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On a postdoc at the University of Oslo

E. Jardin & C. Schoch

Chrystelle Auterives holds a PhD in earth sciences from the University of Rennes 1 with a specialism in hydrogeology. She’s been living in Norway since October 2006.

1/ How did you find your postdoc?
Before I finished my thesis, I’d found a postdoc opening on the University of Oslo website and I applied. First, I did a summary of my research in English. Then I wrote a long cover letter making sure I stuck to the postdoc subject and explained why I was interested in the position.

2/ Then you were called in for an interview?
No, not at all. They called me to say they accepted my application. But I don’t think there were many applicants.

3/ What factor mattered most in your getting hired? Your scientific skills? Were they familiar with your research lab in France?
They didn’t know my research lab. I think it was the match between my thesis topic and the postdoc subject that tipped the scales in my favor. They were looking for a hydrogeologist, which I am, and someone who did chemistry, which was my case during my doctoral research. So as far as scientific skills were concerned, my profile was what they were looking for.

4/ What is your work environment like? Are there other French researchers in your laboratory?
Yes, there are a fair number of French in the lab. I should point out that half the team is not Norwegian. I know two French PhD students who arrived at the same time I did, and I’ve met two tenured professors who are French.

5/ What language do you work in? Norwegian?
English. Everyone speaks English in Norway.

6/ What made you choose Norway?
I wanted to do a postdoc abroad, but I didn’t have any particular preference for which country. I admit that I didn’t have Norway in mind at first, but when the opportunity cropped up, I figured “why not?”

7/ Do you perceive differences in the way research is done in your field in France and in Norway?
In Norway, people aren’t breaking down the doors to do state-sponsored research in geology. Here, young researchers tend to go to work for oil companies where they’re better paid. So the state research centers have trouble recruiting in-house. That’s why there are so many foreign researchers who come to Norway. Otherwise, the way we work is similar, with perhaps more emphasis on publishing…

8/ If a young French PhD wanted to move to Norway and asked you for advice, what would you say?
The standard of living in Norway is very high, and work means a lot, but it’s just as important to have a private life, and that’s very nice. I would also point out that the cost of living is very high, practically twice that in France. For instance, my share of the rent with four people is about 500€ a month, and you have to pay between 800€ and 1,000€ to have your own place. But salaries are commensurate with the standard of living: I make about 2,700 € net per month.

Interview conducted by Evelyne Jardin, 20 February 2007