PERFORCE3: bringing experienced and new researchers together

Science and Society

The training of young researchers is central to a sound and continuous science system in any field. Knowledge transfer from experienced researchers to early career researchers is an essential part of education.

Christine F Solbakken // NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research

PERFORCE3 is a Europe-wide multi-partner doctoral research training programme on contaminants called polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs). This innovative training network (ITN) brings world leaders in disciplines such as environmental and analytical chemistry, epidemiology and toxicology together with fifteen young researchers from all over Europe. The goal is to provide high quality doctoral training, state of the art research environments – and a professional network.

Eleven of the early stage researchers in the PERFORCE3 ITN met in person for the first time in Tromsø. Back row, from left: Ana Carolina Coelho (UiT The Arctic University of Norway), Faezeh Sadrabadi Haghighi (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Germany), Lara Cioni (NILU, Norway), Melanie Lauria (Stockholm University, Sweden), Björn Bonnet (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden), Lackson Kashobwe (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Front row, from left: Silvia Hupcejová Dudášová (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany), Mohammad Sadia (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), Michel Hubert (Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Norway), Rachel London (ETH Zurich, Switzerland), Oddný Ragnarsdóttir (University of Birmingham, UK). Photo: Trude Borch / Akvaplan-niva

Fram Centre researchers Dorte Herzke (NILU) and Torkjel Sandanger (UiT/NILU) are among the supervisors taking part in PERFORCE3.

“In the field of environmental contaminants, things change very quickly. New contaminants are released daily. Sharing our knowledge and experience with new researchers is important: it gets them up to speed faster, which is good for the environment,” says Herzke.

While in Tromsø, the early stage researchers also had some spare time to enjoy the lovely fall weather. They went to Fløya mountain and lake Prestvannet to see northern lights, and they also rented a cabin at a lake in Lyngen Alps east of Tromsø.
Photo: Faezeh Sadrabadi Haghighi / Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Germany

PERFORCE3 PFAS workshop in Tromsø

Fifteen early stage researchers (ESRs) from all over the world were accepted into the PERFORCE3-ITN during the fall of 2020. Due to Covid restrictions, the first 12 months of lectures and meetings were held online. When they gathered in Tromsø in the fall of 2021 for a week of lectures and a workshop, most of the young PERFORCE3 ESRs met for the first time.

Their work week in Tromsø ended with a hybrid PFAS workshop on 1 October. Five of the young researchers gave lectures on their fields of study. In addition, representatives from Bellona, Mivanor, Perpetuum, and Fjällräven talked about PFASs from their perspective, and Audun Heggelund from the Norwegian Environment Agency gave an orientation on the proposal for PFAS restriction under REACH.

In total, the PERFORCE3 PFAS workshop attracted 100 participants from more than 20 countries.

Diverse and advantageous experience

Lara Cioni, a PhD student at UiT and NILU, is one of the young researchers in the PERFORCE3 ITN. She first came to NILU during her master’s studies in environmental and cultural heritage chemistry at the University of Firenze. While at NILU, she heard about the PERFORCE3 ITN, and since she wanted to learn more about PFAS, she decided to apply.

So far, she is very happy with that decision.

“Being part of the ITN has given me an opportunity to work with many different people from different disciplines. We get to interact with not only our own supervisors, but with a lot of experienced researchers in other fields as well. It is not easy to get access to such a different and diverse experience, so it is a clear advantage,” Cioni says.

All the PERFORCE3 ESRs visit some of the other partner institutions during the programme. Cioni was recently at Stockholm University for three months. There, she spent time with members of the group, learning new methods and accessing instrumentation not available to her in Norway.

“Taking part in the ITN does mean more meetings and lectures than we would otherwise have had, but it’s worth it,” she says. “I would recommend applying to this type of EU programme. It’s a unique opportunity to learn, and a privilege to have access to leading scientists from all the research institutions involved in PERFORCE3.”

Ana Carolina Coelho during her presentation at the PERFORCE3 PFAS workshop in the Fram Centre. Photo: Faezeh Sadrabadi Haghighi / Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Germany


(PER- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) towards the Future Of Research and its Communication in Europe 3) is coordinated by Stockholm University. It is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under its Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.