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Senior Research Associate: Veena Supramaniam

Name

Dr Veena Supramaniam, Senior Research Associate, Kings College, London

Career profile

“Networking and holding onto your various contacts is an integral part of career development and progression”

Veena is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the Developing Brain, Department of Perinatal Imaging & Health, Division of Imaging Sciences at King’s College London.

Her current research is focused on understanding the role of microglial and astroglial cell activation in preterm brain injury, especially their interaction with neuronal cells.

“Understanding the involvement of these populations of glials cells in neuronal survival, migration and connectivity in the immature brain will immensely improve our understanding of cortical development and cognitive function in infants born preterm”.

“In my view, my scientific career began when I started my PhD 13 years ago in Melbourne, Australia. After three years as a PhD student, I came away with enhanced scientific knowledge and skills, but most importantly I had a set of valuable transferable skill such as networking and communication skills, which I continue to use to this day. As soon as I handed in my PhD thesis, I moved to London (nine years ago) in search of adventure and anything but a postdoctoral position as a job! My first job post-PhD was as a Research Technician for the UK Parkinson’s Disease Tissue Bank who were based at the time at Charing Cross Hospital – I very much enjoyed working with human tissue and understanding the various regulations in place for this kind of work. I also valued the 'nine to five' lifestyle this job offered me”.

“I moved back to Australia a year later to take up my first postdoc position at Monash University, with the research group with whom I did my PhD. The time I spent in Australia as a postdoc made it clear to me that I truly enjoy being a research scientist. But my time in Australia was short and before long I was back in London in looking to make a career as a scientific researcher. I put my contacts and networking skills to work and got in touch with as many researchers as I could. Even after many “sorry, we don’t have a position at the moment” emails, I persevered and finally I had a breakthrough. I was put in touch with Professor Mary Rutherford (via a contact I had made) who was part of the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at the time. She offered me a position as postdoctoral research fellow to work on the Post-mortem MRI and histology project. I was funded by a three year MRC Career Development Fellowship, which provided me with research funding as well as valuable training to help with my development as a scientific researcher. I have now been working with Prof Rutherford for six years and we have since moved our research to King’s College London.”

“In my current position, I split my time as the Research Study Coordinator which involves managing the day to day running of the study and managing various research projects and collaborations, and as a Research Fellow in the lab, my research focus is on understanding preterm brain injury”.

“Coordinating and running the post-mortem MRI and histology research is very challenging but extremely rewarding, especially as it allows me to collaborate with researchers who have the same research interests. This would be my career highlight”.

“It has not always been easy to get the various clinical staff and service providers on board about the research, which has been very challenging at times, but with the right support and approach, I was able to do it”.

“I am inspired by the parents and families who give consent for our research, because even in their time of grief they are looking to help advance research and for something good to come out of their tragedy”.

Words of wisdom: “Strive to become an expert in your area, be it an area of research knowledge, research skills or research management, and market yourself as such to build your networks”.

Correct as of: March 2015