30 May, 2018
‘No, you're never too old to Rock 'n' Roll if you're too young to die’
LN: Can you tell us a little about your background in science?
Irina: I actually started my career as a mathematician. I had short career breaks when I had my children but returned to work afterwards. I continued working primarily in applied maths as a postdoc, studying wave propagation in Dublin. I moved to biology around 2002 when I became a bioinformatician at the University of Hertfordshire. Later, when my children were older, I had an extended break from science. I managed to get back into work afterwards, which was good for me, but initially it was very hard to find a way back into the research that I love.
LN: What made you want to return to research?
IA: I love research, it really makes my mind feel alive. I am also working part time at the Sanger Institute as a support statistician in next-generation sequencing, which I very much enjoy, but research is my passion.
LN: How did you hear about the Fellowship programme?
IA: I’d been working around Cambridge for a few years but I was looking for a new challenge. I knew that the Bioinformatics Facility at the Babraham Institute had a strong reputation and while looking out for vacancies, I came across this fellowship opportunity to investigate gene regulation. I’ve previously done gene regulation bioinformatics, so it seemed ideal.
LN: How have your first few weeks at Babraham been?
IA: Everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. Biologists, in contrast to computer geeks, are very social people, I guess it is in their genetics (and maybe their epigenetics as well – thanks to the Institute’s beautiful environment!). Wolf’s lab and the Epigenetics department have been very welcoming. It is enjoyable to work here: people are so enthusiastic about their projects.
LN: Currently you are our only career returning Fellow at the Institute. Have you managed to meet others in the same position as yourself?
IA: I have met and spoken to other Fellows at Daphne Jackson Trust events. There are other Fellows in Cambridge, including one person in Brain Repair Unit MRC and another at the Sanger Institute.
LN: It’s very early days for you in your fellowship but would you recommend this fellowship scheme to others wishing to return to research?
IA: I think any returning fellowship is fantastic – and the Daphne Jackson Trust is very good. I don’t believe that I would have managed to return to research without this scheme.
I do hope to continue in research. I hope to find some interesting epigenetic patterns, publish successfully, and become a competitive, active researcher again after this fellowship.
I found starting a new sport to be a really useful source of motivation to return to scientific research. Sports gave my body and mind the necessary boost of life and challenge that I needed. I learned rowing, and now every Saturday morning I row along the River Cam together with seven other ladies, proving myself, meditating and building confidence in myself.
This lyric from Jethro Tull was actually very helpful when I started the Fellowship:
‘No, you're never too old to Rock 'n' Roll if you're too young to die’.
The Daphne Jackson Trust aims to enable women and men to return to research with confidence after a career break. The fellowships offer a unique combination of support, mentoring and career development to give Fellows the confidence and skills they need to return to their career and to compete for research positions.
30 May 2018