How I became an "Adjunct Professor" ("dosentti") at the University of Helsinki

Compared to getting my PhD degree, the "dosentti" thingy was easy. I started in the beginning of 2011 and received the title the same year in December.

I don't know whether the process differs between different Finnish universities and some of the formalities might be specific to the University of Helsinki, but nevertheless, below I list the steps I took to get the title. There are also instructions available from here.

  1. I needed some - officially documented - teaching experience. In my case it appeared to be enough to have supervised 3 MSc theses and that I had co-organized a 3-day full-time course (together with Marko Hyytiäinen) for the Helsinki Biomedical Graduate School. Actually the last MSc thesis is technically still under supervision...
  2. I needed to find two assessors for my application. I contacted them in advance asking whether they would do the job if the faculty was appointing them. I proposed them to the faculty in my application. The faculty is not obliged to follow the proposal, but I gather that they mostly do. And of course I was not allowed to have any common publications with the assessors or similar compromising ties.
  3. I talked to Prof. Carl Gahmberg. It is a good idea to talk to somebody important in the Faculty to which you are applying to. After all, you need to know whether you fulfil the necessary criteria and when the faculty meeting is deciding about your application, there should be somebody talking in favor of it. Among other criteria and maybe most important is the amount of publications with your name on the author list. At the time of application, I had co-authored 33 original publications in refereed journals and 4 review articles. Another important criterion is the establishment of a research career independent from your mentor. This is kind of tricky as in a small country like Finland some research areas are dominated by a single PI to such a degree, that fulfilling this criterion it is sometimes unrealistic.
  4. I prepared my Academic Portfolio (this online version has confidential, blacked-out parts). It is a formalized assembly of everything relevant to my research career. The guidelines for its structure are here
  5. I wrote the application letter and brought it together with 3 copies of the Academic Portfolio to the Faculty. For the application choose my research area from this list. If your mother tongue is not Finnish or Swedish (e.g. if you are a foreigner), you can be exempted from the language requirements. For this you need to attach a verified copy of your documents (e.g. your foreign passport). I just took my German passport and its copied pages to the faculty administration office and two ladies there did verify their identity with the original them by signing them. The application also had to contain a verified copy of my PhD degree certificate, even though I received it from the same faculty of the same university.
  6. Somebody checked whether I fulfil the formal criteria and at the next faculty meeting on June 7th, 2011, the faculty appointed the assessors that I had proposed in my application. I was notified via e-mail.
  7. The faculty did contact my assessors and it was my responsibility to provide them with all of the stuff they need for the assessment. This meant for me: reprints of all of my articles. One was satisfied with electronic copies, the other wanted hard copies (he wanted to go thru them during his summer holidays and also I don't like to take my laptop to boating trips or into the sauna). The assessors are advised to provide their statements within 2 months time.
  8. I received an e-mail after the assessors had submitted their verdicts and my "trial lecture" was scheduled. Unless the teaching ability is obvious, applicants need to give a trial lecture that is evaluated by a committee of scientists that have professional pedagogic training. There was a queue for these types of lectures and I had to wait from August to October 21st to get a free slot.
  9. I gave the trial lecture on October 21st. I made sure I met their formal criteria of a good lecture. I also chose an interesting topic that is accessible to scientists, who don't work in my speciality.
  10. I waited only one week to receive an e-mail with the results of the teaching evaluation. My lecture was evaluated good.
    After that my application went (automatically) to the next faculty meeting (you can check their schedule here. The faculty meeting decided in favor of my application, but they did not notify me separately. I checked their decision from the minutes of the faculty meeting ("pöytäkirja"). The faculty then forwarded the faculty-approved application to the chancellor, who has to agree and sign the official document, which he did on December 13th, exactly on the same day when I was in the hospital being operated for my appendicitis (i.e. 6 weeks after the faculty meeting).