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Doctoral student influence at EECS

Interview with the EECS PhD Student Council

Published Aug 23, 2021

We have talked to Wiebke Köpp and Sina Sheikholeslami who, at the end of 2020, were elected chair and vice-chair for the EECS PhD Student Council. Read about their important work in representing the school's doctoral students and the challenges they face.

Hello Wiebke and Sina!

Congrats to you being elected as chair and vice-chair for the EECS PhD Student Council! You have now been in these roles for one semester, how does it feel?

"Thanks a lot. We have both been a part of the council for a year before volunteering for these new roles, so we were already largely familiar with the business and the procedures of the council and student representation within the school beforehand. However, now we are also learning quite a lot of new things, especially given the current circumstances."

Besides representing student interests in committees in the school, what else do you do?

"That is perhaps one of our most important tasks, along with always having open ears and eyes for the issues of all our PhD student colleagues at EECS. But from the more procedural perspective, the EECS PhD Student Council holds a monthly meeting – in which actually all the PhD students are welcome and encouraged to participate, where we discuss updates from the different committees that council members have participated in as well as any current issue that has come up. These meetings are also where we plan the social events, seminars, and other activities, and of course elect or appoint new representatives. We also participate in the PhD Chapter meetings (Dr/THS) and exchange ideas and collaborate with representatives from the other schools of KTH."

"The fact that most of the PhD students are working from home has made it difficult for us to reach out to students to find out about their problems or hear their suggestions."

During this pandemic, which challenges are you facing in your roles?

"The fact that most of the PhD students are working from home has made it difficult for us to reach out to students to find out about their problems or hear their suggestions. There are no more lunch discussions, Fika breaks, or physical social events, so we had to adjust to the new situation. Everybody is already tired of Zoom meetings and webinars, so getting students to actively participate in online workshops or events requires us to come up with more exciting plans."

What else are you planning for 2021?

"So far this year, we have had a successful Stress Management seminar for the PhD students in late March that was organised in collaboration with the school’s HR. We organised an outreach meeting with our Industrial PhD students to get to know more about their particular issues and make sure they are well represented while the council does not have members that are doing an Industrial PhD (so far!). We also had a virtual campus quiz-walk with board games in February. These efforts to collaborate with the school regarding students’ mental wellbeing, especially in regards to the effects of the pandemic, to organise more low-key social events and opportunities for PhD students to come together, and to attempt reaching out and including a diverse set of voices are efforts that we would like to continue with."

"Then we are also in the process of planning a series of career-focused events that you will hear more about soon. And finally, we are always looking for new members for the council. Quite a few current council members are due to graduate in the not-so-distant future, and we of course want to ensure that student representation in our school continues, with PADs (program-responsible PhD student) for each program, and representatives in the doctoral program and overarching 3rd cycle education councils, as well as all the different executive and working groups."

EECS PhD Student Council