#STEMStories: Dr. Sarah, Post-doc Resear ...

#STEMStories: Dr. Sarah, Post-doc Researcher, Australia

Sep 24, 2021

Back in October 2020, we spoke to Dr. Sarah, a post-doc researcher working on the genetics of neuromuscular diseases.

1. Introduce yourself, who are you, and what do you do?

Hey, I’m Sarah. I’m a post-doc researcher working on the genetics of neuromuscular diseases. These are really debilitating diseases of the nerve and muscle that impair movement and are often fatal. Finding the causative mutation is really important for helping the patients and their families get the best care and discovering new treatments. I also work at a national supercomputing centre! In this role, I help other researchers do massive data crunching jobs and get the most out of our facilities.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

I really didn’t sit down and plan out my career. I had been working in retail for a few years before I decided I needed to go back to uni. My mother-in-law asked me what career I wanted, and I said research sounded cool! My uncle is a researcher and it seemed interesting and involved a lot of travel. However, I like research because it’s always different and I get to challenge my brain daily.

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

hahaha, I always struggle to get out of bed no matter what! But the puzzle-solving, data analysis side of things is what really gets me going, and makes me forget to eat and drink. I feel like I'm getting close to some answer I want/need and it’s thrilling. I’m sure it looks boring from the outside though since I’m just on my laptop.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a story?

Well, there is certainly a lot of stress in research. I personally find it’s important to have things outside of your work life. My main de-stressors are friends, my fiance, my two dogs, exercise, video games, painting, and meditation. being able to distract my mind from work or anxiety helps. I think it’s different for everyone. Your mental health is hugely important, so you need to prioritise it.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

I wouldn’t say I have one role model in particular. There are aspects of many different people that I try to emulate. For example, the strategising of PhD advisor #1, the clever management of PhD supervisor #2, the kindness and gentle support I’ve seen in supercomputing management are all things I try to work towards as an ideal.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

Oh wow, so many things.

  1. Look after your mental health, and don’t sacrifice your personal life at the altar of career success.

  2. Learn how to get organised! I still struggle with this, but your brain cannot remember all the big and little things your job entails. you need a strategy!

  3. Set working hours for yourself and smash out your tasks during those hours. then, go home and chill (or however you like to enjoy yourself). your work will take up infinite time if you let it, and it’s not efficient.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Find supportive mentors, male and female, their experience can give you a lot of help, and they all have different strengths.

  2. Don't be afraid to advertise your success. We’re often made to feel like we don’t deserve to take up space or draw attention to yourself, but a bit of self-promotion is important in building your reputation as a strong performer.

  3. Be kind, and get to know people. Networking sounds like a dirty word, but it’s really just getting to know people. Be genuine about it. A little kindness goes a long way in building relationships.

8. How do you measure your success?

Making progress I suppose. Do I know more than last week/month/year? Have I moved projects along? Learned new skills?

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

Pubmed, Google, and YouTube! I’ve done various bits and pieces including videos. I’m lucky to have a rare last name so there aren’t many Dr. Sarah Beecrofts around!

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

Yeah, happy to share Twitter.

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