BGG survival guide for PhD students

The BGG has a moodle page, we encourage all students to join. You may also be interested in the student union of the University of Turku.

1. International students

International PhD students face some additional challenges, such as getting residence permits (for non-eu citizens), bank accounts, a KELA card, taxation.

The international welcome service is a great resource for international students. On their website, you can find very useful information on the above.  They are also very helpful and happy to answer questions:

In brief, when you arrive in Finland you should register with the Maistraatti and get you social security number (henkilötunnus). Once you have this, it is relative easy to open a bank account.

You will also have to go to the tax office to get a tax card (this also applies to Finnish students

The Finnish taxation office has some information for foreign employees.

Note that the rules for taxation depend on your home country and the type of tax treaty in effect with Finland.

2. Studies

There is information about studies on the intranet service page for students.

Nettiopsu is the UTU online study management system. 

The PhD programme at the University of Turku requires 60 credits of courses. The licentiate book exam counts for 10 credits. For the remaining 50, you can do courses, go to conferences, publish extra scientific papers, or organize conferences.

A recommended listing of courses to be included in the degree can be found under the BGG pagesThe University of Turku Graduate School hosts several general skills courses in English. Language courses (e.g. Finnish courses for foreigners) from the UTU language center also be counted towards these credits. There are only a limited number of English language courses in BGG at UTU, but you can also take courses from other universities in Finland and abroad. There are some possibilities listed below, but you can also check from universities.


EVOLDIR course listings in biology

COURSERA (these probably cannot be included in the degree but may prove useful for other reasons)

3. Working on a grant vs a salary

There are different rules and benefits when working on a grant and a salary (for both Finnish and international students). If you are working on a grant for at least 4 months and your income is more than 1,274.21 €, you have to apply for insurance from MELA within the first three months that you start working on this grant. You can find the application form on the MELA website. Note that the average income limit changes every year, so see current information also on the MELA website.

Students on a salary have access to the Occupational Health Care for university employees. If you are working on a grant, you need to contact municipal/city public health care, or use a private insurance.

 If you shift from being on salary to grant, remember to make sure your e-mail accounts and university passwords are still continued.

4. Trade unions for academis in natural sciences

Tieteentekijöiden liitto (TURTLE)

LOIMU (The Union of Professionals in Natural, Environmental and Forestry Sciences)

Unemployment fund (YTK)

5. UTU study and well-being services

Study Psychologist Services

Open for doctoral candidates who do not have access to Occupational Health Services
• studying and learning skills
• matters related to motivation in studying and learning
• time management
• ability to study and coping

Accessibility Planning Officer

 • Support for learners with special needs

Well-Being Development Services

• Workplace mediation of conflicts
• Early Support of Work/Study Ability
• Professional Group Coaching

 Occupational Health and Safety

• Occupational Health Care Services (Mehiläinen) for those who are in employment relationship

 6. What to do when the supervisor – doctoral candidate interaction does not function?

a) Doctoral candidate will discuss the matter with 1st supervisor, and/or 2nd or 3rd supervisor. In some doctoral programmes, there are thesis advisory committees.
b) Doctoral candidate will contact the coordinator of the doctoral programme and/or the administrative officer of the doctoral studies of the faculty. Steering committee will try to mediate the conflict.
c) In problematic situations, UTUGS supports both the doctoral candidate and the supervisor to find the best solution.
In addition, UTU Well-Being Development Services is providing
workplace mediation of conflicts.

7. Writing your thesis, doing research and publishing academic papers


There are many websites dedicated to helping you along with your thesis. For example, the University of Oxford has very helpful webpages for PhD students:

 Preparing for Academic Website

Research Supervision

 It is a good idea to have a thesis advisory committee, consisting of your supervisor and 2-3 other researchers. They can give you advice and provide you with guide. Until the university publishes more information, check the old BIOINT website for details.

The essay "A grad school survival guide" was published in Science on 20 Sep 2015.


UTU offers a language check for articles and theses in English.


If you are stuck with statistics, there are several resources to help you move forward. Ask your fellow PhD students and post docs. You can also ask for help from Statistical Counselling in the Center of Statistics.

Finding references and managing them

Using a reference handling system (e.g. Refworks, Endnote, Zotero, Mendeley) can save you hours when writing manuscripts. The University of Turku library has very good information.

The review process

The British Ecological Society has published a guide to Peer Review in the Biological Sciences. Peerageof Science is a Finnish initiative to improve peer review.

Ethical boards and guidelines

Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (TENK).

For ecologists, see e.g. Ecological Society of America’s code of ethics.

Working off-campus

Access your utu-network folders via VPN, instructions in the intranet

(That page also has information about using Citrix receiver to access Personec HR and SAP portal – for salary management and travel reimbursements).

Through the library Finna Portal you can also access journals from off-campus.

You can download computer programs for use on your home computer. Contact the ITservice for information.


Information on the travelling (i.e. for fieldwork or conferences), can be found on the intranet. 
Contact people for each section regarding the use of facilities/cars/boats:

Ecology-Tuija Koivisto

Physiology-Niina Vuori

Genetics-Ville Aukee

Biodiversity-Varpu Vahtera




Greenhouse facilities in Ruissalo-Marjo Anttila

Field stations



The section of Ecology has a car, trailer, and boat. For non-ecologists, it is probably cheaper to rent a car through the university.

8. Finishing your PhD, defending and the karonkka

Are you finally approaching the end of your thesis? You should first check the rough timeline of the proceedings on the BGG pageSubmitting your thesis to a plagiarism check through TURNITIN is mandatory.


Instructions on publishing in the annals series. The University has published guidelines for the doctoral candidate, that include detailed instructions on the evaluation, printing and publishing of the dissertation as well as organizing the post-doctoral party (karonkka).


The PhD party (karonkka) is organized in honour of the opponent during the evening (after the defense). They often involve a formal dinner, which consists of a 3-course meal served with drinks, and a more relaxed after party. It might be wise to find a “karonkka-maid-of-honour” or “karonkka-bestman” to help you organize the venue, catering, music, etc., as it is usually a very busy time with organizing the defense. There are a few websites where you can look for venues for Karonkka.

These are some of the places our fellow students have found very nice:

Vanha Raatihuone

A catering company frequently used in karonkka's recently is Pito-Jussi.

For a relatively affordable but nice dinner with restaurant service, Upseerikerho is a good choice. (Site only in Finnish)

Another good alternatives are Panimoravintola Koulu , Hus Lindman and Kupittaan paviljonki but there are also many more in Turku!

9. Societies and conferences

When doing your PhD, you should start networking and meeting contacts.One of the best ways is to attend conferences and join societies. Joining societies gives you access to occasional grants, cheaper registration for conferences, and look good on your CV. Many biologists are members of one or more of the following: British Ecological Society, Ecological Society of America, VANAMO, Nordic Oikos, Finnish Oikos, European Society of Evolutionary Biology, Society for Experimental Biology, etc.). Most societies also have an annual conference and often lists of related conferences, so check their websites for information!

All PhD students in BGG are also encouraged to take part in the student-organized AURA symposium.

10. Starting your academic career

There are a number of sites listing job opportunities at the post-doc and professor levels:


Joining the University of Turku mailing lists from your department (e.g. biolstaff, PEGGY, etc.), will also give you the opportunity to see jobs advertised.

11. Social media and online networking for researchers

Many scientists now have online platforms for sharing their work (Twitter, blogs, webpages).

UTU provides webspace for hosting your own webpage – contact the IT service

You don’t need to run a blog! But having some kind of online presence for listing your publications is essential!

Google Scholar



LinkedIn for the more business-minded


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