Employer: The Sainsbury Laboratory
Job Title: Entrepreneur in Residence / Charity Manager
I graduated from the Norwich Research Park Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD programme in 2022 and reflect on my period of study with great fondness. When embarking on my PhD, my career path was uncertain, but on reflection, my experiences during the four years shaped my future career trajectory.
The NRP DTP programme presented me with the support and opportunities to be creative and curious, helping me explore my ideas without reservation. It cultivated a challenging and productive environment as well as a remarkably positive and supportive one. One of the program’s standout aspects was the collaborative community of researchers and mentors, who were often very willing to share their expertise. This exposed me to a wide range of perspectives and academic pursuits. I also profited from the interdisciplinary nature of the research conducted on the NRP as well as access to the state-of-the-art facilities on site.
A key element of the programme is the Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme; a 3-month placement designed to offer experiences outside the PhD project. I know from my conversations with peers, that the programme is generally viewed as a wonderful opportunity to develop and enrich our PhD experiences. For my PIPS placement, I decided to develop a bespoke placement, supported by the John Innes Centre International Office and ACACIA, that utilised links with Kenya-based academics. Ultimately, I worked with Kenyan institutes to develop a collaborative partnership that was concerned with tackling emerging diseases of crops in the region. I visited Kenya for 11-weeks to build these partnerships into a formalised initiative. The visit included trips to Nairobi where I met with government agencies and researchers interested in similar food-security challenges.
The PIPS programme, and my wider PhD experiences, helped me to determine what the next steps in my career could look like. Before the completion of my PhD, I began conversations with Professor Sophien Kamoun, based at The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL), to develop an ambitious initiative that could achieve global democratization of genomics. Fitting with my experiences in Kenya, inequitable access to genomics technology and training remains prevalent within many research communities. We conceived a charity that would directly address this inequity and GetGenome was born.
GetGenome was founded in 2022 as a charitable organisation with the aim of providing researchers with equitable access to genomics technology and genomics-related education. My current role is to manage the day-to-day operations of the charity and drive the organisation toward meeting its goals. We have boundless ambition for GetGenome to empower scientists globally and we are currently engaging with scientists across four continents via our Call For Project campaigns.
My role is diverse and includes laboratory work handling researchers’ samples, generating and delivering training material to empower those researchers and establish and maintain the organisation infrastructure that underpins our charitable activities. I may be creating a webpage one minute, on the phone to the accountants the next, before streaking bacteria onto agar during the afternoon. My role has required me to adapt myself and become competent and confident in areas previously unfamiliar to me. This has also led to lots of mini achievements that I can be proud of and at the forefront of these was leading the registration of the charity itself and generating its constitution.
The NRP DTP Programme fosters academic growth and personal development, making it a unique and enriching experience. I found myself regularly challenged but in a motivating and supportive environment, equipping me with the flexibility and confidence to handle workplace tasks and challenges. I remain deeply grateful for the invaluable lessons and connections forged during my time in the NRPDTP Programme.