How a part-time fellowship enticed a scientist back to academia

From Nature Careers

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New report shows 67% of PhD students want a career in academic research but only 30% stay in academia three years on.

Deciding to have children meant I had to become agile in dealing with the balance between family life and a career in science. Sixteen years later, I’m back in academia, and maintaining that balance has taught me a lot about myself and my attitudes to work.

I had the first of my three children towards the end of my first postdoctoral position, in 2005. After a year of maternity leave, I returned to complete this postdoc in 2006, choosing to work part-time.

I then secured a contract for a second postdoc in a different laboratory, also part-time, and despite another ten months of maternity leave after the arrival of my second child in 2008, I was able to keep up my research and eventually published this work. But with two small children at home and a partner who worked away during the week, I couldn’t maintain any of the extra activities that are needed for an academic career: attending seminars, conferences and social events; undertaking professional development or CV-boosting activities; collaborating with other researchers and developing research ideas.

Constantly being made to feel as if I were underachieving had knocked the enjoyment out of my job, so by the end of that second contract in 2010, I felt that leaving my research career was the best decision to make.

I had no hard plans about what to do after academia, but about a year after leaving, I started working as a freelance language editor in 2011 for Edanz Editing, a science-publishing services group based in Japan. This role allowed me flexibility, part-time hours, a reasonable income and the chance to continue working in science. I had my third child in 2012. Then, in 2015, when all my children were at nursery or at school, I took on a part-time teaching job at the Open University, a distance-learning institution based in Milton Keynes, UK. This allowed me to make use of my research background in neuroscience.

Three years later, I returned to academia and now work as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, UK. The post is a part-time, three-year fellowship from the Daphne Jackson Trust, a UK charity that supports people who return to research careers after a break.

Many scientists think of moving out of academia as a permanent career move. For me, leaving research was a difficult decision, but I’ve learnt that it’s entirely possible to return, given the right approach.

Read the full article which continue to share advice on how to return to science on the Nature Careers Blog Website –

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