Dr Emily Gwyer Findlay, Research Fellow, Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh
Emily started her own research group under the Dorothy Hodgkin scheme and was writing her groups first papers when she started out in the mentoring scheme. She was eager to gain guidance in terms of her next steps and which grants to go for in order to build a larger research group. Emily is being mentored in the 2020 scheme by Professor Ann Ager.
Where did you first hear about the BSI’s mentoring scheme and what drew you to it?
I first saw a tweet by a previous year’s mentee who mentioned how useful she had found the process and how it had made a difference to how she approached her career progression. We were both at the same career stage and I thought it might be useful so looked into it more.
There are many mentorship schemes out there and I was eligible for two or three others from funding bodies. I was particularly attracted to the BSI’s scheme over those others because I think an awful lot of career advice is hugely field-specific. What works for an epidemiologist may not work for me – especially with regards to funding schemes available and so on. I really wanted advice from an immunologist in particular.
How do you feel the BSI’s mentoring scheme has helped and supported you in your career choices?
I have really enjoyed being part of the scheme, even throughout this year of chaos, where my career progression seems to have ground to a halt! Firstly, the initial training session with Alexis Hutson was very interesting and made me realise that I am allowed to put myself forward for things and articulate where I want my career to be. I’d always felt like that was showing off, before. Then, meeting Ann assisted with this as I had to spell out where I wanted to be and what I might need to do to get there.
As a result of our sessions I have drawn up a list of targets I want to apply for and started a process of keeping them in mind and gradually developing any skills which would be required. Meeting Ann also means that I keep my career progression in the forefront of my mind and treat it as a continual work in progress, rather than something I think about in a panic each year at appraisal time.
During the scheme what level of frequency of contact did you have with your mentor and what level do you think works best?
Initially, we met once in person then every month remotely. However, COVID put a stop to that for a while. I was home schooling my children and doing all my work around that and meetings were one of the things neither of us managed to fit in. However, we have regular email contact.
What qualities in a mentor are ideal for a scheme such as this?
Ann is a fantastic mentor because she is a superb immunologist who knows all about all the different schemes I may want to apply to and can advise me on them. It was very useful to have a mentor who is a good few steps above me on the career ladder because she could share her wealth of experience. Ann and I also share the fact that we both had children relatively early, had some time out, and worked part time and so on; so she understood exactly the constraints on my research and how my career history was affected. That was very useful for me.
Can you discuss a particular highlight of the scheme that you feel best exemplifies your mentoring experience?
In our first meeting we discussed where I would like to be in 3 years. Ann told me to go away and look up requirements for the schemes I was interested in, and to approach previous awardees and so on. Just articulating what I was aiming for was difficult for me but talking it over with Ann really energised me! I looked up a few schemes and wrote a list of things I would need to do over the next few years to develop my prospects. I would never have done that otherwise.
Finally, would you recommend to your peers and colleagues to join a mentoring scheme as a mentee?
Absolutely! I have found it valuable. I think everyone from PhD students to early career fellows would benefit from this scheme.