transferring labs and switching fields

Adam Levy: 00:09

Hi there, I’m Adam Levy and that is Working Scientist, a Nature Careers podcast. At this time, transferring labs and transferring self-discipline.

This sequence is all about strikes. Whether or not that transfer is with a accomplice, or one which takes you to a brand new nation. Shifting labs as an instructional could be a pivotal second.

Nicely, at the moment we’re what occurs when that transfer is mixed with one other, generally even bolder profession shift, transferring disciplines.

How can shifting the science you do improve or exacerbate a transfer from one lab to a different?

For neurologist Ken Kosik, of College of California, Santa Barbara, transferring the situation of his lab, in order that he’s surrounded by a variety of lecturers from different disciplines, has remodeled the best way he does analysis.

I caught up with him and we began out by discussing how he ended up in such an interdisciplinary location.

Ken Kosik: 01:20

Once I completed my neurology residency, I nonetheless was undecided what I actually wished to do. I used to be nonetheless looking out.

I spotted that whereas neurology and medication generally is a whole lot of enjoyable to be taught, I discovered myself rather less concerned with really training it.

I feel the motivations for these fields are slightly completely different. I actually started, towards the tip of my residency, to develop into drawn to analysis and utilized to a laboratory to do solely analysis however remained in a medical faculty.

After being there for nicely over 20 years I got here to present a chat at Santa Barbara. And so one other way of life, during which the buildings round me weren’t haematology, gastroenterology, neurology. They had been issues like music and structure.

That setting appealed to me immensely. To do analysis in a setting the place there’s a a lot broader variety of educational disciplines. That doesn’t imply that I deserted my medical curiosity. I do a whole lot of work nonetheless associated to Alzheimer’s illness.

However I’ve simply discovered that the setting the place I’m now, which has a robust part of different sciences, physics, laptop science, engineering, in addition to humanities, is way more conducive to my nature.

Adam Levy: 02:59

The best way you describe it, it sounds very pure and really, very regular factor so that you can do on a private degree. Did everybody else see it that manner? Or had been some individuals a bit shocked by this type of choice?

Ken Kosik: 03:11

I had achieved the rank of professor at Harvard, and folks had been slightly shocked that one would go away a tenured place like that to go elsewhere.

Adam Levy: 03:22

And when it comes to the precise outcomes of this, have there been advantages in your work in being surrounded by individuals from what is likely to be thought-about very completely different disciplines?

Ken Kosik: 03:34

Huge advantages. I imply, the advantages that I can really doc quantitatively. My impression elements have gone up, , for what they’re value. They’re most likely not value that a lot.

However I’ve opened up collaborations with chemists, laptop scientists, physicists. That has been extraordinarily thrilling for me and actually has been the important thing to success on this atmosphere.

Reaching throughout monumental cross disciplinary boundaries, has actually been with most attracted me and has labored out very nicely.

That’s to not say that that may work at an earlier stage in a single’s profession.

I made this transition already as a senior investigator, a senior scientist. So I used to be fairly comfy in my very own self-discipline.

Adam Levy: 04:25

And has this been welcomed on the opposite facet of the divide, because it had been? Have physicists additionally being grateful to, to have collaborations with with you on topics, which perhaps they wouldnt have touched in any other case?

Ken Kosik: 04:38

It’s been extremely welcoming on the opposite facet of the divide for a number of causes. One is that as a result of I’m a neuroscientist, I feel individuals in lots of fields are intrigued by neuroscience.

There’s actually an fascinating migration that’s occurring by many individuals in physics, for instance, or laptop science which are actually wanting towards neuroscience to attempt to perceive deep studying, synthetic intelligence, in ways in which the mind accomplishes duties that are just like what they need to do.

Now, I’ll additionally add, although, that coming to the campus the place I did on the College of California, Santa Barbara. At the moment, there was not nice power in neuroscience.

So I feel individuals wished to get entangled in neuroscience. Nevertheless it was slightly troublesome on the opposite facet to cross over. So my arrival was very, very welcome. And I’ve simply been like, a child in a toy retailer there with the alternatives to collaborate.

Adam Levy: 05:42

My subsequent query is, I suppose, a query of id, do you assume this alteration has shifted you from from contemplating your self a biologist? Or is that also very a lot the way you describe your self as an instructional?

Ken Kosik: 05:55

I’m nonetheless a biologist, I don’t have any illusions that the esoteric work that is occurring in computation, laptop science and physics is one thing that I can do myself.

I’m nonetheless basically the cell biologist, the molecular biologist, the neuroscientist, and that’s a actuality.

Adam Levy: 06:15

Now, as optimistic as you have been, I’m very conscious that biologists and physicists and engineers, all of us communicate barely completely different languages.

So how in follow, do you really start to beat this impediment and truly talk throughout these boundaries?

Ken Kosik: 06:33

Sure, I feel there’s a little bit of making an attempt to know what the particular person on the opposite facet of the boundary can dom what they’re concerned with. And if I meet one other one who does cell biology, I assume an unlimited quantity of data and shared applied sciences to strategy an issue collectively.

Whereas in turning to somebody who’s actually utterly away from these fields, somebody who’s actually not even skilled in biology, we actually need to first acknowledge that they’re very good individuals, they usually actually don’t want us to elucidate to them simply a whole lot of the main points of biology 101. They want for us to elucidate to them the sorts of issues we’re grappling with.

And that’s, I feel, the core to, to success. To pique another person’s curiosity in a website during which they’ll contribute.

Adam Levy: 07:35

Do you’ve any suggestions or, I suppose even warnings, for people who find themselves making an attempt to or hope to speak throughout these sorts of divides?

Ken Kosik: 07:45

Attempt to have a dialog and trade. It’s, it’s essential that one doesn’t strategy a collaboration throughout such an incredible divide as a chance to present another person a lecture.

It actually is a chance to search out what is going to match inside what they do. Which signifies that you have to have some understanding of what an engineer or a physicist really does.

Then the following query is, nicely, is it actually attainable to even collaborate with somebody who’s pondering of issues in 11 dimensions?

So there could be frequent floor, I discovered, I not too long ago have simply begun a dialog with a person who does a whole lot of quantum idea.

And each of us are concerned with how we will apply a deep studying, machine studying, to our respective fields. And there was a really fascinating trade that I’ve begun to have with him on this subject.

And this particular person brings a sophistication about computation that I couldn’t ever obtain.

However but he does probably not know what the issues are in neuroscience which will require a machine studying strategy.

Issues like discerning waveforms in, say, a mind organoid, which is one thing we’re very concerned with.

So I feel that there could be frequent floor with somebody so long as you discover the place the shared curiosity is.

Adam Levy: 09:17

Now you talked about that this type of strategy to analysis may not work for people who find themselves earlier of their careers. Is there anybody else you’ll say, “Oh, really, perhaps this doesn’t fit your specific strategy or your your specific character so nicely.”

Ken Kosik: 09:33

It won’t work for everybody. However it could actually work for those who are earlier of their profession, however differently. I’ll offer you an instance of an individual who got here to my lab not too long ago and was capable of, I feel, do one thing fairly wonderful.

That is a person who did his PhD in physics, after which determined to do his postdoc with me. He had nice sophistication in each computation and in instrumentation. And he constructed and devised some gadgets for mind recordings, He had no background in biology in any respect.

So whereas he was with me, he not solely was in a position to make use of his ability set, however he immersed himself within the biology of developmental biology, which is one thing it’s a must to be taught while you’re excited about how and organoid develops, develop sophistication with stem cells, all that type of factor.

He spent 5 years in my lab, and simply within the final month or two obtained a job with this twin coaching, the place his twin ability set in two, completely very various fields was the important thing attractor that obtained him the job.

And naturally, the objective of each postdoc is to get a job.

Adam Levy: 10:52

Now, who would you say this, this wouldn’t essentially work out for, then?

Ken Kosik: 10:57

I don’t assume it might work essentially if an individual is just about capable of accomplish their objectives and their imaginative and prescient, strictly inside the self-discipline.

It’s not essentially essential for everybody to achieve throughout the divide so broadly. However I feel more and more it’s.

As a result of when you concentrate on all of the sophistication required within the space of optics, to know cells, an increasing number of issues with computation to know cells, that I feel this side of the organic sciences, the place it’s turning into an increasing number of essential for us to to achieve throughout boundaries, is turning into extra related.

And actually, I see the biologist of the longer term as being equally comfy with our house turf as we’re with the devices required to review cells, with the computational methods mandatory to research cells.

Adam Levy: 12:10

That was Ken Kosik. As Ken talked about, this interdisciplinary strategy is not essentially for everybody.

And certainly, transferring labs and shifting self-discipline may not be the correct transfer for all lecturers in any respect phases of their profession.

Within the first episode of this sequence we spoke with Tim Fessenden, who’s now a scientific editor at The Journal of Cell Biology. His PhD centered on the biophysics of cells, after which he determined to make the leap into two unknowns.

Firstly, he was transferring to a brand new lab with a brand new PI.

And secondly, he shifted self-discipline to review how immune cells and tumours work together. So how did he discover shifting self-discipline?

Tim Fessenden: 12:57

You realize, I cherished it. I’m so glad that I do know, I obtained into my alone little nook of immunology. And that’s my disposition, I really feel like I’m a lifelong scholar, , I really feel like somebody who I all the time need to be the dumbest particular person within the room.

And this was actually the case in my postdoc. I like to recommend it to anybody, simply because it forces you into a brand new mind-set and forces you to understand completely different investigative instruments {that a} completely different self-discipline has at their disposal, and values.

Adam Levy: 13:28

So shifting the sector of research can deliver a bunch of nice surprises and new studying experiences. However on the identical time, a brand new subject and a brand new lab is likely to be a bit an excessive amount of novelty to juggle abruptly.

Tim Fessenden: 13:45

I feel a very powerful factor that I’d advise, which turned actually crystal clear for me over the course of my time within the new lab, was that in case you’re going to affix a brand new lab that comes with a set of challenges that you shouldn’t exacerbate by additionally switching fields, which is what I did.

So I feel issues may need gone way more easily if I used to be becoming a member of a brand new lab in the identical subject that I knew.

The place I knew all of the methods, I knew all of the background data, I knew the opposite massive gamers within the subject, the place there was some consolation already there, and I might type of cope with the bumps within the street of the brand new lab as way more simply.

Because it was I wanted to be taught immunology, and a whole lot of new methods. I had by no means labored with mice earlier than.

So all of these issues actually compounded the challenges of a brand new lab. And so I’d say do one or the opposite. Change fields, or be part of a brand new lab. In all probability don’t do each. I feel I’m positive some individuals do it efficiently. However in my case, the recommendation I’d give us to not type of mix these challenges

Adam Levy: 14:58

We heard earlier from Ken Kosik, who’s obtained used to collaborating with bodily scientists, regardless of his organic analysis background.

However what about making the shift the opposite manner spherical from the arduous physics in direction of the extra life sciences?

Nicely, that’s the shift that many physicists make once they transition to medical physics. Jennifer Pursley is a medical medical physicist at Massachusetts Normal Hospital, with an assistant professor appointment at Harvard Medical Faculty.

However her background was extra centered on particles than sufferers. I caught up along with her and we began out talking about what her present job seems to be like.

Jennifer Pursley: 15:39

Technically, in response to my employer, my work is 80% medical and 20% analysis. However there’s a whole lot of flexibility inside medical physics generally to decide on the way you need to spend your time.

And for me, I actually get pleasure from working with college students and mentoring. So I’d say that my cut up finally ends up being extra like 50 to 60% medical, after which 20 to 30% training and instructing.

Adam Levy: 16:10

Now once we speak about medical work as a medical physicist, what does that truly contain? What are you doing within the clinic?

Jennifer Pursley: 16:17

Sure, so it relies upon rather a lot on what kind of medical physicist you’re.

I’m a radiation remedy physicist. So I work within the radiation oncology division. And our job focuses round treating sufferers with radiation.

So a whole lot of my medical duties revolve round ensuring that sufferers are handled safely and successfully with radiation. I additionally help with the physicians designing radiation therapy plans.

Adam Levy: 16:47

Now, how did you really get into this line of labor? Your background isn’t really as a medical physicist?

Jennifer Pursley 16:53

That’s very, very true. My background is a particle physicist. In order a particle physicist, I did my PhD and a postdoc working at Fermi Nationwide Lab in Chicago, Illinois.

And about midway by way of my postdoc I used to be beginning to consider what I actually wished to be doing with my work.

And I discovered that I actually loved the hands-on facets of what I used to be doing as a particle physicist.

I additionally thought that I’d be happier if I knew the work that I used to be doing had extra of a direct impression on individuals’s lives.

So I began asking questions. I discovered just a few individuals who had left particle physics. And I talked to them about what they had been doing, and quite a lot of them had gone into medical physics.

Adam Levy: 17:44

And the way has the expertise really been used?

You discuss these, these motivations, hoping to see the impression of your work extra instantly, for instance. Has that been realized?

Jennifer Pursley: 17:55

It positively has. Scientific work is extraordinarily satisfying, in that you just get to help with sufferers daily, regardless that it’s in a small manner.

Typically, there’s a whole lot of instances the place what I’m doing isn’t instantly associated to physics, however it’s extra about downside fixing.

It’s about understanding all the facets of every little thing that goes right into a affected person’s therapy, and having the ability to see connections and discover errors that different individuals have missed.

And to repair these in order that the affected person is handled successfully and on time. And that’s extraordinarily satisfying,

Adam Levy: 18:34

Was that in any respect a cultural shift concerned in transitioning from a particle physics lab to, yeah, working typically very instantly with sufferers?

Jennifer Pursley: 18:45

There positively was a really massive tradition shift going from a nationwide lab to the hospital atmosphere.

For one factor, the hospital may be very hierarchical.

So studying the hospital hierarchy, but in addition studying easy methods to talk with individuals from many alternative function teams.

So at a nationwide lab, everybody has type of the identical background. Everybody is available in with a physics diploma or some fundamental understanding, whether or not it’s undergrad, grad, all the best way as much as professor, everybody is aware of that they have a physics background.

On the hospital that’s positively not true. Most individuals do not have a physics background. And so communication, and studying to speak science successfully to non-scientists, was actually essential.

Adam Levy: 19:33

What about, I suppose, these extra mushy abilities if you end up interacting, not simply with, with different medical professionals, but in addition with sufferers?

I imply, physicists perhaps aren’t essentially so well-known for his or her mushy abilities. And I need to confess, I’m a physicist by coaching as nicely.

Jennifer Pursley: 19:51

That’s an excellent level. And it’s one thing that the sector as a complete of medical physics is making an attempt to determine proper now.

Traditionally, we haven’t had that a lot of a patient-facing function. And if we do work together instantly with the affected person, we principally attempt to not speak to them an excessive amount of. We attempt to let the professionals deal with that.

However we’re seeing the profit for physicists. Particularly there are some sufferers who’re actually interested in what’s occurring to them, like “What is that this radiation therapy that I’m receiving?”

And the physicians can reply a few of these questions. However I’ve really instantly interacted with sufferers who’re themselves engineers or physicists. They usually need to speak to a physicist concerning the linear accelerator and about their therapy.

So it’s positively been a studying expertise. And it’s not one thing that we’re at the moment coaching physicists to do.

However I feel the medical physics subject as a complete sees that this most likely goes to be an essential side of our subject. And we should always begin coaching physicists on easy methods to talk higher.

Adam Levy: 21:04

On this sequence, we’ve mirrored rather a lot on how to decide on what crew and what lab, one needs to be part of.

How do you assume that query is difficult while you’re additionally excited about altering, altering disciplines and doubtlessly altering disciplines fairly radically?

Jennifer Pursley: 21:21

I feel the toughest a part of it for me was not figuring out precisely what I used to be getting myself into.

I bear in mind really, the very first day that I confirmed up, as my medical physics postdoc, I used to be shaking. As a result of I had gone from being an knowledgeable in particle physics. Or I walked into CDF at Fermilab and I knew everybody there, I knew what everybody’s job was, I knew precisely who to ask for questions.

And I felt like I had mastered the place I used to be. After which I walked into this utterly new atmosphere, I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know precisely what I used to be imagined to be doing, and even what I did not know that I wanted to know. And it was an actual shock.

So not figuring out what you’re stepping into additionally makes it actually arduous to decide on the correct match for you. The analysis challenge that I labored on as my first challenge, as a medical physicist, it wasn’t actually a great match for me.

So it’s notably arduous while you’re switching disciplines to know what’s going to be the perfect match for you when it comes to analysis or lab or place.

Adam Levy: 22:31

Out of your experiences do you’ve any recommendations on issues individuals ought to ought to be careful for or issues individuals ought to keep away from when they’re making a transition like this?

Jennifer Pursley: 22:40

Nicely, my greatest recommendation in case you’re contemplating a transition between fields is to speak to as many individuals as you’ll be able to.

And I inform this to college students on a regular basis. What I did was I talked to particle physicists I knew who had develop into medical physicists.

However in hindsight, what I ought to have finished was attain out to medical physicists close by the place I used to be in Chicago.

I ought to have referred to as a few of them up or emailed them and requested if I might come and meet them the place they labored, and job shadow them for a day or two, and simply speak to them about their expertise.

And I spotted now that physicists are extraordinarily keen to do that, like they’re really very completely happy to speak with college students or people who find themselves contemplating transitioning into their subject, they’re very welcoming.

In order that’s my, like, greatest recommendation to individuals contemplating the profession change now’s attain out to a physicist in your space.

Even in case you don’t know them, or have a connection to them, it’s extremely doubtless that they’ll be completely happy to welcome you and you will get an incredible expertise. You will be taught extra from really being within the atmosphere than simply from speaking to somebody about it.

Adam Levy: 23:53

Is there something that you just miss in any respect concerning the extra pure physics (I’m placing that within the inverted quotes) that you just did earlier in your profession?

Jennifer Pursley: 24:03

There positively are some things that I miss about pure physics. No less than coming from a particle physics background, I used to be used to working with a really massive collaboration of individuals. And all of us supported one another’s analysis work.

So we had a standard set of code, a code repository, that everybody checked code out and in.

And so any developments, any enhancements that anybody made, had been instantly shared with the remainder of the group.

And sadly, in different fields, that is probably not the best way issues work in analysis.

In order that side, not having the ability to share analysis as freely or as rapidly as I used to be used to as a pure scientist, it was slightly, slightly bit completely different than I anticipated.

Adam Levy: 24:49

Is there anything you’d wish to share with individuals who perhaps are contemplating a transition not simply from particle physics to medical physics, however from a extra bodily self-discipline to a extra life sciences or medical sciences self-discipline?

Jennifer Pursley: 25:02

Written communication is essential. Regardless that physicists are anticipated to write down papers we’re probably not taught easy methods to write.

However having some devoted programs in efficient written communication, I feel can be useful for anybody contemplating switching into one thing like a life sciences self-discipline.

Adam Levy: 25:23

That was Jennifer Pursley. We’ve obtained simply two episodes left on this sequence, however we nonetheless have rather a lot left to debate.

For one factor, we haven’t touched on the specific disadvantages that some researchers face when transferring lab and the way these can complicate what’s an already difficult choice.

And so within the subsequent episode we’re talking with three researchers with bodily disabilities, about their experiences and approaches.

Till then, this has been Working Scientist, a Nature Careers podcast. Thanks for listening. I am Adam Levy.

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