As you may already know, the last semester of all master’s programmes at Karolinska Institutet have something in common: thesis! Finding a topic for your master’s thesis project is neither an easy nor a stress-free task, and most of the time it requires a lot of thinking and planning. Although KI has the responsibility to provide you with a topic and supervisor, it is possible for all students to write their thesis with the support of a company or external organisation, but not all programmes offer personalised support in the process of finding a suitable partner. Therefore, it is up to the student to create by her/himself the project proposal and secure support from a third party, if that’s what the student wants. Otherwise, you can can conduct your thesis with any research group at KI. Don’t get me wrong, in both cases you will need a KI researcher as your main supervisor. External supervisors, which are required in case of conducting your thesis with an external organisation, will act as co-supervisors.
I present you with some tips for those of you who are interested in conducting your thesis with an external company, organization, institute, research group (basically anything outside of KI):
1. Contact and expand your network
Taking into consideration that the success or failure on finding an external partner depends on you, then networking is by far the most important and effective strategy you could possibly take. You can start my posting on your social media, professional profiles and/or emailing contacts to let everyone know that you are looking for an opportunity.
It is also very likely that your network is quite limited if your ideal thesis topic is very specific (which tends to be the case). If so, you should consider concentrating on expanding your network by targeting individuals with specific profiles. The best advice I can give you is to send as many emails/invitations/chats as possible since it will increase your chances of receiving an answer.
2. Profit from previous experiences
People you already have worked with can be your best allies in a situation like this. They are already familiar with your skills, interests and work dynamics. Even if these people are not familiar with the topic you want to address in your thesis, the fact that they already know about your background and skills is already an advantage that you can profit from.
Whether you have done an internship in the past or are planning to do so in the future, these are usually great scenarios for capitalizing thesis opportunities. My best advice would be to think ahead when doing an internship and explore topics for thesis with your supervisor/manager. It is very likely that your energy and drive will be well received.
3. Look for explicit opportunities
Although it might sound somewhat obvious, it wasn’t until I already secured a thesis partnership when I realized that there are companies that are explicitly looking for students seeking a thesis project. These advertisements tend to be posted on company’s websites and social media.
On one hand, the issue with these offerings is that it is usually a fixed topic and project that the company has and its just looking for a student to execute it. Although I personally prioritised selecting the topic by myself, there are many students that prefer to be handed in a project. On the other hand, it is usually big multinational organisations that offer this kind of opportunities, and many would argue they are a possible bridge towards a permanent job position within those organisations.
4. Ask teachers
It is very common for KI teachers to have a side job or connections with companies, government institutions or other external organisations. Therefore, they are an ideal target population for emails and networking. If there was one specific course or subject in your programmme that you particulary liked, then reaching out to the course director is a great starting point. Nonetheless, if your topic of interest is not strictly related to only one course or you just didn’t vibe with the course director, KI’s webpage provides a clear picture of all research groups and their contacts. I would highly recommend you to read carefully each research group’s description and scope, so you have a better understanding of their work and decide better who to reach out to.
If you are interested in writing your thesis with another university, my recommendation would be to target ad approach friendly with an email to teachers and/or researchers in the same way you’d do for KI. In my experience, KI’s name is very well respected and consequently attractive.
5. Go to events (even online)
I saved this one for the end for a reason. I must admit that I was very skeptic when senior students advised me to show up to events and career fairs. It just seemed pointless and non-personal to me. Nonetheless, during the first months of the pandemic I had so much free time that I decided to start attending webinars offered by a very prestigious institute I was interested in. Turns out that I really enjoyed the content, so I began to actively participate in the chat and ask questions to the speakers. This is how I got noticed by senior executives from the institute, who then invited me to an interview and offered me an opportunity to work with them. In conclusion, I would recommend you to join events that you feel interested in. Just showing up does not do the trick, you need to actively participate in order to get noticed!
That’s a wrap! Hope these tips are useful in your future endeavours.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions!