Introducing our first Stockholm iGEM team!

Hello everyone!

In this next post I am very happy to present the brand new Stockholm iGEM team, which is a wonderful group comprising 19 enthusiastic students from three higher educational institutions based primarily in the Stockholm area: Karolinska Institutet (KI), Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (Royal Institute of Technology, KTH) and Stockholms Universitetet (SU).

iGEM – acronym that stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine – is the global competition that aimes for the development of a synthetic biology field, including safe and innovative applications of the biological technology as well as improvement and optimalisation of the tools for engineering biology that may be invaluable in tackling various medical problems, from pancreatic cancer to Ebola virus disease. First based at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 2012 iGEM became an independent organisation that annually hosts the official final gathering (called Jamboree) of all the teams in Boston. As for 2015, there are 281 teams registered from all over the world, with the largest number of them established in China and the United States; Europe is represented by 72 groups. Some of the iGEM competition laureates from previous years include teams from Heidelberg University, Imperial College London, University of California (Davis) and Paris Bettencourt.

Stockholm, until now, has not had initiative to create its own group that would represent it on the international level, despite the presence of the other teams from Göteborg, Linköping and Uppsala. And it would not probably change if not tremendous work done by Felix, who promoted the event, recruited the candidates for the team members and asked potential teachers to become our official supervisors. The effects of the enrollment is depicted on this photo (with almost all of us):


Our team comprises, as previously mentioned, students from three different institutions. Subsequently, KI students come from Master’s programmes in Biomedicine, Toxicology and Bioentrepreneurship as well as Biomedicine Bachelor’s programme. Biomed and Tox students are mostly involved in the scientific part of the work, while our bioentrepreneurs take care of the finances and sponsoring of the team. Furthermore, the scientists are divided into three distinctive subgroups, focused on modeling, signaling and detection of the process that we are working on.

The main part of our work will take place over the summer at KTH campus, so right now we are mostly planning the experiments, promoting iGEM and getting to know each other since soon we will spend a lot of time together. Let me show you some of our common activities:

1) Almost every Sunday we are meeting at the KI campus to discuss the progress of the work, talk about potential sponsors, exchange our ideas and analyse their feasibility.

2) Every week there are also technical meetings, where each of us has a chance to present or learn laboratory technique that can be useful during the experimental part of the project:


3) Following that, we also meet in subgroups to discuss the parts of our project in detail:


4) Finally, we have some casual meetings where we plainly have fun and play random games together:

Additionally, the idea of the iGEM competition is also to spread the knowledge of life sciences and to collaborate with other scientific institutions. Our Stockholm iGEM group cooperates with the teams from Institut Pasteur (Paris), University of Uppsala and Aalto University in Helsinki. We have regular Skype meetings and, most probably, we will meet each other in the near future.

So, if you are a prospective student thinking now whether to come and study at KI or not, an opportunity to participate in the huge competition, gathering the students from the most prestigious institutions in the world, may be really convincing. If you are ambitious, open-minded and hard-working, studying at KI will present you many occasions to develop and gain knowledge necessary in your future scientific career.

Finally, if you are still hesitant and do not know whether to use your chance, remember to contact the student ambassadors that have already experienced their first year here in Stockholm and are willing to advise you in all the matters that now may seem discomforting and discouraging.



Time of relief and worries

The time is gone. A sense of relief is perceived in the master students delivering their master thesis. The schedule is different for each program so you can see several waves of happiness.

I present my thesis in the final seminar tomorrow. In my country, this moment is the most important of the evaluation as they define grading at that point, based  both in your defense and in your manuscript. I understand that this not happen here as the final grading is based only in the enhanced written document I must submit next week, after feedback from my examiner, my peer and whoever else is in the room. All the students of the Master Programme in Public Health, Health Economy, Policy and Management are defending their thesis in a seminar from May 20 to 22. Here is the schedule (PDF). Maybe there will be last minute changes but, so far, this is the updated version.

I would like to broadcast my presentation in streaming, maybe somebody would like to see it, hohoho. But I will enact my right to censorship and release it to the public only after scrutinizing my performance :) I think I will record it and, maybe, upload it on youtube. Anyway, if you are interested in attending my presentation it will happen tomorrow at Widermstronska huset, Tomtebodavägen 18A, room Charles Parker not earlier than 15:15. Sadly, that is a very small room and it will be already packed with all my classmates, faculty, examiners, my wife and maybe some others.

By the way, the title of my thesis is:

Exploring the use of health communication in health policy implementation: response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

Reviewing this text I realize that this is one of my lasts posts in the students blog. If not the last. I am shivering.


Printout of my thesis and my peer’s document on the screen


[Course Reflection Series 8] – SSES Elective Course


From Mar 28 to May 11, I have taken an elective course in SSES (Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship), Growth — Managing Your Firm.  Despite practical placements and thesis project, elective course is in fact the only course that allows MBE students to choose for their own interests. Thus I value this opportunity and try to make the best use of it.

Elective courses are divided into two time slots, half of the courses start in late January while the rest half start in late March. This year, about 10 students start courses in January together with the PDBI course, which might add to the heavy PDBI course load. The courses include Design Thinking, Execution — Starting Your Firm etc. Other students start courses such as Negotiation,  Growth—Managing Your Firm in March. The later half of the elective courses overlap with the PP1 (Practical Placement 1). Therefore time management is one of the most important lessons to be learnt.

Personally, I enjoy my elective course very much, as it adopts a different perspective to seeing Entrepreneurship. Nadav Shir, the lecturer, has a more socio-psychological approach in defining the factors that shape entrepreneurs. He introduced topics like motivation, well-being, expectation and mindset. I appreciate the book Mindset-The Psychology of Success that we read and reflect upon it. I am inspired by the idea of growth mindset, which provides an insight into the mindset of seeing success and failure. I would recommend you to read the the first chapter of the book and you’ll love it!

SSES provides elective course after normal school time for all SSES alumni (which includes all KI students). Some courses are really not-ki-like, and I encourage you to try them out and add some different taste to your curriculum!


Parenting as a student

There are many parents at KI, both students and teachers. This is something that has always intrigued me. How does that work? So to find out, I asked a classmate which balances work, parenting, studying full-time, and still manages to be chipper every day.

Woman with two daughters.

A mother, a student, a woman determined to have it all.

Let’s start with a bit about yourself, how old are you? If you don’t mind sharing with the internet: I am 31 years old and oldest in my class.
And why did you choose the Biomedicine Bachelors program at KI?: I have always been interested in biology, chemistry and, in general, how a human body works and how the environment that we live in affects us, so when i found this programme I instantly felt that this was right for me.
Do you like the program so far?: it has been very interesting!
You have children, tell us about them: I have two twin girls, both 4,5 years old.
Do you think it is possible to study full time with such young children?: It is absolutely possible and manageable but requires a dose of self-discipline and, of course, support from family/partner or friends. 
Do you think it would have been possible with newborns, or infants?: Yes, I think it would have, but I guess this i highly individual.
What are some tips or tricks to help you do well in school while managing two kids?: For me, the most important has been to study efficiently without being interrupted. I try to avoid all the distractions when studying and really focus on what i do. Another thing is planning my study time and deciding ahead what I am going to focus on. Separating the family time from my studies  is important to be able to combine being a parent and a student. Once I am home I try to give my full attention to my family, but i normally study 1-2 hours every evening once the children are asleep.
Do you feel like you get to participate in school activities outside of class? I could totally participate, its all about planning :)
Do you feel that KI is accommodating about you having kids?: In general – yes, most of the lectures are held between 9-16 which makes it easy for me to leave and pick up my children at kinder garden. The teachers seem to be understanding and willing to find a solution if I have missed a mandatory lecture because of the sick children.
How do you handle conflicts between school and kids, such as when one of your children are sick?: Me and my husband try to split the days when the children are sick so that both of us can get their most important things done. If there is a mandatory lecture, he would stay with the children, if he has a planned business trip, then it is me who takes care of the girls.
What would you say to individuals which are parents thinking of applying to this program?: I say, if you feel this is a program for you – do it! I have never regretted my decision :)
What do your kids think of you studying at KI? Hahaha, one of my daughters called me crazy when i explained that I was going to start school :) But I guess they are too small to fully understand what I am doing :)
Thank you much for your time! I’m sure that all the potential KI students that have children at home really appreciate your input.

Ways of assessing your work at KI


The academic year is coming to an end so it’s the best time to sum up the methods that are used at KI to evaluate your workload. The Institute cares not only about the diversity of its students, but also about the diversity of the ways you can acquire new knowlegde with. Therefore in this post I would like to share with you my impressions on the techniques that are utilized by KI to assess your progress throughout the programmes:

1) Written exam

This is obviously the most standard way that is practised by many educational institutions. No books, no notes, no Internet. At KI the typical exam lasts from 3 to 6 hours and gathers all definitions and theories you learned during the course. For some courses it is the one and only factor that influences your final grade, for the others it is only one segment that can change your grade to the better (or worse) one.

2) Home exam

This kind of the exam differs from the previous one in two main aspects: you can do it at home and use all the materials you can only come up with. These exams last for several days (a week approximately) and contain couple of extended questions that may be more complex from those used in the standardized written exams. Mind you, in my opinion the home exams are graded harsher just because the teachers expect your responses to be more accurate and detailed. Finally, for the exams’ results you will have to wait approximately 2-3 weeks since they are assessed by plenty of tutors.

3) Group workshops

You either love it or hate it. KI adores all the kinds of the group work and most often you cannot choose your assignment companions, since the groups are shuffled from time to time (some people claim it doesn’t work properly though).The point is that the academic staff believes that working in randomized groups will help you in the working environment. If it really helps, we’ll see in the future. Anyway, you don’t have to worry that you will be left with all the work on your own, everyone knows how it works. That’s why at KI group work is graded most often with Pass/Fail grading scale only.

4) Laboratory/Lab Reports

Your practical work won’t be assessed by three scary-looking teachers simultaneously shouting at you that you cannot handle the pipette, but rather by so-called laboratory reports and presentations. The lab excercises usually last for four days and Friday is the day for the presentation of your results, but the written lab report is the thing that matters. You have to follow detailed instructions and structure your report so that it looks like a real scientific paper. The quality of your results is not graded, though. It’s more about helping you to learn new laboratory techniques and teach you how to write in a scientific way. Furthermore, during the presentations the others group are asked to prepare the opposition that shoud resemble thesis defence when you have to answer all the critial questions of the examiners and prove that your results have any scientific meaning.

5) Literature Assignments

The purpose of ths kind of excercise is to teach you how to properly analyze and critically look at the research data. Most often you have to write a short report on the new discoveries in medicine, their value for the humanity with possible industrial applications. Sometimes you have to write about the current global health problems and propose the ways to prevent them from spreading out. There are no lecturing for this, you work and look for the information on your own. I think the purpose of these assignments is to interest you in some extracurricular topics that are not included in the main course agenda. You have to present your findings in front of the tutor(s) and answer their question as well. Pity that you rather won’t get any feedback on your performance but only a grade in the registry.

And the last words…

Remember that if you are unhappy with some courses, parts of it or the way you have been assessed, you can always fill in the course evaluation form that is given to the students directly after finishing the course or go directly to the teacher responsible for the course. The teachers at KI really listen to the students’ voices and surely will motivate their grading and explain what you could possibly improve in your future projects.

All the best,



Mf Pub- Biomedicum This Friday!

Hi everyone! Thought it would be of interest to those students already in KI but also those intending to study here in 2018, five of KI’s departments will move to a new building: The Biomedicum. Preceding this exciting change of environment a series of pubs will be organised. The first Biomedicum Pub will take place on Friday – May 8th at Medicinska Föreningen.

From 20:00 there will be music, drinks, dancing and partying.
However, If you are working at one of the future Biomedicum departments, that is CMB, MTC, Neuroscience, FyFa or MBB, then you are most welcome to join already from 18:00 to 20:00
This should be a good opportunity to get to know researchers whom you may some day work with, or also ask some questions and enquire about life as a PhD or even to network. Or else even just for fun in a great environment!

Interview with a KI Alumni-II

Hello every one!

With a main intention of giving some insight about KI alumni to prospective and current students, Nargis Rahimi was presented in my last blog. I am back with another alumni of HEPM (Niki Burns Ahl) as per my promise. I hope you will enjoy reading her responses as much as I did.

What influenced you to choose KI when you decided to further your education?

The number one factor that influenced my final decision to choose KI was Hans Rosling and his motivational talks. After watching a few of his videos online, I was inspired and convinced a Public Health program at KI was for me, and that was the final motivation necessary for me to put everything together and apply.

Niki Burns Ahl

Niki Burns Ahl

Pragmatically, I knew I would be immigrating to Sweden as my new husband is Swedish. I was leaving behind a career in the USA, however I saw this as the perfect opportunity to fulfill thee goals (1) earn a Master degree in Public Health, which I had been wanting to do, (2) make a career shift from what I was previously doing, and (3) provide me the opportunity to build my professional network in Sweden.

In which year did you graduate from the HEPM program at KI?

2013 “The first batch”

What were your likes and dislikes (if any) related to your education at KI?

The people! I love the group I studied with. We really had a lot of synergy together and everyone was very supportive to each other. I believe it was a very special group dynamic we shared. I also enjoyed learning from the professors, instructors, guest speakers and the leaders we met while doing group assignments outside of the classroom.

How satisfied were you with your education at KI?

I’m very satisfied. In retrospect you can always think of things that you would have liked to be different, however those are very few for me. I think it was a well-rounded education. Personally, I enjoyed the health economics and policy aspects most and I wish I had more time to dive deeper into those topics, however I understand the importance of the management component and I can appreciate how all of the concentrations relate to one-another.

Are you working currently? If yes, where are you working? In what kind of role and responsibilities?

I am currently working at Gilead Sciences as a Market Access Manger. I love what I do and I am so glad I made this shift in my career.

After leaving your program at KI, how long did it take for you to obtain your first job or work experience?

Actually, I was hired in a similar role at a different pharmaceutical company the summer in between the 1st and 2nd year of the program. I ended up taking the job, but letting the employer know that finishing my program at KI was of top priority. I would not recommend this, unless it is an “internship role”. I did not stay at the company and prioritized finishing the program at KI. For me it was very important that I take the time to build the foundation and knowledge at a theoretical and fundamental level and I was not going to forgo this personal life goal. Also, knowing and understanding the Swedish job market* in which I was looking demands the knowledge gained in this education and that wasn’t going to be changing in the foreseen future.

Compared to other people that I have met who have completed a master degree in Sweden, depending on the concentration, some mention that very little time is needed in the classroom. As for this degree, I would say that it is almost mandatory to be there 100%. If you are missing class time, not only are you cheating yourself but your fellow classmates. There is a lot to be learned by cross-dialogue in the classroom and I think all students have a responsibility to be present and active participants for one another.

*It should be noted that it is not just the Swedish job market where this education is in high demand; I would say there are many others as well. It depends on the individual, where you want to live and what fields your interested in.

Are you working/ have you worked in a responsibility related to your training at KI? If yes, how do you explain the practical importance of your education at KI to this job? Do you have any examples?

Yes, for me in Market Access at a pharmaceutical company it is very important to have a deep understanding of health policy and health economics. Regarding health policy, the program helped set a strong foundation to understand the context of the Swedish environment and in other settings. The level of influence and competing needs of the different stakeholders involved in the process. I found the arranged visits and group projects at TLV and guest speakers from SBU and other agencies to be very valuable.

Finally, the health economics component of the program is of critical importance and provides a starting foundation for a career in Market Access in Sweden, at a pharmaceutical company, HEOR consultancy or at one of the governmental authorities.

If you could start over again, would you attend KI? And would you recommend KI to others?

Yes, absolutely! I enjoyed my time at KI and would highly recommend the school and the Public Health: Economics, Policy and Management program.

Is there anything you want to say?

Thank you for the opportunity. Good luck with writing your blog!

I would like to express my hearfelt gratitude to Niki Burns Ahl for her goodwill to take her time to share her experience.

See you in another blog!


Sights of Stockholm: Tyresta National Park

The winter seems ages ago, my first winter in Sweden and being well into the spring, the Stockholm beauty which immediately struck me on arrival in Sweden  last year is slowing returning , a combination beautiful green scenery and modern city,and it was definitely a call to  once again actively explore the scenery of the Stockholm environs and engage more in outdoor activities and periodically break of from the academic monotony.



One of the recommendations I had from a friend was to take a hike to Tyresta National park a national park a short ride from the center of  Stockholm which is quite unusual in a major European City having a forest within the city. And  is lauded as one of finest virgin forests in Stockholm. With a clear sunny sky and temperatures over 8 degrees  temperature last weekend ,it was not any more ideal to have a hike.                           My journey begun from T-Centralen taking metro line 17 (green line) towards Skarpnack, getting off from Gullmarsplan before a 40 minutes bus ride till the  park.       The entrance with lots of hikers and wooden buildings are you’re your immediate impression  of the park.

The park didn’t disappoint. With wonderful scenery, rocky outgrowth, number of beautiful small lakes, fire areas, camping sites, though there seemed to be disappointing limited animal life including birds which can be expected at the start of spring but nevertheless was a well-deserved break from daily view of Stockholm.           A pony farm on the entrance to the park offers pony rides and also are coffee and antiquity shops. With fresh and peaceful tranquility all over the area makes it one of my favorite destination definitely. For the hikes decided to follow one of hiking trails towards some of the lakes inside the park viewing three lakes.Though the trails seem confusing initially later on as you move in the park clear markings become more visible.                 And interestingly there was no charge paid for a lone hiker though supervised or guided tours carry a fee.




Volunteers for Digital Health Days Needed

Volunteers needed for an international conference event- but also really good networking opportunity- digital health days. Nima explains all in the video I know a few of my alumni got jobs from volunteering at this event so it can be very useful to get an insight into industry but also job and internship opportunities! There are very few places left so if you would like to get involved register now!

There will be international key opinion leaders and european investors and entrepreneurs who needs to be guided at the site. As a volunteer you are the first friendly face they meet and who will help them registering and being well received, you will also be actively working with social media and being a host at the track sessions. All volunteers get full access to the conference, a conference t-shirt and new contacts in an emerging business and research area.

If you are interrested e-mail directly since the offer is limited, first come first serve”

SSES Startup Day

Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship’s annual event start up day! It is a great opportunity to listen to inspiring talks, meet companies, mingle and network and just overall build your creativity. It focuses on start up companies and shares their stories. Here is a little look at the day!