Job contract

KU Contract
KU Contract

So, after 4 months, I have finally got my contract at KU.

Wait, did you say that you just got your contract?

Why, yes I did.

After 4 months?

Yes.

So you’re finally getting paid now?

No. I have been getting my salary since my first month here.

That’s bizarre!

Yes. I guess that just shows how trusting Danes are.

That is unheard of in Australia… at least as far as foreigners are concerned.

That’s right. In Australia, you need to have a contract before you can even apply for your work visa to enter the country. And speaking of work permit, in Denmark, you are free to enter the country as a tourist and then apply for a work permit once you are in. As for me, I got my work permit sorted out before I even landed on Danish soil.

So how come it took a long time for you to get your contract?

Well, my contract was only processed when I arrived in late May. It took some time to process because the HR person has to go through my education and work history to assign the correct amount for my salary. Also, when I arrived, it was the beginning of summer, so a lot of people were away for summer vacation.

I see…

Actually, there’s more to it than that. I only got my contract because we stumbled into it accidentally.

Accidentally? What do you mean?

Well, I went to a workshop in Germany. So I wanted to lodge a travel expense claim form. I needed to know where my funding comes from. So the group administrator tried to look for it in my folder, and she came across my contract!

That was lucky.

The funny thing is, it was dated the end of June!

Wait a minute… so the contract was actually ready for 3 months?

Yes. It was actually sent to my previous address! I moved out from my old place at the end of June. I didn’t get a mail redirection because I wasn’t expecting to get any snail mail. I was expecting the contract to be sent electronically.

Ah, so that was your fault.

Hmm… I guess so. But it all worked out in the end. I signed it, despite the contract saying “return within 14 days”. The International HR staff just laughed it off. Like I said, Danes a pretty relaxed about this kind of things.

Well, all’s well that ends well, I guess!

Yes, I agree completely.

Thesis defence

Yesterday I attended my first (Masters) thesis defence. This was a new experience for me, as there is no such thing as a thesis defence in Australia. The format was 30 minutes of presentation aimed at a general audience followed by 30 minutes of question time.

The presentation was open to public. In yesterday’s case, the presenter’s family (including grandparents!) came, along with pretty much everyone in the group. The question time, on the other hand, was done behind closed doors. There were just the presenter and her two examiners, while the rest of us shuffled to the lounge room. Some of us helped the presenter’s parents to take some food out of their car.

Oh, the food. It was a (bite-sized) feast! There were finger food and some cakes. They really do take their thesis defence seriously in Denmark! Of course, I only have one data point at the moment, so I can’t tell if this is a typical thing or not.

After question time, the presenter (and her examiners) came to the lounge with a look of massive relief on her face. She and her supervisor gave a short speech, and then the merriment began.

I actually found the whole experience to be quite nice. There are some similarities with what we currently have in Australia anyway. In Denmark, you have to hand in your thesis and then prepare your presentation/defence. In Australia, the thesis defence is like your final talk, which you typically give before handing in your thesis. So I guess it’s not all that different.

The state of science in Denmark

Last Thursday, we had a visit from the leader of the Head of Department of Chemistry. It was the usual deal with everyone introducing themselves and then he gave a brief spiel on what he wanted us to do or concentrate on.

One of the things he mentioned actually surprised me a bit. He said that we (as in the Department of Chemistry) needed to increase our number of students. In the past year, the first year intake for Chemistry has been about 50 students, whereas Physics intake is about 150 students. He said that the reason for high school students not to take Chemistry was that it is viewed as a hard science where you will be stuck with research, i.e. it didn’t lead to a “real” job.

Contrast this with, say, Australia, where Chemistry is undoubtedly more popular than Physics, precisely because it leads to more job opportunities. I also had a chat with a Swedish friend who confirmed that Chemistry is generally more popular there as well. I wonder if the Danes take up more Physics than Chemistry because of the legacy of Hans Christian Ørsted and Niels Bohr, who have undeniably changed (and improved) our understanding of electromagnetism and atomic physics.

Also last week, there was an interesting article in the Department Newsletter. The article states that job security for hard science graduates (is) untouched by financial crisis. This also surprises me. Coming from Australia where these hard sciences constantly face budget cuts, which is compounded by plans to further cut A$2 billion from the whole university sector. Although, now that Julia Gillard is no longer prime minister, who knows if this plan will still go ahead or not.