Job opportunity –Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Queen’s University Belfast)

Posdoctoral Research Fellow position available at Dr Ultan Power’s group.

Closing date for applications: August 19, 2013

Full job details at: https://knock.qub.ac.uk/itrent_web_rec_docs/job_desc/13_102761.pdf?ts=20130628100442

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Covance Visit

Our blog post on Covance visit is now on their intranet! We have created a “Buzz”!

Our blog post on Covance visit is now on their intranet! We have created a “Buzz”!

Sadaf’s Experience at the Enterprisers 2013: The bus trip to entrepreneurship!

It may sound cliché to say that the Enterprisers 2013 was ‘one of the best’ enterprise and entrepreneurship programmes that I have attend till date, hence, I have decided to call it a bus trip to entrepreneurship. Hopefully, you too will be convinced of this by the end of my story about the programme!

First and foremost, a little history on the programme! Enterprisers (at Bedford) have been running over the past of couple of years as a joint programme by the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT-Sloan Schoo). The lead facilitators have been Dr Shailendra Vyakarnam (Cambridge) and Neal Hartman (MIT).

Delegates submit an application and are selected from all across the UK and Europe. The programme was advertised in one of the e-mails circulated to all students in the faculty. This year there were more than 15 delegates from Poland. This year’s programme had 52 attendees and we were divided into nine groups. In addition to the lead facilitators, there were 18 others, two per group. From Newcastle University, Jack Brinn, Cata Largacha, Sourima Shivhare and I attended the programme. In my opinion we were divided into groups based on our personality and team work skills, as prior to attending the programme all of us had to fill out a comprehensive survey. I was a member of the Yellow Star group. Also, the fact that all the members were quite happy within their teams reflected some selection criteria for the arrangement.

Similarly, the second day was based on developing our creative thinking which involved building a rocket as a group and launching it, all within one hour. Surprisingly, for the first time I had no problem within my group and we all worked very efficiently. Without even prior planning, all of us managed to take on individual roles in the building of the rocket as well as switch roles when required to accomplish the task. Unfortunately, our rocket was not the one with the highest launch distance but it was definitely the best group to work with. In the second day we also had to select two ideas within our individual groups to further work on the next day and also to present a poster in the evening at the drinks reception. I opted to work on with the idea of an esophageal cooling device that helps heart-attack patients recover sooner and also saves lives. At this point we worked in sub-groups with four or five members.

On the third day, we were briefed more on pitching style and also finances. We were provided a finance canvas to work on as sub-groups and at the end one member of the sub-group had to pitch the idea we had been working on for two minutes to everyone. It was a great learning experience in terms of pitching, finance as well as being able to work within a group. In the afternoon we also learnt about networking styles and had the opportunity to meet with three entrepreneurs (Dr Abel Ureta-Vidal, Mr Emmanuel Carraud and Dr Seena Rejal), each from a different sector (Bioinformatics, Apps and 3D search engine for the manufacturing sector). The day concluded in a networking evening where we had the opportunity to meet with several other entrepreneurs. Since, we had been briefed on networking skills it was much easier to enter into a conversation, obtain the answer required and then end the conversation.
Finally, our trip ended with a reflection on the complete course, two-three pitches from each of the nine groups and a group cabaret presentation which was another fun team work experience. I took the opportunity to pitch my app idea to everyone and it was a great experience. I learnt how to control my tone, explain the idea and received very valuable feedback.

Overall, the Enterprisers 2013 was a fantastic and inspiring programme. I learnt loads of new skills that I can apply in my research group, made loads of new enthusiastic friends and also met entrepreneurs with whom I can take some of my ideas forward. I returned back to my wet lab research with a suitcase full of energy, hope, new ideas and lots of great memories. Moreover, it helped me to realize that I need to enter the entrepreneurial world sooner than later as it is never early to develop your idea commercially!

Special thanks to Rise Up and the Medical School’s Enterprise unit for sponsoring me.

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Enterprisers Booklet- What a wonderful experience!

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Receiving our Enterprisers 2013 certificates- Yellow Stars Team

Sourima’s Experience at Enterprisers 2013

Modern day science evidently requires efficient science communication and interdisciplinary collaboration. Importantly, in order to evaluate the true potential of one’s scientific question, it is fundamental to understand how and if it may be brought from laboratory to clinical use. Alongside scientific knowledge, this requires a greater, in depth understanding of the market, finance and timescale prior to the ‘launch’ of a technology. This is where ‘Enterprisers’ programme come into action.

The programme is designed in a way such that researchers at all stages and every field could fit in. It is 4 day intense activity based course which allows one to simplify one’s own research, thereby improving communication skills and at the same time develop commercial ideas around the research framework. The most beneficial criteria here are each team (Yellow Dots-our team) consists of members from a varied field ranging from sociology to 3-D printing nanotechnology! This multidisciplinary approach results in innovative perspectives of one’s own research, which in turn generates creative plausible ideas.

The beginning of the course is aimed at building teamwork, understanding and respecting ones’ role within a team. This is followed by explaining the bigger picture of one’s research. Once the science/technology was put on the table, the next question was to filter out the most commercially viable technology. The next step formed brainstorming applications of the technology and finalising one winner. Having picked ‘the winner’, the teams were then involved in developing a business model around the idea/technology at hand. This again, was a detailed practical involving market research, customer base, channels to connect to customer, challenges, etc. The next step was to develop a financial forecast. Not surprisingly this entailed a detailed calculation of incomes and outputs, funds required and of course any profit margins. This activity in particular was one of my highlights of the entire course, because up until then all the ideas seemed exciting and investable, but only now we truly understood the potential for the winning idea and importantly whether it was financially viable.

We now had the technology, business model and crucially financial forecast. All we needed now was the perfect ‘Pitch’. The following task was therefore to create a short pitch to possible funding bodies. This activity proved challenging and critical. Luckily, the almost faultless structuring of the course included a ‘networking session’, with young and experienced entrepreneurs from the gaming to finance industry, which helped gain insights into the requirements and crucial pointers behind a successful pitch. The final day played out with numerous pitches from the several group members of different groups. This was extremely educational as well as interesting, especially due to the provision of constructive feedbacks after every pitch.

The course was a lot of hard work, but not at the expense of having fun, the team activities, networking sessions were not only exciting but amazingly intellectual. The dining and wining lasted well past midnight every day, and the ever energetic and motivated attendees were still on time in smart casuals the next morning. In a few words Enterprisers was an exciting, challenging workshop and most definitely a place where ideas are born!

Special thanks to Rise Up and the Medical School’s Enterprise unit for sponsoring me.

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Team-Yellow Dot

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The Newcastle delegates, from left: Cata Largacha, Sadaf Atarod, Sourima Shivhare and Jack Brinn.

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Team-Yellow Dot-Runner up Rocket Building Exercise

Epifection: Beta-testing and Volunteers Needed!

Are you interested in the mystifying world of infections and bugs? Would you like to help out in a project that will be run during the British Science Festival? Or would you like to be a beta-tester now?

Well then you are at the right place and right time…Epifection, an interactive project that will run for the entire British Science Festival is here to give you all the above mentioned opportunities! You can see a teaser trailer that is being shown down on the big screen at Monument here: http://ideastakeflight.org/?p=1087

Now coming down to what the Epifection development team are looking- a group of volunteers to act as “beta-testers” for their interactive interface, that is just for now…they are looking for volunteers too!

As a beta-tester, you do not need to be in Newcastle for this, but you will need internet access via a PC/MAC, ipad/tablet or smartphone. Isn’t that just simple! No commuting guys!

There are also a number of opportunities to gain valuable science communication experience with Epifection during the BSF. They are looking for people to (1) help out at the launch of Epifection, (2) 1 hour LEGO workshops (Sun 8th and Tues 10th Sept), (3) a debate on Mon 9th Sept and (4) the Finale: a survivors party at Tyneside cinema on the 12th Sept. Isn’t that just brilliant!

If you are interested in getting involved in this exciting project as a beta-tester or volunteer, please email epifection@gmail.com by 9th AUGUST stating: (1) if you are available between 12th-23rd August, (2) what smartphone model you use and (3) whether you would like to work with the epifection team during the British Science Festival!

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Day trip to Covance Research Laboratories

On a very sunny day, late July a group of 18 students and postdocs from across the different institutes (ICM, ICaMB, IAH, NICR) within the Faculty of Medical Sciences set out to visit Hogwarts! Yes, yes… we know you must be surprised but as scientists Covance (Alnwick) is to us like Hogwarts is to Harry Potter!

Now getting down to facts…Covance is a Contract Research Organization (CRO) and is now a market leader in toxicology, central laboratory and discovery services. Covance has been working with the top 50 pharma and biotech companies across the globe and has also been involved at some stage of the discovery and development of about one-third of all the prescription medicine in the market. So the next time you take that tiny tablet remember Covance! The company has around 12,000 employees across 60 countries in the world and their bases in the UK are in Alnwick, Harrogate, Leeds and Maidenhead. The Alnwick site that we visited was the former site of Sanofi and was only acquired by Covance in 2010. The history of the site dates back to 1982 when it was built by Sterling. The Alnwick site provides non-clinical services to its clients.

So why did we visit Covance ? Well we all believe that professional development forms an integral part of our doctoral or research training programme. Importantly for almost every postgraduate student, the key difference is to know and therefore understand the career options that they may have after the completion of their training. Whether to stay in academia or route into industry forms one of the major choices. Same queries also hold true for postdocs! While reading about and learning from others experiences may help, what makes it more personal and perhaps helps in making an informed decision is by experiencing it hands-on. So this was the aim of our day trip to Covance Research Laboratories in Alnwick.

Our day began with light refreshments, a definite exciting and energetic start! We were then given a brief about the history of the company as well as the site at which it stands. This included a chronological outline to the company’s achievements and involvement in different products and of course the teams that make it all happen.
Considering the large number in our group, we were split into two sub-groups for better communication. The trip constituted of visiting the different departments within this CRO; Animal facility, Isotype Chemistry and Metabolite Synthesis, Metabolism-Pharmacokinetics-Bioanalysis, and finally Production. The head of each unit briefed us about what each team is responsible for, how the team fits in and at what stage of the drug manufacturing process they come into play. This helped understand two key aspects: primarily the different skill sets which form each team and more importantly how they all cross-talk to form the entire organisation.

Our day at Covance concluded with a brief discussion on what we experienced and a question and answer session for further information. This particularly helped since every question discussed was unique and brought in a key piece of information about working in an industrial research laboratory.

In terms of work environment in a CRO, employees at Covance also benefit from ‘flexible’ working hours depending on their projects, which otherwise only academia boasts about. Additionally, regular social gatherings and events are organized within each department as well as among all the employees on site. Interestingly, Covance also supports a charity on an annual basis and this year it is the Air Ambulance.

The best way to describe this successful day trip would be to quote some of the participants who took some time out of their busy schedules to discover for themselves what it is like working at a CRO;

‘I got more out of one afternoon at Covance than the numerous careers fairs I have attended over the past couple of years!’

‘It also helped me realise how much I want to be a part of drugs and its different aspects in pharmaceutical industry.’

‘I feel like I have a better understanding of jobs available in the field…’

‘I was always set on staying in academia, perhaps because I wasn’t sure what working somewhere else would entail, but the trip has made me reconsider working in industry’

‘It was also useful to see how the working environment is quite different in industry, also that there are a wide variety of roles and these develop over time. The visit introduced me to some different jobs that I might be qualified for, which previously I hadn’t considered.’

Finally…our last wise words…we hope it has helped at least some of us to start early on and think about the career track we would like to take on after our degrees! There is always a place and reason to research even at the end of your present project!

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