Happy New Year everybody! 2020 was an odd and challenging one but if you are reading this you made it through. Pat yourself on the back for it.
I have been meaning to write this for a long time, but I always find myself with a massive list of tasks and it is hard to find time. So, three years of the STP gone, completed. I can brag to have completed it, registered as a Clinical Bioinformatician and hold a permanent Clinical Scientist position at Addenbrookes’s Hospital, but how did I get here and what did I learn?
A look back at third year.
The start of third year feels so far away. For me it started across the pond, doing my elective at the Broad Institute in Boston (What? travelling? Those were the days). I realised I never actually reflected on my elective properly for you. I got to spend six weeks working alongside brilliant scientists and I learned so much. I want to take a moment to thank Laura, Yossi and Eric for making my elective the wonderful experience that it was. I learned more about tools we use in our clinical practice, took part in their development discussions, got to live in a different continent and also met a lot of amazing people. Also Boston is an amazing place to be and I would definitely recommend you to visit. Have lobster rolls and craft beer by the ocean. Thinking back to that time, my main advice is, nothing is impossible. Take every opportunity that is given to you. If you want something, ask as many people possible and someone may say yes.
Coming back from my travels brought me back to reality. New trainees, competencies, finalising my research project, it was non-stop. We got to go to university before the pandemic reached the UK which was nice, got to see my STP pals, spend time with them and say goodbye to Manchester. We had some good times. Cherish every moment cause you don’t know when you will be able to again.
Then boom, a pandemic. I remember when we were counting the cases and were like, OMG 100 cases today! Reminiscing back to that. The pandemic brought a bit of a panic and a lot of change to our way of working. As bioinformaticians we were the first to work from home, and I had to finish my assignments and thesis while my motivation levels were at an all time low. We adapted, but I long for a face to face meeting at the moment. Our department was going (and is still going) through a lot of change. I was tasked to help with a lot of project and routine work which didn’t leave me a lot of time to go away and do my competencies. I want to stress to anyone doing the STP, take time to do your competencies when you need to, say no if you think you don’t have time. At the end of the day they are the main component towards your registration so if you find yourself not having time for them, ask for more time. Lockdown also brought two amazing things in my life; me and my housemate got a cat, his name is Rascal and we love him, and we also got an allotment and get to grow our own vegetables and escape there as we don’t have a garden of our own.
The pandemic came and brought all the cancellations with it, but we scientists know how to adapt.
No conferences? It’s ok, conferences in your living room.
No meetings? Zoom, MS Teams, Slack – we made it work.
No interviews? The school found a way and it seems to have worked as our newest trainees are lovely.
No rotations allowed? It’s ok, we made a virtual one.
No OSFAs? Well this one was interesting.
We got a flavour of the OSFAs in March and I did not really enjoy them. I left my last station crying and I couldn’t contain myself. It took some breathing to resume my smiley self, and the pints afterwards definitely helped calmed my nerves. I do wish I got another chance at them, just for my pride. The replacement was a bit of a controversial choice on my opinion. The latest addition to our list of acronyms – the IACC. This was a cringeworthy piece of writing. You had to be proud of yourself writing it without sounding cocky but needing to show all your accomplishments, while also being humble to show what you have yet to accomplish. It was a different way of writing and to anyone having to do it this summer, ask your Training Officer for help and get people to proof read it. You made it this far; showcase your amazingness in 3,000 words, I know you can do it.
One of my proudest moments during the third year was the creation of a virtual bioinformatics rotation. Four weeks of slacking, talks, discussions and bioinformatics. The current curriculum lacks in terms of bioinformatics in the competencies of this rotation but we got to change it up and show the rotating trainees more of what we do which was wonderful. Can’t wait to plan next years.
And that was it, MSc passed, STP portfolio submitted (though not all but what can we do?), registration achieved.
But what have I learned?
- Learn to say no. If you think you don’t have enough time to accomplish something it is better to say it outright. (still working on this one)
- Things usually take longer than you think so plan more realistically.
- STP Pals: Everyone in your STP cohort is going through a similar situation, cherish their existence, ask for help and help them also. I don’t think I can ask for better people to go through the STP with. Special shout out to Jes, as without her this blog wouldn’t exist in his form and she also kept me sane with a daily good morning. 🙂
- Take the opportunity to train others. Trainees will keep coming so take the time to help them out as you would have liked to be helped and guided yourself.
- Take time for your personal development. Conferences, training sessions, use your training budget to improve yourself and learn new skills.
- Enjoy your time as a trainee.
Now with the new applications open, if you are a prospective trainee, take time to read over and ask about the program, ensure it is for you and showcase all your strengths when applying. Everyone at STP Perspectives would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
The three years of the program have taught me so much, helped me develop as a scientist and as an individual. I have met wonderful people, travelled in lots of different countries and I wouldn’t change it for anything.