2nd Breaking Down Borders in Research – Alternative careers in science

Last Saturday 17th of March 2018, took place the second edition of the event “Breaking down borders in research” in Copenhagen. The event had a strong focus on alternative careers in science because we want to provide our members and students who want to become members with useful advice to settle down in Denmark. Alternative careers in science are underestimated and often unknown by people with a scientific background. But certainly, scientists and researchers can greatly contribute with their skills in many areas.

The Ambassador of Spain in Copenhagen, Sr. Román Oyarzun Marchesi, kicked off the meeting with a short speech, in which he regretted that so many qualified scientists have to work abroad and gave all his support to the association. The ambassador claimed that he was happy that his first public appearance in Denmark was in this event. Following the ambassador, the former chairman of the association, Dario Vazquez, thanked all members who have built this wonderful community of scientists based on values such as: community sense, equality, democracy, transparency, and critical thinking.

Ambassor of Spain in Copenhagen –

Rosa Lopez-Marques opened the morning session as keynote speaker. Rosa is a recognized expert in plant membrane proteins and professor at University of Copenhagen (KU). Her journey began in Seville, she did an external stay in Copenhagen and after her postdoc at KU she became a professor and settled in Denmark.  Two main research areas of her expertise are ATPses and Flipases and the impact they have on nutrient uptake and energy transport through plant cell membranes.

Professor Rosa Lopez-Marqués

Following the key note speaker, a panel comprised of three professionals draw upon different career paths outside of academia. First, Shivani Joshi project leader of the INEB initiative in Aarhus, gave an inspiring talk about her move from academic research to a project leading project. She has used the mentor figure as a catapult to pursue her goals. “Find a senior figure form your field and ask him/her to be your mentor. Ask your mentor what exactly you want. Do not expect anyone to come after you” she advised. Second Rodrigo Guzmán-Martínez previously a postdoc at DTU, explained why he decided to start a career as Simulation Director in a company called Labster, devoted to the design of virtual labs for educational purposes. In his words “It is very rewarding to see the final product of your work being implemented. After all this work and developing phases, it becomes like your baby” he admitted. Finally, Cristina Saiz, process engineer at Biogen Denmark, introduced us to what being an engineer mean. With a cool real-time survey she nicely guides through the tasks of an engineer. “I sometimes see myself as a detective, there are always small problems and I have to dig deep into the roots of the problem to figure out what is going on and how to solve it. It never becomes a repetitive job”.

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The morning session concluded with several key messages:

  1. Go out and talk to people about your interests and motivations
  2. Show interest to your potential employers
  3. Consider other opportunities than the classical academic path. There are many jobs where scientists can contribute with their skills
  4. Use the mentorship tool
  5. Don’t worry, once you get your first job in Denmark it becomes easier to access the job market.
  6. Our association has proven very useful in giving advice to researchers and students at different stages
Lunch break at Studenterhuset København

After the lunch break, the event continued with afternoon talks with our sister associations from Sweden and Norway. The former, represented by Eva Ortega-Paino, explained how she moved from a postdoc in in the field of cancer to a leading position as Coordinator of a Biobank network in Sweden. Her experiences spanned from academic research, to industrial research and sales for the pharmaceutical industry before becoming Biobank coordinator. The later, representing our sister association in Norway, Maria Pilar Ayuda-Durán pointed out the difficulties she went through continuing a scientific career in Spain, before she decided to move to Norway where she admits is very happy, despite the cold. One remark she made is “go do whatever you like because you never know where you may end up. Therefore you have to choose something that motivates you”. Pilar ended her talk by presenting the new association of Spanish researchers in Norway (IENO/SFNO) that we applauded from the audience. With IENO we close the circle and complete the first Spanish research hub in the Nordic countries. A unique platform to establish collaborations and exchange information about the successful research systems of the Nordic countries.

The event closed with a debate about what kind of proposals can we bring to the recently constituted organization Science in the Parliament in Spain. The aim of this initiative is to bring the scientific method closer to politics and promote an evidence-based policy-making. Many scientists in the audience agreed that our major contribution to politics would be in science policies because we have learned from other R&D systems like the Danish, and we have seen that they work.

Immediately after the event, took place the CED general assembly, with one major remark; The appointment of a new chairwoman, Paula Fernández-Guerra. We welcomed her to this challenging position and celebrate we have a woman leading our ambitious association. Keep posted for future events and news.

Communication team CED

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