On 11 July 2019, we held the i-sense Careers Day, which was our eighth training event aimed at our early career researchers since the beginning of the project. A total of 42 people attended the workshop over the course of the day, including six alumni, 22 researchers, and six students.
Learning from i-sense alumni
The main aim of the day was to give i-sense early career researchers the opportunity to discuss their future careers and hear from others who have been in similar positions.
i-sense alumni were invited back to share their tips and experiences moving into new roles in academia, industry and policy. The six alumni speakers that joined us shared their tips of applying for fellowships, moving countries, managing people, project management, and more.
We had the pleasure of welcoming back:
- Dr Phil Howes – Postdoctoral Researcher, deMello group, ETH Zürich
- Dr Natascha Kappeler – Lecturer at the Institute for Chemistry and Bioanalytics and Research Associate, FHNW
- Dr Christopher Wood – Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellow, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet
- Dr Kristina Schlegel – Programme and Alliance Specialist, Galvani
- Dr Subinoy Rana – Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Science
- Dr Tania Saxl – Programme Manager, AI Residency (Europe), Microsoft Research Cambridge
One i-sense PhD student, Isabel Bennett, also spoke about her experience applying for a secondment and working in policy at the Government Office for Science during her PhD.
Attendees generally felt that the talks were honest, realistic, and relatable. People enjoyed that i-sense alumni spoke openly and candidly about their career paths, showing that there are several ways a career can be successful, that sometimes things you try might not work out, that there is no right or wrong, and that different people have similar problems to overcome.
“I liked the talks where people spoke candidly about things they'd tried or applied for that didn't work out,” said Dr Eleanor Gray, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the McKendry group at UCL.
“This is really important for people to see that most careers are somewhat haphazard and happenstance not meticulously planned and directional.”
Dr Marta Broto Aviles, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Stevens group at Imperial, added, “The careers day was the perfect chance to talk to peers that we really identified with.”
“They were able to give us a real perspective of our career opportunities and what we should take into account.”
Dr Annette Bramley, who has worked alongside i-sense in her role at EPSRC and now at N8 Research, also joined us to talk about her experiences throughout her career. Annette spoke about working in the research councils, managing a family and a career, the importance of hobbies and skills that can be developed outside of your career, and the importance of understanding your values.
Tips from funders
We also invited speakers Katherine Freeman from EPSRC and Anna Myat from the Wellcome Trust to talk about funding opportunities available, what to keep in mind when applying for funding, and how to seek advice on your application. The talks were really valuable and addressed opportunities for researchers at different levels of their careers.
The CV workshop
Finally, we trialled a small CV workshop during the lunch break, which saw academics, funders, alumni and strategic advisors volunteer 10 minutes per person to review and give feedback to our early career researchers on their CVs.
The researchers generally found it helpful in identifying gaps in their CV and discuss future activities to get involved in or skills to improve in order to achieve career goals. They felt it was good to get an honest opinion of how a recruiting person would perceive their CV as it is sometimes hard to get genuine feedback.
The Careers Day was hugely successful with demand to continue holding such events in the future. The i-sense Education Alliance is planning a series of events for the coming years to continue our successful training program.