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Women in Science

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Interview excerpt: Alison moved back to academia after five years in industry; it was a difficult move but she provides advice on how it can be done.

Alison NobleI was working in industrial research and development which can be quite similar to working in academia. What people did say to me was if you left academia you wouldn't come back but I didn't believe that had to be the case. I've also proven you can come back. What I did decide when I left as a PhD was that I would make a decision whether I would stay in industry or academia after five years and that is what I did.

So I had a plan for not letting go of the academic opportunity but leaving my options open and my advice to others is that if you're not sure try it, but keep your options open. When I worked in R&D I made the effort to go to conferences and I stayed in contact with people in universities who I knew.

It was hard coming back - because when you've been away for five years your CV looks different. However, what I've learnt in those five years is very influential in how I run a research group. I guess the confidence I have in doing translational science comes from having worked in an environment where translational science is more of a priority than working on the basic research. 

Did you publish in that time when you were working in industry?

Yes I did publish. Where I worked at GE they did publish and because they knew I wanted to do that they supported me in publishing as well. Indeed, in some areas like my own, which is looking at machine learning based image analysis, some of the big drivers are in the large companies and they are driving research fields forward just as much as academics are.