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Practice make perfect!

Dear colleagues,
I hope that all of you have enjoyed a relaxing Easter holiday with the closest family and closest friends. People like me, interested in gardening, did not think that the weather was good enough to spend a whole lot of time in the garden. But we know that warmer days will come!

No matter what you did on your holiday or what you do on your free time, it is important that it is not KTH work. It is a challenge, when most of the ITM employees work from home, to clearly separate the working time from the free time. I know many people have complained about this difficulty. I have heard cases where employees have agreed with their closest manager that they check in for work during a certain time span and then checks out after the working day is over. In this way, it is easier to separate the working time from the free time, when working from home.

We are in the middle of a re-exam period and many of you are involved in this new experience. We have suddenly fast been moved into the digital world of giving exams and most of us did not have a clue on how to do this. Just before Easter KTH tested on how to give exams including how to supervise students during an exam. This has been a challenge so far and it is not perfect, but as I mentioned in the headline “practice make perfect”. We will learn from each others experiences so that each one of us becomes more skilled in performing this new task.

I especially want to mention the need for having people supervising exams (tentavakter). KTH will not allow external people to be involved, so we will need to handle it by ourselves. We need to help each other between divisions and departments. One of the schools at KTH asked teachers and PhD students to volunteer for taking on these assignments. The result? …160 persons said that they are willing to help. This is impressive, but I hope that we at ITM have the same spirit among the teachers and PhD students!

Finally, I want to share a personal experience with respect to the English phrase “practice make perfect”. Yesterday, I hosted a digital PhD examination where my and Michael Vynnycky’s student Arash Safavi Nick defended his thesis. The three of us were gathered in the green room at KTH B for the defense. Everything had been planned well by the Service Center including the setup of the camera before the defense and starting the webinar. A few minutes before 10 am everyone is online, except for the opponent. It is during this times you start to think why is this happening now?….. Then, unexpectedly a voice comes up and says that I am from the KTH IT service and I am just checking in to see if everything is going well. After a phone call from this person to the opponent, the opponent managed to get him online. Puh! We were finally back in business!

So how was the defence? Well it became one of the longest defences I experienced. The open part took slightly more than four hours and the candidate got 137 (!) questions and comments. At the end of the day, the committee was very satisfied with the thesis and the answers to the questions, so ITM received a new Doctor, namely Dr Arash Safavi Nick. After the long defence, the supervisors and the new Doctor had a late lunch to celebrate the accomplishment of Arash. We also celebrated that we had been able to take the first step in to the new world of carrying out digital PhD defences. We are not perfect at this stage, but with practice we will excel our skills!

Pär Jönsson, Head of the ITM School