Postcard: IIB Post Doc Society Retreat

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Photograph taken during IIB Post Doc Society Retreat in Snowdonia

“The Post Doc Society recently enjoyed a successful retreat in Snowdonia, Wales, which allowed us to grow as a community and enabled discussions on the future direction of the Society.

We started our trip by heading to the University owned Activity Base in Deiniolen after work on the Friday. In the spirit of our Italian Society President we enjoyed pizza at sunset and got to know each other. The next two days were packed with hiking, networking and discussions.

With a desire to understand a variety of diverse opinions during our discussions we also invited along a postdoc from the University of Cambridge, Dr Arne Jungwirth; a lecturer from the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Liverpool, Dr Samantha Patrick; as well as Dr Ilaria Proietti-Silvestri, an industry researcher currently working at RedX, Macclesfield.

Our discussions highlighted several key issues for postdocs - effective mentoring, funding opportunities and career progression. Dr Arne Jungwirth reported similar issues when it comes to recruitment; whilst also highlighting that is fundamental for us as a Society to improve our communication with administrative staff, as a means for reaching out to new Post-Doctoral Researchers.

Outside of these discussions we were also treated to talks from our other guests. Dr Samantha Patrick gave an inspirational talk on the transition from being a postdoc to securing a lectureship, and how formal and informal mentoring has supported her career development.  Samantha offered to provide similar support to interested postdocs within IIB. Despite challenges, she stated that she never gave up and persevered in order to obtain the most suitable job for her. Samantha also mentioned that there are many different fellowships and you should apply for the right one to fit your CV.  Nevertheless, emphasising the importance to consider a “plan B”.

This perfectly introduced our third guest, Dr. Ilaria Proietti-Silvestri. After her PhD in chemistry Ilaria worked in different projects as a Postdoctoral Fellow before deciding to work for a company. She said: “it wasn’t a planned decision but I do not regret it and I encourage people to be open to several opportunities”. There are many benefits when working in industry such as structured working hours which might, on the other hand, lead to a loss of academic freedom. In summary, it is always a personal choice and one should do a job that one really likes.

Besides having very intense discussions about career development, the challenges we face and the future of the Society, we had enough time to hike to the top of Snowdon, which is the third highest mountain in the UK. At the end of this challenging hike, we were not only rewarded with an astonishing view across Snowdonia National Park, but also with an inspirational feeling to have reached a common goal as a community.

On Sunday, all 16 participants left the Activity Base with many new insights on how to progress our careers in academia and industry, as well as the importance to foster the postdoctoral community as a whole. The take home message from the retreat was: “Doing something you love is important in itself, but being open to all the possibilities is the key”. 

The Post Doc Society is very grateful to the Institute for providing us with the opportunity, which is truly in the spirit of Athena SWAN.”