The Importance of Collaboration for Early Career Researchers

By Ryan Ames

My current role as a Wellcome Trust ISSF research fellow at the University of Exeter has been my first opportunity to run my own programme of research. I’ve generated my own idea (to identify disease causing genes in the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans), assembled data from public repositories and carried out a computational analysis using my skills as a bioinformatician. At the end of the first stage of my project, I’ve discovered some interesting biology and generated a range of predictions that are ready to be tested experimentally. However, for these experiments I need to collaborate – to find researchers with expertise working with Candida albicans and experience performing complex virulence assays – completely outside my own skills and expertise. This is where networking and forming collaborations has been vital to my work.

By talking through my research questions with colleagues at the University of Exeter I was introduced to Prof. Brown in the Aberdeen Fungal Group (AFG) at the University of Aberdeen. Through a series of emails and Skype chats I was able to discuss my work with Prof Brown, who then kindly invited me to Aberdeen to give a presentation to the wider group. After my talk I was able to discuss my work with the scientists in the AFG and together we decided on some experiments that would test the predictions of my computational work. And to help enable this research, they have kindly offered me access to their lab space and their support to carry out these experiments.

Another barrier is having the time and money to visit Aberdeen for an extended period in order to perform these experiments. To this end I am applying to the British Microbiology Society for a Research Visit Grant. These grants offer support for researchers planning short (1-3 month) research visits to another laboratory.  They are designed specifically to help establish collaborations between researchers. I plan to use this grant to spend a month in Aberdeen to train with members of the AFG, while I learn from them, and I can share my expertise, and together we can conduct the experiments that will take forward the research project.

By establishing a new and supportive collaboration I hope to be able to carry out some exciting experiments that strengthen my research programme. Hopefully this will lead to further collaborations and projects between the two universities. If I am successful in my application for a Research Visit Grant I will visit Aberdeen in Jan 2017.

Leave a Reply