The theme of International Women’s Day this year was #ChooseToChallenge. Here in FMS, we believe strongly in challenging gendered assumptions on working in science. It’s important to celebrate the hard working & powerful women leading our department, who set an example every day of just how much women are capable of. To all fellow women scientists out there: remember to celebrate yourselves everyday!
The fifth interview in our #ChooseToChallenge series is with Lynn Rochester, Professor of Human Movement Science (and much more!) Enjoy.
Please describe your role.
I have multiple roles as the following description will highlight and therefore, wear many hats! However, I like to think somehow, collectively, they form a coherent whole – although its not always so clear…… Let me give some examples of key roles.
I am Professor of Human Movement Science based in the Translational and Clinical Research Institute in the Faculty of Medical Sciences. In this role I am proud to lead the Brain and Movement Research Group (http://bam-ncl.co.uk/). In this role I lead strategically, provide supervision, mentorship, lead and contribute to research projects, aim to provide a dynamic and supportive environment, support the team to progress through their careers.
I have a national leadership role in the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network where I provide strategic leadership and oversite of the NIHR research portfolio covering a cluster of health conditions with the aim of optimising and ensuring delivery of high quality clinical research. In this role I also lead national research projects to improve the clinical research landscape and optimise trial delivery.
I have an international leadership role as the co-ordinator of Mobilise-D (https://www.mobilise-d.eu) funded through the EU Innovative Medicines Initiative. Mobilise-D is an international consortium of 34 academic and industry partners from 13 countries that is aiming to use digital technology to develop better methods to measure mobility in the real-world. We are applying the approach in multiple conditions so we can better measure and treat mobility loss.
But in reality irrespective of the title my role is to support, nurture, mentor, lead, create, problem solve and deliver – its never dull!
What would a normal day look like for you?
I would imagine my daily routine can appear – to an outside eye as chaotic – because as you can tell by the response to the previous question – I juggle multiple roles. For many of us a normal day at present isn’t a ‘normal’ day because of the remote nature of work. In reality for me however, multiple ZOOM calls were already part of my routine – because of the international nature of my work. What has changed is the intensity of each day, as there is no down time moving from one meeting to another. This means that your brain has to catch up quickly – moving from a conversation on algorithms to measure mobility, to inclusion of under-served populations in clinical trials, to PhD supervision, to chairing or speaking at national/international meetings. But its all good – there is no such thing as a boring day. I really enjoy the different interactions and I get to work with some amazing people as well as the pleasure of seeing members of my group progressing in their careers. I am looking forward to some face to face meetings however, as I miss the spontaneity of conversation, bouncing ideas around and just the general joy of interacting with other human beings J.
How have you found a balance between work and homelife during Covid?
Like everyone this was a challenge and has continued to evolve over the duration of the pandemic. I am someone who works best in a team – both as a clinician (as a physiotherapist) and as an academic. So initially I found it very difficult to suddenly find myself working from home and adapting to the new normal. However, it was essential – and it became clear that my working space/environment was critical – as well as the need to create some clear boundaries. I am fortunate in that there was space to create a separate office. This allowed me to set up better routines and help create a balance. I have always been active and enjoyed exercise, however this became even more important for me. I have prioritised getting outside each day and taking regular breaks to move around (nothing more exciting than getting up to sort out the laundry – one of the benefits of home working – the chores don’t have to wait until the weekend 😊). On some levels it has made life easier as commuting to meetings around the country and overseas took a lot of my time. So in some ways I have also gained.
What does it mean to you being a woman in your role?
Not an easy question to answer. There are the obvious responses of course – but in reality – on a day to day basis I don’t really think about this – I just see myself as one of the team – either leading it or working within – depending upon what is going on. However, I think I bring a different perspective and that is good. I am also tuned into the competing challenges that female colleagues may have and this awareness is important to help create a harmonious and inclusive workplace. My own research team is very diverse – so the experience of working in a diverse team is embedded within the research culture of my group. I am also able to reflect on my own experiences and use those to inform interactions with colleagues. I mentor female scientists and one of the key areas I find important is building confidence to lead. I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people who have influenced me in my career. I hope in turn I can pass this on to the talented women who I work with in my group and more broadly. One advantage of being in a senior leadership role is that I can use my voice where needed to highlight issues and celebrate success – both of which are important. I find that there are more celebrations than problems when things are approached with a positive and collegial frame of mind. As with everything in life – balance is important!
A massive thank you to Lynn for taking the time to talk to us.
Newcastle University is committed to developing careers for all colleagues, with some great success stories of women who have developed full and rewarding careers across the institution. Historically we have supported specific women into leadership programmes such as the Aurora programme and the Women in academia – coaching and mentoring (WiCAM) programme in collaboration with Durham University, alongside broader coaching and mentoring opportunities. As part of the university commitment to this agenda, work is currently underway to review our development offerings with a view to launching a refreshed offer in the autumn to ensure we have the right support in place.