Mentoring provided new insights

8 September 2019

As a mentor, Per-Åke Niska has gained insight into a completely new field of research. At the same time, with his long experience in the business world, he has had a lot to contribute.

Now there is an opportunity to become a mentor for researchers who want to take their research beyond academia. The Mentor4Research programme is looking for new mentors for this autumn. Alumnus Per-Åke Niska has worked for 30 years in the life sciences and served as a mentor last year.

Per-Åke Niska is a mentor for Natalia Ferraz, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Sciences. She has developed a nano-cellulose for treating slow-healing wounds. In recent months they have met every three or four weeks.

“We work well together, we set goals together, and then we work on them to make sure that commercialisation really happens,” Niska says.

Niska is essentially a prescriptionist with a degree from Uppsala University who works in the life sciences. For him, mentorship meant that he has gained insight into a completely new field of research. At the same time, with his long experience in the business world, he has had a lot to contribute.

“It is one thing to have a great invention and good research, and even to patent it, but the next step involves putting it on a market somewhere and knowing how that works and what you have to do. It has been very rewarding for me as well to have gained good insight into what research in materials science is like.”

A good match of skills

Natalia Ferraz, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Sciences, conducts research on nanotechnology and functional materials. Her field borders that of Per Åke Niska’s because the material she is developing with nano-cellulose can be used to care for slow-healing wounds.

“This makes a very good combination, I think,” says Niska. “She knows materials science, and I have good insight into the life sciences and commercialisation, so Uppsala University made a good match.”

About how much time have you spent on this?
“It varies. We have had meetings maybe every third or fourth week and discussed how to proceed and what intermediate goals we have. It has not been a burden in any way. On the contrary, it has brought new energy to my own work.”

Part of a larger circle of contacts

He could imagine continuing as a mentor in Mentor4Research after the current programme ends in November.

“If they find a suitable project where they think I can contribute my areas of expertise, then it is clear that I would be glad to help. To anyone considering it at all, I recommend contacting UU Innovation and asking to become part of the mentoring programme. You become part of a somewhat larger circle of contacts with other mentors, and you also learn something new. Perhaps in a research domain that you have not had any insight into before.”

 

Facts

  • Mentor4Research at Uppsala University continues for almost a year – from February to December – and every year matches 15–20 mentor pairs.
     
  • They currently seek experienced individuals from the business community who want to share their knowledge and experience with experienced researchers who are curious about commercialisation and want to learn more about business.
     
  • Mentor4Research welcomes mentors from various industries so it can match the researchers’ different backgrounds, needs and interests.
     
  • The mentor assignment is on a volunteer basis, and one to two meetings a month are common. The programme also includes workshops and other activities with opportunities to network with other participants in the programme.

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Mentor4Research at Uppsala University