The biennial National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) Postdoc day provides a platform for postdocs from all of our campuses to come together.
This year's NHLI Postdoc day took place on Monday 4 March, providing an opportunity for all of the Department's postdocs to get together, network and find out how to make the most of our postdoctoral positions within Imperial. The varied day included motivational speakers who, following their PhD, had taken diverse career paths, and were able to give us an insightful look into how they chose their particular career. We also heard valuable advice from speakers from within College who outlined some key information about applying for grants and increasing the impact of our research.
“The Postdoc day was great, not least because of the breadth and quality of the talks, but also as a chance to meet and catch up with other postdocs at the NHLI as it’s really easy to only mix with those in your own group” Dr Mike Cox
The audience was treated to some inspirational talks covering a wide variety of different career paths. Dr Sarah Essilfie-Quaye, described her career in Research Strategy at Imperial, highlighting how the key skills that you gain during your PhD can be invaluable in careers outside of academia. Dr Essilfie-Quaye commented on the day that "I thought it was a really good session. I know myself and many of the scientists I worked with over the years would have found a day like that very useful. You don’t often get scheduled time to sit down and hear about potential other career paths and their pros and cons. I hope sharing my career path will help the NHLI postdocs when they consider their next steps".
We heard from two speakers who had fostered careers in different facets of industry, Dr Suzanne Cohen from MedImmune and Dr Anna Dixon from Binx Health, a biotech startup. Careers that may not have been considered, including within the Civil Service in the Department of Health and Social Care and in Bioinformatics for NHS England, were outlined by Dr Adam Januszeski and Dr Graeme Smith. Dr Anne Mirabella, an editor from the Nature Publishing group also highlighted some of the key skills that are essential for her role in academic publishing, stating that "Critical thinking and assertiveness are key skills for the day to day job; skills that I have developed during my PhD and post-doc training".
For those interested in remaining in academia, a lively debate between teaching and research fellows highlighted the pros and cons of each pathway. As a relatively new position, Dr James Moss and Dr Tamlyn Peel outlined how, if you are interested in teaching, a teaching fellowship may be the way forward, whereas Dr Charis Pericleous and Dr Nicola Whiffin told us that if you prefer life in the lab, then a traditional research fellowship may be the way to go. All four fellows let us know their career trajectory to date and key information that may be important if we wished to follow their pathway.
Alongside career advice, the day also provided some key information for future opportunities and we were also told to make the most of our time at Imperial. Common mistakes when applying for grants and fellowships were outlined by Dr Alun Owen, who gave the audience important advice for applications. Robyn Price from Imperial informed us about responsible metrics, and how to increase the impact of our research, and Dr Ines Perpetuo highlighted the key role that the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre can play in helping you prepare for the next step of your career.
The entire day was set out to inspire discussion and initiate networking, and each table made the most of this during the interactive session where obstacles and challenges in achieving your career path were deliberated, which fuelled a lively discussion about life as a postdoc within the NHLI.
The day ended with a review of the postdoc survey and our current Athena Swan application by NHLI's Equality and Diversity lead Professor Sara Rankin. We were treated to a motivational talk explaining her career to date and how the results of the survey have impacted changes in the Department for postdocs, including the provision of a postdoc specific PDRP form and the initiation of the novel assistant supervisor role to recognise the role that postdocs play in many PhD student’s supervision. Finally Dr Mike Cox gave us an insightful look at the use of Twitter in your scientific career, ultimately demonstrating that when used correctly, you can promote your publications, initiate novel collaborations, and even find job opportunities, all within 280 characters!
Overall, this well attended event seemed to be enjoyed by all, with a final mentimeter poll highlighting words and phrases such as ‘thought provoking’, ‘and useful’ to describe the day. Postdocs were given a well rounded view of the multitude of career opportunities available and highlighted how we can make the most of the resources available to us through the NHLI and Imperial to really impact our careers in the future.
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