Aiden Maartens

Aiden Maartens at the Node kindly took some time out to share what it’s like to manage the community arm of Development. You can find him on twitter @flatbrained.


Short summary of your work in developmental biology:

I did a PhD with Rob Ray in the University of Sussex on cell signalling, cell fate and cell shape in the fly wing, and then a postdoc with Nick Brown in Cambridge working on the interactions and functions of the cell adhesion protein vinculin.

New role and company:

I manage the Node, a community news and views site hosted by Development, as well as doing various things for the journal (e.g social media, interviews).

Why did you choose leave academia?

Tough question! I guess I felt that while I loved science, my heart wasn’t in research. It was my own version of imposter syndrome, particularly when I’d meet scientists who were so enthusiastically in to what they were doing. Plus I’d been in universities for over a decade, so felt a change was due.

Did the experience and skills gained in academia prepare you for the new role? Was there any training, etc. you wish you had done?

You do a lot of different stuff as a postdoc, from experiments to analysis to writing to speaking. Out of this I (hopefully) got trained in project management and presentation of scientific data, both of which are a real help in my new position.

In my department there were also a lot of opportunities for training in all sorts of things, and one thing I regret was that I didn’t take up as many of these opportunities as I could have. Like a lot of scientists I felt I didn’t really have the time, but in retrospect I could have made time for it.

What is your favourite thing about your new job?

The variety of things I get up to: writing, reading, editing (inc. video editing which is a lot of fun!), commissioning. I’m also very excited to be regularly going to conferences as a non-researcher (my first is the SDB meeting in Boston next week)

Also the feeling that there is a cleaner distinction between home and work life: I don’t feel the job taking over my life like sometimes the PhD or postdoc did, and have a lot more time now I’m working regular hours.

What do you miss the most about research?

I do miss the creative side of experimenting. That feeling you get when a construct you’d worked on for months works and your larvae light up, or you get some thrilling result. There’s also I think something unique about a lab as a workplace: you really get close to the people you work with, it feels like a family.

What do you miss the least about research?

Experimental failure was never fun (but taught good lessons!). As I said before, also my occasional failure to reach a work-life balance. And the general career anxiety that you see in the faces of most postdocs.

Do you have any CV tips?

Maybe not a CV tip per se but whether you’re thinking of staying in academia or leaving it, make sure you have a variety of things to fill your CV with, whether it’s outreach, training, writing, extracurricular activities, whatever. I think these really do help you stand out. And pick a good font.

Do you have any other advice for young researchers?

Do what you love (and if it turns out that doesn’t involve the lab, don’t feel guilty!)

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