Endocrinology abroad - Fellowship in Australia
- BMedSc (Hons) Medical Science (cellular and molecular Pathology), Class 2: 1
- PhD in Medicine, Division of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Birmingham, UK
- Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PG Cert), University of Birmingham, UK
Dr Rowan Hardy
Research Fellow | University of Birmingham
I grew up on the outskirts of the Devonshire moor, and was lured to the University of Birmingham by my growing interest in human Biology and the Medical Sciences. My experience at the University, studying for a Medical Sciences degree, was so enjoyable that I was keen to pursue a career in research, undertaking several undergraduate research projects to expand my experience. In particular, I developed an interest in Immunology and Endocrine research, and upon completing my degree I was lucky enough to secure a PhD position examining inflammatory steroid metabolism at the Institute of Biomedical Research. I found this work fascinating and continued to explore this area in my first postdoctoral position under Professors Paul Stewart and Mark Cooper. During this time I established collaborative links with bone biologists at the University of Sydney in Australia, who had similar interests and access to unique transgenic animal models. Consequently, with support from the Welcome Trust and Arthritis Research UK I was able to fully utilise these by applying for a travelling fellowship to the ANZAC research institute in Sydney, where for the next 14 months I explored endocrine mechanisms of inflammatory bone loss in mouse models of arthritis. I have since returned to the University of Birmingham where I am currently exploring inflammatory mechanisms of muscle wasting and submitting Career Development Fellowships that will allow me to build on my past body of work and achieve my ultimate goal of establishing my own research group.
What Rowan has found difficult
One of the most challenging factors I faced when travelling abroad was relocating my wife and 8 month old son out with me. Initially, this was a real concern to me and I was convinced this would make the whole process nearly impossible. Looking back, everything was actually very simple and I couldn’t envision having done any of it without them. If I had to give three pieces of advice to anyone wishing to do something similar they would be this:
Firstly, don’t be put off trying to work abroad if you have a family. The key to overcoming this obstacle is organisation. By starting the whole process as early as possible (around six months prior to leaving for us) the paperwork was completed and accepted long before we had to travel. A major component of this was having a contact based at the group where we were headed, who was prepared to help us with our relocation. In particular, her help was invaluable for coordinating our visas, finding an apartment and arranging bank accounts and health cover.
Secondly, I would suggest you carefully think about where you want to be based in the world. For us there were a number of key factors, the most important one being based with a world class research group. However, I was conscious that I also wanted somewhere that would be fun for my wife and young son to experience and a place in the world we all wanted to see and explore. For us, Sydney met and exceeded all of these requirements.
Lastly, my final piece of advice would be to think very carefully in what capacity you work abroad. Many labs are keen to be approached by skilled and ambitious post doctoral researchers, however, this isn’t the only route to securing a project. Many funding bodies provide money for short term travelling projects or Fellowships and receiving one of these prestigious awards provides a great range of benefits. These include the opportunity to go through the process of compiling your own grant application, choosing your own research area and selecting the most appropriate labs to travel to.
I hope this all helps, and can’t emphasise enough how fantastic an experience it was working in Australia, one that I and my family will never forget.
What Rowan has found beneficial
The time I spent working in Australia as part of my travelling Fellowship with the ARUK were some of the most amazing times I’ve ever had. Working for Professor Markus Seibel at the ANZAC research facility in Sydney allowed me the opportunity to work in a cutting edge research environment, developing new and novel techniques under the supervision of highly experienced scientists. In particular, I feel as though this time allowed me to further develop my skills as an independent researcher. This is particularly true of the travelling Fellowship, which allowed me to travel to a new lab with my own money, allowing me a much greater freedom in pursuing the research that I’ve always wanted to do.