KCL BNA Local Group hosts ECR symposium on careers beyond academia

10th Jun 2024

The first King’s Early Career Researcher’s Symposium (KECS, 2024) took place on the 17th May 2024 at the Gordon Museum of Pathology within King’s College London (KCL), near London Bridge. The event was organised by the Local Group Representatives from KCL and a team of local Early Career Researcher BNA members, using funding support from the BNA.

Gordon Museum of Pathology

Two new Local Group Representatives have joined the BNA leadership team at KCL in the last 12 months, and together the team decided to survey local BNA members to see what kind of events our Local Group were keen to develop and take part in over the next year. The survey revealed that there was a desire for events which both gave the opportunity to present but also to learn more about working beyond academia and about public engagement work.

To address this need, we organised the symposium to include a mix of activities, with a strong input from Early Career Researchers (ECRs). The event kicked off with Lightning Talks from five ECRs: three PhD students and two postdoctoral researchers. PhD students Phoebe Reynolds talked about experience-dependent plasticity in the retina, Andrea Perera talked about subpial gene therapy delivery in the rodent mouse spinal cord for neurodegenerative disease and Ayla Pollmann discussed adversity in adolescence. Post-doc Ana Beltran Arranz then went on to talk about glia-to-interneuron conversion in the postnatal mouse cerebral cortex.

Finally, we heard from Tayla Rees who described her work on the role of calcitonin-based receptors as targets in migraine.

After the lightning talks, we held a session on working beyond academia. This session included brief talks from some fantastic speakers before a panel Q&A. We heard from Larisa Dinu, a PhD student who worked in industry as a placement during her PhD and described the similarities and differences between academia and industry and how she secured the right placement for her. We then heard from Salim Hashmi describing his work with Mattel (the company behind Barbie and Thomas the Tank Engine). After this we heard from Barbara Brito Vega who described a different direction – graduating and working in industry before returning to academia and still continuing work in Artificial Intelligence. Finally, Shaakir Salam joined us from the Wellcome Trust to talk about his career choices and he work at the Trust.

After this exciting panel, we headed off for a coffee break to network and see the samples of the museum – a lot of different body parts, including brains and a mummy – before returning for a panel on Public Engagement (PE). In this session we heard from Clara Lenherr and Carolina de Fonseca-Soares, two PhD students who founded and run the Neuroverse podcast. Clara and Carolina were joined by Peter Gallivan, one of the KCL’s outreach manager who has also worked at the Royal Institution. Finally, we heard from Leigh Wilson, a passionate advocate for outreach and widening participation who wrapped up the session with a personal story of how to engage wider audiences and make a real difference to public understanding of science. This panel brought together PE professionals with those who have developed smaller initiatives whilst studying full time, meaning there was something for everyone. The panel shared a wealth of information and experiences, enthusing the audience to get involved.

Overall, the event was well-received, and we hope to run more events like this in future years. We would love to hear from people who might like to get involved, and for more local ECR members to join our organising team to put on the events that they want.

Could your local neuroscience community benefit from an event to support its innovation, collaboration, growth and development? If you're a BNA member, why not contact your Local Group Representative and make your idea a reality with up to £1000 in BNA funding?

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