My former PhD thesis supervisor and I were returning from our annual hiking when he asked: Are you still collaborating with Steve?
Steve had been my supervisor during my postdoctoral stay in Lausanne, 4 years ago since then. This simple question made me think a lot. Both during my PhD and during my postdoc I had many opportunities. Among them, to meet and collaborate with a large number of researchers from both the same and other institutions. And the question is, are these relationships still alive today?
I must admit one of my biggest weaknesses. It has always always been very difficult for me to take the initiative in creating new relationships, as well as keeping existing ones alive. Especially in the personal field. Fortunately, I am quite good at initiating new relationships in the professional arena.
I may have noticed lately that I should have taken care of the relationships I initiated while growing up as a scientist. Indeed, those other scientists could end up being my long-term travelling companions. Even if they were affiliated with other institutions. Or the problem would just have been that I didn’t know how to take care of them, the relationships.
Luckily, I do relate to some of the people I started interacting with in the past. And in my current position, I keep making new contacts. But now I know how to view these new contacts. As new travel companions with whom, from humble and prudent beginnings, we can end up doing good research together.
Have you ever considered that your team, or part of your team, does not need to belong to your same institution? I am now co-supervising a doctoral student from a university other than my own with two professors from that other institution. There are four of us, I’m the outsider, but I really have a great sense of belonging and commitment to this collaboration. Tutoring a PhD student is one of the most rewarding and stimulating activities out there, and the perfect setting to have a long and stable feeling of travelling with your companions.
Besides, I am working with another researcher from another institution to establish a research collaboration on infectious diseases. In this case, we have spent a lot of time trying to get funding to be able to catalyze the scientific ideas that we are passionate about. At the moment we are not lucky enough to get funding. But the fact that we do not give up makes us feel like we are a team. He is a renowned senior researcher, and I am clear that he is trying to help me in my scientific career. Have you identified who is taking care of your career?
Yes, I have obtained funding to carry out a small research project thanks to an internal call from my university. With the idea of developing a bioinformatics tool, I included in the proposal its validation by external users. This strategy allows me to keep alive existing relationships as well as create new ones. For example, I am meeting with researchers from Brazil and Serbia to try to start strong and lasting scientific collaborations.
Relationships with other researchers are key to personal growth, not only professional. These collaborations may have different vehicles. That’s why networking is so important, also in science. I remember reading the book Never eat alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time during my postdoctoral stay in Switzerland. This book is a perfect resource for understanding the importance of relationships. Even for taking the next professional step in the scientific career.
Do you know who your travel companions are in your scientific and academic career?
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