Dr Katherine Woolf, Lecturer in Medical Education, talks about her experience of being highlighted as a UCL SLMS Academic Role Model
You may remember getting an email from the Academic Careers Office back in March 2012 about a new Academic Role Models initiative led by Professor Geraint Rees. SLMS staff were asked to nominate a UCL colleague – from any grade, clinical or non-clinical, research or teaching – whom they considered “inspirational”. Nominators completed a short form explaining who they were nominating and why, and the Academic Role Models office selected 40 to profile in more depth for a publication launched in June 2013.
I found out I’d been selected in September 2012 while on holiday in Mongolia. On my return I was asked to complete a short interview about my career to date, the highs and lows, what advice I would give to people finishing off their PhD, how I keep motivated, and what I do when I’m not working in SLMS (apparently many people had been nominated partly for their ability to balance their work and home lives). It was interesting to reflect on these questions and try to formulate answers that were truthful and personal but also professional and useful to the people who might read them. David Bishop the SLMS photographer came to photograph me – rather embarrassingly during a teaching session – just before Christmas, and my bit of the process was done and dusted.
In May 2013, the Academic Careers Office hosted a launch party for the Academic Role Models publication in the Haldane Room. I think I was alone in bringing my partner and the colleague who nominated me (lots of other role models didn’t know who had nominated them), but luckily nobody seemed to mind. It was really interesting to see for the first time who else had been nominated and incredibly humbling to discover I featured in the same publication as some of the greatest minds in modern science. It was lovely talking to the other role models, so many of whom I personally admire, including of course Prof Jane Dacre, Dr Deborah Gill and Dr Anita Berlin (Dr Petra Boynton unfortunately couldn’t make the party), but also Prof Essi Viding and Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from Psychology who have both helped me at important points in my career. And so many women! –a fact apparently not orchestrated by the Academic Careers Office, but a reflection of the people nominated.
My own contribution notwithstanding, the Academic Role Models publication really is an interesting and useful read for anyone thinking about getting in to academia. But it also useful for people like me who are quite near to the start of their careers and trying to figure out how to be the best academics they can. I certainly feel I’ve benefited from reading it and I’ve already passed it on to a PhD student who is writing up and considering what to do next.
Find more about the scheme and download the publication here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slms/aco/features/rolemodels