The best of both worlds

As an industrial PhD student you are often alone, with one foot in academia and one foot in business. Bridging these worlds can be quite a challenge. Atlas Copco’s research school network provides a support network where students can exchange experiences and grow while pursuing their academic ambitions. 

As a technology driver, the Atlas Copco Group welcomes PhD students to do their research “on the job” in a real-life industrial setting, with real needs from customers and the society.

Nils Dressler, Ava Mazaheri in a Research School debate.

Nils Dressler, Ava Mazaheri

In 2019, the Industrial Technique business area decided to start a network for their research students. In this “research school”, students can exchange their individual research experiences and learn some key skills that aren’t taught in the academic environment, such as the psychology of learning, pitching research ideas to managers and how to present to conferences.

“Doing an industrial PhD means you’re not really a part of the company and not really a part of the university organization either - you’re something in between,” explains Martin Karlsson, Team Manager Tightening Technique and the man who started the research school. “We can help fill that gap.”

“At the research school, students can share their thoughts and other problems that appear. It’s a home for them where they can share and reflect on what they learn. It also means we can learn as an organization, how to best collaborate with university and industrial partners,” says Martin Karlsson.

There are currently five PhD students attached to Industrial Technique’s research school: Nils Dressler, from Germany; Mayank Kumar, from India; Ava Mazaheri, from Sweden; Sofia Olsson, from Sweden; and, Lifei Tang, from China. All are researching areas that in one way or another relate to the usage of Atlas Copco tools, with potential benefits for motor vehicle assembly lines or general industry production.

The students are at different stages of their industrial PhDs, but all have or do split their time evenly between Atlas Copco and their university, with great advice and inspiration on hand at both places.

The research school members recently reflected on their experiences at a round table event, captured on video.

“For me it’s been really good to have you guys to discuss topics that might come up when you’re discussing work with academic PhD colleagues. It’s quite a different work position to be an industrial PhD student,” Sofia Olsson says.  “I get inspiration from all of you when we meet at research school activities,” Lifei Tang adds.

All five students appreciate both the support and the freedom offered by Atlas Copco as they pursue their research.

Lifei Tang, Sofia Olsson in a Research School debate.

Lifei Tang, Sofia Olsson

“Sitting in industry means we know the applications for what we are working on. PhD students often struggle with seeing how theoretical questions can be applied but knowing the application behind what we do gives us some confidence and security,” says Nils Dressler.

“Being at a company gives you direct access to a huge network of customers with real-world data,” adds Ava Mazaheri. “Atlas Copco is heaven for a data scientist like me!” agrees Lifei Tang.

Jonas Millinger, a recent Industrial PhD graduate who now works as a Motor Designer at Atlas Copco, also assists Martin Karlsson at the research school.

“If I was to pitch the research school from the corporate point of view I would emphasize that there is a huge benefit to looking far into the horizon,” he says. “We can be much faster in adapting to the new reality.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the five students is that each one shares a clear focus on technologies that will help both customers and society become more efficient and sustainable.

One of them, Mayank Kumar, sums it up perfectly when he says, “We’re working toward a better future.”

Profiles of our PhD students