Mentoring program with restrictions and new dimensions

In October, PhD students and mentors gathered in Uppsala to wrap up the first round of SweDeliver's new mentoring program. Although the pandemic limited most possibilities of interaction, no signs of digital fatigue were to be seen.

(Image removed) Mentor Karin Walhagen, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, with SweDeliver PhD students

SweDeliver currently encompasses an extensive competence capital. With the Training and Career Development Work package, the center has developed the tool to manage this resource in order to prepare the center's junior researchers for leading positions in their scientific fields. In the midst of the pandemic, a mentoring program was launched with a focus on networking and increased understanding of industrial conditions - and in October 2021, PhD students and mentors met in Uppsala to conclude the premiere round over dinner. For many, it was the first time they met their match offline.

(Image removed) Sara Mangsbo, Senior lecturer

“Performing an entire mentoring program via screen is obviously not optimal, but we did our best within current restrictions, and with the results in hand, I perceive that everyone involved describes a positive experience. One of our intentions was to recruit mentors even beyond the Mälardalen region, and here the pandemic may even have been to our advantage,” says Sara Mangsbo, Senior lecturer and leader of the Work package.

For Karin Walhagen, Principal scientist at Danish Ferring Pharmaceuticals, the opportunity to offer mentorship online was indeed crucial to her participation.

“Meeting physically of course has its advantages, but with Teams we were able to conduct more frequent and shorter conversations, which in my opinion added a positive dimension. All things considered, I probably grew as much as Maryam from our meetings, and we have in fact booked a couple of follow-up conversations in spite of my part in the mentoring program being officially fulfilled”.

Another match where adept and mentor collaborated from a distance of almost 700 kilometers was between Vicky Barmpatsalou, PhD student at Uppsala Biomedical Center, and Mikael Ekström, Vice President Development at Iconovo, an innovation company based in Lund Medicon Valley developing advanced inhalation tools.

(Image removed) Vicky Barmpatsalou, PhD student

“For me, the SweDeliver Training and Career Development Work package provides a unique setting for personal development, with one of the absolute highlights being my time in the mentoring program. Mikael Ekström was really generous with his time and shared both insights, valuable advice and constructive feedback on my considerations, something that will without a doubt be of use in my future career choices,” states Vicky Barmpatsalou.

In the foreseeable future, all SweDeliver PhD students will be offered the opportunity to participate in the mentoring program. Preparations for the second round are already in full swing with a kick-off planned for early 2022.

“The concrete effects of a mentorship are not apparent until a few years afterwards. Still, we are about to conduct a more structured analysis of this first round. Hopefully, the answers will provide future mentors even better tools in their conversations with SweDeliver's PhD students and to introduce networks that reach far beyond the adept’s own scientific spheres,” says Sara Mangsbo.


  • The SweDeliver Training and Career Development Work package promote life-long learning for our junior scientists with focus on strategic considerations and career development.
  • The Work package also promotes intersectional and international mobility

More information


(Image removed) Sara Mangsbo, Senior lecturer
Uppsala University, SweDeliver

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt, Sara Mangsbo