Research Careers
Options Beyond Academia
Georgina Kerr

Research Facilitator for Immunology

PhD in Genetics, University of Cambridge

Job highlight: Working with researchers across the University to facilitate collaboration, communication and securing funding.

Postgraduate take-away: You don’t have to be a Principal Investigator (PI)! There are many arenas where your knowledge and skills will be valuable.

 

What’s your background? Why did you move away from academia?

I was a postdoc at the University of Oxford for twelve years before starting this position. I enjoyed working in the lab and had always known I didn’t want to be a PI. There came a point where I felt I needed a new challenge and I started looking at other career options. I wanted to be able to use my science knowledge and knew what my strengths were (organized, good at communicating, self-motivated) and the role of Research Facilitator for Immunology, working across the University, sounded really appealing.

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?

My role is a newly created position that aims to facilitate communication and collaboration for immunology researchers across the University. The specifics of how I achieve these aims have been left mostly to me! I have made a concerted effort to meet as many researchers in the immunology field at the University as possible, and identify areas where I can have the most useful input. Meeting other people in similar roles has also been extremely helpful.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

There isn’t a typical week. My role is very varied and that keeps it interesting. Keeping abreast of the various projects and deadlines is very important. I juggle organizing termly science meetings, submitting grant applications to support the immunology community, keeping up-to-date with research highlights, developing a strategy for immunology research and developing an immunology website.

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

The University of Oxford is a fantastically stimulating place to work. I don’t miss working in the lab at all and think that’s mostly because I’m still constantly exposed to the amazing world-class science being produced here.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Being organized, running multiple projects side by side, networking, being self-motivated, understanding how the University works, understanding the science.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

I enjoy the responsibility of managing the immunology theme and developing the Immunology Network. I am learning a huge amount about the administration of research, including pre- and post-award management, recruitment, project management, finance, ethics, and so on. I feel very privileged to be meeting researchers from diverse disciplines and hearing about their latest research. Developing a website for the theme has also been very enjoyable (www.immunology.ox.ac.uk).

 

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I hope that the Immunology Network at the University of Oxford grows further and develops into an invaluable tool both for researchers within the University and outside who are looking for new collaborators, expertise or equipment. I feel that there are career options ahead of me and that makes me excited for the future.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Think about your strengths and what you can envisage yourself doing on a daily basis. Take advantage of your careers service, talk to your peers and mentors and look at jobs pages to find out what’s out there. Also, if you do decide to leave academia, it isn’t a one-way street. More and more funders are offering grants for people returning to academia.

 

Published: January 2018