Dr. Melisa Monteleone was at a crucial stage of her academic career when she discovered she was pregnant. While thrilled to find out her family was growing, she knew that taking maternity leave at that time might impact her availability to mentor her students, produce data, publish results, and apply for grants. “It was a mix of emotions: from one side, there was the family project, and I wanted to have another child. So it was all bright and pretty from this side. But on the other side, I was very worried because my career was at a critical point. I had new students in the lab and I didn’t want them to feel I was abandoning the project. Also, [I was worried] because maternity leave could affect applying for future lab funding,” she says.
With the demand for high productivity in the academic field, scientists who are new parents often find themselves at a disadvantage, as their parental obligations may affect their competitiveness. Dr. Monteleone was five months pregnant when a friend came with hopeful news: there was an open call for IBRO Parenthood Grants. Such funding would perfectly fit her needs: it was intended to support early-career independent researchers approaching parental leave, either via birth or adoption, by providing supplemental laboratory funding. With this grant, the expert on the neurobiology of stress could continue her line of research on the consequences of social isolation on protein expression in the brain.
Dr. Monteleone, third from left, with her team in the lab.
Intended to support short one-year projects, the IBRO Parenthood Grant also came at a perfect time for Dr. Arnau Busquets Garcia. The Spanish neuroscientist, who works in the endocannabinoid system and memory fields, never had the time or funding for a short project related to the effects of social isolation on behavior. As an early
career researcher approaching paternity leave, he knew that the pressures on his time would only increase, thus benefiting from a Parenthood Grant offered some relief. “When you have paternity and maternity leave, it is always difficult to continue with your lab projects, so this grant was kind of compensation for this critical time of our careers, and at the same time allowed us to enjoy the moment with our child and family.”
One of the IBRO Parenthood Grant’s assets is its versatility, as it can be used to cover a wide range of lab costs. Dr. Monteleone, for instance, used the grant to buy reagents and antibodies for her lab. The grant’s flexibility was also attractive to Dr. Busquets Garcia, who spent the funds on reagents and animals for the lab. Since then, the IBRO grant has been allowing his team to produce preliminary data for a pilot project. “It is great that IBRO has the strategy of giving funds to those who have more difficulties in finding grants, including early-career researchers, who are at a very critical phase of their career. Any help in the initial stages of a career comes in handy,” commented Dr. Busquets Garcia.
Pregnancy, parental leave, and child caregiving often have an impact on researchers in their academic track and, in more extreme situations, can even lead scientists to have to decide between having a family or continuing their career, a conundrum faced by Dr. Monteleone. “Receiving this grant was such a relief!
Dr. Arnau Busquets Garcia in the institute where he works.
I felt like my worry wasn’t only mine, and other people knew this situation was conflictive and they were giving us help,” says the Argentinian neuroscientist.
Initiatives such as the IBRO Parenthood Grants aim to support the continuity of early-career neuroscientists in research by relieving the incidental pressures that may arise with the arrival of a newborn. Join Dr. Melisa Monteleone and Dr. Arnau Busquets-Garcia: apply for an IBRO Parenthood Grant. Applications for Parenthood Grants are open until 3 March 2023, and a second round will be open from 10 July to 10 August 2023.
If you are an IBRO awardee and would like to share your experience, contact IBRO Communications Manager, Carolina Araujo Sousa, at email@example.com.