - 18:00   Break with snacks
  • 18:00 - 19:30   Anne Devises: Yoga for de-stressing and life beyond academia.
  • 20:00               Dinner

Friday 3 September

  • 08:30 - 11:00   Rune Stuvland: Stress management
  • 11:30 - 12:30   Lunch
  • 12:30 - 14:00   Borgny Hedvig Wold: Expectations, boundaries and communication.
  • 14:00 - 14:30   Coffee break
  • 14:30 - 15:00   Summary and sharing of lessons learned
  • 15:30               Attendees travel home

Practical matters

There will be maximum 30 places available. All participants will be accommodated at Jægtvolden Fjordhotell in single rooms. The research school covers all expenses for its members upon submission of travel reimbursment claims. After the application deadline, you will receive information on whether you have a place in the course or not. Please do not book flights etc. until you receive this information.

How to get there

Participants from outside Trondheim: Train at 08:53 from Værnes airport - arrival at Røra 10:07

Participants from Trondheim: Train at 08:18 from Trondheim S - arrival at Røra 10:07

All participants will be picked up at Røra train station and will arrive at the hotel at 10:30 together.


Liv E. Falkenberg,

Rosalie Zwiggelaar,

Published Mar. 10, 2021 1:06 PM - Last modified Aug. 9, 2021 1:56 PM