Professor Petri Luomanen recognised as the best doctoral thesis supervisor at the University of Helsinki

This was the first time the University of Helsinki PhD students (HYVÄT) awarded the prize. Luomanen’s skills in doctoral thesis supervision are described as exceptional.

HYVÄT, the University of Helsinki PhD students’ association, has awarded the prize for the best doctoral thesis supervisor in 2019 to Petri Luomanen, professor of New Testament and early Christian culture and literature at the Faculty of Theology.

HYVÄT chose Luomanen as the award recipient on the basis of proposals submitted in the summer and early autumn of 2019. Luomanen’s skills in supervising doctoral theses are described as exceptional. As a trophy, he was presented a HYVÄT supervisor’s notebook, which includes good supervision practices from the past.

In the justifications for granting the award, HYVÄT acknowledges Luomanen’s style of supervision.

“Luomanen’s style of guidance is both comprehensive and creative: he not only makes insightful comments on dissertation manuscripts, but also offers his support for doctoral students’ growth as researchers and academic professionals. This includes career counselling and sharing of personal experiences from his field of study.”

Luomanen is also praised for his dedication.

“Luomanen always manages to find time for his students, even while serving as the vice-dean of the Faculty of Theology. He is interested in learning new interdisciplinary perspectives with doctoral students. During the academic year 2018–19, Luomanen launched weekly coffee breaks for his supervisees as venues for mutual informal learning and guidance,” the justifications also state.

According to the University of Helsinki PhD students’ association, Professor Luomanen demonstrates profound respect for the autonomy of his students.

“He comments and gives friendly critique but does not force theses to reflect his own views. Luomanen is committed to the supervision process and interested in the wellbeing of the doctoral students. He actively builds collegiality by simple gestures – such as visiting the doctoral students’ workroom and asking how they are doing.”

Making doctoral candidates visible and heard in the everyday life of the University

Professor Luomanen is extremely surprised by the recognition afforded to him.

“I was notified by email, and I had to read the message a couple of times before I realised I was the award recipient. I’ve often felt that it’s difficult to find as much time as you’d like for supervising doctoral theses. It appears I’ve done at least some things right.”

“What I find particularly pleasing is that the initiative and decision was made by doctoral candidates, and it’s of course a great honour to be the inaugural recipient,” Luomanen adds.

He believes that there are many doctoral thesis supervisors and practices at the University that are considered good.

“There are certain basics in doctoral thesis supervision that should be in order, even though your personality is a big part of the process. I do recognise certain characteristics included in the award justifications as my own.”

Luomanen points out that for the sake of the future of scientific disciplines, having doctoral candidates seen and heard in the everyday life of the University is important.

“At the Faculty of Theology, much like in the humanities and social sciences in general, the prevailing challenge is to involve individual doctoral thesis projects closely with the activities of the academic community. Last autumn, we trialled at the Faculty’s research afternoon session the presentation of thesis projects in a learning café type environment. Something similar will certainly be organised in the future as well.”

Spreading good practices

According to doctoral candidate Anton Saressalo, spreading good supervision practices is the idea behind the prize awarded by HYVÄT.

“The development of supervision and its recognition throughout the University has been one of our main themes in the past year. With this prize, we wish now and in the future to highlight excellent supervisors and practices,” Saressalo notes.


Further information on the prize and the University of Helsinki PhD students (HYVÄT): HYVÄT supervisor prize 2019 to Petri Luomanen