Getting back into postdoctoral research after taking a career break can be very difficult th a particular issue for female scientists who have decided to start a family. In fact, most who take breaks don't return.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Getting back into postdoctoral research after taking a career break can be very difficult – a particular issue for female scientists who have decided to start a family. In fact, most who take breaks don’t return. And so, after a huge amount of investment has been spent on their education and training, these skilled individuals are essentially lost to science and by implication the knowledge economy as a whole.
Professor Daphne Jackson, who graduated in physics from Imperial in 1958, going on to serve as Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Surrey, branded this an “appalling waste of talent”. She formed a fellowship scheme for returning scientists and ultimately the eponymous Trust after her death in 1992. The trust now awards around 30-35 fellowships a year which allow returners to work part-time for two years on a project.
Dr Liz Elvidge ( Human Resources ) heads up the College’s Postdoc Development Centre and has recently been appointed to the awards panel of the Daphne Jackson Trust. It puts her in a unique position to advise potential fellows who are considering a project at Imperial; former Imperial post docs who want to apply; as well as Imperial supervisors who might consider taking on a fellow. While applications are welcomed from anyone who has been away from research for two years or more, the process of awarding fellowships is a thorough one for the benefit of all concerned “Identify a project that’s feasible; if it’s something that’s going to require five years to complete and a big team, it’s probably not suitable,” Liz advises. She adds: “A supervisor that sees and understands the importance of this scheme is likely to be supportive. It might not be the best idea to go for the most senior supervisor you can find as they probably won’t be around that much.”
The Postdoc Development Centre can offer CV advice and mock ‘interviews’ for interested applicants. Once fellowships have been awarded, Liz points out that a big part of the trust is about “re-training, getting their toes back in the water and up-skilling,” owing to the constantly changing nature of science.
Nevertheless, science returners can offer some unique transferable skills of their own: “If you’ve had a career break, and you’ve got one or two kids, you actually become incredibly organised and achieve that efficiency level where you don’t necessarily need to be in the lab for 12 hours - you can balance it.”
Indeed the Trust has a 96% success rate in returning Fellows to science.
“What we’re finding is, with a number of the universities, they really want to keep the fellows and so they’re looking at how they can actually carry on employing them – and that’s a brilliant result.”
The Postdoc Development Centre runs an annual fellowship day every year in early July attended by funders including the, EPSRC, BBSRC, Royal Society and Daphne Jackson Trust.
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