Meet our expert: Dr Emma Williams
What made you decide to become a trainer?
I’m not sure anyone ever really deliberately chooses to become a trainer! It happened by accident really. I’d finished my post-doc position and knew I wanted to do something else but just wasn’t sure what! Then I stumbled on a job advert for a graduate and post-doctoral trainer which could have been written for me, as it ticked every box in terms of experience I had built up during my PhD and my post-doc at Cambridge University.
I’d taught during my PhD and developed more training experience during my post-doc and I loved it, so when I saw the opportunity to develop a training programme for students at Cambridge I jumped at the opportunity.
What was an ad-hoc position soon developed into a full-time position and I realised that I had stumbled on a career that I was very good at and which I loved – working with early career researcher, teaching them transferable skills, coaching and career development.
I briefly got promoted to develop the staff training programme at the University but realised that my passion lay with the researchers so I left and started my own business dedicated to what I love and that’s helping early career researches reach their potential.
What courses do you Deliver?
This year I’m teaching quite a number of courses for MPLS Training & Development, some of them very much focused on career development like get that job and pitching yourself . Others on research specific skills, like get that fellowship, get that grant, pitching for funding. As well as practical courses covering, creative thinking, research project planning and evaluating your ideas.
Then there is the MPLS Enterprising Women’s SeedWISE programme that I love to teach and be part of as it’s a particular passion of mine – women in research and supporting their career progression. It’s always so inspiring to see the transformations that take place every year when we run this course and it’s particularly enjoyable because we see it over the course of a few months. It’s not just a one-off session, we really get to know the participants and have the opportunity to influence and help in many ways. I love working with the other inspiring speakers on the programme as well – all in all it’s a brilliant programme to be part of!
What is your favourite part of supporting researchers?
I actually love hearing about the research that they are doing – it takes me back to my academic days and the inner geek in me surfaces!
However, from my point of view, I do it because I know that these bright, brilliant researchers should be able to go out into the world, take their next steps and achieve great things and I just want to help them with that. It’s a skill I have being able to improve an academics scientific CV so that they showcase their talents to put them in the best position possible to get that job!
What are your top tips for anyone starting out in research?
I would say ask all the questions that you want to – don’t hold back because you are worried about looking stupid. There are naturally going to be so many things that you don’t know and that’s not a bad thing, so don’t be afraid - just keep asking questions.
The other thing I would say is to make the most of Oxford and the vast array of activities that the university and the city has to offer. Get stuck in – the coffee shops, the entertainment, the activities by the river – there are so many things to get involved in, so just do it.
Don’t get so caught up in your research that you end up burning out – your brain needs time and space to re-charge. That’s when the good ideas happen or when you have a moment of clarity.
Oxford is an amazing place to build networks, meet new people – especially if you have the advantage of being part of the college system – make connections, ones that may remain with you for life.
I would add that having all these extra dimensions, on top of your research, also looks good on your CV!