Young researchers share their personal experience of the COST Programme - long testimonies

Young researchers share their personal experience of the COST Programme - long testimonies

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[Music] [Music] [Music] i moved to poland uh in 2014 and of 2014 actually to take their position as a lecturer and then i started slowly starting my own group and my own research area and actually that was the time that i started showing the cause action so my research is around two main topics related to biomaterial science and to a small textiles but also polymer uh materials nanofibers so i have joined uh during the time i was uh i'm here in poland um three coast actions as a mcm member um the cross actions related to biomaterials uh which is the first one is bionecka there is also context related to the smart textiles and there is arrow gels related to arrow gels actually so very different topics in terms of material science and their applications of materials so joining these actions actually allowed me to meet people with very different background people working in different applications area and allowed me to think uh how my materials can be useful for very different applications so this way i just wanted to say the cost action actually helped me a lot in building the team also the research area and looking for new perspective of the materials that i'm working with for various applications uh in terms of material science so cost actions actually have a few uh very useful tools that can be used for young researcher electric investigators one of them they are short-term and scientific missions so i encourage my phd student actually to join various teams at different groups and universities in europe they have possibility to work and see the laboratories but also opens a new collaboration topics for us they bring a new knowledge uh they it brings excitement for them uh to to do new things to learn new things uh but also to write a scientific papers in the topics that they will help in their research career as they at the starting starting as a lecturer at age university in poland i had to apply for many different fundings to start my research group and research topic over here cause action uh gave me a possibility to talk uh people and researchers not only during the conference scientific meetings but also in the very different environment in beautiful places in europe to develop ideas but i was also discussing with them new ideas i have for example for the applications uh interns for example thermal management energy harvesting that uh i didn't have so much experience with uh with experts in the field and that allowed me actually to build the project proposal that i applied for erc starting grant within uh horizon 2020 funds and actually i got it but that was a lot of help from people with different backgrounds discussing the ideas and also the approaches the scientific methods i wanted to use in the in these proposals to make it successful in terms of my research career course action helped me in the way that i started to collaborate with many distinguished researchers all over europe we um manage through the work of a phd student joining their growth for a few weeks a few months uh to publish a few research papers of course that's uh that shows our openness to the different research approaches but also shows interdisciplinary part of our research and it opens new possibilities for applying for further research grants to develop the our ideas my personal message is actually to talk with people and not working it's very important for scientists to share the knowledge share their experience so especially for young people when they start to really focus on narrow topics it's important to develop new ideas and new approaches to be successful in science so cost actions are excellent tool to talk with people even sometimes at the conferences we are very scared to ask questions we are not sure how to do that but for young people if you join the course actions you have opportunities to talk in the uh let's say different environment like especially during the dinner uh during visiting uh some nice universities but also some cultural events that's very different uh situation that allows you to discuss these research ideas and sometimes develop new ideas and opens for you a lot of new opportunities for your research and your further career in science the advantage of course actions are also based on many young people and early career investigators joining those networks as they have opportunity to learn from the very experienced researchers in the topic of key leaders that they represent not only academia but also industry another advantage of joining cost action is a gender imbalance it actually encourages young women to join the cost action and share uh their research profiles so they can really find the best people in the research topic they do and collaborate with the best scientists in europe and outside europe so when i was a master's student actually i did my uh my master study at max planck institute in germany my supervisor a professor there was wearing two different socks i thought yeah that's that's very weird why is he wearing i think at the because now it might be a fashion actually to wear different socks but at the time it wasn't that popular so but one day um actually happened few years ago when i went to work in the restroom and then i've noticed i have two different earrings and i said oh my goodness that's a sign i'm becoming a really good scientist because i do not notice things i do in the morning that's the one story so you see um yeah maybe that's that's that's the information how your brain is occupied with very different things so actually you do not notice the standard things or the routine you do in the morning because you're busy with thinking about different research ideas or also maybe other research problems you have at work so you you do not notice the simple things you do in the automatic way at home or even sometimes at work um another story another story uh is about my friend my friend was saying during the lunch one day she was saying you know well all my friends are not normal people she's also scientists and i said but i'm your friend yes you are not normal and then i realized that actually what she said it's really um a true you know interesting truth that many scientists actually they are they're really addicted to science and they are not thinking in the standard way so i really consider this as a complement about being not normal i'm thinking really outside of the box but it's not only thinking outside of the box in your work in your research in the science you do in the lab but also it's generally related to your whole life your approach to life your ideas sometimes crazy ideas or yeah you think outside of boundaries and and actually science is your life when you when you become a scientist so you fix it to certain things so it really appears in your in your way you behave you dress up in a funny way or not funny way or or you don't care how you dress up that's uh that's the appearance of science so it becomes part of your life the meetings via cost action gives you opportunity actually to meet friends which is very important in terms of collaboration in science we have possibility to talk during the various cultural events during the dinner with a glass of wine and discussing science but also various life things problems situations and that gives you possibility to uh to find friends which helps you to develop new ideas ideas but also collaborations that you never thought about so you find people you like to collaborate with but you also have friends that you can ask for advice for help which is important in science and in any any kind of work uh that you that you have people you can trust our cost action actually started in a very strange way it was uh we didn't really join as much as we you know colleague decided to start a cost action and it basically came about from conversations that we had about publications springing up all around the world in our field and nobody apparently knowing each other so these were all independent groups working on almost exactly the same thing um and it was kind of strange that nobody was familiar with any of the other groups so we basically thought it would be a great idea if we could bring everybody together so we don't step on each other's toes so we can try and collaborate on different things and push the field together so we basically code emailed everybody and said do you want to start a cost action everyone was really excited and surprised to get an email from somebody at random working on the same thing and that's basically how it started so i think in that sense the cost action really just organically started from a bunch of people doing the same thing in different places and i was just deciding okay let's just talk about what we do and another thing i think that sort of really motivated us to start this action and this this conversation with the colleague imperial college was um the idea that it's a very niche field and so where we would present ourselves would be in very general conferences and almost all our talks with well 90 of the talk was explaining what the field actually was that we were doing and then we have 10 percent to explain the details the results to a group of people who didn't really understand them anyway and so we thought wouldn't it be nice if we could have a meeting where we actually go straight to the punch line and discuss that instead of giving this endless introduction um and that's basically what the cost meetings became where no one had to explain what they were doing we just explained exactly what we were doing and i think that's what really was a big thing for us at least um the most useful tools i think for us were were probably the the ones for arranging meetings and training schools so i think um the fact that everybody could fly and meet without worrying about expenses um was a huge thing and there was no other way you could justify going to such a specialized meeting um in a different country and especially for young researchers and that was something there was just no budget for that if you're going to present you're going to present at a big meeting somewhere and so i think that really made it that all the people working in this field could actually meet in one place and something that wouldn't have been possible without the cost of funding um also important for us was the training school so not me in particular but i think it brought a lot of people into the field and so our training schools they were very they were very dense training schools for three four days um with hands-on sessions and lots of lectures and they were always we had way more applications than we could actually accept and they were very sought after and people had to do a long application faster system can be very selective i think everybody always really liked them so we had one in heidelberg one in lyon one in israel and the next one's going to be virtual um and i think they really were the most popular let's say and because we really could get students from all walks of life who wanted to get into the field and the sdsms were of course very important so we use them a bit a lot of other groups use them as well so that definitely helped in the in bringing people into using this technique which is cost action was about um wouldn't normally be able to because there's no other grant which allows you just to go somewhere for two weeks to try something that may or may not work so i think that definitely opened a lot of avenues of research um both for us and for several other groups costa's helped me i think in lots of ways that i think are hard to define or put your finger on so obviously knowing everybody working in the field and on a personal level um helps and uh in terms of building many collaborations if i have a question in one particular area that i'm not fluent in i know exactly who to talk to and i can just call them so i think definitely this sense of community naturally helps so when we hire phds or post docs now i can write straight away all these groups that i know would have good phds and post docs so i think i mean the most important thing is really just this personal connection that you develop with all the researchers working in the field which is hard to sort of quantify it's just something that exists um in terms of grant applications yes we applied with lots of groups together and we've got national grants we're applying for international grants so obviously these are things that wouldn't have happened without the meetings or we actually discussed these um [Music] and yeah in terms of career i think well i don't know if it costs to thank or not to thank i mean a lot of things it has helped and we've definitely gotten more into the medical field which was a big goal of our cost action and so i'm now affiliated with a medical university i have a physician here and a lab in the hospital as well and so i think a lot of connections that i built through the cost network actually helped me to get where i am now i guess our cost action i think is a it's a very nice cost action it's probably one of those smaller cost actions um meaning because it's a very niche field so there's not really that many people and the community is very supportive so i think that's a that was a very positive thing about our action and it was very easy to always visit people working in in very similar fields in different countries um and exchange students and postdocs visiting other labs i think that definitely helped a lot of phds and postdocs to actually see how other labs work in different countries and eventually move there in some cases to further pursue their studies costas i mean is of course a very prestigious grant it's not easy to get and i think that definitely looks good on every cv um especially in my case where i actually shared the reaction itself and i think that definitely helped in in getting me to my current position um and definitely sort of you get you get visibility in the community of course if you're if you have a leading role in one of these actions so i definitely would encourage it for young researchers because it really does open up a lot of doors in several ways networking is is important for lots of reasons and one of the main reasons in our case is really to see because it's a very small field that we're working in and there's a lot of very particular problems um which overlap and the networking was in so much importance that to make sure that not everybody's trying to work on the same thing or trying to appeal the same mistakes so then if you have all these people in one room talking about what they're doing and you'll realize very quickly oh this guy tried this already we're not going to do this he's already way ahead in this there's no point in starting this um and sort of everyone sort of can carve out their own niche in the field so that pogo slightly goes uniformly forward instead of everyone fighting for one thing and only one person getting a paper and everyone else being disappointed and shocked so i think in that sense it was for us it worked really well in the field in that everybody now knows where everyone else is and no one's stepping on anyone's toes and if they do they talk to each other and things come out together or in tandem in some way i think cost actions probably helped my work the most in ways that i can't quantify just in a sense that i could actually have all these discussions with all these people with expertise in different areas of the field and talking about personal experiences um things that went wrong things that went right um tricks and experimental tricks theoretical tricks um all of those things i think are essential for progress otherwise you're reinventing the wheel every time so i think that's probably those little things saved me the most time and the most headache um [Music] and benefited me the most um on a larger scale yes i mean there's there's grants that we apply for together and send people to learn a particularly theoretical aspect to another labs i think that's definitely also beneficial from a very physical and quantifiable perspective i think personally i would say it's these informal discussions that sort of really benefited me the most in the long run and in the short one so cost has enabled us to apply for the grants and both national and international so um we've got one national grant now where we're actually working on corvid samples so this is one of these urgent funding projects and definitely discussions and some collaborations within the cost network help this so i think um it's definitely useful for applying for national and international grants which both myself and numerous members of the cost action so i think for our field cost was essential in kickstarting the field because it is a very niche field um it was very hard for it to get acceptance in the microscopy community and i think cost really helped us take this from this obscure spectroscopy technique to something that the whole microscopy community actually knows now and that was i think that wouldn't have been possible without cost um the community really knows each other they have their own sessions they have been conferences and we've been starting our own society based on this so this is basically a continuation of the cost um and this will be in our next meeting which is outside of our cost funding and we will have a society meeting and so it really established a field that wasn't there before and i think none of that would have been possible without cost and he also were awarded this cost innovator glance this is a continuation grant for one year um through which we're building a huge database which will even further the fields into more industry and commercial applications and so i think cost is still helping us and build this to the next level where we can really say this is a standard technique and everyone should know about it and so in that sense i think costs really did this field a big favor now i think cost is definitely for young researchers an ideal tool um because you really get to meet a lot of other young researchers working in the same field as you and really discuss um your projects in a very informal basis um the funding from cost is very good in the sense that they cover everything to do with travel and you really sort of find yourself in a community which is essential in i think every scientific field of like-minded people which which a lot of times is missing in larger conferences that you go to so for young researchers i definitely would encourage them to take advantage of all all the different tools from cost especially the plenary meetings the main meetings the training schools and of course in the scientific exchanges i mean if that's relevant to what you're doing and that's definitely a very useful generous tool by cost so i think my advice would be use it as much as you can [Music] and don't be hesitant only a lot you can gain when it came to it i didn't just join a cast action i looked at the description of the program and i decided together with a colleague also a friend of mine who i did a phd with almost at the same time and um we decided to apply for a cost action it eventually got accepted i didn't then became chair my friend colleague martin o'halloran became vice chair and at the time we'd recently finished our phds in ireland i just got my first postdoctoral funding in portugal and i was looking at different types of funding opportunities there wasn't a lot of options at the early stage of my career back then i was 27 28. um so there was very little choices given that i just finished my phd and also i didn't have a permanent contract then so this was something that made me apply for a cost action at the time and the other reason was that um when we were doing our phds we had observed that the research in our area was done independently by different groups and they're all scattered around the world each of them was doing their thing trying to advance the area and we saw that the cross section would be a good opportunity to get a gather people together to build a cohesive community for the four years of the action and this had many ripple effects and subsequent projects working together and even another cost action with a slightly different topic of research so all cost instruments were very useful for an early stage researcher that i was dedicated training skills in our areas of interest all dissemination activities that we use to promote our work convened in special sessions and conferences around the world they're all very important i think one of the most useful ones for me personally was the short-term scientific missions i went on three during the the course of the action that i chaired and i also recognized the importance of itc conference grants but unfortunately those were only available in the last months of the action that i led but i see now that many young phd students and young researchers the they've become very popular and they're very useful um in the course section that i now work as a working group leader i was at a postdoctoral level when i was leading my actions so indeed the training skills and the short term scientific missions where which i used to collaborate with other researchers in other labs those two tools were very important to advance my career i gained knowledge and collaborate with those people to this day even though my cross-action officially ended almost four years ago and it's a lot of collaboration for sure i am a true believer that together one group of people or a community can achieve so much more than how and have more impact compared to doing things by yourself i come from a past of international internationalization so during an erasmus while studying for my degree then doing a master's in a foreign country moving to another country for my phd and since the area i specialized during my phd did not effectively exist in portugal before i joined my institution and by the way my institution for biophysics and biomedical engineering was very kind to embrace a somewhat known area of research with the common interest of only breast cancer detection a completely different modality so as i was saying because this area of research didn't exist in portugal when i when i joined my institute i had a very urgent need to establish working collaborations with researchers in other countries with whom my shared research interests so i benefited greatly from these collaborations i have participated in a number of co-author co-authored journal and conference papers and also two books so far i've also hostage number of collaborators at my institution in portugal and established very healthy and friendly collaborations with them and this level of interest internationalization has been acknowledged by my colleagues and i've achieved a permanent position in portugal at the age of 31 which is rather unusual in portugal i was awarded with an fp7 mercury fellowship and also the cost action was accepted almost at the same time and both of them less than two years since my phd so the cost action lasted four years of intensive networking and collaborative work which certainly helped me build my cv and ultimately i applied for the position that i have now as an assistant professor it was a very tight competition with much senior colleagues but i guess that the potential that i showed to lead an action at such an early age i was only 28 when it started certainly leverage my cv when it came to my evaluation i have very fun memories of the lovely people that i met over the years and most of the times i was the youngest one in the room so it was everyone was very friendly to me um a funny story is that for a lot of our meetings it was always raining even lisbon which is meant to be one of the sunniest capitals in europe there was rain at all our meetings everywhere and i think it only stopped when we went to athens um but nonetheless when we were in belgrade this was june very sunny all together but there was a huge storm and we were doing this uh tour with really funny guys but we all ended up in a line under a very small roof waiting for the rain to pass before we could finish our tour which we couldn't do because it was just raining too much and then we had our social dinner and everyone was drenched so it was quite funny as a message for young researchers um i can definitely see the benefit of phd students to take um take part in cost actions in taking reading roles if at all possible and avail of all the cost action tools to advance their phd in their studies and i think that also once you've finished your degree you're um you'll have a very good experience leading a cross-section like i did see if the if the record of the youngest researcher is broken we had some interesting success stories of networking not only of people but also of material and equipment during our cost action so two examples there was a group in france who developed a breast model and then they posted this breast model to different teams in italy and china and canada a bit all over the place i'm sure i'm forgetting many of the places this breast phantom traveled to and then each group would manage to test their own equipment with a phantom that was comparable among all institutions so that was quite interesting the research that we did um that we haven't seen in our research area before or even in others alike the other interesting another interesting example is for example i developed some breast tumor models in portugal then i sent them to a company in france who tested their imaging device with these models and then this equipment went to ireland where some patient studies took place so it really shows how the networking um worked not only with the people moving around but also our actual uh models and our equipment so that we could reach um great research results in 2011 i was an early stage postdoctoral researcher and i had just received my first research grant and that grant was focused on developing a new medical technology to detect early-stage breast cancer and one of the things that i was really conscious of as a funded researcher is that you have responsibility when you receive this type of funding to make an impact on patients and improve society and improve outcomes for for patients diagnosed with breast cancer and so one of the first things we did in that project was look at groups nationally and internationally who had worked in in this particular research space and we saw that there was about 180 researchers worldwide working in the space but only a very small subset had ever tested their technology on a single patient and only one had at that stage had tried to commercialize the technology and if we consider the amount of funding that was going into this research to me it was very very problematic that all of this research was not having an impact uh in the clinic so with a colleague dr raquel constitusao we said we should start a cost action so that those centers of excellence where they had managed to bridge that translational gap into the clinic that we could learn from those centers of excellence and disseminate that knowledge to the wider network so we established a cost action which in the end had over 180 researchers from 24 countries coming together every six months and learning about how to do clinical trials learning how to incorporate the opinions and needs of patients into their devices and learning how to commercialize their research so that any research that was developed in the lab could make its way into the clinic for better outcomes for patients so what impact did cost have on my career um huge really in terms of learning from the best people in in your field so every six months we will get an experts expert speaker or groups of speakers in and spend days describing best practice describing good science and describing uh how to to make that translational gap into the into the clinic um i went on then to secure you know further grants so we've within my lab we've secured five research brands from the european research council we now have a team of 47 researchers working on 23 different medical device projects but all of the while the learnings from from cost feeds into what we do so we recruit our researchers from all over europe and all over the world based on our cost network we get the best people because we know who the best people are through cost so 10 years later it's still having an impact um in terms of societal impact we have licensed in the last five years 15 medical device patents to medical device companies and our technology is now uh you know improving patients lives in areas like oncology in areas like respiratory in areas like chronic pain so we through the lab and through the support of cost action we have been able to learn the process but also recruit really good people into our lab through the network we've developed through cost so from a career perspective the key learning from for me through the cost network was that if you wanted to have an impact on patients you really needed to engage with clinicians and with hospitals early on uh in in the process so to reflect this um my position in the university here in galway was the first ever position in 150 years of history of the university that is between the colleges of engineering and the colleges of medicine so i sit between two colleges which never happened before but we lobbied for that because we said if we need if we need to impact patients we need to have a link with the school of medicine and not be purely an engineering research group so my entire research lab moved out of the university and it's actually in the hospital and so all of my team in the morning on their way to work past patients pass doctors and past nurses and that gives them great motivation to develop new technologies but also really focuses the mind on that translational piece getting our solutions into the hospital where they can improve patient care so so overall i think i think cost has had a huge impact on our area um i think i think what tends to happen in research is we have silos of excellence so we have disconnected islands of really amazing people doing great things and what cost allows us to do is to disseminate that best practice so not only do we have four sites of research excellence in europe we have 400 and that's what cost does and um so i would be a huge supporter of the program uh and i think its value cannot be uh overestimated i have joined two cause actions because of the scientific areas they cover and the networking opportunities my work includes veterinary epidemiology economics and biostatistics and i have a phd in the field of mathematical epidemiology in animal health and as i am the first to work in this field in slovenia my first cost action was one of the best investment of my time even though i have tried to regularly attend conferences and workshops in my field there is a severe lack of funding for research in my country so participating in cost action was hugely important and really useful cost action allowed me to stay in constant contact with experts from other countries which not only benefited my phd and my career but also helps me to bring the best expertise and knowledge from abroad to our country for me personally the most important thing of any networking tool was that you also get a daily allowance salaries for young researchers in slovenia are so low that you can hardly get through a month without someone helping you or you have to live with several roommates so the daily allowance money allowed me not only to attend the official event but also to make normal contacts and socialite with my peers over dinner and drinks i am involved in several projects but i must say that for young researchers only the cost actions offer possibility to really actively participate in other projects you can carry out certain tasks and you are not allowed in your decision making but in the cost action you can really get involved for example in one course action i am a working group leader and science communication manager this has contributed a lot to my soft skill development and professional growth in my efforts i have been supported not only by members of our cost action but also by trainings and webinars provided by the cost academy through the cost section i got to know leading experts and young researchers in my field of interest from across europe and beyond in my experience the cost actions particularly attract enthusiastic and curious people which gave me extra motivation for my work and it is truly inspiring to talk about your work and research with this kind of community you also make contacts with experts who are almost always willing to help you or at least provide you the contact you need and you can also find people to apply for other grants with for example my colleagues and i recently applied for a joint grant with a team from switzerland that we met through the cost action to all researchers who are at the beginning of their career or who doubt themselves i would like to say that you can join a cost action even if you do not feel like an expert or if you think that your participation would not benefit the project if you are interested in the topic that an action is exploring and your work is at least partly related to the project do not hesitate to join you will learn valuable lessons about the topic and about managing a project and you will also meet new people and you will do and make things that you now probably think you are not able to do while you are learning and doing new things you will also be able to add value to the project it does not matter what you know now it only matters how much you are willing to work and learn and do not be afraid to take on responsibilities and leadership positions because in cost action you can always find someone willing to help you to young researchers from low income countries or those with financial difficulties i want to say that there is a way up while you will not solve your money problems by joining cost action you can get enough money to attend project meetings and workshops and you can get grants to attend conferences and you can also spend some time at recognized universities or institutions involved in your cost action this way you will get valuable knowledge and access to important experts in your field which will help you to find a better job in your country or open a door to employment abroad [Music] you

2021-09-13 09:24

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