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Postdoctorate in brain imaging: Dr Rozanna Meijboom


Dr Rozanna Meijboom

Current job:

Postdoctorate in brain imaging

Length of career:

6 years

Key quote:

I think it’s essential in research to be flexible, open-minded and critical. You need to be willing to change or redo your work when necessary – even if this means starting again after months of work.

Career in brief:

I started working in research in 2012, when I did my MSc internship at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in the group of Professor Marion Smits. I studied brain scans of patients with early-onset dementia to try and detect early-stage brain abnormalities. During this internship I realised how much I enjoyed the research and the group I was working in.  

I applied for a PhD position, which I was fortunate enough to get. For four years I continued my work in early-onset dementia, with the aim of detecting subtle brain abnormalities that would aid establishing an early-stage diagnosis.

In 2016 I spent a month abroad at the University of Edinburgh in the group of Professor Joanna Wardlaw, where I focussed on brain imaging in ageing. At the start of 2017 I obtained my doctorate in neuroimaging and applied for my current postdoc position at the University of Edinburgh. Here I’m part of the Edinburgh imaging team and work in the groups of Professor Adam Waldman and Professor Joanna Wardlaw. My current work focuses on using brain imaging to look at changes in white matter related to multiple sclerosis. This is my main research focus, alongside small vessel disease and ageing.

I spend my days:

Every day is very different, which I like. I’m not sure I have a typical day. My main tasks are processing and managing data, organising and attending project meetings, statistical analysis, and writing. Most days I spend time on at least two or three of these activities.

Career highlights:

It’s been very valuable to move countries for my job. It’s been good to see how things are done differently elsewhere and learn from this, but also reassuring to realise some things are done in the same way.

Together with my co-investigators I’ve been awarded an MRC-NIH partnership award. Through this award I’ve been able to start a collaboration with Professor Danny Reich’s group at the NIH, Bethesda, US, to work on brain changes in small vessel disease. Together with Govind Nair, who works in Professor Reich’s group, I’m investigating whether their brain analysis methods, developed for multiple sclerosis, can be useful for detecting brain changes in small vessel disease. Additional projects may come from this collaboration as well. Our research in small vessel disease, and possibly ageing and multiple sclerosis too, will benefit greatly from this collaboration.

Biggest challenges:

Job uncertainty

What I’d do differently/I wish I’d known/I still wonder if:

If I hadn’t taken the opportunity to start a postdoc in the UK, I would have always wondered “what if”. I think that would be my advice: go and work abroad, even if it’s only for six months. You’ll learn many new things, meet new researchers, become more open-minded, and it will greatly benefit your career.

Skills I consider most valuable:

It is important to be persistent. Don’t stop when something doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense, keep going until you’ve figured it out. You’ll probably need to work with many different people from different backgrounds, so good communication skills are very important to make progress on collaborative projects. Some technical skills are needed for image processing, but no need to be a programming expert; you can collaborate with people who are. Know how to prioritise; you can’t do everything at the same time.

I am inspired by:

My PhD supervisor Professor Marion Smits. She is a neuroradiologist and a great researcher. Her research is based on improving patient diagnostics and treatment in the clinic. Her way of conducting research has always motivated and inspired me. It’s patients who make the research worthwhile.

Words of wisdom:

During your PhD try to get international work experience, or alternatively try and meet people from different institutes, at conferences or through your supervisor(s). If they know your research capabilities, it may help you get a job after your PhD.

Next steps:

I’m at a stage in my career where I will soon start applying for fellowships to get funding for my own research. I would like to continue to focus on neuroimaging in multiple sclerosis and dementia, with the emphasis on using brain imaging to the patient’s benefit.

Further information:

Correct as of: August 2018