Doctoral Programme in Biology, Geography and Geology - for the Doctoral Researcher

BGG doctoral programme offers its doctoral researchers a multidisciplinary environment and support, organizes events and thematic courses, and awards travel grants and grants for completing a doctoral degree. A major asset is the internationality of BGG. Around 30% of our doctoral researchers are international. BGG thus has a multicultural atmosphere stimulating all doctoral researchers to look beyond their immediate surroundings and exposing them to peers with various background and experiences. The topics of the PhD projects within BGG are of current interest and urgency in a rapidly changing world. BGG strives to support doctoral researchers' skills and initiative in dissemination of their research findings among the scientists but also towards society. BGG continuously strives to take into the account feedback and opinions from its doctoral researchers and supervisors in an effort to update and evaluate its programme.

BGG uses UGIS system to guide doctoral researcher throughout the doctoral training. UGIS is a graduate school information system that digitises the life cycle of doctoral training, from starting out to the dissertation process.

General instructions for doctoral studies

From the very beginning

  • Create a personal study plan in Peppi system. A new doctoral researcher must make a personal study plan within six months after the study right has started. In total, you will need to complete a minimum 40 credits following the BGG study guide. Credits link to two different categories: Discipline-specific studies and General studies aiming for expertise. You will notice that each main and subcategory has a range of credits associated with it. This means that from each category you either need a minimum amount of credits or only up to a certain point you can include credits.
  • Start to earn study credits. Enrolling on UTU courses is done through the Peppi system. Instructions in English
  • Read scientific text central to your thesis. You can earn credits by showing that you master the major theories in your discipline.
  • Start to carry out your research and network with other doctoral researchers and specialists of your field of research.
  • Report the progress of your research work and organize meetings with your supervisors. Remember to set intermediate goals also for data acquisition and writing.
  • Start to write you first research article at the early phase of the project. Try to have your first manuscript submitted by the end of the second year.
  • Inform your supervisors and ask for help, if working conditions, progress of the thesis project or keeping with the agreed schedule are challenging.


  • January: Fill in the electronic progress report. Progress and future goals are reported annually in January by filling an electronic progress report form for the first time when their right to study for a doctoral degree has started one or one and a half academic years ago.
  • February-March: Organize advisory committee meeting, if you have one. Prepare well to the meeting.
  • February-March: Organize career and review discussion.
  • June-August: Register either as an attending or non-attending student for the upcoming academic year.
  • December: Participate in the annual BGG Doctoral Training Day. Doctoral training day provides an opportunity for BGG doctoral researchers to meet each other and share experiences about their doctoral studies and research as well as learn oral presentation skills.

At the end

  • Start to prepare for the last steps well in advance, the process takes several months.
  • Make sure you have completed all the required studies.
  • Check the originality of your thesis with Turnitin.
  • Propose pre-examiners to the Faculty together with your supervisor.
  • Deliver PDF of your thesis to the Faculty.
  • Propose Opponent and Custos to the Faculty together with your supervisor.
  • After you have been granted a printing license, publish your thesis.
  • Deliver one copy of the printed thesis to the Faculty of Science and Engineering and one copy to the Rector.
  • Fill in the announcement of the public defence of a doctoral dissertation to the University Communications.
  • Prepare a press release of the dissertation in Finnish.
Doctoral thesis and Postgraduate studies

Doctoral Degree consist of PhD thesis and Postgraduate studies (40 ECTS)

A doctoral dissertation based on scientific peer-reviewed publications consists of a general introduction chapter (detailing the objectives, methods and outcomes of the research conducted, as well as a review of them) and at least three scientific articles, two of which need to be published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed publication series. If the doctoral researcher has not made clear and significant contributions to each of the three scientific publications, more publications may be needed.

The doctoral researcher must play a central role in at least one article in the doctoral dissertation. Such a role is for example first author or "corresponding author".

The doctoral researcher's contribution to the co-authored publications in the doctoral dissertation is clarified in a statement which is submitted to the faculty together with the dissertation manuscript. The research director is responsible for ensuring that the contribution is written with sufficient precision and the contribution of the doctoral researcher is understandable by an outsider from the statement for each article included in the doctoral dissertation. The faculty submits the statement of contribution to the pre-examiners and the opponent. They will assess the adequacy of the doctoral researcher's contribution to the dissertation research based on the statement.

A monograph is a thesis that is single-authored by the doctoral researcher. A monograph consists of a general introduction chapter detailing the research question or questions, the scientific background of these questions and a general overview of the materials and methods used in the thesis. If the monograph consists of several research questions, each research question is described in individual chapter following the general introduction chapter. Each of these chapters follows the general outline of a scientific article including an introduction, a materials and methods section, and a results and discussion section specific to the research question. The last chapter of a monograph thesis is a general discussion. The monograph should state if and where any of the doctoral researcher's work it contains has been published.

Summary of BGG curriculum 2024-2027

Discipline-specific studies, 20-36 ECTS

  • Postgraduate studies, 2-23 ECTS
  • Scientific Literature, 0-10 ECTS
  • Seminars and Doctoral training days, 1-10 ECTS
  • Teaching practice, 0-10 ECTS
  • Scientific publication which I not part of the PhD thesis, 0-4 ECTS
  • Studies supporting mobility and professional career, 2-10 ECTS
  • Research methods, 0-15 ECTS

General studies aiming for expertise, 4-20 ECTS

  • Ethics of academic research (mandatory) 2 ECTS
  • Public outreach, 0-6 ECTS
  • Language and presentation skills, 0-8 ECTS
  • University pedagogy, 0-15 ECTS
  • Professional and career skills, 0-6 ECTS
  • Departmental activities, 0-5 ECTS
Courses, events and grants



  • BGG doctoral training day: BGG organizes Doctoral training day annually in December. BGG doctoral training day provides doctoral researchers an opportunity to meet each other and share experiences about their doctoral studies and research. Doctoral researchers get 1 ECTS for participating in the full programme including presenting the progress of their PhD research.
  • Aura symposium: biannual event organized by biology, geography and geology doctoral researchers of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University. The symposium offers a unique opportunity to come together, learn about each other's research and exchange ideas.
  • If you would like to organize an educational event for BGG doctoral researchers (course or workshop), you can apply funding from BGG by emailing proposal of one A4 including short description of the planned event, planned time table and place, name(s) of the invited teacher(s) or speaker(s) and budget to BGG coordinator.


  • BGG Travel grants are awarded once a year. Funds are allocated for travels to international conferences, workshops and PhD courses.
BGG peer group

The peer group discussion is a monthly meeting composed of only doctoral researchers. The idea is to create a safe environment for the BGG doctoral researchers to get to know each other but also to allow doctoral researchers to speak freely about the issues faced during the doctoral journey and get support from their peers. This is the opportunity to create a vivid network within the BGG program.  Each session has the main theme but everybody should feel free to talk about any topic, as the information shared during the discussion stay fully confidential and won’t leave the group.


List of services recommended by other BGG doctoral researchers


The University of Turku Language Centre, in co-operation with graduate school UTUGS, offers a first article language checking service for all UTU doctoral researchers. The aim of this service is to give doctoral researchers currently writing their first article for publication the chance to have their text checked by a fluent English speaker. Link to FALCS web pages.



Target group: Doctoral researchers at the University of Turku who need counselling with their statistical analyses. Organizers: The Center of Statistics, University of Turku. Contact person: Henri Nyberg



Career services for doctoral researchers include e.g. career guidance, CV clinics and a interview simulation appointments. Link to career services web pages.



University Communications helps with final press release. Link to UTU dissertation guidelines.

Responsibilities of the doctoral researcher, supervisor and research director

Responsibilities of the doctoral researcher:

  • the doctoral researcher carefully prepares for the meetings and follows the agreed schedule;
  • the doctoral researcher completes postgraduate studies independently with the supervisor’s support;
  • the doctoral researcher annually participates in the agreed number of postgraduate courses and ensures that they are appropriately registered;
  • the doctoral researcher is responsible for the progress of his/her research work and for informing the supervisor and the doctoral programme on the progress made according to the agreed reporting schedule and in the agreed manner;
  • the doctoral researcher informs the supervisor and the research director (+ possible follow-up group) of all changes that considerably affect working conditions, progress of the thesis project or keeping with the agreed schedule;
  • The doctoral researcher hands in an annual follow-up report of the doctoral programme.

The duties of the supervisor are, among others:

  • to direct the doctoral researcher in planning and completing the postgraduate studies;
  • to direct the doctoral researcher in planning and completing the research and completing the thesis;
  • to follow the progress of research and postgraduate studies in accordance with the supervision plan;
  • to accept an annual update of a personal study plan, if needed;
  • to assist the doctoral researcher in making contact with other researchers in the field and with the users of the research;
  • a principal supervisor has to give a statement on the activeness of a doctoral researcher in connection with doctoral researcher's annual progress reporting;
  • to assist the doctoral researcher in applying for funding by providing information on available options;
  • to assist in career planning by having an annual discussion on the subject;
  • to ensure that a thesis written in a second language undergoes a language check if needed;
  • to be responsible for checking the originality of the thesis with the plagiarism detection system.
  • to introduce to the doctoral researcher the responsible conduct of research (

The duties of the research director are:

  • to monitor the progress of the research work and postgraduate studies annually in collaboration with the supervisor;
  • to assume responsibility for the scientific level of the degree;
  • to ensure that the necessary conditions for the studies are maintained;
  • to accept the first personal study plan of a doctoral researcher and the application for the final grade of the postgraduate studies module. The research director is ensures that the required learning outcomes of postgraduate studies are achieved with the completed postgraduate studies and thesis work.
  • to ensure that the thesis as a whole meets the requirements regarding the extent of theses;
  •  to make a proposal regarding the examiners of the reviewers, opponent and chairperson (custos) of the doctoral thesis;
  •  to make a proposal for the examiners of the pre-examiners, opponent and chairperson (custos) of a doctoral thesis;
  • to provide the faculty with a statement approved by the supervisor, research director and doctoral researcher indicating the author’s contribution to the research if the thesis contains joint publications. The statement must also tell whether a part of the thesis has earlier been used in another thesis or if such use is being planned;
  • to ensure that the intended final version of the doctoral thesis is delivered to the faculty at the same time as the proposal for pre-examiners;
  • to ensure that the intended final version of the doctoral thesis is delivered to the examiners by the doctoral researcher, supervisor or research director immediately after their appointment
  • to ensure that the doctoral thesis is delivered to the opponent by the doctoral researcher, supervisor or research director immediately after the opponent has been appointed;
  • to help solve possible cases of disagreement in supervision
Advisory committee

Advisory committee

Doctoral researcher is recommended to appoint an advisory committee. The purpose of the advisory committee is to support together with supervisors the progress of doctoral researcher’s dissertation.

The task of the advisory committee is to:

  • support the doctoral researcher in both scientific and other issues
  • identify any potential problems
  • ensure that the personal study plan is being adhered to
  • if necessary, to help with the adjustment of study/research plan to enable the PhD project to be completed within four years
  • support career after doctoral dissertation

All interactions between the doctoral researcher and the advisory committee are to be considered confidential.
At least two external members in addition to the doctoral researcher and supervisors make up the advisory committee group. It is recommended that the external members hold a doctoral degree and come outside of doctoral researcher’s own research group. It is recommended that one of the external members comes outside of University of Turku. Doctoral researcher selects the advisory committee members with help of supervisors and research director and inform the names of the committee members in the supervision plan form.

Advisory committee meetings

Doctoral researcher, supervisors and advisory committee members meet once per year. The doctoral researcher organizes the meeting and keeps the notes of the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the planned content of the doctoral thesis and PhD studies in supportive atmosphere. To this end, the doctoral researcher provides an updated research plan and updated study record one week prior to the meeting to all participants. The main focus of the meeting is on the progress made during last year relative to what was planned, and to identify hurdles or questions hampering progress. The session includes a discussion of the advisory committee with the doctoral researcher alone and with the supervisor(s) alone. In a closing session, the support group discusses suggestions for possible improvement. The doctoral researcher together with the advisory committee writes a short summary of the meeting and returns the report to UGIS.

Annual progress reporting

The progress of doctoral research and doctoral training of the doctoral researchers is annually monitored by the Doctoral Programme in Biology, Geography and Geology (BGG). Doctoral researcher is asked to fill out the electronic BGG progress report form. The link to the reporting form is open in January. The annual progress report is used to develop the doctoral programme and graduate school as well as in the activity checking.

Dissertation process and graduation
Are you scared of oral presentations or your thesis defense?

We have listed some tips for you below!

1.    Remember that you are not the only one being scared of keeping oral presentations including the thesis defense.  

2.    Use your time well and practice giving scientific presentations from the very beginning of your studies! First, start in a safe environment: give a talk related to your thesis work to your friends, family or fellow doctoral researcher. You can tell them that you are not a big fan of giving presentations and would like to be supported in this issue! Second, take part to eConference and give a presentation there. Finally, when you feel ready, give a scientific presentation to live audience in a conference or seminar series.

3.    Do not forget to register to the BGG doctoral training day and give a short presentation there. Shaking hands are common in BGG doctoral training day - You are not the only one being scared!

4.    Get familiar with the defense process.

  • Go listening to the dissertations of your own field.
  • Read the guidelines for the dissertation defense so that you know what to expect. Link to dissertation guidelines.
  • Take part to BGG Postgraduate Seminar, it allows you not only to learn general topics related to scientific research, but also to follow PhD defenses of your fellow doctoral researcher and finally to defend a trial defense of your own!

5.    Remember that you can contact University of Turku Study Psychologist ( or, if you are employed by UTU, use the services of Occupational Health Care Psychologist of Mehiläinen to get help.

6.    Tell your supervisor that you are scared. You can together find solutions such as selecting an emphatic opponent.

7.    Tips for the actual dissertation defense:

  • Before the dissertation defense: Practice keeping your lectio praecursoria and get feedback to it from your supervisor and friends. Visit in the defense lecture hall beforehand to get to know the place, how lights are functioning and so on.
  •  Beginning of the event: While keeping lectio praecursoria focus on the friendly faces of your friends or family. Remember to breath. Deep breathing calms the body’s stress reaction.
  • Examination of the dissertation: Remember to continue breathing. If you do not know what to answer your opponent right away, start by saying “What an excellent question, I have to think about the answer a bit.”
  • After the dissertation defense: Celebrate - it is over! PhD is a great achievement!
BGG Steering committee

Jon Brommer (Director, Biology)

Eila Hietaharju (University Lecturer, Geography and Geology)
Nora Fagerholm (Associate Professor, Geography and Geology)
Teppo Hiltunen (Professor, Biology)
Sanna Huttunen (University Research Fellow, Biodiversity)
Héloïse Moullec (Doctoral researcher, Biology)
Mia Jaatsi (Doctoral researcher, Geography and Geology)