I was kindly asked to shortly summarize my experience at the Career Workshop at the BSDB/BSCB Meeting at the University of Warwick.
My name is Hamze Beati and I am currently a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Arno Müller in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology in the School of Lifesciences at the University of Dundee. I am about to finish my postdoc after doing my PhD in the lab of Andreas Wodarz in Göttingen, Germany (now in Cologne). Later this year I will start my own junior research group “Nachwuchsgruppe” at the University of Kassel in Germany, which of course made the Career Workshop an interesting opportunity to learn about individual careers/career paths.
The first session was led by James Wakefield from the University of Exeter. The discussion was very interesting for me as he had chosen an academic career path, establishing his own group following up his own research interests. We have learnt that he changed the places he lived and worked frequently, also including times when he had to commute extensively. It was particularly nice to see that he managed to balance his work/life balance, also having a family with children at home. From our discussion I have learnt that a very important factor for an academic career path is to work together with PIs where one can follow up own ideas and interests to a particular extend. That covers my own experience so far as I was always able to develop my own ideas and thoughts about particular questions in Cell and Developmental contexts.
The second session I have attended was of great interest to me and was hosted by Claudia Barros, as she is working with the same model organism (Drosophila melanogaster) as I do. She was trying to establish the most important things for a successful academic career by looking back at her own career path. Similarly to James Wakefield we learnt that she had to change the places she lived and had to go through a hard time working in the US while her partner still lived in Europe. Things she pointed out were that winning awards are important for a successful career, including winning poster prizes, travel grants, etc.. These are all factors for a good CV. Both sessions agreed that the publication record is the most important determinant for a successful career, which was not surprising to me. Also, both sessions pointed out that during an academic career work in the laboratory will decrease, while work in the office is increasing drastically (University duties, paper and grant writing, etc.).
The last session I have attended was led by Anne Wiblin from Abcam. This discussion was also of big interest to me as she is working for a company and had left an academic career path. I learned that it was not very easy for her to find a job in industry coming from Lifesciences, something I was aware of before talking to many young researchers who decided to leave academia. Anne had to apply to many companies to finally get a position. We were able to ask her about the kind of work which is done once one decides to leave Lifescience, starting work in a company. She told us that the scientists in her company are quite busy testing new reagents, antibodies, etc. for their specificity, etc., which is quite nice as many people leaving Lifesciences would prefer to continue doing “benchwork”.
I really liked the Career Workshop and would highly recommend people to try and attend in the future. It also helped to network with the hosts, which sometimes is not very easy elsewhere at the conference.