Science for Health
07 August 2012
Programme Leader appointments provide long-term core support, subject to regular scientific review, that enables ambitious research to be carried out.
As a graduate student in Australia I discovered NIMR through my reading of several key studies on synaptic transmission and plasticity that were carried out here. Later, one of my PhD advisors collaborated with Tim Bliss who visited our lab to carry out in vivo experiments. This exposure to whole animal electrophysiology seeded my long-standing interest in systems neuroscience. When I later heard of positions opening up at NIMR it immediately caught my interest as a very exciting, collegial and interdisciplinary environment.
NIMR differs from the other institutes I have worked in in two ways. Firstly, the Lab Managers make a genuine difference; they have all been outstanding in their ability and attitude. From sorting out hand towels to redesigning lab space, they work with minimal fuss and as efficiently as possible. Secondly, the open-door policy and generosity that permeates the Institute is apparent from the students and postdocs through to Programme Leaders and the Directors and their support teams. There is genuine altruism and, most importantly, a sense that the science comes first. These two main points have stood out for me and underlie the very positive psychology that exists here. I think this is also the main challenge for NIMR and its staff moving forward to The Crick. It is really not about bricks and mortar or the logistics of moving mice and microscopes but rather how one creates such a unique and positive scientific culture within a reincarnation of NIMR and its co-founding partners.
After completing my postdoctoral training in California at UCLA I came to NIMR to set up my first independent research group. Over the years, I experienced a truly supportive environment that allowed me to grow into the role of a PI and develop a long-term research programme, first as a career-track and then as a tenured Programme Leader. Within the Developmental Biology/Neurosciences community and beyond, our shared activities, such as internal seminar series, not only expose us continuously to outstanding research in a wide range of different research areas, but importantly also create a genuine spirit of collegiality.
I found both real mentorship and inspiring colleagues with whom to exchange advice and expertise and to venture into new territories, such as imaging techniques, which may not have felt reachable otherwise. I also value that by running a relatively small group and because of core funding and solely voluntary teaching, I can work even as a PI, whenever possible, at the bench or in my case in the fly room or at the confocal microscope side-by-side with my students and postdocs to test ideas and share the excitement of advancing our research.
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