Life is unpredictable, and across the board it is commonplace to find yourself changing your career direction and needing to take a career break. This may be for a host of reasons from having a family, caring responsibilities, or health problems. Returning to your career can be challenging, and the issue for researchers, is it can be extremely difficult to pick off where you left off due to the fast-changing landscape of science and technology, and the resistance for truly flexible roles that promote a healthier work/life balance. Many researchers simply can’t or don’t know how to return.
The University of Edinburgh creates an inclusive and diverse community where everyone feels valued. We aim to overcome adversity in pursuit of science. One way in which we support our academics and researchers is through the Daphne Jackson Fellowships, which provide an opportunity for a researcher on a career break to return to research. Since 2005, we have supported research returners to get back to where they should be throughout our schools with Daphne Jackson Fellowships. They combine a personalised retraining programme with a challenging research project, held in a supportive UK University (like The University of Edinburgh) or research establishment.
The University of Edinburgh have sponsored six Daphne Jackson Fellowships across the School of Biological Sciences, School of Physics and Astronomy, Institute for Cell Biology, and the School of Informatics, and hosted 19 Daphne Jackson Fellowships. The current Daphne Jackson Fellowship opportunities at the University of Edinburgh are available on their website.
From Career Break to Career Boost: How our sponsored Daphne Jackson Fellowships Help Scientists Return to Work
Project Entitled: Dynamic mRNA processing in response to environmental stimuli in the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans
I took a 15 year career break for family reasons, when I was ready to return I applied for so many different things and just nobody replied. Even though I’d been running a business with my husband in the interim - I didn't have enough hands-on experience of new techniques that had come out because I worked in molecular biology. And when I came back, the landscape in molecular biology was so different to when I left.
I finished my Fellowship a month ago, and I’ve started another position at The University of Edinburgh where I’ve come from working as a virologist, and now I’ve moved into engineering which is something I never thought I would do. It will be another steep learning curve for me, but I’m quite excited about it – as it’s another new skill for me to have and I think it’s quite an important one in this day and age.
I’ve had the most amazing experience, because of the Daphne Jackson Trust, but also because of the lab and University I am in. My supervisor, Dr Edward Wallace, and the other people in the lab have really supported me throughout and been flexible with my part-time schedule. Through the Fellowship you are also put in touch with other people who are in the same position, who you can really relate to. We have a Scottish Fellows group where we get together and talk amongst peers. It’s really important to spread the word of what these Fellowships can do.
Project entitled: Comparative population genomics of Scottish red squirrels: understanding diversity to support conservation management in a key species stronghold
After Melissa’s PhD she was offered two post-doctoral positions, but was unable to accept due to her mother becoming extremely ill, and Melissa became her primary carer. Since her Daphne Jackson Fellowship she has continued at the University of Edinburgh with a post-doctoral position within a computational genomics group at the Roslin Institute and has recently been invited to apply for the permanent post of Core Scientist.
The Fellowship provides a much-needed bridge back to science for those of us who had to take career breaks through changes in personal circumstances. It’s not often you are presented with a funded opportunity to retrain in an area that may have previously been inaccessible.
I would strongly recommend taking full advantage of the friendship and support offered by the other Daphne Jackson Fellows. They can provide a warm and encouraging support system and are always happy to listen and discuss the highs and lows of returning to research.
A game-changer for diversity in science
Daphne Jackson Fellowships are flexible and part-time, usually over 2-3 years at 0.5 FTE, providing a challenging research project with at least 100 hours of retraining a year. Giving confidence, unparalleled support and skills Fellows need to return to research successfully. There are two opportunities within the University of Edinburgh currently open in the School of Chemistry (this Fellowship opportunity will remain open until a suitable applicant has been found) and the College of Science and Engineering (application deadline is 29th May 2023).
Diversity support across academic research
Daphne Jackson Fellowships aren’t aimed just at STEM subjects but also across Arts and Humanities. Dr Ainsley McIntosh, is a current Daphne Jackson Fellow hosted at the University of Edinburgh and sponsored by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.
Ainsley took a career break for caregiving and family reasons for a decade, the sector had moved on since her career break and she felt behind the curve. Her project is entitled “Thinking in Ink: Composition, Materiality, and Mediation in Romantic Poetry”. She recently appeared on BBC Scotland - Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers with Paul Murton.
A Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship is of immeasurable value to me in providing the framework and support that I need to develop my profile and credibility, and to take the next step towards securing an academic post. Having experienced the blow of having to effectively walk away from my research career, my confidence has been further undermined since my daughter’s birth as I had to take a further step down professionally in order to return to work on a part-time basis. This has created a burning desire within me to be able to reach and demonstrate my true potential.
Are you a researcher? It’s important that you know about these schemes in case you take a break. Please take action and share with someone you think would be interested.