About the Forum

About us

The Forum for Young Scientists (FYS) was founded in 2016 with the aim to create a platform for PhD-students and post-doctoral candidates from the VU University. With this platform we would like to create an environment where young scientific researchers can discuss problems with their peers, work on their personal development and to network with researchers from other disciplines. Diversity and transparency are very important in our bottom-up network. Our network currently consists of ~300 young researchers.

Examples of workshops that we organized in the past can be found here. During the workshops we aim to work one of the following three subjects: career development, soft-skill and emotional well-being. Please continue reading if you want to know more about these topics. If you want to be notified about upcoming workshops, please sign up for our mailing via the contact form.

Core Topics

Soft skills development

HR-managers and recruiters often complain that candidates do not have the right soft-skills to fit the job requirements. In the academic world everything is focused on learning hard skills. You learn for example how to perform statistical analysis, programming or performing experiments. However, often without releasing it, you also have to deal with things as managing your time, presenting your data and giving feedback. These are examples of very important soft-skills.

The Forum for Young Scientists aims to organize two workshops per year to recognize and train soft-skills. Please find an overview here of previous workshops on soft-skills:

  • Understanding team dynamics
  • How to give a presentation
  • The art of effective feedback
  • Leadership
  • Conflict management
  • Time management
  • Negotiating in science

Emotional well-being at work

Emotional well-being involves satisfaction with your private and professional life. This means that you first have to understand and recognize pleasant and unpleasant feelings that you come across. As a next step you have to learn how manage these feelings. It does not necessarily mean that you are happy all the time, but it means you are aware of your emotions and you can deal with them. The Forum for Young scientists thrives to help you to become aware of your emotions and to find a healthy balance between work and private life. We feel that most of the PhD-students and postdocs are struggling with this balance.. With our workshops we hope we can make you more resilient.

The Forum for Young Scientists aims to organize two workshops per year to become more resilient. Please find an overview here of previous workshops on emotional well-being.

  • How to prevent a burnout
  • Work-life balance
  • Time management

Career orientation

As a young scientific researcher in your field it is not always clear what direction you would your career to go into, or what it will involve in getting there. How does the path towards a career in academia look like, and what hordes could you evade or prepare yourself for? Your head might be full of research project ideas, but how do you make to the step to writing a grant, and how can you present your ideas in a convincing way?

Additionally, when you decide to step out of academia into industry or other organizations/institutes, the possibilities might seem endless, or you are unsure how qualified you actually are after years of academic research, mainly focusing on hard skills. In hindsight, could you have prepared yourself better during your PhD or postdoc for the step outside academia? Could you have worked more on network opportunities encountered during your work or visited conferences?

Do you know at all what thrives and motivates you after an exhausting PhD project? Learning to understand what skills are transferable to a different working field can already open up more career possibilities then you initially thought. Being able to identify and value those skills can reinforce new career choices. The Forum for Young Scientists aims to organize two workshops per year to work on your career perspectives. Please find an overview here of previous workshops on career orientation

  • How to write a grant proposal
  • Jump from academia to industry
  • From bench to market
  • Job application skills
  • How to become a professor

Board Members

Jana Runze, PhD candidate of the Faculty of Behavioral and Movement Sciences, Clinical Child & Family Studies

Read more about Jana

I am Jana and I work as a PhD candidate at the VU on the L-CID Twin study. I investigate long-term effects of parenting support and the role of differential susceptibility. Within this context, I am especially interested in focusing on the combination of behavioral and biological aspects, above all the role of cortisol in children. In my opinion, a PhD (and Post-doc) is a position that requires not only the “common” research skills, but many more skills when you want to be successful and content with your career. Furthermore, research is becoming broader as we speak, incorporating talks to the public, blogs and vlogs, Twitter, Instagram and more varied types of publications besides the standard research article. This can be a blessing but also holds challenges. I am very happy that FYS is addressing these challenges by providing workshops that are tailored to the needs of the PhD students and Post-docs of today.

Ekaterina Mavrina, PhD candidate in KIN Center for Digital Innovation, School of Business and Economics

Read more about Ekaterina

In my PhD I aim to understand how collaboration between interdisciplinary researchers affects solving complex innovative problems. Lots of academic courses nowadays include group assignments: we are encouraged to work in teams everywhere. Once you enter a job market, you are likely to end up in a place where you will have to collaborate with your colleagues. Did you always have a positive experience of collaborating with others? I doubt! As a young researcher, I have to accept uncertainty about my future career, learn how to cope with ups and downs in research. In my opinion, to become a happy individual satisfied with your career, you need two core ingredients: hard work and networking. True, collaboration really is a thing! I have no doubt that FYS has grown into a stimulating platform where young scholars can engage in a conversation about career-related issues with the invited speakers and find the solutions collaboratively.

Paloma Opazo, PhD candidate of the Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Language, Communication, and Cognition

Read more about Paloma

My name is Paloma Opazo and I am a PhD-student at the Department of Language, Communication, and Cognition within the Faculty of Humanities. I am conducting a 4-year individual project that seeks to understand a communicative phenomenon called alignment, which occurs when we copy each others’ linguistic and non-linguistic behaviors in interaction. I am particularly interested in understanding how this process occurs between teacher and student during tutoring sessions. Ever since I started in academia, I have been looking for a platform where PhD students and postdocs from different fields can share their experiences. There is so much expectation about our work as researchers that it is essential to establish a dialogue to learn together about pressing matters. Forum for Young Scientist can be that platform by creating relevant workshops on the many facets of a doctoral or postdoctoral program, as well as helping in the development of essential skills for our academic careers.

Laura Guilherme Luzia, PhD candidate of the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Systems Biology, AIMSS

Read more about Laura

I am currently doing a PhD project at the VU in the Sysbio Lab and yeast is my favorite “pet”. Between the lab and the office, I try to understand how biological systems adapt to environmental fluctuations – what we call the dynamic conditions. As a young researcher I had many questions not necessarily science related, but whose answers were equally essential for the success of my research How to keep myself together in the hard moments of my PhD project? How to communicate my work? How to supervise and be supervised? It was always clear for me that soft skills should come together with hard skills and that is why I joined this project. Working in an academic setting brings many challenges, especially when you are a beginner. There are many dynamics here as well and we need to be prepared to make this journey more joyful.

Merel Damen, PhD candidate of the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Molecular Microbiology, AIMMS

Read more about Merel

I am Merel Damen and I am a PhD-student in the Molecular Microbiology group of the VU University. My research focuses on the Type VII secretion system which contributes to the virulence and viability of the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Since the beginning of my PhD trajectory, I joined several workshops that were hosted by the Forum of Young Scientists. I believe that learning certain soft-skills and managing a healthy work-life balance will contribute to our academic careers. Hard skills are one part of the job, but conveying a message to an audience is a completely different aspect of science that is necessary to bring your data to the public. Forum of Young Scientists intends to tailor the workshop program specifically to the needs of PhD students and Post-docs to help them elevate their careers and provide a strong basis for their future endeavors. As a board member, I am happy to be a part of this positive movement.

Mojdeh Khorrami, PhD candidate of the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Department of Health Sciences

Read more about Mojdeh

I am Mojdeh Khorrami and my research field is mainly in Musculoskeletal disorders. The Focus of my project at VU is on causes, treatment interventions, cost-effectiveness, and the relationship between them in Low back pain. As part of my project, I am working on a systematic review and meta-analysis (Behavioral Treatment and low back pain) with the Cochrane Back and Neck group. Beside doing research my interests are Persian calligraphy, life coaching books and courses, exploring art exhibitions, collecting art, exploring cafes. As a researcher, I have worked in a couple of universities around the world, and I noticed besides your study, it is very vital and important to know how to manage the up and down of your PhD or Postdoc journey and also how to be prepared when you are going for taking your next step to finding your desire career. I am very happy that FYS is preparing workshops with a focus on these important skills to help PhD and postdoc researchers at VU and also I feel very lucky to have this chance to work as a FYS member with these motivated, ambitious people.

Previous Board Members

Denise Denning, worked as a postdoc at the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Physics of Living systems, LaserLab. Now Technical Officer in the FOCAS Research Institute, Technological University (TU) Dublin.

Raya Sorkin, worked as a postdoc at the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Physics of Living systems, LaserLab. Now Assistant Professor at the School of Chemistry, Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Margherita Marchetti, graduated as PhD at the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Physics of Living systems, LaserLab. Now Investment Analyst.

Maurice Steenhuis, graduated as PhD at the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Molecular Microbiology, AIMMS. Now Postdoc in the Immupathology group at Sanquin.

Rosa Luirink, graduated as PhD at the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Computational and Molecular Toxicology, AIMMS.

Joost Geldhof, worked at the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Physics of Living systems, LaserLab. Now assistant medical physicist.

Charlotte Louise Raiser, worked as a Teaching and Research Assistant at the Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology. Now Wellbeing Policy Officer Eindhoven University of Technology

Laura Guilherme Luzia, graduated as PhD at the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Systems Biology, AIMSS.

Dian Spakman, graduated as PhD at the Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen, Physics of Living systems, LaserLab. Now Scientist at QPS Netherlands.


All our workshops are free of charge for PhD-students and postdocs from the VU due to the generous support of our sponsors! Previous workshops (2016-2019) were paid by different institutes and departments of the VU, such as the Amsterdam Institute of Molecular and Life Sciences (AIMMS), the LaserLab institute, the Physics department and the VU human-resources department. We are very happy with these sponsors and would like to thank them for all their financial and administrative assistance. At the start of the year 2020, we obtained a grant from the VUvereniging to have an independent financial basis for three years! We are very excited about this grant and we hope to organize many interesting workshops the coming years.