Mentor to a doctoral student

All doctoral students at Karolinska Institutet (KI) shall have a mentor.

What is expected from a mentor?

The purpose of the mentor-mentee relation is that an external mentor will work as a bridge from the doctoral student to the world outside the direct research environment, as well as being a personal asset for discussions without being involved in the student´s projects. The intention is not to be a scientific asset – that is the responsibility of the supervisors. A mentor is supposed to give advice to the doctoral student as an independent person concerning issues such as career planning, contacts with stakeholders outside KI (e.g. researchers and authorities) or other types of advice.

In addition to regular meetings with the doctoral student during the doctoral education period, the mentor is welcome to attend the half-time review seminar and to participate in the meeting with the half-time board and supervisors in connection to that. The mentor is of course also welcome to attend the public thesis defense.

The doctoral student and mentor should discuss mutual expectations.

Who can be a mentor?

A mentor may be from a university (KI or other), county council, industry or another sector of the society. The mentor should be independent of both the supervisors and the student. A mentor will be appointed following a proposal by the doctoral student, within a year of admission to doctoral education at KI. If desired, a doctoral student can have more than one mentor.

A mentor should know what to a doctoral education is, and therefore it is beneficial if the mentor has a doctoral degree. It is also good if he/she is relatively senior and has an active network of his/her own. The mentor needs to be interested in developing you potential as a future researcher.

How do you choose your mentor?

When choosing your mentor (or mentors), it can be helpful to think about what you would like to do in the future. You might ask someone you regard as a role model or someone working in a field that you are interested in.

You need to be active and take own initiative to find a suitable mentor. Start by thinking of people you already know or already know of; for example from your previous education, your professional environment or personal network, people you have read or heard of etc. You will also meet a lot of people during your first year as doctoral student; for example teachers at doctoral education courses (at KI and outside KI), people you meet at conferences, people you have read about or meet in different professional or private social situations.

Visit the Doctoral Student Association's virtual meeting place for doctoral students (and mentors) if you need help to find a suitable mentor within or outside of academia.

Once you have selected a mentor, tick the box for this purpose in the individual study plan (ISP). You do not need to enter the name of the person as this is up to you and the mentor you have chosen.

How often should mentor and mentee meet and who will take the initiative?

It is suggested that mentor and mentee meet at least twice each year in order to get the most out of the mentorship relation. The frequency of meetings can vary throughout the doctoral education. The mentee will take the initiative for suggesting meeting times and for setting the agenda of each meeting.

What is expected from the mentee/adept?

The mentee/adept is expected to come well prepared to the meetings, describing their professional ambitions and thought, without being too personal. It is important to have an open attitude, to take initiatives, to set up goals and to be committed.

What are the benefits for being a mentor for a doctoral student at KI?

To be an external mentor is a commission of trust. If you want, you can indicate in your CV that you are a mentor for a doctoral student from KI. You are also welcome to become part of the KI Alumni & Friends community, if not already a member.


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Ingeborg van der Ploeg

Central director of doctoral studies