Thomas Johnsen and Victoria Østerberg are both graduate students in History at UiA. They are participating in Deadly Dreams, an international research collaboration studying people's cultural relation to environmental poisons.
Text and photo: Ingrid Dihle
Deadly Dreams is an interdisciplinary research project. The goal is to gain new and advanced knowledge from the humanities and social sciences that can help historicise, understand and handle the challenges posed by environmental poisons. The research group includes 13 scientific institutions and over 20 researchers. Together they represent 14 different fields of research. May-Brith Ohman Nielsen, professor in History at UiA, is the project leader.
Students Thomas Johnsen and Victoria Østerberg are both writing their master thesis related to Deadly Dreams’ field of study. As a part of the research environment, they both get to interact with the other scientists and receive comments on their work. They also have the opportunity to comment on other researchers work within the project.
Thomas Johnsen is writing about how microfiber technology has changed human relations to cleaning.
“It is very rewarding if you actively participate. It’s exciting to be a part of a real research environment”, says Johnsen.
It was Nielsen who introduced Deadly Dreams in the beginning of their graduate programme.
“I thought it sounded very interesting, so I asked Nielsen if the researchers in Deadly Dreams had done research on microfiber. After the presentation she approached me and said the idea fit well into the research project”, says Johnsen.
According to Johnsen, being part of an international research project has changed the way he studies. It has given him a better perception of the amount of work that goes into research projects.
Victoria Østerberg is writing her master thesis about modern environmental understanding in the Nordic Counsel from 1963 – 1975.
“In the beginning I just observed, but it was really exciting to see what the scientists were working on and what challenges they experienced. We also have access to an online chat with all these expert researchers around Europe”, says Østerberg.
Østerberg says it’s important that students take advantage of the opportunities they have at the university. It requires dedication from both students and employees, but the experience is very valuable.
“Being part of a research group provides a network which is very relevant for my master thesis. Students get the opportunity to publish their work as part of a bigger project”, says Østerberg.
According to Nielsen, the most important qualifications of students in research project is that they are eager and self-sufficient.
“We want students to be engaged in the subject, are adaptable and has a high level of independence”, says Nielsen.
By participating in Deadly Dreams, the students gain a network of supporting scientists, and an insight on to how research professionals work. This can be beneficial when they are applying for jobs in the future.
“Students who have participated the project earlier have been hired relatively fast after they finish their degree. If they do a good job they can use us as references”, says Nielsen.
She urges students to seek out relevant research projects at the university within their field of study.
“If you approach them yourself, I think most people will be happy to tell you more about their project. I am always very grateful when I meet students who are interested in what I am working on”, says Nielsen.