01 February 2024

It all started with a simple question from the supervisor during the thesis work. That's how Niklas Simm became interested in pursuing a PhD at Linköping University.

Niklas Simm defended his thesis "Sharing Resources for Greener Logistics"  in the beginning of 2024.  Anna Nilsen

Niklas Simm studied for a master's degree in Communication, Transport and Infrastructure at Campus Norrköping. When he was almost done with his studies, and working on his thesis, his supervisor posed the question:

"Had I considered continuing to a PhD? When the question came, I realised I knew nothing about doctoral studies."

But the question did plant a seed. Research sounded intriguing. He met with the leader of a research group in sustainable logistics and transportation. Eventually, he was offered a PhD student position.

"For me, it was an opportunity I couldn't miss. Having the chance to delve deeper and contribute to the development of material in my field was an opportunity that doesn't come often," he says.


Niklas Simm explains that his research focuses on sustainable logistics, aiming to make the transport sector more environmentally friendly. He studies how different companies can collaborate to make transportation greener and analyses collaboration across company boundaries. This research can contribute to solutions for more environmentally friendly transport alternatives.

A significant part of Niklas Simm’s research involves interaction with companies. Through interviews and observations, he actively participates in collaborations with various companies.

"It's not just literature studies, but also a lot of fieldwork. We are out and about a lot, either interviewing people or observing on-site how companies collaborate. It resonates well with who I am as a person. You really feel that you are contributing to a greener transition."

Teaching is a source of energy

During his PhD studies, Niklas Simm has also had the opportunity to teach different students. He emphasises that teaching allows him not only to contribute to the students' learning, but also serves as a break from his research.

"I really enjoy teaching. It's fun because you meet students who want to learn, ask questions, and are curious."

Great flexibility

The days as a PhD student in the research group are varied, with teaching, independent work, and collaboration with others.

"Flexibility and the autonomy to manage your own time are both aspects of the doctoral life that I value."

But there are also challenges during the time as a PhD student. One of these challenges is the sometimes quite solitary work. He reflects on the importance of finding a balance between independent work and collaboration with others.

"You work around other people, but most of the time you're alone with your project. To a great extent, you are your own project manager. You may find yourself in a peculiar situation where you go to work, but no one really cares that you're there. It's essential to set goals to avoid falling behind," Niklas Simm says.

Personal development

His journey as a PhD student has not only given him deep knowledge in sustainable logistics but has also developed his skills as a project manager and analyst.

"It's a unique opportunity for both personal and professional development," he concludes.

When he now defends his thesis, thoughts about the future are inevitable.

"I really enjoy the university as a workplace. As much as I want to stay, there's also the thought, what if I try something else? We jokingly call the world outside the university “the real world”. What would happen if I stepped into the real world? What can I do to contribute there?"


Anna Nilsen

Niklas’ advice for those who are curious

View the position as a PhD student as a career opportunity and seize the chance to explore without feeling tied down. If things don’t go as planned, there is support to recalibrate and to find the right path.

It doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a long-term academic career; it can be an opportunity to refine your skills and to become an expert.

If it doesn’t suit you, there are alternatives like ending your time as a PhD student and instead exploring other possibilities, with one foot still in the academic world, like being an adjunct and enjoying the best of both worlds.

A day in the life of a PhD student

The days vary, and sometimes there is more research on the agenda, while other days consist of more teaching. A typical day in my life can look like this.

8.00 - 9.00

I start the workday, enter the office, have morning coffee with colleagues, read emails, check the calendar.

9.00 - 10.00 Go through the upcoming lecture.
10.00 - 12.00  Teach engineering students.
12.00 - 12.30 Lunch with colleagues.
12.30 - 14.00 Do my own work, such as writing a text, attending a doctoral course, or preparing for an interview for the study.
14.00 - 16.00 Work with colleagues on collaborative projects, perhaps co-writing an article or having meetings with companies.
16.00 -17.00

End the day by reviewing the schedule for the next day and read emails. 

Doctoral studies at the LiU

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