Science In Images: the History of Spacelabs

Back in February, I made the decision to join a Medical Device company, based just outside of Seattle; Spacelabs.

Founded in 1958 by two scientists, the company developed cardiac monitoring and telemetry systems for NASA, which were used to monitor astronauts’ vital signs during the Gemini and Apollo space missions, culminating in Neil Armstrong wearing Spacelabs medical telemetry for the first moon landing in 1969.

That technology was the beginning of the equipment that Spacelabs makes today, focusing on patient care in the monitoring and cardiology space.

As with all jobs, it has its problems, but I feel lucky to get to work on innovative equipment that saves lives.


Content reproduced from Spacelabs Healthcare

Advocacy, Fairness and Equality.

Back in 2017 I took the (at the time) scary step of joining Women In Bio, Seattle as a way to expand my professional network, build on my leadership skills, and really start to give back to a scientific community that has given me so, so much support throughout my career. 

Many times, I don’t appreciate all the incredible mentors and champions who have got me to where I am today. From my PhD PI who welcomed me into his research group as a wide-eyed, somewhat clueless undergraduate, to my Postdoctoral colleagues who were *always* there to motivate me when the academic grind hit hard, and now my fellow WIB members who supported and progressed my career transition. I have had many advocates throughout my lifetime, and I feel that they shaped and grew my career in a way that I couldn’t have alone.

Since moving to Seattle, giving back to the scientific community, and driving equality and diversity is what I’ve become all about. Seeing the inequity in opportunities offered to women, people of color, immigrants and non-binary person’s has made more passionate than ever, and as a community we need to do better.

Part of doing better starts with ourselves, as individuals. We each have the opportunity to support, help and champion those around us. Know someone struggling with their workload? Offer to put some time in to help out, even if that’s just helping them prioritize. Someone wanting a promotion but not sure they’re ready? Take some time to discuss it with them, help them see their strengths. Got an open position in your team? Champion that really hardworking, but often quiet team member that you enjoyed doing that project with. Clear gender or racial biases in your workplace? Use your privilege to raise this issue, and support the careers of those who are underrepresented.

Although we don’t always realize it, we all have people who have fought our corner, be that in our personal or professional lives. Those are the people that have helped influence who we are, and where we are right now. Having had that support, it’s now our turn to advocate for those who are just starting out. 

Now, after what seemed like such a scary leap back in 2017, I’m proud to say I’ll be serving as the co-chair of programs for Women in Bio, Seattle, and I’m honored to get to help organize events that address inequity and support those in my community.


If you want to get more involved in advocacy and championship, then for our next big event, celebrating Women’s History Month, we will be running a workshop focused on recognizing advocates, advocating for others, and also the importance of advocating for ourselves. You can find more details here: https://www.womeninbio.org/page/seattle

 

The Power of the Network

Since moving to Seattle I’ve found myself in a part of my career that I haven’t before: I don’t have an extensive professional network.

Networking, as much as we all seem to dislike it, is one of the most important things that we can do as we progress along our professional paths. You never know if that undergraduate you helped with an experiment that time might end up at the company where you want to land a job, or if that sales rep from a conference is on the panel of one of your interviews (that has happened to me.)

Our networks are one of our most powerful assets, and carefully curating new ones after a big move, career or location-wise, is important.

For the most part, networking events are a free opportunity for you to meet like-minded individuals, career professionals and a multitude of people you can learn from.

Meet-ups are one great way to meet new people and grown your network, and the best bit? They’re always really friendly and non-intimidating. Focusing mainly on social gatherings, the meet-up provides an environment for informal discussion, which often leads to potential ways you can work together. More importantly, it offers us a way to get our faces out there, allowing others to develop a lasting impression of who we are.

Developing networks in this relaxed environment really motivates us to keep expanding our connections, ultimately making us more likely to gain career, education or professional skills development advantage from the network.

With a bit of research and some determination, I started taking my own advice and got involved in local meet-ups.


Since moving, I’ve had more time to re-engage with my interest in Python, and how we can use data to improve biological research. As I know very few researchers in this field, and since Seattle is one of the code capitals of the world, expanding my professional network here felt like an obvious first step.

PyLadies is a nationwide network for women who code in python. Their aim is to get more women to be active participants and leaders in the Python world, as well as promoting, educating and advancing a diverse and supportive Python community. The local chapter PyLadies Seattle offers hacknights, learning circles and social events that allow new and experienced Pythonistas to hone their skills, mentor others and just have fun.


Another group I’ve become involved with is the Association of Women in Science (AWIS). Another national association, the AWIS has chapters in most big cities (and some not so big ones) and has a really great one here in Seattle. Having left academics behind for the more industrially-focused world, connecting with lots of great new industry scientists was really important for me professionally.

My first meeting? Their summer social meet-up at a local brewery, and it was a blast. I can be shy with new people, despite being an extrovert, but the society were welcoming, informative and above all else supportive. Now volunteering on the events programs, I am active member in the society, helping to plan the next event on September 20th!


Another great option if you’re more reserved is to take to Twitter, Linkedin or Instagram (or any other social media) and connect with some of the amazing scientist there too. Some of the best networking links I have have actually been forged on Twitter and Instagram, where you can engage with others in your field in real-time.

There are also virtual networking groups for everything so you’ll be sure to find somewhere you can contribute, support and intermingle with others in your field.

Above all else, remember your network is your strength. These are the people who can help shape your career, who can support and mentor you, or that you can guide and advise in the future.

You never know when you might all need each other!

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If you’re looking for some more good resources on how to better network, let me point you here.

 

ISMRM Honolulu, Hawaii. The end of a chapter.

On Saturday, I’ll be aboard a flight from Seattle to Honolulu. This year sees ISMRM (international society for magnetic resonance in medicine) holding its annual conference on the Hawaiian island, and many many researchers couldn’t be happier about it!

The conference marks a big change in both my personal and professional life, as I leave Michigan behind and pursue a new career path and life in Seattle, Washington.

Simultaneously, for the first time since working for MSU I have been given the opportunity to give an oral presentation at an international meeting.

I have attended many conferences and seminars, often presenting my research in the form of posters, but this opportunity allows me to finally share the exciting data we have been acquiring over the last 2 years, and share the news of upcoming papers.

Until very recently, all of my research had a focus on the in vitro characterization of a range of novel nanoparticles, made from polymeric and peptide materials, that allowed for the development of MRI contrast as a result of a stimulus. The data was great, but it wasn’t as scientifically sexy as some of the other work going in the field. Now finally, we have demonstrated that those very particles work within the body, and moreover, allow for the targeted delivery of chemotherapy. It’s a big development and the proof-of-concept of a new mode of molecular imaging.

The chance to share this work with the world is bittersweet. I’m proud of what we accomplished at MSU but I’m also sad to be leaving it behind.

I’ll be spending the next few days obsessively practicing my talk and probably editing slides. Hopefully a great talk is enough to send-off this chapter in my career in a good light. And if not, at least I’m in Hawaii!

_________________

If you’re interested in my abstract have a look over it here!

submissions.mirasmart.com_ISMRM2017_ViewSubmission

When is it Time to Leave Academia?

For the last few months I’ve been debating the concept of leaving academic research to pursue something new.

I have always considered myself on track for a lifetime of academic work, leading to my own research group and training the next generation of scientists. I love bench research and sharing my scientific insights and knowledge with others. Despite that having always been the plan, as I progress through my career, I am realizing more and more that a tenured position is less likely for me.

Thinking about an alternative career at this stage isn’t something new. Postdoctoral roles, particularly in the life sciences, are growing exponentially, largely because funding for the life sciences has more than doubled in the last 10 years. This over saturation of the market has inevitably led to high competitiveness for academic positions, as well as funding.

In the US it has been reported that around 65% of PhD-holders continue into a postdoc, but only 15–20% of those move into tenure-track academic posts. The situation in Europe, although less well reported and analysed is similar.

This career stage is also a pivotal time for women on the academic path. The stats show that the number of women in science rapidly declines after graduating from their first degree, with most women opting to leave academia during or just before postdoctoral roles. This is a multi-faceted problem, caused by lack of support to have a family and a career, historic gender biases and low postdoctoral wages.

For me personally, the drive to leave the academic lab however is that; the longer I remain, the more I become aware that my chances of success further down the path are almost zero. As I get better acquainted with the over-subscription for funding, the need to do lengthier postdoctoral roles and the undervaluing of my skill set by many universities, I realize there are other forums where I can use my scientific knowledge to advance technology, and more directly improve lives.

Research is my passion. Designing and planning experiments, analyzing data and getting to connect the dots is what I live for, but there comes a stage when the cons of the academic environment outweigh the pros.

So back to the question, when is it time to leave?

There are sadly so many reasons to leave academia; the end of your funding, loss of enjoyment in what you’re doing, poor work-life balance, the terrible pay or the serious gender imbalances, to name a few.

For me, I got to the end of a project and started thinking about writing it up, and all I could think was ‘there has to be more?’ I’ve been working and training for this for the last 10 years, and I’ve reached the point where the cycle has become predictable and repetitive. Research and innovation is born out of excitement and enjoyment in what you are doing, and the predictable work style has started to hinder my personal development. That’s surely not the case for all people. For some that comfort and routine is great, but for me I need to keep learning and applying my skills in different ways.

The skills you learn from being  trained as a scientist are really cross-applicable to a whole range of roles, from management to design. The most difficult lesson I’ve had to learn is that, just because this is what I’m doing right now, it doesn’t mean it’s what I have to do forever. It’s not failing by choosing to follow a new path and, equally, it’s not mundane if you love what you do and what to stay doing it for a lifetime.

I love science, and I love research, but maybe now is the time to try something new….