Not just a cosy coffee club network for older men

The Cardiovascular Network at Health currently has a little over two hundred members. The vast majority of them are senior (male) researchers, so now the steering committee is launching a charm offensive in the hunt for junior researchers – with women especially welcome – who ‘dare’ to challenge conventional thinking and engage in a network with big ambitions.

The Cardiovascular Network wishes to add more younger members and encourages anyone with an interest in cardiology research to check out the network's website or contact one of the existing members to learn more. Photo: Simon Fischel, AU Health.

46 junior researchers. That is what the register of members in the Cardiovascular Network contains. The figure covers Master’s degree students, research year students, PhD students, postdocs and assistant professors, and an increase in this number would be very welcome. 

"We want to get even more junior researchers to join, because they’ve got their finger on the pulse. Both in relation to what’s happening right now in the field but also in relation to e.g. what the students on the Master's degree programme in medicine want from their future careers. This is a very important insight for us – not least when we try to convince students and others to choose our particular subject area," says Associate Professor Morten Schmidt from the Department of Clinical Medicine, who is vice-chair in the network’s steering committee.

"The network shouldn’t just be a cosy coffee club for older men, but somewhere where we collaborate across disciplines to get out our research out there where it matters and strengthen cardiology research at Aarhus University. In this respect, the participation of the junior researchers and their contribution to the network is absolutely crucial. It’s the junior researchers who must drive research forwards, and we encourage them to come and give it everything they’ve got," he says.

The junior researchers need to be a core component of the network – and part of the steering committee

This is more than just empty words. The steering committee has just decided to add another member.

"The younger members must also be part of the steering committee. They’re full of energy and ideas and positive attitude, and we’ve decided that in the future there will be a permanent position in the steering committee dedicated to a PhD student," says Morten Schmidt.

He is well aware that extra effort and a degree of courage can be required when trying to get a foot in the door in a network whose members and management are talented senior researchers with large grants, lots of publications and international collaborations on their CVs.

Something which PhD Student Emil Nielsen Holck, who is affiliated with the Department of Clinical Medicine and a member of the Cardiovascular Network, knows all about.

"No matter what, it’s probably always going to be hard being young in this game. The biggest challenge is that the network might easily be somewhere where senior researchers who already know each other meet. Maybe they also studied together. For us younger members, we must first prove ourselves to our colleagues in the network and show our worth. However, I have to say that they welcome us with open arms," he says.

Emil Nielsen Holck experienced this in connection with a summer school at Health, which he and several other junior researchers quietly worked on before contacting Professor, Department Chair and Consultant Jens Cosedis Nielsen, who is the network’s spokesperson.

"We’re very close to being able to launch a new Summer School in Cardiovascular Imaging at Health already this summer. Also in part due to the efforts of the steering group. My impression is that as soon as you show initiative, you get the support you need. This in turn inspires you to take even more initiative, because when you’re prepared to take responsibility, you’re also given the opportunity. It's great," he says.

Being a talented researcher is no longer enough

Emil Nielsen Holck is well aware of what junior researchers can contribute with in a network. But when asked to elaborate, he hesitates before replying.

"Without wishing to be provocative, I’d go so far as to say that some senior researchers do things the same way as they’ve been doing for the last thirty years. This applies to teaching and research, and for that matter, also when it comes to recruiting new, younger researchers to the subject area. This is an area where we junior researchers take a slightly different approach and naturally think in terms of concepts such as branding, when we present our subject area," says Emil Nielsen Holck.

"It's no longer enough just to be good at doing research; you also have to position yourself and your research in the right places, for example on social media. This is becoming more and more important – both in relation to attracting new partners to collaborate with and external funding," he says.

Everyone should be engaged in a network

Emil Nielsen Holck benefits a lot both academically and personally from being part of something bigger – a network that extends beyond his own field of research and work as a medical doctor at Aarhus University Hospital's Department of Cardiology.

"It provides a greater sense of cohesion, or at least a more holistic approach to cardiovascular research. Via the network, I get an insight into what others are doing, which is very beneficial professionally. It leads me to think in new ways and to think about how we can use each other across the network," says Emil Nielsen Holck.

"I’d encourage everyone with an interest in research to become engaged in a network. It doesn’t have to be in one of the faculty's established research networks. It can just as easily be in a small network among colleagues at the department. What’s important is that you get someone to discuss ideas with and provide other perspectives on both your own and other people’s research."

Emil Nielsen Holck is also involved in the Danish Cardiovascular Academy, while he and the other junior researchers use Twitter to network and to stay abreast of each other's research-oriented activities.

The Cardiovascular Network – more information

Read more on The Cardiovascular Network’s website and in the articles “Meet your peers and expand your horizons” and ”The cardiovascular network at Health is a reality"

You can also read the article "What could a chance meeting in the new professional networks lead to?", in which Vice-dean for Research Hans Erik Bøtker encourages all researchers at Health to play an active role in one or two of Health's five networks.

Health's research networks

At Health, we have five interdisciplinary research networks that work together on research and education within the following subject areas:

The networks discuss and collaborate on topics which are of interest to society in general, and they are open for external collaboration with both leading international environments and business and industry.

The five networks hold regular events focusing on academic development, knowledge sharing, mutual inspiration and networking.


PhD student and MD Emil Nielsen Holck
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine and
Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Cardiology
Mobile: (+45) 31 41 94 72

Associate Professor, MD & DMSc Morten Schmidt
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine, Department of Clinical Epidemiology
Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Cardiology
Mobile: (+45) 41 28 99 55