From PhD to PI: Sarah Bohndiek, Group Leader Department of Physics, University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK, Cambridge Institute.

U2FsdHlJbWFnZU5hbWUxMzgwODIyNzQz-g3ySNzctaW1hZ2U=Sarah has a joint appointment in which she initially develops and validates new imaging technologies. She then combines these new techniques with research into cancer therapy, with the aim of achieving a better understanding of cancer therapy response and drug resistance.

PhD students and post-doctoral staff often worry about the insecurity and competitiveness of their early careers but Sarah regards this as a positive thing. She believes the opportunities should be embraced and is a strong advocate of the ability to quickly understand and get to grips with a new discipline that a PhD provides.  Reassuringly, she says, after switching between disciplines, she has been supported in her learning by her advisers and not been put under pressure to produce immediate results.

However, she does have a clear idea of what motivates her (which is the desire to develop clinical applications to improve the health of cancer patients) and this is the thread that joins up all the different parts of her career so far. Alongside this she is driven by her strong curiosity which has frequently led her to doing things she never thought she would. Research into the careers of PIs shows that this strong sense of purpose and self-awareness is significant factor in succeeding in the role (see here: http://www.topik.ie/)

The recruitment process for a post-doctoral position in her lab is very thorough. It starts with extremely wide advertising through formal and informal channels (social media, email and so on). She values ResearchGate as a particularly effective tool. She will ask for a CV and cover letter and stresses the importance of clear, grammatically correct and perfectly spelled applications with an attractive, easy to read layout. This helps spot people who are committed, enthusiastic, have an eye for detail and can communicate effectively in writing.

She will normally long-list about ten candidates who are invited to a thirty minute Skype discussion. Half of this will be the candidate’s presentation (with slides) and then a brief discussion about the presentation. Sarah sticks to time and looks out for candidates who follow her brief carefully and who provide attractive, easy to follow presentations. She also very much appreciates candidates who provide the slides in advance and offer alternative means of contact in case Skype or the internet aren’t working well.  Doing this reinforces the impression of commitment, attention to detail, communication and thoughtfulness that are essential to collaborative research careers.

She will then invite three of the candidates to a full day of selection processes. This consists of a thirty minute lecture followed by a one hour discussion of the lecture, a tour of the lab and one-to-one sessions with lab colleagues. The day is completed by a one hour interview with Sarah and a social, informal dinner. The whole process requires an overnight stay, usually.

When she’s recruiting for her team Sarah is most impressed by candidates who ask more questions than they are asked and who have obviously done their research and preparation. She particularly looks for PhDs who have at least one first author paper, who have been engaged in outreach and who have participated in committees as well as gained technical skills in their research. It can be helpful if you have won awards but it isn’t essential.

Asked for her single top-tip, Sarah says that demonstrable attention to detail is what matters most to her.

I also had the chance to speak to Michal Tomaszewski a PhD student and Joanna Brunker and Jonghee Yoon, post-doctoral researchers at the lab.  They agreed that a full understanding of the organisation you are applying for is essential and that it is necessary to send a tailored application that shows how you have understood it. This understanding needs to be demonstrated throughout the interview process as well. The work of the lab is strongly interdisciplinary and all have brought good experience from other fields to their current research (including some time in banking and finance in the case of Michal). They’ve also showed how their careers so far align with the requirements of their current research.All stressed the importance of adaptability and flexibility and the benefits of studying in many fields.

Joanna entered the lab by an alternative route, having gained a fellowship which gave her a degree of choice over where she carried out her research and chose the CRUK lab because of the research it was conducting and the shared experience (with Sarah) of researching at University College London. Joanna also stressed how important it is to take the advice of supervisors while studying for your PhD, to help avoid being distracted by issues that may not be important to your future.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Sarah Bohndiek, Michal Tomaszewski, Joanna Brunker and Jonghee Yoon for their time and generosity in talking to me and sharing so much helpful information.

Donald Lush, Careers Consultant for PhDs

 

International Placement Scheme Showcase Invitation

The AHRC and ESRC invite you to a showcase of funded fellowship opportunities for PhD students and early career researchers (ECR), through our International Placement Scheme (IPS), at these world-leading international research institutions:

Harry Ransom Center, at The University of Texas at Austin, USA

 Huntington Library, California, USA

Library of Congress, Washington D.C., USA

National Institutes for the Humanities, Japan

Shanghai Theatre Academy, China

Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA

Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut, USA

 IPS fellowships run for up to six months and include a travel and living stipend; unparalleled access to collections, facilities,curators and other scholars; and opportunities to present work, network and make international contacts.

The showcases will include presentations from IPS alumni and AHRC staff. Lunch will be provided, during which all speakers will be available to discuss the scheme.

The IPS is open to ECRs and AHRC & ESRC-funded PhD students. ESRC candidates may only apply to Library of Congress.The events are primarily aimed at eligible candidates, but relevant RO staff such as BGP/DTP co-ordinators would be welcome.

The two showcase dates are:
Monday 2nd November 2015, 11.00 – 15.00 at University of Westminster, Regent Street, London

Friday 6th November 2015, 11.00 – 15.00 at University of Manchester, Sackville St Campus, Manchester

Registration opens from 10.30.

 More information on the IPS, including host and eligibility information, agendas for each showcase and how to register to attend can be found via the main AHRC IPS webpage.

We will email you within five working days of registration to confirm whether you have been allocated a place.

Please direct queries not answered by our webpages to ips@ahrc.ac.uk or call Allie Brown on 01793 416074.

We are also holding an IPS Twitter chat with IPS fellows, alumni and AHRC staff from 2-3pm on Wed 11th Nov 2015 – @ahrcpress, #AHRCIPS.

 

Bioethics Fellowship at Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology (POST)

The Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology runs several fellowship schemes with Research Councils, learned societies and charities, through which PhD students are sponsored to spend (usually) three months working at POST.

The Nuffield Council for Bioethics 2015 fellowship is one of these and is open for applications.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent body that examines and reports on ethical issues in biology and medicine. It was established by the Trustees of the Nuffield Foundation in 1991, and since 1994 it has been funded jointly by the Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council. The Council has achieved an international reputation for advising policy makers and stimulating debate in bioethics.

The Fellow will produce a short briefing note (a ‘POSTnote’) on an area of public policy that raises bioethical issues. The Fellowship is open to postgraduate students registered for a PhD in a bioethics-related subject at a UK university.

For further details please see:

The deadline for applications is 5 January 2015.

Creativeworks & London Creative Digital Fusion – Researcher in Residence Scheme

creativeworksldnfusionPlacements in creative businesses are available to PhD students and early career researchers.

Creativeworks London’s Knowledge Exchange team facilitate a careful match for a Doctoral student or early career academic researcher with an appropriate company for a three to four month period. Businesses will be small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs) based in London.

Funding of £5000 allows the PhD student to interrupt or extend their study for up to four months or is a stipend for the early career academic researcher. The funding is paid to the relevant University to support the PhD or early career academic researcher undertaking the project over the allotted time frame.

The application form and information about the projects on offer is available here. For information about the process, please read the guidance document. Submit your completed form to Yvonne Castle, Administrator at Cultural Institute at King’s (yvonne.castle@kcl.ac.uk) by Monday 10 February 2014.

Bioethics Fellowship at Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology

An exciting opportunity for PhD students to apply for a new bioethics fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). This position is supported by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. The Fellowship is open to any PhD students studying a bioethics-related subject. This is a fantastic opportunity  to get first-hand experience of the workings of Parliament (and help promote informed debate of bioethics among Parliamentarians to boot). The Fellow will be based at the offices of POST in Westminster and will be tasked with producing a briefing note on an area of public policy that raises bioethical issues.

For further details please see:

The closing date for applications is 6th January 2014.