#PostdocChat - Careers in Academia and Beyond

Tuesday 22 September 2020 | 10 am | Online

This event aims at providing information to researchers regarding their career options, available resources and opportunities to help them explore their career, and insights to navigating various career options.

Our experts (see list below) will provide highlights on different pilot programmes that are currently being developed to promote researcher career development (such as the Prosper project and Wellcome's Broadening Horizons mentoring programme), insights to implementation of the new Concordat, available resources, and data on what potential employers value in a candidate from a research background (notably from Vitae).

This interactive panel discussion is facilitated by Christine Bell (see below) and will start with short introductions by each panellist (see list below) before taking questions from the audience. 

Expected length: 1 h 15.

This event is free for all research staff but requires registration. A link will be emailed to registered participants.

This event was recorded and is now available to watch on demand:

The MRC provided some answers to the questions that couldn't be taken on the day because of lack of time:


Prof Fiona Watt (Executive Chair, MRC)

Professor Fiona Watt obtained her DPhil from the University of Oxford, and carried out postdoctoral research at MIT, Cambridge, USA. She established her first lab at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London, and then moved to London Research Institute.

From 2006 to 2012 she was Deputy Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute and Deputy Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research, University of Cambridge.

As well as being the MRC's Executive Chair Fiona is Director of the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King's College London where she leads a team of 80 academic researchers. Internationally recognised in her field, she has expertise in the stem cells of healthy and diseased skin.

Dr Bethan Hughes (Partner, Innovations Team, Wellcome)

Bethan is part of the Innovations Team at Wellcome, where she is responsible for developing approaches to improve how Wellcome supports innovators to achieve healthcare impact. Bethan has spent much of the past decade supporting Wellcome's strategic approach to translational research funding. This follows a career in scientific publishing, including 3 years at Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. Bethan's scientific background is in immunology.

Broadening Horizons

Broadening Horizons is a cross-sector mentoring programme designed to support, develop and empower early-career researchers who are interested in translational research for impact on health. The programme will launch for its inaugural year on 19th November 2020 with seed funding from the Wellcome Trust.

The aim of the programme is to support early career researchers with their professional development. In its first year the programme will help to raise awareness of translational career paths, by connecting mentees with mentors from industry. The programme will also create networking opportunities via an online platform and both live and digital events.

A mentoring programme like Broadening Horizons will serve to inspire the next generation of early career researchers to explore their future career paths, whether remaining in academia or transferring to industry, creating a community of individuals committed to their personal growth and that of others.

Lucy Williams (Prosper project manager, University of Liverpool)

Lucy is Project Manager for Prosper based at the University of Liverpool. She has over 20 years' experience working in research funding and strategy with a focus on supporting researchers across all career stages. Prior to joining the University of Liverpool in 2017, she worked at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Prosper is a new approach to career development that unlocks postdocs' potential to thrive in multiple career pathways. Lucy will talk about their recent work with a range of employer partners, from life science start-ups and multinational tech giants to arts organisations and social good enterprises. Gain new insights into what organisations are looking for in their employees and why postdocs' skills, attributes and mindsets are a unique and valuable proposition for employers.

Prosper is led by the University of Liverpool alongside our partners the University of Manchester and Lancaster University and is funded by UKRI.

Rachel Cox (Engagement and Policy Project Manager, Vitae)

Rachel Cox is the Engagement and Policy Project Manager for Vitae, a not-for-profit programme which supports the career development of researchers across the world. She is a key contact for Vitae Member institutions, working with the community at all levels to engage with Vitae initiatives, consultations and events, advocating for researcher development and leading on the co-production of new resources and engagement activities. She is passionate about improving research culture through facilitating collaborative working groups and related projects, as well as working with researcher networks such as the UK Research Staff Association. Her other focuses include policy development, wellbeing and mental health, open research, research communication, public engagement and equality, diversity and inclusion. She worked closely with the writing group for the development of the new Researcher Development Concordat, published in September 2019.

Dr Sarah S. Staniland (Reader, University of Sheffield)

Sarah is currently a Reader of Bionanosceince in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield. She obtained an integrated undergraduate Masters degree in Chemistry followed by doctorate in Materials Chemistry (2001, 2005) both at the University of Edinburgh (UK).

After her PhD she won a prestigious independent EPSRC life science interface fellowship (2005-2008) at the University of Edinburgh where she initiated the research she is currently active in. This helped her transition from the chemical material sciences to interdisciplinary work at the interface with biology. She took this opportunity to live and work in various places globally, from Cape Town to Tokyo, forming lasting collaboration. She then took up a Lectureship in Bionanoscience in the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leeds in 2008 where she was promoted to Associate Professor in 2013. She moved to Sheffield in 2013 and was promoted to Reader of bionanoscience in 2016.

Sarah is dedicated to developing equality and diversity and quickly became known for her work nurturing & supporting staff, particularly early career academics in STEM. She is currently the president of Sheffield's University and Colleague Union (UCU) branch which has a strong anti-casualisation campaigning base, and she works with university management to develop policies and processes to help research staff such as teaching policies and better redeployment. Sarah is the Chemistry Department's Research Staff Champion and represents the department on the Faculty Research Staff Development Committee which she also chairs. She is the science academic rep on the University research staff development committee. She has a special interest in work precarity for research staff and the knock-on effect it has for EDI along the career pipeline. Sarah has won 3 prestigious awards recently: 2 for her research: the acclaimed RSC Harrison Meldola award in 2016 and the Wain award in 2017. She has also won the Suffrage science award in 2017 for her work on the promotion of gender equality.

Facilitator: Christine Bell

Christine Bell is a Director at the internationally renowned Centre for Facilitation. As an experienced panel moderator Christine is excited to bring these well honed skills in the virtual environment for this first PAW national programme.

Christine has been working with researchers and innovators for over 10 years. She specialises is bringing together researchers from a wide range of disciplines to generate innovation and collaborative projects. Increasingly these collaborations need to happen across different international borders so Christine is making the most of this pause in face to face contact to develop innovative and interesting interactive methods to support collaboration in the virtual space.

LinkedIn |  Twitter and Instagram @facilitatorbell