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Women in Science

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Video clip: Anna was awarded a travel fellowship to spend three months in the States. She thinks that working somewhere else and learning new techniques helped demonstrate her independence when she applied for her fellowship.

So whilst a post-doc in the West Country I took advantage of a project that I was working on where there was a natural extension to that project that would mean spending time in a different laboratory. So I got a travelling fellowship and I spent three months in the States working in a collaborators lab, learning completely different scientific techniques, very much independent to the work I was doing in my post-doc position. And I think that again helped when I came back and started to put my fellowship together, my application, because I was able to demonstrate that I’d worked somewhere else, and I was also able to show that I was developing techniques that were independent to the lab that I’d been working in in the west country.

Then what happened? How did you get any money for a fellowship to come back?

So I’d been starting to think before I went over to the States what I might write my fellowship around, and one of the difficult conversations you have to have, I think probably, I see it now as a PI and I can see it on the other hand as the post-doc, is you’ve got to carve out that area of scientific research where you can go for independence and at the same time it doesn’t impact negatively on the group that you’ve been working on. Because you have to find a way to exist together, not to compete and not to try and replicate and duplicate what your mentor is doing. And that, that’s, that’s one of the crucial things you’ve got to do. You’ve got to find that area of independence where you can be seen as the, the leader, the person who’s going to drive that research question forward.

So that was the first thing that I had to do. And I did that in consultation with my supervisors and PI’s in the lab, and having, having spent time in the lab in the States, I was in quite a good position to be able to do that because there were questions I could answer with the skills that I had acquired, that weren’t things that were possible in the lab that I was in. So I was able to build on what I had done, but at the same time have a clear line of research that was separate to the lab.