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A Career in Academic Research


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Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate Dr Ruth Saunders gave the following presentation as part of the 2010 Season of Careers After Biological Sciences talks at the University of Leicester, UK.

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A Career in Academic Research

  1. 1. A Career in Academic Research<br />Dr Ruth Saunders<br />
  2. 2. Senior Post-Doctoral <br />Research Associate<br />8 1/2 yrs post-doc experience<br />5 yrs working at Glenfield Hospital <br />with Professor Chris Brightling<br />
  3. 3. Cutting Edge Research<br />Remodelled <br />asthmatic airway<br />Non asthmatic <br />airway<br />
  4. 4. Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cell Culture <br />Airway Smooth Muscle<br />Bronchus<br />dissected<br />
  5. 5. Human Fibrocyte Culture <br />Take blood<br />Add to Histopaque<br />Remove PBMC layer<br />Collagen I<br />Culture for <br />7-14 days<br />Spindle like morphology<br />CD34<br />
  6. 6. Immunohistochemistry<br />Apoptosis measurement<br />PCR<br />Flow cytometry<br />Wound healing assays<br />Immunofluorescence<br />ELISA<br />Tracking migration assays<br />Courtesy of Bender MedSystems<br />
  7. 7. Thinking of new directions<br />Cutting Edge <br />Research<br />Writing/Applying for Fellowships/Grants<br /> Conferences and presentations <br />Postdoctoral <br />Research Associate<br />Writing papers<br />Supervising <br />students<br />Writing/Applying for Studentships<br />
  8. 8. How did I get here?<br />
  9. 9. 1993<br />University of Leicester – BSc (hons) Biological Sciences, 1st Class<br />PhD – Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, with Profs Nahorski and Challiss<br />1996<br />2000<br />Editorial Assistant – Perpetuity Press<br />2008<br />20??<br />2007<br />2005<br />Post-doctoral Research Associate – Biochemistry, with Prof Critchley<br />2001<br />Asthma UK project grant – <br />2 year post-doctoral position, with Prof Brightling<br />Wellcome Trust VIP Award – <br />1 year independent funding <br />Contribute to preliminary work for CEBs successful Wellcome Trust SCF application. Funding for my post secured for a 5 year period.<br />Increase number of first author papers<br />Take on supervisory roles<br />Publish papers as last author<br />Apply for project grants<br />Establish myself as an independent researcher<br />
  10. 10. Pros……<br />Freedom to follow ideas/<br />interesting leads<br />Intellectually stimulating/<br />interesting<br />Make a difference to <br />people’s lives<br />Job satisfaction<br />Involved in cutting edge research/<br />finding out new things<br />
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  13. 13. Post-doctoral positions<br /> PhD studentship<br />…. and Cons<br />Not many positions available<br />Continually applying for funding<br />Tenure<br />Highly competitive<br />Fellowships<br />Short term contracts<br />Industry<br />Academia<br />
  14. 14. OPTIMISING YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING OFFERED A PHD:<br />Straight from degree: need first or upper second class degree<br />Intercalated year out working in industry<br />Lab based final year project<br />Lab based work experience during and/or after degree; <br />more techniques, more competitive.<br />Read around the subject of the PhD and other work done in the group.<br />PhD<br />NOT SURE RESEARCH IS FOR YOU:<br />MSc or MRes, or laboratory based work experience – <br />get a taste of research to see if you like it.<br />CHOOSING WHERE TO STUDY:<br />Check the history of the group:<br /> Do they have a good consistent publication record?<br />If possible visit the laboratories and talk to people.<br />
  15. 15. SUCCEEDING DURING YOUR PhD/ INCREASING YOUR EMPLOYABILITY:<br />Work hard – you get out what you put in.<br />Publish in reputable peer reviewed journals – your publication record shows your ability to deliver high quality research.<br />Learn as many techniques as possible – shows versatility and ability to learn.<br />Don’t get disheartened if experiments don’t work first time, this is the nature of cutting edge research – solving problems will make you a better scientist in the future. <br />
  16. 16. CLIMBING THE ACADEMIC RESEARCH LADDER OPTIMISING YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS<br />PUBLICATION RECORD:<br />Journal Impact Factor<br />MEASURES OF ESTEEM:<br />“A celebration in Parliament of the work of emerging scientific, engineering and technological leaders has showcased the work of a University of Leicester academic.” <br />University of Leicester eBulletin - Issued on 30 March 2009<br />Dr Saunders explains her work to Patricia Hewitt MP.<br />WRITE GRANTS/OBTAIN FUNDING:<br />
  17. 17. Still interested?<br />Project: The role of RAGE and DAMPs in the regulation of airway mesenchymal and epithelial cell function.<br />Supervisors: Prof C Brightling, Prof J Challiss and Dr R Saunders<br /><br />