The College of Scholars’ Lunch – ‘An Inspiring and Encouraging Event’

22 Dec 2014

'SCI offers a lot of support to its members in all possible ways to all age groups' – Moni Gupta, SCI Scholar

The second SCI College of Scholars' Lunch of 2014 took place at SCI, 14/15 Belgrave Square, on 3 December. These events are an opportunity to present the new SCI Scholars with their certificates and introduce them to the support and opportunities which SCI has to offer. Due to the interactive nature of the event, we were also able to get the participants' views on what they want from SCI and get their opinions on how the Society should be moved forward to better suit member needs.

Over twenty five participants, including five SCI Scholars, two past SCI Scholars and nine early career committee members who felt they could all benefit from the presentations, attended the half-day meeting.

The event started with a brief introduction and welcome from Alan Heaton, Chair of the Early Careers Support Sub Committee and Principal of SCI's College of Scholars, followed by the conferral of the certificates to the new Scholars. Sir Geoffrey Allen presented the certificates and the scientific dictionaries (Usborne's Illustrated Dictionary of Science) which were given to SCI courtesy of BASF.

Lunch was then held in the Garden Room and was a great opportunity to 'meet informally other members and get a clearer idea of what SCI has to offer to its younger members' (Giuliamonica Leonardi, Membership Affairs Committee)

Following lunch, the presentations began. Alan Heaton began by giving by giving an update on the College of Scholars activities in the past 12 months. First, he gave a brief introduction on the College of Scholars scheme, for the benefit of those who were not aware of it. He then presented a review of 2014’s early career activities including the completion of an early-careers survey, the organisation of mentors for three new Scholars, the arrangement of the Daphne Jackson Fellow and the SCI/RS Andrew Scholar and reported that the third annual Day of Science and Careers event was held with much success earlier this year. Before announcing the future plans of the Early Careers Support Sub Committee and the College of Scholars, Alan highlighted to the participants the SCI benefits that were on offer to them, such as the Members' Directory and CV building opportunities by being involved in SCI committees. Alan then gave an overview of the plans for 2015 which include; an expansion of the College of Scholars and its activities, the fourth annual Day of Science and Careers event (which will be held at SCI on 27 April), the set up of an SCI Ambassadors system across UK universities and companies, the publication of SCI members' posters (which have been presented at an SCI event) on the SCI website and collaborations with other societies. He finished his presentation by explaining to the participants how important it was to hear their views on SCI activities, especially in the feedback session which took place later in the day.

The second presentation was given jointly by Peter Grimbly (Publications Advisory Committee) and Alexandra Carrick (Wiley) on SCI publications. Peter introduced them both and explained the importance of publications to SCI as they are a major source of income for the Society and a great way for those in industry and research to stay on top of the developments in their field. Alexandra then spoke in more depth about the journals and C&I magazine, 'a very good magazine as it connects the news of the industrial and academic world together.'(Moni Gupta, SCI Scholar). She spoke about the opportunities for publication in SCI journals and C&I, the publication process and opportunities which may open in the future such as acting as a reviewer for the journals. Peter spent the remainder of the presentation on the topic of how to present a paper, mainly via poster but also by other means such as social media and PowerPoint lectures.

Following Peter and Alexandra’s talk, James Frost (past SCI Scholar), gave the audience an update about the benefits of an SCI Scholarship and what he has done since finishing his PhD studies, culminating in starting at his current position, a postdoctoral placement at the University of Oxford in synthetic organic chemistry. He explained how the opportunities given by SCI (such as the Scholarship, networking opportunities and his attendance at SCI conferences) have helped him in his career. The current SCI Scholars were greatly encouraged by James’ presentation - as current SCI Scholar, Paul Brack, explains, ‘as a new scholar, it was great to meet some of the former scholars, and hear them talk about the significant contribution their scholarship has made to their careers.’

Joe Sweeney continued the presentations by speaking about the Royal Society Industry Fellowship scheme which complements the new SCI/RS Andrew Studentships (which Alan touched upon earlier in the day). The Royal Society Industry Fellowship Scheme funds academics to work in industry or people from industry to work in academic institutions. The SCI/RS Andrew Studentships fund PhD students over a three year period to work on areas of neglected science and which fall within SCI's remit i.e. the application of chemistry and related sciences in key topical areas: food and bio-renewables, water, waste and environment, energy, materials and manufacturing, health and well-being. For further information on the scheme, please click on the link below.

After a short tea-break, the presentations commenced with a career case study from Andy Merritt (SCI College of Scholars Patron and Associate Director, Chemistry MRCT Centre for Therapeutics Discovery). Andy spoke about his current career in academic translational research and his twenty-year career at a large pharmaceutical company (GSK). He spoke about the different stages in drug discovery and why big pharmaceutical companies aren't the only mechanisms for research - there are more and more opportunities for academic and state funded research groups to be involved in the areas of target identification, validation and all of the medicinal chemistry activities associated with early stage drug discovery. He closed with the lessons he has learnt throughout his career in pharmaceuticals.

The formal part of the event ended with a vigorous feedback and discussion session, chaired by Tim Reynolds (Early Careers Support Sub Committee). The session covered such topics as; the needs of Scholars and what they want out of SCI, the importance of linking with Regional and Technical Interest Groups, communication, and suggestions for new ways that SCI can assist with the needs of early career people. Ideas on how SCI could develop in the future were then invited from the audience. The participants were very pleased that they were invited to contribute. As Natalie Cureton (Liverpool & Northwest Committee member) writes, 'the day was very good for encouraging the engagement of SCI members and for allowing us to feedback on how SCI can interact with us. I loved the general discussion at the end and that we were so encouraged to get involved.'

One important topic of conversation was the participants' ideas and feedback on the mentoring scheme which SCI is looking to run as a pilot scheme in 2015. The idea of offering a mentoring service was met with much enthusiasm from the audience. As Jancie Ng (Food Group Committee member) tells us, 'I like the mentoring scheme idea because it would give us, the young scientists, a lot of professional assistance and advice from experienced colleagues. I would like to thank SCI for giving us such an opportunity!'

The day concluded with a wine and nibbles reception allowing members and delegates to network with each other in an informal setting, Natalie Cureton, Liverpool and Northwest member tells us, 'it gave me the chance to network with people that are also members of SCI but that I usually would not have contact with.'

We are already looking forward to planning the next College of Scholars' Lunch* and our Day of Science and Careers Event in 2015 as well as rolling out the early career activities we have planned for 2015.

*Places at College of Scholars’ Lunches are by invitation only and invitees either need to be SCI Scholars or active early career members. If you are interested in attending the next College of Scholars' Lunch and are not already on an active early career member, why not consider joining an SCI Committee? Please contact and we can put you in touch with the Chair of the relevant committee.

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