Category Archives: My Research Journey

2017 Research Year in Review: Meeting the Minimum Docent Qualifications

As outlined in the Docent regulations:
“The title of docent is a nationally well known and recognised indicator of scientific and pedagogical expertise…Obtaining a docentur implies that the holder has achieved a degree of independence such that he or she can lead, supervise and evaluate research and academic instruction…‘Docent’ is an academic title that by tradition confers venia docendi, that is ‘the right to teach’ and supervise on all levels of the university; however, the institution of docentur is also rooted in scientific expertise.”
To achieve the title of docent (associate professor), there are three main criteria:

  • 5 weeks of pedagogy courses
  • 15 or more publications
    • Especially helpful is demonstrating independence i
      • e.g. not publishing with your PhD supervisor
      • e.g. being last author
  • 120 hours of classroom teaching
    • Teaching needs to be within the last 6 years
      • So all of my US teaching, where I accumulated hundreds of hours now no longer count
    • Preparing lectures, grading, etc. do not count for teaching hours
    • Teaching to undergraduate students, graduate students, and clinicians do count as teaching hours
    • Supervising master student theses also count
      • Only 60 hours of teaching can be supervision hours

In 2017, I started my second full year as a postdoc in the Department of Public Health at Karolinska Institute. However, in practice, I worked relatively little in 2017, as I took parental leave from January thru August, working only 40% during that time period.

Pedagogy Courses
I worked while on parental leave, primarily to take an online course needed for docent entitled Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (Distance). This is a full-time five-week pedagogy course that takes place online over the span of several months. It worked out really well for me, as many assignments were done individually, on my own time.

Once I came back from parental leave, I also took another online course called Open Networked Learning, which accounts for two full weeks of pedagogy. Here we learned about different open sources one can use when teaching distance courses, as well as ways to make your classroom more interactive.

Furthermore, I took the Web Course for Supervisors 2017 course. This only took a couple of hours to complete, but it went over the legal rules one must follow when directing a PhD student.

Since you need five weeks of pedagogy to become docent, and I now have over 7 weeks, I have met this criteria.

I also used my parental leave-working time to finish up a few articles, as I didn’t want to leave co-authors waiting for eight months.

As such, I was able to publish four new articles in 2017:

This brings my total publications in peer-reviewed journals to 15! Meaning that I have enough publications, barely, to apply for docent. The Head Start article marks my third sole authored paper, where now I have sole authored a qualitative paper, a quantitative paper, and a literature review/meta-synthesis. Hopefully these papers can show my ability to work independently and via using different methodologies.

Even though I was off from working for a good chunk of the year, apparently people were still reading and citing my previously published researched.

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According to ScholarGoogle, in 2016, I had a total of 116 citations, but by the end of 2017, I had 194. My h-index also increased from a 6 to a 9 and my i-index from a 5 to a 9. However, my citations for 2016 and 2017 were relatively similar with 54 and 57 citations, respectively.

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My ResearchGate numbers also increased. I now have a ResearchGate score of 23.01, which apparently means that my score is higher than 75% of other users.

In 2016, I had a total of 2310 reads, while in 2017, I had 4726 reads. Of course ResearchGate comes with plenty of caveats, such as the fact that most researchers go to the actual journals website rather than ResearchGate to find articles to read. However it’s easy to read the numbers off of ResearchGate, so that’s what I use. On this website it is clear to see that my book chapter Families and Family Policies in Sweden has a total of 1276 reads, making it by far my most read publication from ResearchGate.

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Teaching & Supervision

I was able to do a bit of teaching in 2017, especially in the fall. While I had a few hours here and there, such as in Brain Development or Sexual for Psychologists and Reproductive Health for Midwifery students, my main group of teaching hours came from giving guest lectures in the Epidemiology masters track in a course called Applied Epidemiology 3- Methods for outcome Evaluation of Public Health interventions. I gave lectures on 1) Overview of Study Design in Public Health Outcome Evaluations, 2) Planning the Evaluation, and 3) Evaluating the Implementation of a Community-wide New Father Visit at the Swedish Child Health Centers. In addition, I peer audited the course leader. I also gave a day-long lecture for all masters students in Public Health at KI (Epi + Health Economic) in a course called Theory, Practice, and Ethics.

In addition to teaching, I also supervised four midwifery students as they completed two theses. Two of these were in the spring of 2017, while the other two were in the fall of 2017.

  1. Saga Fogelström and Anna Björsson (2017). Department of Women’s and Children’s Health. Tänk om hon dör och jag blir ensam kvar: En intervjustudie över blivande pappors förlossningsrädsla (What if she dies and leaves me all alone: An interview based study of fathers’ fear of childbirth). I am a co-supervisor.
  2. Michaela Modin Asper and Nino Hallén (2017). Department of Public Health. Postpartum depression screening for fathers: A cost-benefit analysis in Stockholm Sweden. I am a co-supervisor.
  3. Emmeli Vallin and Hanna Nestander (2017). Department of Women’s and Children’s Health. Tänk om hon dör: Mäns upplevelser vid komplikationer under förlossning. (What if she dies: Men’s experiences in complications during childbirth). I am the main supervisor.
  4. Sofia Kittmark and Matias Garzon (2017). Department of Women’s and Children’s Health. Same-sex mothers’ views of the Swedish child health centers: A qualitative study. I am a co-supervisor.

The theses from Women’s and Children’s Health are worth 15 credits (10 weeks), while the one from Public Health is worth 30 credits (20 weeks) for students. The supervisor receives 15 hours of teaching for every 10 weeks of thesis work. Therefore, I have (15/2)+(30/2)+15+(15/2) = 45 hours of supervision.

Theses 2-4 are currently being revised for publication! So perhaps more news on them in the 2018 year in review 🙂

Therefore, in total, I have 62 hours of classroom teaching time, as well as 45 hours of supervision time. Thus, I am just shy of the 120 teaching hours needed for docent.

Other Events

  • I presented at the Nordic Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health in Stockholm. The talk was entitled Swedish Child Health Nurses’ Mental Health Support to Mothers and Fathers in 2004 and 2014.
  • My colleagues presented our research findings at Värna våra yngsta: Späda barns rätt till hälsa och utveckling in Stockholm. The talk was called Dialogsamtal med föräldrar om alkohol för att upptäcka barn i riskmiljöer.
  • I was interviewed by Alexander von Schuppler for Region Skåne’s monthly newsletter on the supports fathers want/need in the Swedish child health field.





PhD Salary in the Faculty of Medicine at Uppsala University

One of the best things about being a PhD student in Sweden is the salary. PhD students in the USA often only have to work 20 hours per week (with an assistantship) or maybe technically, 0 hours per week (with a fellowship). Still others do not have to work, but do have to pay to attend their PhD program. Yuck!

When students do work, it’s not uncommon to get between $12,000-$18,000 per year (or per school year), while some fancy people may get as high as $30,000. For example, my buddy got $17,000 plus another $10,000 fellowship.

But those numbers pale in comparison to Sweden! Click here to see the pdf of the Uppsala University pay scale for PhD students in Medicine.

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Currently, a starting PhD student will have to work 40 hours per week, but that also includes their course work, conference time, etc, and their work (i.e. research). In compensation for that, they receive 25,000 SEK per month ($2936 per month or $35,232 per year–and that’s at the current crappy conversion rate [1:8.52]).

When students are 50% completed with their PhD they earn 27,900 SEK per month ($3276 per month) and when they’re 80% completed (all but dissertation normally), then they receive 29,700 SEK per month ($3488 per month or $41,856 per year!).  Plus all of the government benefits and pension money.

Of course, if you are not just a researcher, but also a physician, then your salary increases to a whopping 35,700 SEK per month ($50,304 per year)!

Not too shabby to be a PhD student in Sweden!

Dissertation (Avhandling) Cover Photo

I’m often asked by fellow PhD students–what should I have on the cover of my dissertation (avhandling) book?

To me, the answer was very clear–I wanted the overall message, the theme, of my dissertation to be front and center on the cover.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I should shorten my dissertation 😉


I had a childhood friend, Kirb Brimstone (also found on Facebook here), do the artwork. I advised him what I wanted and he drew it.

Here’s the significance of my cover art:

Since my dissertation is about how fathers are not provided with an equal chance to parent, both through the Swedish family policies and through the institutions, like the child health field, I had this represented on the cover.

There’s an illustration of Sweden in the background, with a father, presumably from Uppsala University, holding his daughter’s hand as he walks towards a nurse and a preschool teacher.

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The nurse and preschool teacher are both women, signifying the gender difference men/fathers face at the outset of garnering parenting advice from these individuals.

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However, he is stopped at a fence, with a lock, signifying the gatekeeping that is happening as those who have knowledge about young children’s health hold the keys (and therefore the power) to inform or not inform others about young children’s health.

In this case, fathers feel like the gate is closed, and that they have several barriers to break down before they can be fully accepted into the child health world.

Even my own institution highlights the lack of the importance of fathers, as it is aptly named “Women’s and Children’s Health“.

Mainly people in Sweden and around the world believe that Sweden is a very gender equal country. And to its credit, it most certainly is, especially relative to other countries. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a vast amount of work still needed before achieving gender equality. While many people work with the struggle for equal rights for women, few pose the argument on ways men/fathers are discriminated against, not the least of which is through the Swedish child health field.

With that in mind, the sign on the gatekeeping fence has a sign saying “Nullius in Verba” which is Latin for “take nobody’s word for it”. In other words, just because people believe Sweden is a gender equal country, and that men/fathers hold all of the power–do not take societies word for it.

Seek out the truth… reading my dissertation.

You can find a copy of my dissertation by clicking here.

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One last thing–I gave a tip of my hat to the father-figures in my life: my father (JSW), my two grandfathers (KFE & CRW), and my best childhood friends dad (SP) by having their initials “carved” into the fence on the right-hand side. This was also intended as a symbolic gesture, suggesting that these fathers had reached the gate, but were stopped and couldn’t be as involved in all aspects of childrearing as they might have liked due to the various levels of gatekeeping that they encountered.

A Swedish Spikning–Nailing my Dissertation

After sitting and writing your dissertation (avhandling) for months, the day comes when it’s is printed.


It looks so real! A book, with my name as the author is coming into being. Are all of my citations correct? Are my results right? I didn’t mess up any of the decimal places, did I?


After a thorough checking of your printed dissertation is completed, you send it in for processing and you get a real book!

Once your dissertation is complete, you have a spikning. A spikning is when you nail your avhandling (dissertation) to the wall.


Everyone used to nail it to a door/wall at the main university building, but today, it’s more common to only nail it within your own office space or to not even literally nail it, but rather just celebrate the accomplishment.


Either way, I did feel a bit like Martin Luther, although I think my findings were a bit less controversial.

And of course, it’s always nice to hear toasts, make toasts.


And celebrate the accomplishment with cake.


Now just a few short weeks until the actual defense.


Team Building in Gothenburg

Our research team, Social Pediatrics, headed out to Gothenburg (Göteborg) to attend the International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health (ISSOP) 2014 Conference.

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While making our way from Uppsala to Gothenburg, our boss, Anna Sarkadi, handed us an envelop. Inside contained instructions on what we were to do once we arrived in Gothenburg:

1) Form one of two groups and create a name

2) Rent a bike

3) Bike to the Opera House (6 km, each way) and show/describe our research posters to random passer-by people

4) Interview parents and children on their thoughts about the use of timeout

5) Find a gift for group members who aren’t with us at the conference. It has to be free, meaningful, and connected to Gothenburg

6) Prepare an 8 minute powerpoint presentation in less than 10 minutes to present to the group

The winning will receive a free dinner and be allowed to bring with them one external researcher (plus free wine if that researcher is not from Sweden).

AKA–talk to people about parenting research, present findings, and network.

Below are some pictures showing the amazingness of team building.

Notes from interviewing parents and children on timeout usage
Maria started to chat with people on the train about their thoughts on timeout usage. Children didn’t want it to be used, since they thought it was mean, while parents thought it was important sometimes.


Biking to the Opera House
6 km to the Opera House, but a beautiful view!
Promoting Maria’s bedtime peeing research to random tourists at the Opera House in Gothenburg
Natalie, Maria, and myself celebrating that we had promoted our research on the streets of Gothenburg


Anton couldn’t be with us since he had just had a baby, so we thought a new home was in order

What better way to bring your research literally to the streets!

Click here to read about the ISSOP conference, click here to read about Uppsala’s Social Pediatrics Research Group talks, click here to read about my (Michael B. Wells’) presentation, and click here to read about some highlights in Gothenburg.


Two-day Course on Multilevel Modeling

While earning my master’s degree in Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State University, I learned about hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). It sounded so cool. But I never had a chance to learn how to do it….until now.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 11.24.47 AMÖrebro University hosted Professor Joop Hox (Utrecht University) on June 9-11, 2014. Dr Hox taught the 2.5 day course on multilevel modeling from a statistician’s perspective.

It was a bit difficult for myself, as well as others (I had to ask around if I was the only one) to understand everything that was being taught, mainly because we were taught more about the formulas and why we should use them rather than focusing more attention to real-life examples and how we could organize our data and run actual model, for instance.

Hox Presentation

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 1.02.12 PMThankfully, he wrote a book entitled Multilevel Analysis: Techniques and Applications (Second edition) that’s quite helpful at explaining how to do the analyses and he has a website ( with papers and programs so people can learn and practice more.

Ph.D. Half-time Seminar: Parenting Support for Fathers in Sweden: The Role of Child Health Centers and Parent Support Programs for Young Children

On March 30th, 2014 I completed my half-time (halvtid) seminar at Uppsala University in Sweden. The title of my half-time was called Parenting Support for Fathers in Sweden: The Role of Child Health Centers and Parent Support Programs for Young Children.

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The half-time is important: It stresses that you’re half-way completed with your Ph.D. Since you should have four publications to earn your Ph.D. in Medicine at Uppsala University, two articles should be completed (or mostly completed) before hosting your half-time.

I, Michael Wells, am in Social Pediatrics (Dr Anna Sarkadi) which is part of the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health in the Faculty of Medicine at Uppsala University.

My half-time committee including Dr. Sven Bremberg, Dr. Pia Enebrink, and Dr. Birgitta Essen.

My half-time consisted of three studies:

  • Wells, M.B., Engman, J., & Sarkadi, A. Gender equality in Swedish child health centres: An analysis of their physical environments and parental behaviours. Accepted for publication in Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies.
  • Wells, M.B., Varga, G., Kerstis, B., & Sarkadi, A. (2013). Swedish child health nurses’ views of early father involvement: A qualitative study. Acta Paediatrica, 102(7), 755-761.
  • Salari, R., Wells, M.B., & Sarkadi, A. Child behaviour problems, parenting behaviours and parental adjustment in mothers and fathers in Sweden. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. (Revise and Resubmit).

Along with that, you should have taken two compulsory courses:

  • Introduction to Doctoral Studies (1.5 credits)
  • Introduction to Scientific Research (9.0 credits).

These are the only two mandatory courses a student has to take if they are in the Faculty (Department) of Medicine.

Thankfully I not only had taken those two courses, but I had also sat through several other lectures, including a week long lesson in York, England called Foundations of Economic Evaluation in Health Care (through the York Expert Workshops found here).

Only one other requirement is needed (and to be fair, it’s only needed before graduating): the Ph.D. student should also attend conferences, presenting at least two posters and one oral presentation. Thankfully I had completed this requirement, and therefore don’t need to worry about that before graduating (although I will still go to many more, as I love presenting my research and spreading the word about gender equality in Sweden).

Months before your half-time, your supervisor should select three committee members. This is because people are quite busy and trying to book them last minute can be quite tedious and even cause delays. These three committee members may or may not be at your Ph.D. defense, but they will provide valuable insight into your research by challenging your research, as well as providing guidance as you move forward with your final studies and framing the four manuscripts into a logical story (e.g. the red thread).

To see the official list (in Swedish) of the guidelines for half-time, click here (these may be specific to Women’s and Children’s Health, but provide good overall advice as well).

A Basic Breakdown of the Guidelines:

Three weeks before your half-time, you should email your kappa (aka jacka–as a jacka is jacket, while a kappa [your actual Ph.D. defense book] refers to a long overcoat; hence jacka is used as a funny term to describe being half-way completed) to your three committee members. Your jacka/kappa contains two things:

  1. The Jacka: This is a manuscript telling the story of your research, including your published studies, and a discussion and future research section. When writing the jacka/kappa, the Introduction should frame your studies into the larger picture of where your studies fit. Your studies, especially the Methods and Results sections are then added into the jacka, but severely trimmed down: so that they don’t exactly repeat what the articles say, but still can stand on their own, possessing all of the really important information from your studies. The Discussion section should be next, followed by a Future Research section, which typically highlights your other papers that will comprise your Ph.D. defense. These are added in so that the half-time committee can understand how all of the studies tie together, as well as provide advice on the additional papers. A basic abstract is warranted on each manuscript in the Future Research section.
  2. Attach the full-length studies your half-time is based on (whether actually published or in manuscript form). This is done so that the half-time committee may read more specifically what you have done. All three committee members may or may not fully read your actual articles, which is why the jacka is so important.

About a week before the half-time defense, your half-time is made public (i.e. university emails are sent out reminding everyone of your seminar and when and where it’s located). People may or may not show up.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 12.29.04 AMPreparing for your half-time is extremely important; after all, you’re representing your supervisors, your research team, and of course yourself. Plus, making good impressions on your committee may help lead to further job prospects. Dr Raziye Salari helped me tremendously in preparing for my half-time, especially in understanding my statistics on a deeper level (specific statistics questions may or may not be asked, but confidence levels sure rise if a greater level of understanding is achieved [aka learn as much as you can]). But to see a list of the Top 10 most frequently asked questions, click here. Knowing the answers to these questions will greatly help when preparing for your half-time or a Ph.D. defense!

The total half-time defense lasts for about three hours. The day of the half-time consists of several things:

  1. Make sure lunch and fika (snacks) are ordered as appropriate
  2. Give a 20 (to 30) minute presentation to the general public and your 3 committee members
  3. Defend your thesis and participate in a constructive research dialogue with your 3 committee members in front of the general public for about an hour and 45 minutes
  4. Committee members meet privately with your supervisor and co-supervisors to discuss your progress
  5. Committee members meet privately to decide if you’ve passed your half-time
  6. Your supervisor is notified by the committee members, who then informs you of the decision
  7. Pay raise is given 🙂

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Attached here are my powerpoint slides, as well as my half-time jacka (even with the various editing errors that I realized after I had sent it out).

Parenting Support for Fathers in Sweden Half Time Jacka

Parenting Support for Fathers in Sweden Half-time Jacka Pdf



After the committee deliberation, I found out that I had passed my half-time!