8 tips for staying in academia: A female perspective

If you’re still looking for inspiration for new year’s resolutions, I’m listing my favourite take-home messages from our November panel discussion about the female perspective on academic life.

1. Try new places whilst you still have the flexibility to

Thinking about your next position? It might not be such a bad idea to look outside of your current city or even abroad whilst you still have the flexibility to move your entire life to somewhere new. All of our panellists agreed that moving abroad is one of the best ways to mature yourself, both personally and professionally. If you’re already in a relationship, it’s natural to worry about the distance, but try to make the best decision for yourself.  Look out for pan-EU funding schemes such as Horizon 2020, and also keep in mind that specific fellowships exist for UK academics who have worked abroad and now wish to return to the UK.

2. Be aware of the international differences in academic systems and visa restrictions

Before you take the plunge, be wary of how different academic systems can be across the continents. As an example, one of our panellists who started her career in Canada, where publishing frequently in smaller journals is advocated, found it relatively difficult to find a position here in the UK because interviewers preferred academics who published less frequently but in journals with higher impact factors. Also find out exactly what teaching and other administrative duties may be implicit in your new position. If you are planning to or already have a family, be aware that visa restrictions may mean that you’re not eligible for schemes such as child benefits or tax rebates, even if your partner is a local citizen.

3. Travel to meet your future employers

If there is a particular academic you would love to work with, get in touch and make the effort to visit them if possible. One of our panellists landed her first postdoc position at the Max Planck Institute because she visited her target research group for a week, under the guise of helping them with experiments, presented her PhD work and impressed them so much that they asked her to stay! Don’t be afraid to create your own employment opportunities.

4. Distinguish between incompatibility and inadequacy

When experiments don’t go to plan, you start to question your ability in the lab. When your whole PhD feels like a losing battle, you start to question your adequacy for scientific research altogether. One of our panellists shared that she certainly considered that she might not be cut out to be an academic as she finished her PhD degree, but she stuck with it and found a postdoc position in a different field of biology. It was only then that she realised she hadn’t lacked ability—she had lacked interest for her PhD topic. When you’re feeling down about your scientific career, try to make the same distinction in your mind: are you truly inadequate, or just incompatible with your current research topic or research group?

5. Establish your independence as a researcher as soon as possible

A good supervisor for your first postdoc position will work with you from day 1 to establish your independence as a researcher. Unfortunately such supervisors are hard to come by, and most likely it will be down to you to start negotiating what you can take away as your own research after you leave the research group; this is something you should always keep in mind. Your postdoc career should be an exploratory period in which you define the research topic that you want to pursue for the rest of life, so don’t let the day-to-day pressures from your supervisor take away your focus on your long-term goals.

6. Know who to take what advice from

Senior academics are often generous with their advice for their younger counterparts, but don’t be pressured into thinking that they know your research better than you. As one of our panellists emphasised that when seeking advice for a grant application, you should certainly let them guide you on how best to present your proposal, but you don’t have to take their recommendations on what science you should do.

7. Don’t worry too much about when you will have children

Both of our panellists with children agreed: there will be a time when you will genuinely want to have a child, and when that time comes, you will try to have a child irrespective of circumstances. It still sounds pretty mystical to me, but I guess their underlying message is not to worry too much. Like any other key life decisions, there will always be doubt and fear, but once the decision is made, things will generally fall into place around it, so stop fretting excessively and let your instincts guide you once in a while. On a practical note, most academic departments have already amazing accommodations in place for new parents, so don’t be disparaged before you check exactly what you can have.

8. Love doing research

Research is at its core a compulsive act of unsatiated curiosity. If you’re driven by such a compulsion, you’ll pull through no matter what, regardless of gender biases, parenting demands and all the other obstacles between you and staying in academia. WISE@QMUL and many other organisations are trying our best to minimise these obstacles. The question is of course: do you want it enough?

Our panellists spoke to a full room of anxious PhD students and early career researchers

Our panellists spoke to a full room of anxious PhD students and early career researchers

To summarise:
  1. Try new things whilst you still have the flexibility to
  2. Be aware of the international differences in academic systems and visa restrictions
  3. Travel to meet your future employers
  4. Distinguish between incompatibility and inadequacy
  5. Establish your independence as a researcher as soon as possible
  6. Know who to take what advice from
  7. Don’t worry too much about when you will have children
  8. Love doing research :)

From everybody in the WISE@QMUL committee, we wish you all the best for 2014 and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events.  We will kickstart the new year with a discussion of the Athena SWAN Charter, a scheme launched in 2005 to recognise academic departments committed to advancing women’s careers.

Our four panellists

Our four panellists and our Chair, Joanne, on the far right

Our panellists on 20th November 2013 were (left to right):

8th-9th Nov 2013: Flossie 2013

Flossie 2013 brings together FLOSS women developers, entrepreneurs, researchers and policy-makers, digital artists and social innovators for an exciting mix of talks, spontaneous discussions and open workshops. Flossie 2013 brings the benefits of open thinking to artist and entrepreneurs and the insights of diverse innovators to FLOSS development.

This year’s theme is diversity: women, LGBTQ and men with an interest in diversifying technology are welcome to attend and the building offers wheelchair access, please note our diversity and anti-harassment policy.

Download the Programme for Flossie 2013 here.

Register for Flossie 2013 now – tickets are going fast!

Flossie 2013 builds on last year’s success with new threaded mini-events: Google and Mozilla coders will be evaluating contributions to our Open CodeSprint and we are also combining students of architecture and product design with disability communities, makers and coders to explore and prototype Smart Assistive Environments innovation for Living Aids industry partners.

Click here for more information or to take part in the CodeSprint.

Click here for more information or to take part in the Diversifying Internet of Things project.

We look forward to seeing you at Flossie 2013 (@flossienet, #flossie2013)!

Exciting start as WISE@QMUL relaunches!

Wow, what a great start our new programme, it’s made me so excited about future WISE@QMUL events! We had our first WISE@QMUL Lounge on 22nd March 2013, featuring some incredibly inspiring speakers, lovely food and a great turnout of guests.

Prof Evelyn Welch, VP at QMUL for Research and International Affairs opened the afternoon.

Dr Becky Stewart completed her PhD at QMUL’s Centre for Digital Music and re-visited her old turf to talk to us about the joys and perils of recently starting up Codasign, her own interactive arts and technology company in London.  It was especially great to hear from Becky, as she was involved in WISE during her time at QMUL.

Our very own Magda heroically stepped in at the last minute to give us a refresher about what WISE aims to achieve this year (and beyond!) and how to get involved.

Finally, Jennifer Indovina gave us a whirlwind bio and series of take-away pointers from her own experience of setting up her own company, Tenrehte Technologies.  Highlights included winning the Green Technology Category in the Best of CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2010 and becoming a TED Fellow.  Jen set up Tenrehte to produce wireless green tech products, including the PICOwatt plug to monitor your home electronic devices from anywhere in the world.

WISE is always looking for new ideas for events so if you have any suggestions at all, even if they are very small, please use our contact form.

Roll on the next WISE Lounge!

WISE@QMUL is back!

After more than eight months of inactivity, WISE@QMUL finally comes back to life with a new look and new members on board!

This week, 6th-8th March, 12-2 pm, we will be in the Library Square of Mile End campus promoting the society’s activities. Please come along to find out about our planned seminars and social events.

Our very first event is happening on 22nd March, 4-6 pm at Room 3.20, Arts Two. For more details, see the flyer below:

Click to see full size

Information from Industry Panel

Here’s more information if you’d like to know more about what was discussed at the Interested in Industry Panel or how to contact our knowledgeable panellists:

Tracy Bussoli
t.j.bussoli [at] qmul.ac.uk

Kevin Byron
k.c.byron [at] qmul.ac.uk
ESD: http://www.esd.qmul.ac.uk/
KEEN: http://www.keenstudents.com/

Adam Daykin and Martine Harvey
a.daykin [at] qmul.ac.uk and martine [at] dcs.qmul.ac.uk
QM Innovation:http://www.qmul.ac.uk/business/index.html

4th Mar 2010: Interested in Industry?

Are you a PhD student or early careers researcher interested in commercialising your research or working with industry? QMUL provides funding along with training and support. Come participate in a panel discussion to learn how you can get £1500, a 3 month scholarship, patent your research and more.

Senior Common Room Bar, 4 March at 3:30 pm
All are welcome, food and drink will be provided.

Dr Tracy Bussoli is the Careers Adviser for Researchers at Queen Mary University of London. She can help you to identify and articulate the different skills that are required to move into different industry sectors. She offers CV and interview advice and supports researchers in their attempts to build effective networks within industry and/or academia.

Dr Kevin Byron spent twenty five years working in research in industry and during this time he supervised a number of PhD (CASE) students and has also been external examiner for eight PhD vivas. For the last four years he has been involved in research skills training for postgraduate researchers at various higher education institutions and is currently the enterprise education coordinator at QMUL. He is author of ‘The Creative Researcher’ booklet recently published by Vitae.

Dr Adam Daykin has 11 years experience of technology commercialization. In his current position at Queen Mary Innovation, the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) of QMUL, he is the Senior Technology Transfer Manager for the Department of Science and Engineering. In the last 2½ years in this role he has assisted in setting up 4 QMUL spin-out companies. He is currently a non-executive Director for four companies, two of which are software companies. Prior to QMI he spent 3 years at NHS Innovations London Ltd, the TTO representing NHS Trusts in the London region, and was Intellectual Property Manager at Weston Medical Group Plc, a medical devices company.

Ms Martine Harvey works for Queen Mary Innovation Ltd as a Business Development Manager. Her work involves forming relationships with business, sourcing funding, mentoring enterprise schemes, orchestrating collaborations and assisting academics with proposals. She has worked for a global telecommunications company and also managed her own business in the US. She has an MPhys degree in Physics with Astrophysics and an MSc in Microwave Communications which was funded by industry

Our launch party is this Friday; don’t miss out!

This Friday (26th June) at 3p.m. we will be launching the Queen Mary Postgraduate Society for Women in Science and Engineering.

So join us in the SCR Bar (2nd floor of the Queen’s building) for an informal and relaxed event!

There will be catering by L’Oasis including pitta and humous, olives and cheeses, and drinks, and a couple of short speeches introducing the society, including one from Ursula Martin, the vice principal for science and engineering.

And don’t forget: both men and women are welcome, so bring along your friends and colleagues!

See you on Friday!