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PhD Day: We need you, supervisors!

The PhD Day at Health is still going strong after almost twenty years as a big, academic networking event with international guests. But we need to see many more supervisors to help raise the level of the discussions and debates, says Head of Graduate School, Vice-Dean Lise Wogensen Bach.

Right now, 5-600 PhD students from the graduate school at Health are working on an abstract to the annual PhD Day. But when they meet-up on 22 January at the PhD Day 2016, many of them will probably look in vain for their principal supervisor. A lack of time, difficulties finding a free day in the timetable at the department, lectures, conferences etc. can often get in the way of all the good intentions.

"But we need support from the supervisors, also on the day itself," says the Head of Graduate School, Vice-Dean Lise Wogensen Bach, as she recalls past PhD Days when senior researchers almost outnumbered PhD students:

“The principal supervisor is responsible for the whole of the PhD student's programme and research project and should therefore support the event, so it’s surprising that relatively few of the around 275 supervisors actually prioritise participation, unless they are chairing a poster session," she says.

Can raise the level of discussion

This year there are particularly good reasons for experienced researchers to meet-up according to Lise Wogensen Bach. The theme of the event is "Set Science Free", so discussions and panel debates will therefore come to revolve around the subject of what actually furthers research and gets researchers to think in new ways:

"This is a theme that senior AU researchers will be able to help to qualify, so that we can together learn more about what we need to do to help our talents flourish," she says.

And it is worth the effort for the seasoned researcher, according to one of the supervisors who often actively participates in the PhD Day, Professor Lars Østergaard from the Department of Clinical Medicine. He describes the PhD Day as "fun", but also useful because you can find a completely new network if you participate:

"This is true regardless of whether you’re sitting on a panel and discussing the year's theme with colleagues from near and far, or wondering around and looking at the exciting projects unfolding among the many hundred PhD students under the graduate school's umbrella," he says.

Aarhus model increases the quality of the PhD degree programme

Former head of graduate school (2002-2011) and emeritus professor Michael J. Mulvany from the Department of Biomedicine completely agrees:

"In the nature of things, PhD students are spread over a wide range of laboratories and departments. So being able to gather them and their supervisors together once a year is a strong incentive to ensure that everyone is aware of the possibilities for optimising and making the most of a PhD degree programme. This applies equally to the individual student and the individual supervisor", he says.

He also recalls that the concept, which has proved to be extremely viable, was initially developed at the old Faculty of Health Sciences at Aarhus University back in the 1990s:

"The PhD Day on 22 January 2016 will be the tenth anniversary for the current version of the event, but it is almost twenty years since the concept was introduced by the PhD Association. That it is still alive and has spread to other universities in Denmark and abroad suggests that we are doing something right," he says and adds:

"My personal opinion is quite simply that the PhD Day helps increase the quality of the PhD degree programme.”



  • The annual PhD Day gives all PhD students at Health an opportunity to present their work and to network – also with international guests. The day is organised by an organising committee, which consists of members of academic staff and members of the PhD Association.  
  • First and second year PhD students present their research in poster sessions during the course of the PhD Day. Third year students present their research orally during the event's oral sessions or participate as co-chairmen in the poster sessions. In addition, research year students have an opportunity to submit an abstract and to take part in separate poster sessions. Participation in the PhD Day earns one ECTS credit.
  • The Fogh-Nielsen Legacy research prize is awarded at the PhD Day. The prize includes a total cash prize of DKK 100,000.
  • The JCD Prize – also called the supervisor prize – is also awarded at the PhD Day. The prize includes a total cash prize of DKK 25,000.