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Early career researchers

Welcome to the Faculty of Brain Sciences early career researchers’ page. We are dedicated to ensuring that our early career researchers get the most out of their time with us.

There are lots of events, resources and networks to enhance your experience, but it can sometimes be difficult to navigate. Your first stop should be our welcome pack for early career researchers, which has been especially put together for you in collaboration with researchers across the Faculty, and contains lots of valuable information.

Networks

Across UCL there are a number of networking and events groups, across the university’s different research domains. These groups are active and all early career researchers are strongly advised to get involved in the one that most closely fits their area of interest. You can join and get involved in as many as you like. The two most relevant to colleagues in the Faculty of Brain Sciences are:

  • Neuroscience Careers Network (NCN): note that this is based around a *very* broad definition of neuroscience and includes areas like mental health. The majority of staff within Brain Sciences will find most if not all NCN events have something to offer them. Please don’t be put off if you do not define yourself as a neuroscientist.
  • Collaborative Social Science: the collaborative social science domain is another excellent network that will appeal to colleagues working in more social science oriented areas.

Other Networks

UCL has another of other networks which may be relevant to you depending on your research area. These are:

Career development

In addition to the networks, which run events focused on career development and skills, these are the main sources of advice and help around career development. It is never too early or late to engage with these services and we advise you get in touch to see what they can offer you.

  • UCL Careers Service: UCL’s Career Service offers dedicated support to early career researchers, including one on one advice and an events programme. We strongly recommend you take advantage of this!
  • SLMS Academic Careers Office: the School of Life and Medical Sciences (of which the Faculty of Brain Sciences is a part) has a dedicated academic careers office offering a range of services including events and funding opportunities.

There is a Faculty careers event each year for ECRs as well as PGR students which will be advertised via email at the time. Many Institutes/Divisions also run their own career events.

It is useful to look at careers outside of academia so you are aware of your options. The following resources may be useful:

Training and skills development

UCL offers an extensive Research Staff Development Programme, with a wide range of workshops available.

UCL HR has lots of information on researcher development:

Mentoring
Most Institutes and Divisions within the Faculty operate a mentoring scheme. Early career researchers are strongly encouraged to sign up and seek a mentor.
Local events and governance

Most Institutes and Divisions across the Faculty have a committee dedicated to holding events of interest to early career researchers.

To give early career researchers a voice, we also have a Faculty ECR Committee meeting termly with members from almost all departments across the Faculty. If you feel there is something important that needs to be discussed, or you have an idea for how to improve your experience at UCL, please raise it at your local committee or contact Rik Ganly-Thomas, Faculty Doctoral and Researcher Development Manager, directly at r.ganly-thomas@ucl.ac.uk

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

The Faculty takes EDI very seriously and is doing a lot of work in this area. Find out more about EDI in the Faculty of Brain Sciences.

Wellbeing resources

Being a researcher can be stressful. UCL has invested in a range of services to help you, including Care First, a 24/7 remote counselling service. UCL HR offers more information about the wellbeing resources available to you.

Funding and fellowships

For help finding and winning funding opportunities, see the following resources:

Faculty events

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Testimonials

Dr Tom Freeman

Where were you based as an ECR at UCL?
I was based at the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit (CPU), which is part of the Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at 1-19 Torrington Place. The CPU investigates the harms and benefits of drugs on human cognition, emotion and behaviour using experimental studies, clinical trials, neuroimaging and epidemiology.

Where are you now?
At the time of writing I am based in the National Addiction Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. Here I am supported by a senior academic fellowship by the Society for the Study of Addiction. I am about to start a new position as senior lecturer at the University of Bath Department of Psychology. 

What was the highlight of your UCL experience?
Contributing to the growth and success of an exceptionally strong lab, and developing many close friends and colleagues in the process. Olive picking trips to Tuscany with the fantastic Professor Val Curran.

What does being at UCL mean to you?
I first arrived in 2005 to complete my BSc Psychology and I stayed for a research assistant position, my PhD and postdoctoral training. In academic terms, UCL is the city I grew up in so it will always be a very special place for me.

If you could go back in time to your first postdoc position, what advice would you give yourself?
Learn to manage your responsibilities as a postdoc and don’t be afraid to delegate. Put aside protected time for your own development. Build your contacts and collaborative network, develop independence and a vision for the future. Mentor and support junior colleagues. Be ambitious, take opportunities, and challenge any barriers to early career researchers.

How did your UCL experience contribute to where you are now?
I hadn’t seriously considered a career in research until I came to UCL. I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work at the CPU. The training and support I received was invaluable for my skill development and career progression.

What has been your greatest achievement?
Coming back after hitting rock bottom. During my postdoc I was faced with imminent redundancy when the funder unexpectedly withdrew the funding. I worked hard to find a solution and was successful with all of the five of the grants I applied for, receiving £2.8 million in one year.

 

Dr Tom Freeman

Dr Marthe Ludtmann

Where were you based as an ECR at UCL?
I was based at the Institute of Neurology in the department of Molecular Neuroscience (now Department of Clinical and Movement Neuroscience). I worked in Prof Andrey Abramov’s laboratory where I undertook research covering Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease as well as ALS.

Where are you now?
I have secured an independent research fellowship at the Royal Veterinary College in London, where I am building my own research group. I have secured funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Royal Society. My research focus remains focussed on neurodegeneration.

What was the highlight of your UCL experience?
The collaborative environment stood out to me and I am glad I was able to contribute to it. I was also proud of my contribution to setting up a postdoctoral seminar series, which has since flourished. The series brought postdocs from all IoN departments together, providing them with a space to network and exchange scientific ideas.

If you could go back in time to your first postdoc position, what advice would you give yourself?
Do not panic. You are moving from your PhD topic which you knew ‘inside out’ to a research project that is most likely in a different area covering different techniques – you will be given time and guidance to become fully competent. Also, always remember to apply for lots of awards and travel fellowships – if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

How did your UCL experience contribute to where you are now?
UCL, the academics and facilities enabled me to conduct research at the highest standard with numerous publications. That was a fantastic foundation from which to apply for fellowships that allow me to set my own course in science.

What has been your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievements on paper are probably my fellowships but I am most proud of two of my first author papers on alpha-synuclein that kept me busy over five years and tell a great scientific story.

Dr Marthe Ludtmann