Review: WISE event “Lost in translation”

On the 20th October 2014, WISE has organised an event called “Lost in translation” if you were unable to assist to it please find here the blog about the event from Dr Sharan K Sidhu

Sharan  

 Dr Sharan K Sidhu (Staff adviser) – Clinical Senior Lecturer/Honorary Consultant, Institute of Dentistry

 

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 Professor Adina Michael-Titus talk

“We began the event with an inspiring introduction by Professor Adina Michael-Titus (Professor of Neuroscience, Blizard Institute), who shared her experiences in academia with the title “One of many journeys in need of translation?”. She described herself as wearing a “double hat” in terms of her interests, which lay with both neuroscience and pharmacology. “I’m a neuroscientist with a very pragmatic interest in understanding how to develop better treatments”. She discussed the core of her interests that came from “very early on” and her travels from her native country of Romania through France to the UK as her professional career evolved. Despite her many journeys, no matter how difficult they were, she maintained her “fire” for finding an answer to the issues that initially inspired her. Especially for women now who have a lot of obstacles to overcome, even in the west, it is important to have clarity over what really “makes you tick”. She expressed the opinion that whatever the passion that keeps a person going throughout their professional life, sharing a passion makes things easier irrespective of the cultural background or gender. In her narrative account of her journeys to date, despite crossing frontiers and interaction with people who are very different, sharing common intellectual passion makes transitions and translation issues much easier.

She then went on to discuss her personal journey from the east of Europe to the west of Europe, including an interlude in Scandinavia. She discussed her dreams as a student of being a neurosurgeon, and how she was put off by comments from a Professor of Neurosurgery who thought that neurosurgery was definitely NOT for women, and he thought that it entailed long hours, was too complicated and high risk. Her dream was not that easy to fulfil and due to many circumstances her career took a different turn to France, and as she recounted “despite our plans, life sometimes decides otherwise”. She described how she got very involved in medical research related to pharmacology and finished her doctorate. She recalled the words from a mentor- “ don’t go back to clinical medicine, there isn’t a structure, stay within science”.

Professor Michael-Titus then continued as a researcher and life took her somewhere else: to the UK this time, where she was offered a lecturer’s position – this was a fantastic challenge to increase her research group. “There have been many experiences every time I cross borders“. She discussed some of the differences between the French and the English, in particular that the Brits in general think freely, that there is always a different way of thinking, and differences in hierarchy.  She first joined a department full of older men, and she did have to put up with some innocuous jokes, but she felt that it is important not to take things too seriously, and it is  important to realise there is a difference in culture, that some jokes are not supposed to be sexist or rude, if there is a double entendre! She also discussed differences between the UK and Scandanavia, where there is a much clearer definition of professional and private life – being at work 12 hours a day will not get you extra brownie points; they have a much better work life balance. There is also no hierarchy in society or in academia. Her closing remarks were “Whatever you do remains your own personal journey, but if you keep tolerance, optimism and love what you are doing always alive, crossing borders is not difficult”.

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Dr Noha Seoudi talk

The next speaker was Dr Noha Seoudi (Clinical Lecturer, Dental Institute), who discussed her journey starting in Egypt, and through her professional career to her current role at QMUL.

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Professor Federica Marelli-Berg talk

The last speaker was Professor Federica Marelli-Berg (Professor of Cardiovascular Immunology, William Harvey Research Institute), who moved here a long time ago (in 1992

  1. As a young woman, she was very ambitious She said you have to make choices in an academic career and as a woman that is not easy. She chose to come to London as she liked London but found her first year a massive shock, where she met with new accents that she could not understand. She offered some advice for example, theimportance of finding a nice safe homely place and a nice place to go in the evening. after the long hours in the lab..
  2. She discussed her first trip to the pub and the culture difference, and the first pint! It si important to be happy where you are and to integrate.
  1. She went on to discuss the importance of maintaining a balance between personal life and professional life. It was important for her to get as much as she could out of her working day, instead of sitting in front of the desk until 12 o’clock as an experiment was running. She made a light-hearted comment about her efficiencyat having only one maternity leave, by having twins. Nevertheless, there were difficulties without family around to help as they were in Italy, which meant incredible expenses for nursery fees.

Prof Marelli-Berg went on to praise the support for women at QMUL; women being taken seriously is very good at QMUL and a significant factor in her move to QMUL from Imperial!

She mentioned her constant doubts of being a good mother; there is a balance between being good in your career and being a good mother. She still looks for reassurance from her daughtersas it does stay with you: the fact that she had to send them to nursery, and that she could not give up her career.

She described the differences between the UK and Italy in that it is how good you are and how ambitious you are that drives you in Italy- there isn’t the same opinion here as there is Oxford and Cambridge to judge success.

She loves promoting the career progression of young ECRs in academia, she doesn’t do it only for women, but for men too, she lets anybody under her umbrella to help young people who want a career. She wants to be somebody that facilitiates the career of those under her.

Her advice was to find a mentor, whether a woman or a man; she felt that it is key to have real heroes.”

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Free food as often in WISE event

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