While neuroscience is a fascinating career option, scientific environments can often be quite stressful. Having the right tools to navigate a scientific and academic career in a more balanced manner can make a considerable difference. Recognizing the importance of nurturing researchers’ professional and personal development for their career progression, IBRO upholds several mentorship initiatives that offer support in different ways to neuroscientists from all over the world.
IBRO is one of the supporters of the BNA Scholar Programme, a mentoring program developed by one of IBRO’s member societies, the British Neuroscience Association. In the interview below you will learn about two BNA Scholars, Dr. Rana Fetit, Oluwaseyi Oladipupo Jesusanmi, and Tamara Wahid, and their experience in this fantastic programme.
Scholars and officers of the BNA Scholar Programme
Why did you decide to apply for the BNA Scholar Programme?
Dr. Rana Fetit: I wanted some advice on the best next step to take professionally and personally. I heard the program offered a lot of networking opportunities, which I thought was interesting as I felt that the COVID-19 pandemics limited my opportunities to attend conferences and meet people. The program would also allow me to get in touch with people from different backgrounds, who were going through similar experiences.
Oluwaseyi Oladipupo Jesusanmi: Because my undergraduate and Master’s studies were partly done during the COVID-19 pandemics and I was working with computational analyses, I used to stay in my room coding for days on end. When I heard about the BNA program and I saw all of these people doing so many different amazing things, it kind of taught me that I needed to keep looking around for other opportunities.
Tamara Wahid: I decided to apply because I wanted to seek inspiration, gain exposure to the wider neuroscience community, and meet peers from other universities and institutions.
Dr. Rana Fetit, one of BNA Scholars
How has your mentor helped you?
RF: My mentor was selected through a matching program. I picked a mentor who is a researcher and a lecturer, because I wanted to know more about the balance between neuroscience research and lecturing. My mentor is not from the UK; he has a family and he has travelled a lot. I also have two kids, so I wanted someone with a similar background to give advice on things like work-life balance, and the feasibility of continuing research while having a family. We had many chats about the best things to do when job hunting. He also gave me feedback on my CV and, when I was finishing my PhD, gave me advice on how to finish up my thesis and how to prepare for my viva (PhD defense).
Oluwaseyi Oladipupo Jesusanmi, one of the BNA Scholars
OOJ: My mentor has been really helpful. Career-wise, she’s not so removed, in the sense that she remembers what it was like at my stage. So she helps me think about not only my academic work, but also about my future goals outside of my PhD, and my work-life balance.
TW: Mentoring has been a great asset to my university experience. My mentor has an academic background in cellular and molecular neuroscience, whereas I am currently working in a clinical research setting. The difference in our backgrounds helps me gain a new perspective. For example, my mentor reviewed my clinical research proposal and gave feedback on how to make my work more accessible to a lay audience.
In which other ways has the program influenced your career?
RF: The program really helped me to integrate myself as an early career scientist into the larger scientific community, as it provided the financial support to attend conferences and take part in other events. One of the best events was a visit to a pharmaceutical company in London, as I had the chance to meet everyone in the team and gain an understanding of the complete business cycle, from recruitment to research and development.
I also really enjoyed the networking aspect of the program, and I got to know a lot of people. For instance, we were invited to attend the Brain Prize Lecture, and at the end we had the chance to meet the speakers. Through the program, I was also invited to give a talk about my work in a meeting. In general, it has exposed me to the different options out there, and given me the chance and knowledge to make more confident career choices.
OOJ: I would say that being on the program has given me a lot of opportunities that I hadn’t had before in terms of attendance at conferences and meeting new people. So I think it has really helped open my eyes up to the field as a whole and to what the neuroscience community is like. The program has also been a reminder that, at the end of the day, science is made by people, so it is important to make connections, to find out what events are going on, what I can attend, and who I can meet, both in industry and in academia.
TW: The one word I would use to describe the program is: enriching. It’s been a really enriching experience! I have gained a new support network; this is especially true of the BNA Officers who are happy to share networking opportunities and experiences with us to tailor our BNA Scholars experience. The interaction with the other BNA Scholars has been lovely. Being able to contact them, receive advice and learn from their academic experiences was invaluable. I’m glad to have joined the Scholars program as I feel I have made supportive connections that will outlast the three-year program.
Do you have anything to say to future applicants?
RF: I would say that as an early career researcher, the best thing to do is to take part in many different activities and to try things that might force you to step outside of your comfort zone. And one way to do that is by joining a program that offers you many different things and allows you to cherry pick what really suits you!
TW: This is a fantastic program to be a part of. The application process is getting more competitive each year as the program grows in terms of opportunities and recognition, therefore I understand it may feel a little intimidating to apply! My tip would be to not let the doubt creep in, and to write a sincere application highlighting your experiences and how you would benefit yourself and others by joining the program.
Tamara Wahid, one of the BNA Scholars
OOJ: If anyone is wondering whether or not they should apply, I would say go for it. It has been incredibly helpful in terms of career progression and as one of the most effective things on my CV because it opened the doors to other opportunities. In addition, the program has broadened my scientific horizons, thanks to all the different people I met along the way and all the sessions in different fields of neuroscience. With a good mentor, then it’s doubly good, as you get really solid advice and someone to talk to from another perspective who is not from your university, which is sometimes just what you need.
By supporting initiatives such as the BNA Scholar Programme and other mentoring programs, IBRO hopes to nurture the career progression of neuroscientists around the world, and contribute to a healthier research environment.
Discover other mentoring initiatives supported by IBRO
IBRO-USCRC Undergraduate Summer Programs for Underrepresented Groups: provides students with mentoring opportunities to explore different areas of research and other career paths, as well as enhance their soft skills.
ALBA mentoring circles: an event series developed by IBRO’s partner, the ALBA Network, provides participants with a safe space to discuss topics that have an impact on their academic career, including themes related to leadership and diversity and inclusion. The next event is going to be held during the SONA conference in July 2023.
World Women in Neuroscience (WWN) Mentoring Program: organized by the WWN, another IBRO partner, the Mentoring Program matches mentees with more experienced mentors to receive guidance and support for their career development over a year-long period.
Scholarships to Enhance and Empower Diversity: this career development coaching program aims to increase the transition to and the insertion and retention of diverse early career neuroscientists in faculty positions. A one-week intensive workshop is followed by six to ten months of mentoring focused on the preparation of grant applications.