Jennifer Lord is based in LSTM’s Vector Biology team where she is a lecturer and researcher. Here she talks about the positive impact winning a Director’s Catalyst Fund (DCF) award has had on her career.
The Director’s Catalyst Fund (DCF) is an amazing opportunity to have as a post-doctoral researcher. Any early career academic will tell you that it is really hard to carve out your career as an independent principle investigator and that there are not many opportunities to bridge the gap between being a post-doc and winning external fellowship grants. However, the DCF has helped me achieve exactly that.
The biggest thing for me has been the way it has raised my profile. Since winning my DCF award I've been awarded the Janet Hemingway Fellowship at LSTM, have secured a career development award from the Medical Research Council, and have been awarded a substantial Natural Environment Research Council grant. Having the DCF on your CV basically tells the application boards that LSTM has real confidence in you and is invested in your career, and that is a big plus.
The DCF has also helped me actually apply for those grants – it was like a practice run. The whole process of framing your application, putting a budget together, undergoing interviews - it was all a real learning experience. The DCF application process is very competitive, but it undoubtedly prepared me for the process I underwent with the external applications and was therefore very useful.
The Vector Biology department has been great in terms of the encouragement the team has given me, especially in preparation for my DCF interview. I was offered support with crafting the written application, mock interviews, critiquing my presentation, and then setting up the project itself. This is a really supportive environment and there are lots of mentoring opportunities available.
The DCF enabled me to have time to establish a new collaboration outside of my postdoctoral work, helping to start my research independence. This collaboration resulted in a publication in Virus Evolution and the collaborator is now a mentor on my MRC Career Development Award. The DCF also boosted my confidence, enhanced my skills, and really raised my profile, both within LSTM and in the eyes of external funding panels. I am very grateful for this opportunity.