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Everyone experiences highs and lows

"Between 2003 and 2009 I had no research grant funding, so survived on low-budget projects and writing review papers. Circumstances improved when I found the fossil shark material that my current PhD student is studying. Then, inspired by work of a colleague, I had an idea for a new grant proposal, which was funded by NERC, and gave me access to research expenses and a postdoctoral research associate. The high point of my career was being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2009, an unexpected honour."

Professor Jenny Clack, FRS


"I had a bit of a low point after my PhD. Although I’d published quite a bit, I was feeling very insecure about whether I was good enough to be a scientist. I had real self-doubt, but then after working for a year at a conservation project I realised that research was what I really wanted to do, rather than applied conservation, which perhaps needs politicians more than biologists.”

Profesor Chris Jiggins


"My first return to work after maternity leave was a low point. The transition was really hard: I was sleep-deprived, felt alienated from the group, and didn't actually realise I was struggling for a long time. I was determined to show outwardly that I was coping, but I wasn't really. While I was on maternity leave, I had a grant that kept my lab going, and I knew I'd need to secure another one when I got back to work if I wanted to have a second child. I put in application after application but they all failed. In the end I decided to go ahead and have a second child anyway. I was 4 months pregnant when I was lucky enough to finally get a grant funded. By my second maternity leave, I knew how to keep things on track, and coming back to work was more straightforward: still hard work but much easier to manage."

Professor Rebecca Kilner


"The year after our first child was born was extremely difficult, and it’s really important to acknowledge when you aren’t coping, and that it’s ok, it’s normal, and to seek help. The high points of my career are seeing people in my group succeed and blossom, with their projects and with their own careers. Getting a lectureship took the existential pressure off, but other challenges come along with it. Though stressful at times, I find the continually changing landscape in both research and teaching enjoyable and rewarding. ”

Dr Matthias Landgraf


"A year and a half into my JRF my 2 field sites near the Philippines were shut down due to terrorist threats. I went to the pub to drown my sorrows and there I met someone who was trying to track the movements of people out of Africa. This sparked my interest and became my new research field – I’ve been able to produce big papers regularly ever since."

Dr Andrea Manica


"I hit an academic low point after having worked part-time for many years (to raise a family), as it prevents you from doing really exciting stuff, and I felt that my intellectual input wasn’t great, but I was able to turn it around. Losing my job when the unit I was working for was closed spurred me on, as I realised how passionate I was about the research and how much I wanted to carry on doing it. I was 48 by the time I got a lectureship, so was delayed by maybe 5-10 years, but I don’t regret it at all."

Professor Helen Skaer