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MRC Postdocs Symposium 2014

The Inaugural PostDoc Symposium was held on 8 – 10 September 2014 at the Moller Institute in Cambridge www.mollerinstitute.com. The event brought together 63 PostDocs from various different units all over the country and provided a mix of talks, workshops, dinners and networking opportunities.

Monday morning started  early for the delivery team, making sure that people were posted at poignant positions around the Moller Centre and at the accommodation site in Churchill College.

Registration commenced at 9am with the first delegates arriving and receiving their name badges and programme outline for the next three days.  Coffee and refreshments were plentiful and delicious throughout the whole of the event and an opportunity to familiarise and relax a little before the event started was taken.

Delegates were welcomed by double-act Ted Smith, MRC HR Director and Jim Smith, MRC Deputy CEO. 

Jim Smith chaired the opening session which focussed on the PostDoc journey and experiences were shared from speakers who had been there and showed their paths to how they got to where they are now.

Speakers included:      

  • Laurens Kruidener and Chun-wa Chung from GSK
  • Kathy Niaken – PLT, NIMR
  • Sylvia Corronchano – Investigator Scientist, MGU
  • Anne Willis – Unit Director, Toxicology
  • Steve Brown – Director, MRC Harwell

The day continued with workshops on:

Journal Writing – Anke Sparmann, Associate Editor, Nature

Translation & Technology Transfer – Dave Tapolczay, CEO, MRC Technology

Career Planning – Anita Edmonds, Penna

Then concluded with a Speed Networking Session hosted by MRC TUS http://mrc-tus.org.uk which was received and embraced exceptionally well by all involved, indeed, there were cries for ‘more’.

Everyone discussed the learning's from the day over dinner in the Moller Centre Restaurant.   

Refreshed and raring to go, Tuesday started with a Plenary talk from Richard Henderson, former Director, LMB describing the journey that he had taken throughout his career in Science.

Followed by workshops on:

Grant Writing – Dave Crosby, Programme Manager, MRC

Career Planning – Anita Edmonds, Penna

Success For All – Ele Zeggini, Sandler Institute and Catherine Sandler, Sandler Consulting

Lab Leadership – Alan Bate, Bray Leino

Fellowship Workshop, which comprised a mock panel interview organised by Julia Dickinson, MRC Programme Manager and included Fellows:

Simon Johnston, Monika Gullerova, Nick Gilbert, Simon Hollingsworth, Shaun Cowley and Alan Robinson.

The day then ended in the grounds of and Fellows Dining Room at Murray Edwards College with a drinks reception and pianist playing a selection of space related songs as a prelude to the After Dinner Speech by Kevin Fong @kevin_fong who regaled the company with stories of NASA and the Vomit Comet, and also proved to be an inspirational and engaging dinner guest.

Wednesday arrived and with it came the closing day of the Symposium.  A talk on how the MRC fund Research was given by Julia Dickinson.

Sir John Savill, MRC CEO was then interviewed in a ‘Parkinson style’ interview entitled Sir John Savill: My life in science, hosted by Ted Smith and questions were taken from the audience.

Final workshop time:

Translation & Technology Transfer – Howard Marriage, Francis Crick Institute

Success for All – Rebecca Simmons, Head of VC Office, Cambridge and Rob Barkworth, Pearn Kandola

Lab Leadership – Alan Bate, Bray Leino

The symposium closed with a de-brief and prizes for volunteers to help put together the next symposium, Esmerelda Para-Peralbo, Rudi Prihandoko and Marek Tyl, also for the engagement during the symposium including twitter interaction for Adam Tozer, Ede Rancz, Marion Yon and Louise Fets.

Lunch then concluded a very successful, enlightning and thoroughly enjoyable 3 days.

Speakers presentations are available on the right hand side of this page under 'Document downloads'. 

Some feedback from the feedback board at the event:

The symposium was interesting and useful, in particular the mock interview of MRC fellows, the Leadership session and Success for All.  I would add more time for the speed dating.  More examples of course opportunities within the academia research sector. More information about fellowship funding.”

“This has been a fantastic symposium, a fantastic opportunity to network and meet my peers.  It would be fantastic if there were follow-up opportunities to meet up again in the future, outside the next symposium enabling the next generator networks to grow”.

“Video speakers and you tube it for colleagues who can’t be here”

“Really enjoyable and useful symposium, did a lot to help postdocs realise that everyone is going through a challenging time at this stage in their career, and that the MRC values their postdocs and wants to help them make the necessary decisions.  Thanks to the organisers”

“More tea-breaks to mix and meet would be good”

“A session on alternative career paths would be helpful”

“handouts for some sessions would be nice”

“Very interesting and different.  Interesting sessions.  Would be useful to have more time to ask questions to Directors/PI’s etc.  Could be more ideas about different career options.  Information about funding bodies.  Overall, I hope the symposium continues regularly”.

“Really great symposium, great atmosphere, nice to meet with other postdocs, amazing food/location, very diverse programme.  I like it that many sessions were not only focussed on how to become a PI ‘cause as we’ve learned only 20% of us will make it there anyway).  I found it interesting that we got advice on how to make the most of your postdoc; but very contradictory advice.  Focus on small papers or concentrate on one high impact paper?  Work really hard or have a work/life balance.  Interestingly in the Penna workshop almost all postdocs got lifestyle as career anchor.  Does that contradict with working 3 times as hard?  Have times changed compared to 30 years ago and nowadays postdocs want it all? I’ve learned a lot during the last days and will definitely benefit from it in my future career, wherever it will take me!

“Great event, friendly atmosphere and lots of opportunities to chat/network.  Maybe next time you could include an event about how to market yourself for a job in industry”

“I’ve found the event really useful particularly as I am at the transition from postdoc to independent researcher.  The only thing that might be an improvement for next time might be to separate people according to career stage for the workshops so that they could be more focussed. Thanks”.

“More free time to network and talk to others would certainly help.  Overall it was excellent. Thanks to the organisers for their efforts!!”.

“Excellent symposium is definitely recommended.  Perhaps organise it to aim postdocs at the beginning of their project and at the end when they’re actually writing grants and/or deciding what to do next”.

“Organise session with wide range of industry speakers and postdocs on industry/academia collaboration and career paths”.

“Great venue, Great coffee, Great symposium”.

“Bigger session on industry, how to get work experience etc please”.

Some Feedback from our Twitter account:

“Receiving honest and priceless insights into scientific career progression @MRCpostdocs symposium session chaired by @ProfJimSmith

@MRCpostdocs Great talks so far.I enjoyed Anne Will's advice for independence: do what your supervisor does well&improve on what they don't!

great 1st day, full of inspiration and 60s summaries of scientific careers

Enlightening session on grant writing by David Crosby @MRCpostdocs@MRCcomms - RT great feedback for David session

Day 2 finished for #MRCpostdocs - great end with @Kevin_Fong stories of the vomit comet, medical students & being happy

@Kevin_Fong fantastic speech, reaffirming! #mrcpostdocs

Inspiring interactive session with Sir John Savill @MRCpostdocs

Thanks to @MRCpostdocs for organising a very practical and inspirational program, thanks to @Kevin_Fong for excellent dinner conversation!

Thank you @MRCpostdocs for a really great meeting! There were inspirational moments, eye-opening moments, and a touch of cool by @Kevin_Fong

Kevin Fong @Kevin_Fong · Sep 10

@MRCpostdocs Thanks for having me along to speak. Thoroughly enjoyed the evening!

M.Sandholzer @msandholzer · Sep 12

@vladseitan @MRCpostdocs @uktedsmith @ProfJimSmith All @MRCHarwell postdocs fully enjoyed/would recommend it. So, I'll come along next year!

Jim Smith @ProfJimSmith · Sep 12

@msandholzer @vladseitan @MRCpostdocs @uktedsmith @MRCHarwell Great! It was fun and I hope informative for all. Looking fwd to next time.

Contact Us:

Julie Williams: Julie.williams@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk, 01793 416368

Jeroen Stam: Jeroen.stam@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk, 01793 416397

Linda Holliday: Linda.holliday@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk, 01793 416369