Monthly Archives: November 2016

#studysustainably

Admissions to master programs at SLU are open since October and will close on 16th of January 2017. Precisely, this year the Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences  has created the campaign #studysustainably,  which aims to increase knowledge about and interest for master programs offered by the Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences at SLU.

But, why to call the campaign #studysustainably? Well, because at everyone at SLU is pretty much committed to sustainability through research and education  from their own perspective and field of study. Nonetheless sustainability is not only seen throughout  studies and academia. The campus itself is sustainable with energy efficient buildings, a recycling culture and even sustainable lawns that do not require trimming (There is even a researcher project regarding this going on. I find it very interesting, read about it here).

The following programs that are part of the #studysustainably campaign:

If you would like to learn more about it, I would strongly recommend to follow the campaign on twitter: @stdysustainably and on Instagram: @pluggahallbart.

 

Exchange for SLU students in Colombia

For students at SLU it is possible to go abroad for an exchange  to different universities around the world. To my surprise,  SLU has an agreement* with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (PUJ)- my home university in Bogotá, Colombia. Therefore, I though it would be useful for some people to write about it here.

*The agreement includes an stipend of 650 euros/month for no more than 12 months, requires  B2 Spanish level annd is open to all SLU students.

Higher education in Colombia

Colombian Education system works differently than in Sweden. Public universities are big, but difficult to get in because of the huge demand and few places available. Hence,  most people studies in private universities paying for tuition fees with their own resources (mainly),  or study loans or scholarships. These universities are mainly located in the bigger cities; namely Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla (all + 2M people).  There are very limited courses taught in English, and these are meant for Colombian students willing to learn the language. Otherwise, tuition is in Spanish- reason why B2 level is a must.

Bogotá

Just so you know Bogotá is not warm and tropical. It is situated 2600 m AMSL with an average temperature of 15°C. Nonetheless some days it can be sunny and 23°C, or be rainy and 14°C. It is unpredictable and that part of its charm (you might like to read Three similarities between Sweden and Colombia). It has 8M gently warm-hearted inhabitants, beautiful mountains on the east and a vibrant cultural scene and nightlife. Yes, as many Latin American big cities it has a considerable high crime rate, but during the last few years it has been decreasing significantly. Oh, traffic  and public transport are terrible, be aware of it.

Bogotá from the eastern mountains. Picture by Omar Monroy
Bogotá from the eastern mountains. Picture by Omar Monroy

The University

Indeed, the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana is a one of the biggest and more prestigious private universities in Bogotá. It was founded my the Jesuits in 1623 and it is still ruled by them. The University proclaims itself catholic, but students from different religions, beliefs and cultural backgrounds are welcomed and respected. It is located in the city centre and has about 30.000 students coming from different regions, who study 188 programs organized in 18 schools, all in the same campus. Programs taught include a wide range of subjects, from scenic arts to medicine. Precisely,  I enjoyed the very much meeting students from different programs during my studies because they broadened my view on political, artistic and scientific issues.

Arts Faculty building. Picture by Jairo Llano
Arts Faculty building. Picture by Jairo Llano

For SLU students there are interesting courses  taught in Spanish such as Colombian Ecosystems, Colombian Flora, Social and Political Ecology, Socioeconomy of Rural Landscapes,  Agroecology, Threes and City, among many others. Additionally, more interesting courses can be found at the departments of Ecology and Territory, Rural and Regional Development, Biology, Microbiology, Nutrition and Biochemistry, Architecture, Sociology and Anthropology. Often there are excursion within courses to other regions of Colombia and students get usually involved in volunteering programs, ans these are of course open to exchange students too (take a look to both videos below).

Student life

PUJ has implemented what they call medio universitario, which basically aims to create a proper environment inside the campus to make it feel as a second home for students. This includes free access to a gym,  student groups, concerts and many more activities.Student life is vibrant as Bogotá. Since some more big universities are located nearby  PUJ, it makes Bogotá’s city centre a hub for culture,  knowledge and of course partying.  Some even dare to say that Bogotá is the Athens of South America  due to the high number of Universities located there. Living expenses are not cheap though, but 650 euros is more than enough I would say.

Some useful links:

SLU MoveON

Pontificia Universidad Javeriana 

I am willing to answer any further question, so do not hesitate to ask or comment below!

Best,

Hernan.

Hello winter!

It is not a secret that Sweden is cold. Actually, I think most of the people immediately associate Sweden with white freezing winters (read The coldest I have ever been). However this week it was extreme, since a snow storm hit central Sweden and gave more than 30 cm of snow in some places.

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On Wednesday snow was all over SLU

The snow was expected to come some day soon, but not in this quantity! Wednesday It took me by surprise and made biking more challenging than usual…

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Bike road from SLU to city center.
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I took a selfie on the bike road. Do you see the snow flakes falling behind?

Still, it made everything incredibly beautiful! Actually, most of the people wish the snow could stay until December, but sadly it will most likely melt down next week.

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Thursday morning some roads had already been cleared making biking easier, but snow remained beautifully on trees and roofs

I thought snow was just cold and inconvenient before I came to Sweden, because we do not get any in Colombia. But now I appreciate its beauty so much! Just look at this pictures. How not to love it?

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The old graveyard covered by snow

Hoping for more snow to come,

Hernán.

Plant Pathology 15c

Last week I completed another course: Plant Pathology, one of the optional courses that can be taken within the Plant Biology MSc. This course is taught by the department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology at SLU, has 15 credits and demands 100% time dedication for 10 weeks.

The course aimed to give a general view on different plant pathogens relevant for agriculture including its taxonomy,  biology and ecology. Furthermore, it dealt with topics such as epidemiology, integrated pest management (IPM) and biological control.

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A rust fungus growing on Rowan leaves. I took the picture.

The topics were assessed with lectures, and theoretical exercises in which scientific articles  were read and discussed.  I found particularly interesting a series of articles published by Molecular Plant Pathology in which plant pathogens are ranked according to their economical or scientific importance (you might like to read The Top 10 Pathogens in Plants).

Besides this, we went on different field excursions to learn how diseases look in planta and collected samples to perform diagnosis in the lab. This last  aspect I found very interesting and important for a future career, because as a biologist myself my knowledge of plant diseases important for agricultural crops is not very broad. Hence, I enjoyed very much going out in the fields, see symptoms and signs to later look into the microscope and give a possible diagnosis.

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Cleistothecia from a fungus under the microscope. I took the picture.

Additionally, the course had laboratory work sessions, a case study and a poster presentation session. Overall, I found the course interesting and important to complement my education. Actually, my interest on this topic is so strong that I am considering to pursue a career as a plant pathologist. But one step at a time.

Do not hesitate to ask or comment below,

Best,

Hernán.

 

 

Examination in Sweden

Many people say grades are not important and they are probably right. However, for me they are and it has always been a personal challenge to get the best grade I can. In order to achieve this, is important to know how examination works and have different study strategies. Interestingly in all courses I have taken in Sweden examination has been different, therefore I thought it would be nice to write about them on my blog.

In Plant Growth and Development 15c I had one single 5 hours-long written exam at the end of the course covering all topics. This approach was stressful, because I had to read and remember lot of information at once, however it was also good because I only had to stress about examination once in the term, and the questions were about solving problems and not focused on specific details. The exam was in a big room together with people from other courses and everyone was able to bring snacks and water, and even coffee or tea. I mean, at least. It was 5 hours confinement.

Similarly Genetic Diversity and Plant Breeding 15c had 5-hours long written exams, but in this course topics were distributed in two exams, one halfway and another in the end. This approach I found less stressful that the previous one, because  topics covered by each exam were less, but then I would get stressed twice in a term.

Contrarily, in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 15c examination was every Monday in what teachers called dugga, a small test that would take only 30 minutes to be answered. I liked this way of examination because there was no 5-hours confinement any more , but this meant that only multiple-choice and fill-in-the-brackets kind of questions could be answered, and this is not particularly nice because memory is tested rather that knowledge about the topic.

In Research Training 15c there was no real grading, since it was basically an internship and one could only pass or fail. Nonetheless,  examination was  based on the overall performance,  a presentation and a written report.

For Plant Pathology 15c examination was oral. There was a schedule and everyone should come at a set time, pick a piece of paper with a question related to one of the topics of the course and prepare it during 30 mins. Thereafter, one had 10 minutes to answer the question and 20 minutes of questions back from some lecturers who were acting as opponents. Oh, this was stressful. I did not know what I was going to be asked, so i did not know what to study for. However, I had to be ready to potentially answer all the topics covered in the course. In the end it went well, and I actually liked it because it turned in to an interesting discussion with the lecturers.

Altogether, I believe it is interesting to have different styles of examination. Mainly, because in this way different skills are tested such as problem solving, and oral argumentation, not only memory. Also, every course challenged me in a different and unexpected way to obtain a good result, and this I consider important for my future career.

 

Please, do not hesitate to comment or ask something below!

Best,

Hernán.

 

I created a LinkedIn profile

During my stay in France (you might like to read more here)I met different master students very similar to me: motivated, intelligent, with an international profile and willing to find either a job or a PhD position after they are done with their studies. The difference was that most of them already had a LinkedIn profile and I did not!!! LinkedIn is a professional network that works pretty much similarly to some other social media. One can create a profile, establish connections and share thoughts, articles or pictures. The difference though, is that everything is in a professional context. Therefore, my profile looks more like a CV and my connections can be my future employers or coworkers. Additionally, people can endorse skills and hence make a profile more trustworthy and solid.

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LinkedIn layout in the app for android. I find it very neat and easy to use.

I was greatly surprised by how popular and important LinkedIn is, because I never thought of creating one account. So I just went ahead immediately and created it. I have to say that it is important indeed to have it, even more now when I am close to finish my degree. Actually, I already found an interesting position that I will apply to.

Take a look to my profile by clicking here, and of course take a look and endorse my skills!

Best,

Hernán.