A global pandemic is a unique challenge we are all facing together. Dr George Morstyn FTSE FRACP is a strongly committed IMNIS mentor in medtech-pharma in Melbourne. We invited George to share his advice for PhD students and early-career researchers to help them manage and navigate this hurdle.
Write and write some more, upskill, look to the future

Many institutions are currently closed for laboratory work unless working on COVID19 related projects. I am on the boards of small companies, and this is a great time for staff to write reports, do in-depth analyses, and develop a strategy for when their work starts again. It is also a good time to hold a scientific advisory board meeting and video-conferences with experts who are also at home and keen to be productive. Students and early career researchers can write a paper or review, or even a book chapter. It is also great time to apply for grants, fellowships and prizes.

For those job-hunting, it could be challenging to find new positions at some universities and companies as the first priority at times like is often preserving capital so institutions survive financially. Finding the next position can involve direct recommendations from your supervisor and applying for advertised positions here and overseas. A polished profile on social media can be helpful, as will acquaintances at other institutions. You could start a role remotely if the work can be done from home.

This is also a good time for all of us to add to our skills. Graduates keen to move into business development can search for courses that ultimately lead into to an MBA. There are also online resources for learning data science and programming which are increasingly desirable skills across all research disciplines and professional sectors.

“… do not be demotivated if you feel less productive than normal – this is a common experience shared by colleagues at all levels. Be kind to yourself and to others”

Remember, this time will pass and you have a great future! A routine helps. Structure each day, but do not be demotivated if you feel less productive than normal – this is a common experience shared by colleagues at all levels. Be kind to yourself and to others. I find that less exercise requires less food – a challenge for me! I do recommend regular exercise, especially outside, and making use of telemedicine when needed. Mindfulness, yoga and stretching can all be done.

Stay connected with friends, colleagues, family – by email, phone or videoconferencing – all will strengthen your communication skills. Consider reconnecting with people you’ve lost touch with and ask them how they are coping. Set-up fun activities, virtual trivia nights, book clubs, virtual coffees with friends or lose yourself in a good novel. If you have children and a partner, make time for yourselves. Be sure to treat yourself sometimes whether it is a takeout meal, a glass of wine, or whatever else you find fun.

About the author:

Dr George Morstyn FTSE FRACP  had a distinguished career of almost 40 years in clinical research and therapeutics. With a medical degree and a PhD in experimental haematology, Dr Morstyn was head of the clinical program at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Melbourne and Principal Investigator on the earliest clinical studies of haemopoietic cytokines, the CSFs. George has worked in research and industry for many years and was Senior Vice-President of Development and Chief Medical Officer at Amgen. Dr Morstyn has extensive experience as a Board Chair and Director, including service on the Board of the CRC for Cancer Therapeutics for a decade. George is currently a Board Director with Actinogen and Limos Therapeutics, and is a Fellow and strongly committed IMNIS mentor with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.