PhD student Emil Svensson

Emil in evening dress and student hat.Age: 29
From: ​Norrtälje, Sweden
Previous education: Master in sociotechnical systems engineering at Uppsala university.
Describe the Division of Industrial Engineering and Management with three words:  
Shipping, surprisingly ubiquitous.

What made you apply for a PhD position, and why did you choose the PhD programme in Industrial Engineering and Management at Uppsala University?

I wanted a job where learning and thinking about what you’re doing was premiered rather than seen as stealing time from more important tasks, I figured that that probably involved doing a PHD but I’ll have to admit that I really didn’t know what it was and what I was getting myself into when I applied.

I choose IndTek really because it showed up in my job-searching feed and I realized the profile was in line with what I had previously studied and what I felt I wanted to study. It really was mostly chance and a stroke of luck that brought me here.

Why did you pick a research career track ? How is it different from being in industry?

Well, see above. You have time to think, you are even encouraged to spend time reading books and learning. My, albeit rudimentary, experience of industry work, did not leave me feeling satisfied since I always had to learn enough about something to solve the current problem to be able to move on to the next one and so on in perpetuity. Here, you are given what feels like infinite time to just understand something very, very well.

Can you describe your research with a few sentences?

I study innovation and innovation diffusion in conservative industries with my current focus being on the construction industry. We look at how actors in the industry create and spread innovation and why they often fail to do so.

What makes your research interesting?

I think it’s interesting to figure out why people act the way they do, oftentimes actions which we think results in bad outcomes are based on perfectly rational choices made by the people involved and then I just want to know what system resulted in that being the rational choice and how (if it should) it can be changed.

How would you describe your daily work as a PhD student?

I read and I write mostly, sometimes I teach or go to a seminar. Every now and then I have the pleasure of doing data-gathering, then I might go to a building site or an office and do interviews. Finally I also take some courses and that makes some days very similar to how it was being a regular student, albeit with a salary.

What is the best part of being a doctoral student in Industrial Engineering and Management at Uppsala University? And, is there maybe anything about it that is less enjoyable?

The  best part? It might just be the vigorous mix of different types of expertise that we have in the corridor, an environment which just creates excited discussions on a wide variety of topics. An interest from everyone to be involved, and involve everyone else,  in an ongoing world-wide scientific discussion. Less enjoyable? The least enjoyable part of being a doctoral student here is probably the part that is least enjoyable with being a doctoral student anywhere. It all comes down to you in some way or another,  you have to read, you have to write, you can’t expect to be handheld. It is part of what makes the work great but some days it is just less enjoyable than others. 

What do you think about Uppsala University and the city of Uppsala?

It’s the greatest city on earth (Wennerberg, 1851: Glunt no. 3) and to me the greatest university. Of course I haven’t really been anywhere else but that has never stopped me from making unfounded statements in the past! Truly I love it, the university atmosphere permeates the city and the unique student life with e.g. nations (who provide so many essential and enjoyable diversions to the trials and tribulations of ordinary life), sista april and forsränningen, the PHD graduation ceremony with the cannons, all of it makes Uppsala such a special place to be and study at.

What plans do you have after graduation?

My hope is that I have the possibility to stay, both in academia and the department. It’s a great place to work and it’s great work to do, here’s hoping I’ll feel the same way in a couple of years and, more specifically, while finishing the thesis.

Do you have any advice to future PhD students?

Get a hobby that you can spend your evenings with, take vacation, disregard all emails during weekends.

Also everyone is confused and have no clue what’s happening in the beginning (I still don’t but I’m somewhat hoping I’m just a special case). Just enjoy the possibility you’ve gotten to learn more about some tiny aspect of a subject than most before had ever figured was possible. Lastly and maybe most importantly, find a subject that you truly enjoy because you’ll be spending an awful lot of time with it.


Last modified: 2021-05-05