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

 

The Brilliant Club

The Brilliant Club is an award winning charity that recruits, trains and places doctoral and post-doctoral researchers in low participation schools to deliver programmes of university-style tutorials to small groups of high performing pupils.

During their autumn placements, the Brilliant Club’s PhD Tutors will work with twelve high-performing 10-13 year old pupils, delivering a series of six tutorials that takes them beyond the curriculum and helps them to develop the knowledge, skills and ambition necessary to secure places at top universities. Successful candidates typically deliver a pre-designed course and modify it to include aspects of their own research interests. Courses include ‘Evolution’, ’Turning Points in English History’ and ‘Could the stars float in the bath?’

The training programme is delivered by qualified teachers and focuses on learning theory and teaching technique. The first tutorial takes place at the launch trips, where tutors accompany pupils on a visit to a highly-selective university. The in-school tutorials are each one hour long, and pupils complete the programme with an extended assignment which tutors mark before delivering the final tutorial.

Tutors are paid £450 for a single placement, and there are opportunities to take part in more than one placement in the autumn and over the following terms with older pupils.

If you would like to apply to work as a Brilliant Club tutor, please fill in the online application form here

Please note that our final assessment centres for our autumn placements are in early October; any applications after that date will automatically be considered for our Spring placements with Year 9/10 pupils.

To find out more, have a look at our Tutor Brochure, or send an email toapply@thebrilliantclub.org

Fully-funded places offered for the Cumberland Lodge Conference, Windsor

‘Life beyond the PhD': an interdisciplinary residential conference at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor 26-29 August 2014

Cumberland Lodge

Cumberland Lodge, which is an educational charity, is organising a residential conference to give postgraduates and post docs from all disciplines an opportunity to exchange ideas, practices, experiences and aspirations. All participants will be expected to give a 10 minute presentation on their research pitched at non-specialists.

This conference offers postgraduate students and post docs the opportunity to explain to peers from other disciplines why their research matters, while also hearing from leading figures in academia and outside explain how research has changed their lives.

The Graduate School is able to fully-fund two places for PhD students and two places for Post Docs at this conference. If you are interested in attending, please send in a brief justification (200 words maximum) for your proposed attendance to the Director of the Graduate School, by email at vaughan.robinson@kcl.ac.uk, with the subject title ‘Cumberland Lodge’, by the deadline of 5pm on 23 MAY 2014. The justification should explain how you think you would benefit from attending the conference and presenting a paper.

98% of attendees at previous conferences were either satisfied or very satisfied and 98% would recommend the event.

Further details of the event, which takes place in a beautiful residential conference centre within Windsor Great Park, can be found at www.cumberlandlodge.ac.uk

The conference fee covers all accommodation (in shared rooms) and the Graduate School will also cover reasonable travel expenses from London on presentation of receipts after the event.

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.

‘How to get Published’ for Early Career Researchers with Palgrave Macmillan

The Culture Capital Exchange has organised an Early Career Network event called ‘How to Get Published’ in collaboration with Palgrave Macmillan. This event is for TCCE’s member universities which includes King’s.

Representatives from Palgrave will give a practical overview of the range of options for getting your research published and offer advice around approaching a publisher and pitching your ideas. Participants will also have the opportunity to have individual conversations with editors from publications covering a range of disciplines (within Humanities and Social Sciences) to either pitch ideas, or ask more detailed questions.

  • Date: Thursday 20 February 2014
  • Time: 6pm – 9pm, including networking drinks
  • Location: Palgrave Macmillan, The Stables, 2 Trematon Walk, Wharfdale Road, London N1 9SB

Tickets are free but booking is essential: http://www.theculturecapitalexchange.co.uk/2014/01/09/how-to-get-published-in-collaboration-with-palgrave-macmillan/