Lab challenge! Same protocol, different hands

In May of this year, a fairly big paper emerged in one of our major research areas (trying to expand blood stem cells outside the body). We know the research group behind it and had a bit of a head start trying to transfer the protocol to our lab, but it turned out to not be as straightforward as we first hoped. The first few attempts showed some definite promise, but it didn’t consistently match…

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You are not a failure for wanting to leave academia

I had a couple people reach out to me this week for perspective on their intended career transitions from academia. Their concerns were ones I’ve heard repeated often and are worth addressing more generally here: “Am I a failure for wanting to leave academia?” “Should I stay in academia or leave for industry?” “Everyone says …” 1. You don’t need to justify the transition to yourself from others’ perspectives. Just like there are stages in…

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Moving labs – so many variables, so little time

As many of our readers know already, I have made the decision to move our research lab from Cambridge to York. With the move so close now, the excitement (and the fear) is palpable and the amount of gratitude I have for people helping on both sides of the move is enormous. A number of colleagues have been asking about the process and whether there were any “lessons” learned along the way, so I thought…

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Reflections on raising a child – and a company

I find I’m often at odds with conventional thinking, particularly when it comes to education and entrepreneurship. I appreciate that for many, a clear delineation of personal and professional responsibilities is important, and business should be kept impersonal given the many difficult decisions that need to be made regularly for the interest of the company or its investors; I happen to disagree. My father has shared a lot of advice with me over the years,…

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Men as allies – panel discussion sharing ideas for gender equality

Last month, I took part in a panel discussion organized by the Cambridge Association for Women and Science in Engineering (CamAWiSE) entitled “Men as Allies: Approaching Equality Together” which was put together to discuss how to change the STEMM workplace culture to be more inclusive and diverse. My contribution was fairly limited to relaying my experience as a male scientific group leader who has taken two significant periods of parental leave and so it was…

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Promising development at CIHR: an early career researcher on the governing council

Last week, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada’s minister of health, announced that a postdoctoral fellow has been appointed to serve as a member of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) governing council. Brianne Kent’s appointment to the governing council was made by the federal cabinet, which also has the mandate to manage the roughly $1 billion in public funds that Canada invests annually in health research and to ensure that the expectations outlined in the…

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Taking parental leave in biotech

We deal with a lot of important topics in this column, but none is more important than making personal time for your family and for yourself.  This can take many forms, but often the most publicized (and polarizing) is parental leave for the birth of a new child. As colleagues, we’re typically very quick to recommend that a co-worker take all of the time they need, and as directors the best of us will support…

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Let’s start improving research lab websites

I was having a chat with a former colleague the other day about what happens to scientific research that does not end up in papers. We weren’t talking about negative results, but rather about the experiments that validated someone else’s work, but just did not comprise “enough” for a paper of their own. This got me wondering about how individual labs that are specialists in a given area of science might share their expertise by…

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The ‘Founder’s Dilemma’: to be rich, or king?

Founders and investors alike should review “The Founder’s Dilemma” by Noam Wasserman (Harvard Business Review, 2018). It’s required reading, mostly because it concisely lays bare some hard truths all founders face at a critical stage in our company; whether to be ‘rich’ or ‘king’: i.e. to raise the financing needed to capitalize our company appropriately, and so cede control to investors and lose the CEO position and say over major decisions; or to retain control…

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Parental leave for scientific group leaders – changes needed

In 2016, just one year into running my own lab, I took parental leave and wrote a series of articles about the experience. Two and a half years later, I’m doing it again. While many issues still stand, there are several new challenges and experiences that have made me revisit this topic today. Most striking amongst these is the different roles and responsibilities that have accompanied the growth of the lab, making it nearly impossible…

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