So the Lucia Ball happened last Saturday and it was amazing, so much so I did a Vlog on the night.  Lucia is a tradition is Sweden and in english could be thought of as the ‘festival of light’. There are many concerts and events going on around the city at this time and it is lovely, given the long dark days which is why this tradition has come about. The lucia bal is also a chance to have one last party and a huge farewell before the new as many, myself included go home shortly afterward for Christmas with family. It is held in the student union building, MF, in Karolinska Solna with alot of effort put into the festive party and also a formal dinner taking place earlier in the day. Lucia is something for all of you prospective students to look forward to! Hope you enjoy the video- hej då!

The Age to Come

Last Tuesday, 9th of December, a wonderful event took place in Stockholm: The Nobel Week Dialogue. The event was organized at the Stockholm City Conference Centre, near the city center and it hosted some of the most brilliant minds of our time. As a KI student, you do not only get the advantages of studying at the institution in charge of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, but you can also take part in some of the many events organized in the city of Stockholm.


Nobel Week Dialogue @ City Conference Centre


Everybody getting to their seats!



Did you know that 68 is the new 57 in Sweden? Aging is not what it used to be, explained James W. Vaupel. Medical, social and economic improvements are changing the concept of getting old and as years go by, senescence is delayed.

An intense day from 9:30 to 17:00, but absolutely worth it. Multiple keynote speakers gave short and engaging presentations tackling issues such as: is human development not only determined by biology, but also by our cultural context and behavior?; is our lifestyle model of working and retirement sustainable and productive?; are we living longer but only increasing our reliance on younger people?


Ursula M Staudinger explaining our productivity throughout our lifetime.


In addition to these short and intense 15-minutes lecture, discussion panels were organized with experts in different fields, including Nobel Prize winners. Some topics that were discussed were the equivalence between functional age and chronological age. If retirement ages are supposed to be extended, we should consider that not everyone at the age of 65 is lucky enough to feel 10 years “younger”.

Then, Tom Kirkwood gave a more biological perspective to why we actually age. Maybe our genes are programmed to “prevent overcrowding”?. However, this is not expected to be the reasoning behind it. Wild animals normally die young, making the aging process a consequence of accumulative molecular damage.

However, why do some people live longer than others? Even though the answer is not yet clear, one thing is: studies have shown how Nobel Prize winners live a couple of years longer than the nominees. This study presented by Andrew Oswald, added to the fact that happier animals heal more quickly, gives us some ideas on how to extend our life expectancy.

But, do we really understand what becoming old means? Laura Carstensen explained how aging is not only associated to negative things. As we age, people tend to have less negative feelings and embrace their own tendency to look at the bright side and what really is important. For example, as we grow, our social network selectively narrows and helps us really get the best of it.

After this, “fun” fact: The sale of adult diapers has increased over that of baby diapers. This shows us how important it is to adapt to future markets. Joe Coughlin, founding director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, made the public realize how technology is entering our houses without us really noticing. To make our older generations’ life easier, this institute is simulating aging -to use empathy for the design of future technologies- by using specialized suits that make you feel the pain and tiredness associated to age.


Joe Coughlin – Walking with AGNES to Reenginer an Ageing World.


All these topics and activities mentioned above are just a glimpse of this amazing day I had the pleasure of experiencing; but many more are left untold. Definitely, one of the best events I have attended in Stockholm so far. Even though studying at KI includes many hours of lectures, activities in class and group work, it has the perfect scenario for us students to enjoy a wide variety of enriching activities. To sum up, during the event the audience was asked if this increase in the older generations was more a challenge or an opportunity? To this, Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Prize for discovering the nature of telomeres, gave a really inspiring answer that can apply to almost any issue in our lives: The challenge IS the opportunity.


Closing panel with 6 Nobel Prize winners on stage: Elisabeth Blackburn, Eric Maskin, Daniel McFadden, Aaron Ciechanover, Craig Mello and Eric Kandel.


December updates

As I promised in my recent posts, I would like to keep you updated on the things that are happening now at Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm. These include Swedish Course, Toxicology programme curriculum and special events that take place at this time of the year in Sweden.

Let me first start from the language course: it has been almost a month since I started my course and I must admit I am very satisfied with the school and my class. Our teacher is very friendly and eager to help us with occasionally overwhelming grammar, as the course is a bit intensive though. All the materials are provided by the tutor, so you don’t have to buy any extra books. Moreover, I recommend to choose schools located in the centre  of the city because it is highly possible you will meet many students and researchers from KI, as I did! The pathway to be fluent in Swedish is quite arduous and contains many levels: I’m currently at 3CT Intro level, which is the first one, so to finish my adventure with SFI I have to succesfully complete also 3CT, 3C and 3D levels. To reach the 3C level you only have to obtain a permission from your teacher, but from 3C one onwards you have to pass a national exam. We will see if I can keep up with studying Swedish for the next months, but for now let me just paste some of the random excercises we are tortured every Tuesday and Thursday at Folkuniversitet.

Tox master’s programme: Finally we finished the Target Organ Toxicity course and started the last one during this term: Health Risk Assessment. The course, again, is based on a group work. However, this time the aim of the group project is to write a 20-pages-long health risk assessment report about a given chemical(s). Every group has its own tutor, who helps us with any problems or doubts as well as gives you valuable tips on how to write your report properly. After submitting our reports in January, we will still have to pass a written exam that is the main criterion for evaluation. Finally, from 23rd of December to 6th of January we have a free-from-lectures period therefore everyone who wants (or can) to go back for Christmas holiday to their native countries is able to do so.

Others:  there were many activities connected to the Nobel Prize this week. Personally, I had the chance to participate in the Nobel Dialogue Conference on Tuesday, that was related to ageing processes. I had the opportunity to see and listen to the several Nobel Prize winners, including Elizabeth Blackburn (Nobel Prize for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase), Aaron Ciechanover (Nobel Prize for ubiquitine-merdiated protein degradation) or Eric Kandel (Nobel Prize for for their discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system). I must admit that it is superinteresting to listen to these people, their opinions and even the way they express their thoughts. Unfortunately, I had to skip one of the meeting with my tutor but I do not regret it at all because I probably would not have another chance to participate in such event!

Lastly, I would like to show you a beautiful view I admire every day around 8 a.m outside my house in December:



Understanding a Swedish Christmas – the weird & wonderful

It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and I love it. Walking around Stockholm this time of year you will have a hard time spotting a house or business that hasn’t been smothered in Christmas cheer.

This post isn’t about ‘normal’ Christmas, true to form the Swedes have some weird and even down right confusing traditions.

me so christmas, me so happy

Here is what you need to know…

The Yule Goat

By now many of you have probably seen this goat in the Christmas markets but what does it mean? The yule goat is a Scandinavian tradition were the goat apparently delivered gifts to children.


However Sweden’s modern tradition is slightly different. Each year the town of Gávle erects a 13 foot straw yule goat in their town square and they have been doing this every year since 1966. Which is surprising as every year hoodlums and pranksters set it alight. If you are planning on joining in on the shenanigans you should know that if you are caught burning down the goat you are likely to serve some jail time and receive a heavy fine. If burning down giant goat statue isn’t quite your thing you can always place your bets on what day you think the goat will go down in flames.

yule goat


The 13th December is known as St Lucia Day in Sweden. On this day the eldest girl in the family takes on the role as Lucia donning a white robe, wearing a crown full of candles and serving her family Lucia buns, coffee (of course!) and mulled wine.

Christmas gnomes

Have you ever thought… wow I love Christmas gnomes! Well then chances are you are Swedish. Swedes have a long history with gnomes who were thought to live under houses or in the forest. Gnomes were very helpful creatures working on farms, doing chores and even protecting the family from danger. Many of the Christmas decorations you see are actually Christmas gnomes or tomte. After Christmas eve celebrations a family member will dress up as tomte (who looks suspiciously like Santa) and hands out presents while singing or making up funny rhymes.


Donald Duck 

Stranger still, every year on the 24th December at 3pm half of the population of Sweden will sit down to watch Donald Duck. The Christmas special ‘From All of Us to All of You’ is a Swedish staple. If you question a Swede about this they will stare at you confused, it isn’t worth asking.

Donald Duck GIF 2

Christmas isn’t officially over until the 13th January

The 13th January or Hilarymas/ St Knut’s Day is an annual event marking the end of the Swedish Christmas season with celebrations happening around the country. Back in the day celebrations were over when the old Christmas tree was thrown out of the window. To be safe I would recommend that you don’t stand under any open windows.

If you know of any other Swedish Christmas traditions let me know by sending an email to or leaving a comment below. 

Computer programming to Medicine Health Informatics Course II, Basic Medical Science

It is more than Three months now being part of the health informatics courses at Karolinska Institutet,ooh it feels strange how time flies.                                                     I can reflect on one of the health informatics ‘bridging’ course. It is termed ‘bridging’ because the Health informatics consists of students from medical and computer sciences or basically technological backgrounds and to bridge the difference in background, the first courses are tailored depending on academic backgrounds,with sort of professional swaps. And in any typical setting with the two professionals getting a common ground is highly unexpected as there are few interlinking concepts if any between the two fields.

As almost two thirds of the class with medical backgrounds went to Department of computer and information science (DSV) at Stockholm university to learn the basics of computer science,the other third with technological background which i was part of ,remained at Karolinska to explore what was termed  ‘basics of medicine’.


The course name ‘Basic medical science’ initially sounded ‘disturbing’ to me ,as my distant relation to anything related to medical science in an academic sense was high school biology.                                                                                                                       The health informatics program is basically to aid information technology personal and medical personnel to be able to communicate in unison,so both professionals should have an understanding on the workings of either field to develop,utilize and evaluate technological systems which are relevant to the health sector.

Expectations                                                                                                            Interaction with a few the of previous first year students with technical background,a picture of  an intensive course took shape in my brain even before the program begun.Before beginning the course one of my greatest fears was how i was going to tackle what looked on paper like an insurmountable task. Transitioning from technology semantics and jargon  to life sciences terminology was going to be a challenge , fields which seem not to share a lot.from ‘data’ to ‘pathology’, ‘systems’ to ‘computer systems’, ‘println’,’coding’ to ‘autoimmune’, ‘python’, ‘schema’,’database’ to ‘diseases’,’conditions’ .

My experience

I have to admit it was one of the most intriguing  experiences in my so far short academic stay at Karolinska University, basically because of the magnitude of new information i was able to get in the period of five weeks period ,the total duration of the course was mind boggling, the expectation that i should have understood all the stuff within the 5 weeks to and be able to sit the tests and exams was itself disturbing, but as it is humanly typically desperate times always lead to reactions .                                 But with team activities which is pinnacle of the health informatics program and the input from course facilitators,it was generally a great experience and i can say largely successfully.                                                                                                                     The theoretical medical stuff  of anatomy, physiology and pathology was complemented with  stints of  laboratory work were incorporated like measurement of blood pressure and it’s interpretation, how to take ECG test and interpret the information and finally simple heart dissection.


Reading Desk for Course examination


At the end of the course you are expected  to understand the basics of medical science, which i might give myself a relatively good score to be modest.                          Definitely any prospective health informatics student with a technical background, should not expect to be able to diagnose or prescribe any formal condition, it is meant to give a general picture on medical science and it seems to do it quite successfully. You remain first and foremost an information scientist.



Born at KI: Swedish Organization for Global Health

One of the special things about studying in a global master’s program at Karolinska Institutet is meeting dynamic and creative fellow students. United by their passion for global health, several such individuals from my program came together last spring and began to design their own public health initiative from the ground up. Eventually, their efforts led to the creation of the NGO Swedish Organization for Global Health. Today, I’m very excited to share an interview with one of the NGO’s co-founders. Sanni Kujala is program director of the NGO and a fellow student in the Public Health Sciences program from the epidemiology track.

Laura: What is the Swedish Organization for Global Health and what types of projects is it involved in?
Sanni: We are a registered NGO based in Sweden. Our work involves forming partnerships with grassroots NGOs in low-income countries and working together to address public health issues using low-cost interventions.

We are currently running a maternal and newborn health project – the Maama Project – together with Uganda Development and Health Associates. With the help of community health workers, we want to increase antenatal care attendance and health facility births in our project area in Maina, as well as reduce the risk of infections for mothers and newborns after birth by providing clean birth kits.

The NGO's community health workers with a local mother and her baby

The NGO’s community health workers with a local mother and her baby

Laura: What led you and your co-founders to found the NGO?
Sanni: Initially we wanted to gain experience in working with global health issues in the field, which led us to volunteer in Uganda last summer. During our time there, we decided to form a long-term partnership together with the local NGO, allowing more students from KI to get the chance to gain practical experience in global health by working for our project and our partner NGO.

Laura: How do you think your education at KI has helped you in your NGO work?
Sanni: My education has helped me to look at development projects from an evidence-based standpoint. Courses in data collection and intervention evaluations have been especially helpful in planning how and when we collect data in order to evaluate how well our project is working and what kind of difference it is making.

Laura: What are your hopes for the future of the NGO?
Sanni: We hope to expand our work to more countries. We are currently designing a sexual health education program for secondary school students in Rwanda together with a local, well-established NGO. Another goal of ours is to form new partnerships with organizations in Sweden and abroad. At the moment we are looking into establishing a partnership with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) at KI, enabling medical students to join us in Uganda next summer and work at local clinics and hospitals.

Health clinic staff, community health workers, and community leaders from the area

Health clinic staff, community health workers, and community leaders from the area

Laura: How can people who are interested support your efforts?
Sanni: We welcome everyone who is interested in volunteering with us! We work with a group of student volunteers from KI with activities ranging from sandwich sales to grant applications.

We are also looking for students interested in volunteering in Uganda and/or Rwanda next summer. The volunteers will be involved in conducting program evaluations of our existing projects and they will also be able to work on other public health projects that our partner NGOs are running based on their individual interests.

Thanks very much to Sanni for providing insights into this fantastic project. For more information, be sure to check out the NGO’s website or Facebook page.

Swedish Christmas Menu

Everybody that is here in Stockholm, for years or just recently, is already aware of the cold and dark season that is ahead of us. However, as the days just keep on getting shorter (even though I thought it was impossible!) you can start feeling the Christmas spirit all around the city. You can see plenty of darkness and Christmas decoration photos following the hashtag #kiglobal on Instagram! Only, today’s blog is a bit different.

I normally complain about how difficult it is to find nice and inexpensive places to eat out around Stockholm. And not even to mention finding Swedish places to eat local food at a student price – I think Ikea is our only hope. However, the Christmas season has proved me wrong. Sweden is a country full of traditions, special and unique concepts, and plenty of curious food. During these last days I have experienced a real Swedish Christmas adventure, from home baking thanks to one of your Swedish classmates and friends, Mandy, to dinner buffets, thanks to the organization Global Friends and their wonderful sponsored events. Thank you, Sweden for this tasty month of December!

So that you can get the feeling of a Swedish Christmas menu, these are some examples that can be found during Christmas in Sweden (please, if you find something appetizing that is missing, let us know!):

Julbord: It means something like “Christmas table”. A popular tradition here is to enjoy what is called Smörgåsbord. It is a buffet meal typical in Scandinavian countries where different hot and cold dishes can be enjoyed. Following, there are some examples that some fortunate students were able to enjoy during the Julbord event, sponsored by Global Friends.

  • Rödbetor – sliced beet root.
  • Prinskorv – small hot dogs; which means prince-sausage!
  • Julskinka – Christmas ham.
  • Köttbullar – Swedish meatballs
  • Revbensspjäll – spare ribs.
  • Inladg sill – pickled herring.
  • Janssons frestelse – means Jansson’s temptation; warm scalloped potato casserole with anchovies.
  • Vörtlimpa – rye bread with grated orange peel.

Here is a picture of my plate with all the tasty food!

Christmas drinks: Swedes like to have specific drinks for their holidays. This includes Julmust, a soft drink that is like coke; and glögg, mulled wine that is quite sweet and can be served with raisins and almonds in it. Glögg is typically served hot and it can be found in many Christmas markets around here.


Gamla Stan Christmas market where you can enjoy some glögg.


Desserts: The desserts I have discovered are Knäck, Christmas toffee; Pepparkakor and Lussekatter. Pepparkakor are gingerbread cookies flavored with different spices, for example cinnamon. You can buy the dough already prepared and just cut out Christmas shapes or make the dough from scratch. Also, another tradition is to make Christmas houses and decorate them. You can see an exhibition of this inside the Moderna museet from the 3rd of December until the 7th of January ( A different dessert option is Lussekatter, saffron buns with an S-like shape and raisins. They are typical during Saint Lucy’s day (St. Lucia) celebrated on the 13th of December.


To finish up, just wish these delicious meals have not opened your appetite too much and that you consider coming to Sweden during this cold month and enjoy the fantastic spirit and food you can find here. Enjoy!

[Course Reflection Series 4] Behavior Management Control

Behavior Management Control (BMC) is a more advanced level of Master course in Management. You could find these words in journals covering organizational behavior, psychology, accounting and finance etc. For me, BMC is actually psychology + case analysis course.

Fig.1 Object of Control (hand drawn by Yi)

The most noteworthy point is the graph which summarizes the whole course (see Fig.1). This graph works like a thread connecting all the ‘beads’(lectures) together. One thing very important yet unknown to me before is the types of controls, action, result, personal and cultural and how are they implemented within different layers (such as group, organization, society). The level-of-consciousness curve is also a key point, while we can see how people’s consciousness changes in their life (think more in the interest of group at teenager years and more for themselves at mid-ages).

The case study is also quite demanding in this course. The longest case is about 30 pages and we should read it within 2 days. However, I really enjoy case-reading and analyze a rather complex real-life situation in a more concise way.

I am currently working on the home-work assignment. Although the instructor is kind enough to extend the deadline till Jan 7th. I don’t want to take a home exam with me to Abisko during Christmas.

I guess many of you are busy with exams this month. Work hard and you worth it!


Nobel Laureates Lecture at Karolinska Institutet

It is known that the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet (KI) is responsible for the huge task of selecting awardees for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine each year. It has been a while since the 2014 Nobel Prize winners are announced. Here at KI it is a tradition to have lectures by the Nobel laurates, as part of the Nobel Week program. I have been waiting this day with enormous eagerness since I heard the news. It is good that the day has come and I become able to attend this historic lecture.

Alfred Nobel

As you might be already well aware, the 2014 Physiology or Medicine Nobel Prize winners are three prominent professors: John O´Keefe (London University College) and May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser (both from Norwegian University of Science and Technology). They won the Nobel Prize ‘for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain’. It is not easy for me to discuss it but I have understood that it has become possible to explain how our brain knows where we are and how we it selects the appropriate path to go from one place to another.

 3 on stage 20141207_122314 Winners and 20141207_154919 - Copy Winners

J  20141207_131857Edvard  20141207_140820F 20141207_145628

Though I do not have the exact statistics of the attendees, it seems clear that there were a lot of people from all over the world, who just came to attend the lecture. However, I am quite impressed to meet high school students who came with a Malaysian group of attendees. They told me a governmental institution from their country sponsored their participation. In my opinion, this is a very thoughtful deed and a lesson for other similar organizations. I think it would not be very difficult for an organization or a society to produce several Nobel Prize winners if job is done early like this example.

o+  20141207_130833 O+  20141207_140504 O+ 20141207_140508o  20141207_130840o 20141207_122901

A significant portion of the discussions in the laureates’ presentations was about other individuals’ work in the field before them. This is a very practical example that shows the fact that one needs to stand on the shoulders of some other people to step forward in life. Then it is appropriate to give credit for the work of those people just like the laureates did.

Others 20141207_141122

Thank you to Md Shajedur Rahman Shawon and Ratish Rahman to let me use their pictures.


An Afternoon in Tumba Bruksmuseum

Have you ever heard about an area in Stockholm called ‘Tumba’? Most of people I talked to didn’t even know where it actually was, but since some of my friends lived there (by the time I wrote this, only one actually) I got a chance to visit this lovely area during the past few months.

Whenever I wanted to visit my friend, I had to board a bus that went through ‘Tumba Bruksmuseum’ bus stop. I had been curious for some time, what kind of museum it could be, giving the condition that it was somewhat faraway from Stockholm’s city center. However, it was not until recently that my question was finally answered.

Tumba Bruksmuseum (translated as ‘Tumba Papermill Museum’ on its official website) is a museum of tradition and history in Tumba, which had been the center of paper making, especially those that was used for the bank notes in Sweden. The history of papermaking in Tumba dated back as old as the 18th centuries, when the Central Bank of Sweden (Sveriges Rikes Ständers Bank, now called Sveriges Riksbank) decided to build a paper mill in order to enable the production of the bank notes in Sweden domestically (read here).

The museum consisted of 4 different buildings. The first that we entered (which actually was not the main building XD ) was ‘Kölnan’. In this building, we could see pretty much about the history of Tumba’s paper mill and how life was like in Tumba back then. Although all of the descriptions were in Swedish, they had some interesting things to be displayed. My favorites were actually the ‘Musical Life in Tumba’ part and the classroom!

The second building we entered was the Oxen House (which was actually the main building, I think). The exhibition here showed mostly about the history of Swedish Central Bank and all about Swedish banknotes. Additionally, they also had an attractive collection of various banknotes from all over the world. However, for me, the most interesting part of this section was the video that shows a range of security measurements that could be placed upon a single banknote! Although later I found out that the banknote shown in that video was a specimen made especially for a trade fair, it was amazing to see how such kind of technology had developed over time :)

The Red Warehouse (Röda Magasinet) was the next building we visited in Tumba Bruksmuseum. Here you could actually watch the process of paper-making directly through the guided tours. However, we came quite late that afternoon so we didn’t get the chance to see it.

The last building we visited there was Spruthuset. This building was first built to serve as the fire station in the mill, so the exhibitions you could see here were pretty much related to that area. The highlight here was of course, the huge red fire truck ;)

If you would like to visit this museum, you could take the pendeltåg to Tumba and take the bus number 725 to Rönninge Station and stop at Tumba Bruksmuseum. It might seem quite far, but hey, why don’t we take advantage of our time while we’re here? ;)

See you in the next post!