History: HGSN → FGSN → B&M

The first Finnish doctoral program in neuroscience was founded by Academy Professor Kai Kaila (University of Helsinki) together with Academician Riitta Hari (Aalto University/Helsinki University of Technology) in 1995. This Helsinki Graduate School of Neurobiology was expanded to a nationwide level as the Finnish Graduate School of Neuroscience (FGSN) in 1998.

FGSN was a joint program of  the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, Universities of Eastern Finland, Oulu, Turku, and Åbo Akademi. Research groups in these universities worked in collaboration to develop postgraduate education at a national level in neuroscience. FGSN was funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Academy of Finland and the respective universities.

The Doctoral Program Brain & Mind (B&M) started in January 2012. The FGSN ontinued operating alongside the B&M during 2012-13. 

B&M collaboration between the Aalto University and the University of Helsinki

Starting from 2014, B&M has been one of the doctoral programs of the Doctoral School in Health Sciences (DSHealth) of the University of Helsinki.

In Aalto University, B&M is a network program hosted by the Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering (NBE)

The multidisciplinary network of leading neuroscience research groups of the Universities of Helsinki and Aalto continues to maintain and develop further the high standards of doctoral training within the scientific fields of Brain&Mind. In addition, B&M has an agreeement with the MSc Programme in Neuroscience (UH) and MSc Programme in Life Science Technologies (Human Neuroscience and -Technology, AU) for a collaborative study right.

International and national collaboration in neuroscience

B&M is a member of the Network of European Neuroscience Schools (NENS, hosted by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, FENS) which provides opportunities for B&M doctoral candidates to e.g. apply for NENS exchange grants and for stipends to participate in FENS and IBRO-PERC supported courses.  

Through the Doctoral School in Health Sciences (DSHealth), we are part of "NorDoc - Nordic Doctoral Training in Health Sciences".

In Finland, B&M works in collaboration with the Brain Research Society of Finland (BRSF), Suomen Aivosäätiö (Finnish Brain Foundation) and Suomen Aivot (Finnish Brain Council) to organize joint national events in neuroscience and brain awareness events for general public.

Each doctoral candidate has a thesis advisory committee that evaluates the candidate's progress and offers the candidate support throughout his/her doctoral studies. The first meeting is arranged within 6-12 months after being accepted to B&M, after which the subsequent meetings must take place annually. Reports of the meetings are submitted to B&M in a timely manner.

The thesis advisory committee’s tasks are to:

  • discuss the candidate’s research plan with him or her to ensure the plan is clear, feasible and relevant,
  • give the candidate constructive feedback on the progress of his or her postgraduate studies and research,
  • issue recommendations on studies supporting the candidate’s research work,
  • take up problems and/or issues that need to be addressed and notify the programme coordinator of them, and
  • help the candidate plan his or her post-dissertation career.

Thesis Committee Members

The Thesis Committee includes at least two external members. They must fulfill the following criteria set by the B&M board:

- TC members must hold a doctoral degree and substantial knowledge in the field of the project.
- At least one external member must hold the title of docent or the equivalent.

Conflicts of interest:
TC members should be sufficiently independent of the supervisor to be able to provide critical comments on the project and progress and to support the doctoral candidate in the event of conflicts. Such sufficiency of independence can be assessed by the following:
- The external members should not be currently involved in the thesis project.
- The external members should not be a close collaborator of any of the supervisors or doctoral candidate. Joint research projects or shared grants, as well as several joint publications typically indicate a close collaboration.
- The external members should not have supervised or been supervised by the doctoral candidate or his/her supervisors within the past three years
- The external member should not be a relative, close colleague or friend of the doctoral candidate or supervisors.

Nomination of Thesis Committee Members 

The external members of the Thesis Committee are suggested by the doctoral candidate and accepted by the doctoral program. Nomination should be done within 6 months from receiving the right to pursue doctoral degree.

  1. Suggest and discuss potential TC members with your supervisor(s). Carefully consider the requirements for the qualifications and potential conflicts of interest. 
  2. Invite the potential TC members and confirm that no conflicts of interest are present as far as is known at that time in the project. Membership in a TC is a position of trust, with an aim to guide the doctoral candidate throughout his/her doctoral training.
  3. Once the TC members agree to serve on the TC, inform the doctoral program by filling out the "Nomination of Thesis Committee Members" form.

Meetings and reporting

The meeting can be organized at any time during the year. The student can organize TC meetings more frequently if deemed feasible or necessary by the TC members and the supervisor.

The Thesis Committee Meeting is held once a year until the thesis defense. The nature of thesis committee work changes according to the maturation of the PhD student. In addition to the general follow-up on the progress of the project, each meeting has its specific aims, which may vary depending e.g. on the PhD student ́s former studies and progress.

Following is the recommended structure: 

  • Meeting 1: Forming a personal study plan together with the doctoral candidate, verification of faculty registration of the project 
  • Meeting 2: Follow up on the personal study plan 
  • Meeting 3: Follow up on the personal study plan, thorough check of research results, first preliminary future career plans (labs and funding) 
  • Meeting 4: Accepting the PhD project for printing, writing a statement to the faculty in support of the printing permit for the thesis where applicable, having a thorough look into postdoctoral funding or other future career plans 

Arranging the meeting 

Prior to the meeting the doctoral candidate prepares and sends a progress report to the Thesis Committee members and supervisor(s). Thesis Committee members are expected to familiarize themselves with the report in advance. The doctoral candidate, supervisor(s), and the Thesis Committee members must all participate in the TC Meeting. Participation can be organized e.g. over skype to reduce travelling. 

If you have registered to use the Thessa follow-up system, you don't need to prepare a separate progress report as the TC members are given access to your Thessa activities report.

During the meeting 

1. The doctoral candidate presents the current status and future plans of the PhD project.  
2. Thesis Committee members evaluate the project and make suggestions for the project.  
3. The doctoral candidate and the participants of the Thesis Committee Meeting check the courses taken by the doctoral candidate and plan the studies to guarantee adequate knowledge of and expertise in the field.  
4. Part of the meeting should be held in the absence of the supervisor to allow for possible confidential matters to be discussed between the TC members and the doctoral candidate.  
5. Based on the feedback at the meeting, the doctoral candidate revises the progress report and submits the revised report to the doctoral programme.  
6. The Thesis Committee Meeting report/form must be filled right after the meeting and approved by all participants (a copy of the report is sent to the TC members replacing the need for signatures). If you are registered in Thessa, you do not need to make a separate report. 
7. The Thesis Committee Meeting report summarizes the discussion from the meeting - the progress report summarizes the annual progress. 


All interactions within the Thesis Committee are to be considered confidential. Part of the meeting is held in the absence of the supervisor to allow for possible confidential matters, or issues where the supervisor and the doctoral candidate may have conflicting views to be discussed between the TC members and the doctoral candidate.

The B&M Student Council (SC) has representatives from different Universities/Campuses. Student Council organizes the annual Student Symposium and mediates feedback from students to the Management Board.

B&M Student Council 2018:

  • Pushpa Khanal, Helsinki, chair
  • Giuliano Didio, Helsinki
  • Dovile Kurmanaviciute, Aalto
  • Arun Mahato, Helsinki
  • Ceren Pajanoja, Helsinki 
  • Tuomas Puoliväli, Helsinki
  • Ivan Zubarev, Aalto

B&M Student Council 2017:

  • Sanna Koskela, chair
  • Merve Senem Fred
  • Hamed Haque
  • Sebnem Kesaf
  • Samuel Kohtala
  • Elina Nagaeva
  • Santeri Rouhinen

B&M Student Symposia:

  • Helsinki, September 20-21, 2018
  • Helsinki, September 21-22, 2017 (PROGRAM)
  • Helsinki, September 15-16, 2016
  • Hotel Långvik, Kirkkonummi, September 17-18, 2015
  • Hotel Aavaranta, Espoo/Kirkkonummi, September 11-12, 2014
  • Siikaranta, Espoo, September 5-6, 2013
  • Aulanko, September 3-4, 2012
  • Turku, September 8-9, 2011
  • Majvik, September 15-16, 2010
  • Helsinki, November 27, 2009
  • Helsinki, October 8, 2008
  • Helsinki, October, 2007
  • Helsinki, November 16, 2006
  • Turku, November 24, 2005