Interview: Eva Sillerström

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Role: University Lecturer / Division: Clinical Microbiology

The students are very motivated at this level. They have chosen to study something in which they have an active interest.

How long have you been at KI?

Since 1978, so 35 years!

What did you do before you started at LabMed?

I worked as a biomedical analyst at the National Veterinary Institute (SVA). 

Why did you decide to come here?

SVA was moving to Uppsala and I didn't want to move away from Stockholm. So I applied here, to the Department of Laboratory Medicine in Huddinge. It was a research position and in completely new premises.

What is a typical working day like for you?

Very varied. If there's teaching at the lab, I need to get here early and prepare. It's nice to have a cup of coffee and check my mail before the lesson starts. There's a great deal of administration involved, like making timetables and booking rooms and lecturers. Marking exam papers and organising exams. Writing course syllabi, attending to the course budget and updating course web pages.

I'm responsible for clinical training, which involves visits to various labs and clinics at Karolinska University Hospital.  My children, who are all grown up, tend to say: ”Crikey, we have exams to do” and then I can say: ”Crikey I have exams to organise. We all have deadlines!

The job requires a great deal of planning in general.

How does the students view KI and our department?

We now have only the Biomedical laboratory science education in our department. On the dentistry programme, for example, only part of the studies are conducted at LabMed. The students probably have more opinions about me as a teacher and my division. But they seem happy with KI overall; we take good care of our students.

What is the biggest challenge in teaching at KI?

It is a high-ranking university. Exchange students really want to come here and they have high expectations of KI. The students at this level are of course very motivated. After all, they have chosen to study something in which they have an active interest, in contrast with compulsory schooling. What you're competing with is digital media. When you're teaching, students can sit and Google the subject and start asking complicated questions. You never stop learning. 

Are there problems with cheating?

No major problems with cheating, but it happens of course. But that's where digital media is an advantage and even provides support.  There are systems which allow you to ensure reports are not plagiarised from the Internet and so on. We have a number of invigilators present at written exams who do the rounds and make sure no-one is cheating. But students are permitted to go to the toilet and we don't check up on them there, so it's difficult to stop all forms of cheating. We would like to have a signal jammer in the examination hall so that the students are unable to use their mobile phones to cheat.

What is the most fun part of your job?

Lab sessions are fun. You never know what will happen or what questions you might be asked, and that gives you a bit of a challenge. It's practical and theoretical tuition all in one. The group of people in the division (Microbiology) are just great too, and it's fun to see so many young, hungry doctoral students. I also have the advantage of a rather large contact network that spans KI, Karolinska University Hospital and hospitals across the Stockholm area since we run clinical training. And it's just a privilege to meet people of so many different nationalities at KI.