On Tuesday 10 March, Postdoctoral Research Scientist Dr Sophia Malandraki-Miller from the Riley Group took part in a valuable new careers mentoring opportunity piloted in collaboration between the Medical Sciences Division's Next Generation Leaders Programme and Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). This exciting new engagement programme links local schools with research and healthcare professionals within the University of Oxford and the Oxford University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and aims to increase awareness of the variety of careers in biomedicine.
The pilot session took place at Oxford High School with volunteers each giving around an hour of their time to speak to 15-year-old students looking at the next steps in their academic careers. Students gathered around different tables in groups of 10, with researchers moving between each group answering questions about their jobs and how they got to where they are.
According to one of the organisers, Dr Sarah Finnegan: "We wanted to create an informal opportunity for students to learn more about careers in science and healthcare by engaging with the people working in those jobs. Students were able to ask those pressing questions such as "do you need to be good at maths?" and "what's the best thing about your job?" We hope that we motivated the students to think broadly about their career options and be inspired by the variety of careers in science and healthcare, after all you can't be what you can't see!"
Dr Malandraki-Miller is three years into her postdoctoral project with Professor Paul Riley, and works on the development of high-throughput small molecule screenings for the discovery of inducers of human epicardial cell activation, after myocardial infarction. She conducts phenotypic screens based on this model, using an automated image analysis platform utilising machine learning.
Prof Riley's group always encourages us to do outreach, and this was my first time. The session aimed to break some stereotypes in the Biomedical fields, such as around gender-bias, disability and how one can start a research career later in life. I really enjoyed it and got several questions! - Dr Malandraki-Miller
Many more volunteers from departments across the University took part, including a genetic counsellor, a radiographer, a surgeon, an anaesthetist, a science communications officer, a neuroscientist and a computer scientist.
The organising team comprised of Dr Sarah Finnegan (Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences), Dr Andrés Noé, and Dr Rohan Wijesurendra and Dr Liz Ormondroyd from the Radcliffe Department of Medicine.