From one to three hats – why is it important to engage outside our research?

Posted on: 13 November 2020 by Dr Blanca Perez Sepulveda (Length: 543 words - Read time: 2 minutes, 42 seconds) in Blog posts


Dr Blanca Perez Sepulveda blogs about why it is important to engage outside of our research.

I started as a postdoc in August 2016, and ever since I’ve been very focused on my research, supervising students, and attending conferences. It wasn’t until December 2019, during the Research Staff Conference, that I realised I wasn’t alone in feeling at a sort of middle step or limbo as a postdoc. In February 2020 I had officially joined the UoL RSA as a Deputy Co-Chair, ready for engaging through social media, drafting meeting minutes, and sending weekly emails with opportunities and information to the whole research staff. Little did I know that a COVID19 pandemic was going to push us to leave the labs behind and move to work from home. The whole world changed, and so the way in which we work, so we had to make some adjudgments. At the time, the RSA Chair was called to contribute with very important COVID19 research, so I was invited to become the RSA Co-Chair. Everything was moving at a very fast pace, with uncertainty in the front seat (I only remember that time vaguely, even though it hasn’t yet been 6 months!), so I had to quickly learn how to do several tasks that now feel like routine. I actively contributed to organising and re-organising events to online platforms, and participated to very important steering groups with the University Senior management.

During this time, I also had a chance to develop my creativity by designing the new RSA image (have you seen our weekly emails and Twitter?). By June we were 4 Co-Chairs and 2 Deputy Co-Chairs representing all Faculties, working together in various projects and committees with the vision of making the RSA more diverse and inclusive.

My role as UoL RSA Co-Chair gave me the opportunity to sit on several committees, including the important mission of representing the University of Liverpool at the UK Research Staff Association (UKRSA). During the first meeting I quickly realised that I had a shared experience with researchers across the UK, but that I wasn’t aware of any organisation that could advocate for us, like the UKRSA.

That’s when I decided that I needed to engage a bit more and decided to put on my third hat: I became the UKRSA Recruitment & Engagement Officer. This role has broadened my horizons and given me the chance to engage with even more people around the country! I personally believe that organisation and representation is fundamental to design a culture that works for all of us and not only a few privileged people. I have already encouraged people to engage with the UKRSA community, which is currently working hard to “provide a collective voice for research staff across the UK”.

I started this journey as a postdoc, like most of us focusing exclusively on my research, helping students, and thinking I was the only one struggling. But I soon realised I can’t do it on my own; I needed community, because only by getting involved we can shape the environment in which we develop. And although my research is and will be my priority, now I can say that I proudly wear 3 hats. If you also feel like you need community, and/or feel a strong need to change things, do get engaged! Believe me, you won’t regret it.

UoL RSA Twitter Profile

Above: New design for the UoL RSA weekly email and Twitter background

About the author

Blanca Perez-Sepulveda is a Molecular Microbiologist interested in how bacteria and phages interact and survive in their environments and their genomic architecture. Blanca holds an MSc (Res) in Biochemistry (University of Chile), and a PhD (funded by a Chancellor's International scholarship, University of Warwick) focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of phage resistance in marine Synechococcus. Blanca works at as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Jay Hinton Lab, focused on the molecular mechanisms and environmental reservoirs of invasive Salmonella Enteritidis & its phages, and leading the “10,000 Salmonella Genomes project”. Blanca is also a Co-Chair of the University of Liverpool Research Staff Association.


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