Did you miss the Alzheimer’s Research UK North-West Network early-careers research event? No worries, we have you covered.
The Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) North-West Network hosted its 2nd annual Early-Careers Conference at The University of Manchester on Friday, the 15th of June 2018. The conference, which was well attended, was open to PhD students, postdocs, fellows, technicians, and project students, regardless of whether they were members of the Network or from the North-West.
The keynote speakers at the conference were Prof Malcolm Macleod (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Selina Wray (UCL) – you can also post questions to Selina via our website, click the link on her name for more.
Following Dr Rui Maurichio’s update on ARUK’s Policy and Impact team, Prof Macleod outlined how we can improve the value of biomedical research. He explored how bias in animal experiments can cause overstated effect size, which may lead to failed clinical trials. He then shared some questionable research practices. Prof Macleod concluded his keynote presentation by highlighting the importance of designing multi-centre studies using the PHISPS (i.e., Population, Hypothesis, Intervention, Sample size calculation, Primary outcome measure, and Statistical analysis plan) protocol. It was refreshing to hear from a senior academic who advocated for quality science over the sheer number of publications. Prof Macleod’s slides from the day are freely available online.
Following the morning tea break, Prof Neil Hanley provided some tips for writing fellowship funding applications. Then, Dr Jack Rivers-Auty shared a delightful presentation on creating an online presence to have a bigger impact as a researcher. Following Dr Rivers-Auty’s presentation, Branwen Brockley presented an opportunity for early-career researchers to write for the ARUK Dementia blog, before I highlighted an opportunity to get involved with the Dementia Researcher podcasts (tweet me if you want to know more).
After lunch, conference attendees heard from Dr Selina Wray, who recently won the prestigious David Hague Early Career Investigator of the Year prize for her contributions to dementia research, as well as for her commitment to mentoring and public engagement. Dr Wray highlighted her own career path, before sharing the tips and tricks she picked along the way to becoming a successful PI.
Some of her key take-home messages included the following:
- Be strategic, but open-minded
- Everything takes longer than you think, start early!
- Get proper training where possible, e.g., teaching and mentoring
- Make sure you get credit for your work – never assume it will be given!
- Build your own support network – people to celebrate with and commiserate with!
- Have a back-up plan
Prof Rob Lucas then engaged the audience in an interesting exercise, which was designed to highlight how to write a good letter to the editor when trying to publish high-impact papers. Overall, Prof Lucas stressed that good letters to editors should be brief, simple, realistic, and highlight the novelty and wide-appeal of the research. He suggested circulating the letter with colleagues and asking for feedback before sending it out to the editors.
Following the afternoon tea break, Prof Hugh Piggins outlined on the best ways to securing a postdoc position and making yourself competitive. Finally, Luke Williams and Craig Robinson at VRS Recruitment shared how you can secure the perfect job in industry.
Overall, the program included a focus on useful research skills and scientific careers, which were relevant to early-career researchers working in all fields of biomedical science/neuroscience.
To read more thoughts from the day from other early career researchers, check out #ECRconf on Twitter.
Dr Lakshini Mendis is a Research Assistant and Project Officer within the Office of the NIHR National Director for Dementia Research based at University College London. Lakshini is working on various initiatives aimed at meeting the research objectives detailed in the governments 2020 Dementia Challenge.
You can follow Lakshini on Twitter Follow @BLHSMendis