Professor Chris Semsarian talking to our ECRs about the importance of mentoring

Last week, over 60 early career researchers (ECRs) from the greater Sydney area came together at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, UNSW, for the Australian Society for Medical Research’s Early Career Development (ECD) Day. The aim of the event was best summed up by introductory speaker and session Chair, Dr Luke Hesson, as giving early career researchers every edge to do what they love. 

The full day event showcased an impressive panel of inspiring speakers giving valuable advice on how to go forward following the years of formal study. Experts from many areas of the medical research sector were represented, including academia, pharmaceuticals, business, industry, government, and more.

The talks kicked off in the theme of academia and full time jobs in medical research, with advice from Dr Annemiek Beverdam on how to establish your own lab. In particular, Dr Beverdam explained the importance of creating a global network by working overseas early in a research career, and how and when to acquire independent funding.

Prof Chris Semsarian then discussed the usefulness of Twitter for research – “the best and easiest way to spread your research around the globe” (we noticed a big influx of ECRs following the ASMR Twitter handle @TheASMR1 after this talk!). Prof Semsarian also discussed the importance of mentoring – check out his recent and famous “women”toring article published in Women in Science Australia.

The session was followed by Professor Maria Kavallaris, with the best advice on how to attract funding, and the way to build up your CV to make this possible! A/Prof Joanne Lind then took over to discuss the pathway to an academic teaching career, and wise words, “you need experience to get experience”.

While many ECRs are still keen on pursing a career in academia, others are accepting that there are limited positions in this field. There was therefore a large interest in hearing about other possible careers in science. This was portion of the day was therefore well represented.

Subsequent talks included Dr Christian Toouli from Bio-Link Australia on partnering basic research with commercializationDr Farhad Shafiei from Sigma on ARC linkage grants and a perspective on working in industry, and Ben Wright from ATP Innovations discussing science as a business and business as a science.


Lunch time was no time for resting, with meet-and-greet sessions organised for ECRs to meet and have lunch with the speakers, and ask all their questions.

The afternoon session included more speakers from science industry, including pharmaceuticals (Dr Peter Tobin from Novartis) and research and development from a bioengineering perspective (Dr Sharon Sagnella). We then heard from Dr Martihn Bijker (From SCIENCE to PHARMA/Merck Serono) who trains researchers to become medical science liaisons – his best advice, “You need a good plan B to go full throttle on plan A!”


Dr Peter Tobin, senior medical advisor, talking about what it’s like to work in pharmaceuticals

The next talk was particularly interesting for many of us, with Leigh Morrison & Angela Barclay from PMP Connect discussing pharmaceutical and science recruitment. These ladies are the specialized science version of SEEK, which many of us did not know exist! You tell them what type of job you are looking for, and they will find relevant positions and help you to apply.

The day ended with talks about government and non-lab-based positions. Dr Cherul Lim from the National Measurement Institute shared her perspective on working in government, while Dr Pearly Harumal from The University of Sydney talked about what its like to be a Grants Manager.

All in all, the ECD day was a great success, especially thanks to all our great speakers. We look forward to welcoming return and new ECRs to these workshops in the years to come.


Ben Wright, Director of a commercial development program, with ECRs at the lunch time round table session.

By Dr Natalie Matosin