“I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.”
These words by Marie Curie resonate with me, as they accurately describe my feelings of awe and curiosity which have driven me in the pursuit of understanding the living world. I read the quote every morning as it welcomes me to the lab, on a plaque outside my building.
I’m Virginie, a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania. I moved to sunny Philadelphia just over two years ago. It was quite a change from London, where I had been previously living (although I can dispel the rumors of constant rain: London has an equal number of non-wet days!).
Close to five years in the Big Smoke (as we call it) forged me into a proper Londoner, and I loved it! I obtained a PhD from Queen Mary, University of London, designing new therapies for prostate cancer using tumor-lysing viruses in combination with plant compounds. Working in a relatively small group lead by an enthusiastic (woman) PI (principal investigator) allowed me to develop a certain scientific confidence, as well as a passion for teaching students and training junior peers. I learnt a tremendous amount, in terms of lab techniques and also in science communication, attending a number of conferences, both large and small, alone and with other lab members. Life in the gene therapy world was good! I felt like part of a big global family of scientists.
After a short postdoc in the same lab, I decided to venture out and explore new horizons in the USA, to further my career (having that American stamp on your CV is pretty valuable when applying for jobs in Europe) and to discover new things (in a country where I speak the language, always a bonus!). The East coast seemed to hold lots of opportunities, and before I knew it, I had a job offer from a highly reputed PI at Penn! I accepted and started packing without looking back. It took me awhile to adjust to the giant lab, working in a new field (I switched from adenoviruses to adeno-associated viruses, and from cancer to respiratory infectious diseases). I quickly settled in Philly, made new friends (mostly outside the lab), and started taking advantage of the amazing perks associated with Penn.
In this blog, I hope to give you a flavor of what life as a postdoc at Penn is like, with the good, the bad and the ugly (mostly the good!). Recently I’ve been thinking about science in the pharmaceutical sphere, science policies for graduate students, and grant funding processes, so those subjects will probably crop up as well. Finally, as I slowly consider my next career move, I’d like to bounce some ideas around with Bio Careers readers, trying to find the elusive perfect post-postdoc job, perhaps outside academia, maybe even outside science…
Looking forward to this journey with you.
Until next time,