Dr Pamela Reid, Strategic Research Officer, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford.
Tell us a little about yourself, and what attracted you to studying/working at the University of Oxford?
I trained in Biochemistry 'north of the border', I was an undergraduate in Aberdeen and a PhD student in Dundee. I did four years of post-doctoral research at the Institute of Cancer Research, UCL and the University of Glasgow then I made the move to be a scientific administrator at the Wellcome Trust in 1995. I spent just short of 21 years setting up the Grants Management Operations Team and being Secretary of Committees for Neuroscience and Mental Health, Molecular and Cell Biology and for Investigator Awards, which I set up working alongside Sir Paul Nurse. I really enjoyed working with all the leading scientists in the world who served on our Committees. My post was made redundant in 2016 so I worked a year at Breast Cancer Now and then for the Saïd Business School as School Secretary before joining Professor John Gallacher's Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) team in 2018 as Senior Project Manager. I worked with John and his team to secure renewal of the DPUK funding then persuaded Professor John Geddes that he needed a Strategic Research Officer to help with the BRC renewal. I have now been in a BRC/departmental strategic role for 17 months.
My association with Oxford started in 2010 with a one week' secondment to work for Glenn Swafford in Research Services. I then went back to work for Glenn for another 16 weeks' secondment in 2015. It was all great experience and I was very happy to re-join Oxford in 2017.
What is your vision for the team/project/research you study/work with?
I’d like to help everyone secure significant grant funding and with my insight from Wellcome/ Breast Cancer Now, I am sure I can provide help, advice and guidance to grant applicants. From a personal point of view, I’d also like to help others with their personal development.
What is currently at the top of your To-Do List?
As we await the result of the BRC application, there is a long ‘to-do’ list, but frustratingly not much that can be productively tackled without knowing if we have been successful. In the meantime, I’ve volunteered my services in the department, tackling a variety of projects and I have been reading and commenting on grant proposals.
How did you get to where you are today?
I had a really successful PhD with Professor Colin Watts in Dundee, but my research career was hampered by a post-doc that produced no publications and the realisation that I wasn’t ‘green fingered’ in the lab. I also did not want to be a research team leader, but to act as the second in command in a group. My female boss in Glasgow advised this would be very tricky and possibly unsustainable in the long term, encouraging me to pursue a role with a ‘permanent job.’ I couldn’t believe my luck when I started as a Grants Officer at Wellcome (50% increase in pay from being a post-doc) and the tasks involved reading science, using my training, but without the uncertainties of doing the lab work. I also got to interact with the crème de la crème of the scientific world in the luxurious settings of the Wellcome Trust headquarters in London. Where else would you be asked if you wanted the French Polisher to sort the scratch on your wooden desk and choose artwork for your office walls!
Who or what inspires you?
I’ve had a couple of inspirational bosses. Catherine Quinn set up the Grants Management Department at Wellcome and appointed me to my first senior role working alongside her so we could build on my Wellcome insight. She left to become the first female CEO at Middle Temple, took on the CEO role at the Saïd Business School (rehiring me whilst there) and then became the Personal Private Secretary to the Duchess of Cambridge. Catherine has continued to act in a mentoring capacity to me and can be relied on to give good career advice. My second inspirational boss is Professor John Geddes. I’ve been hugely impressed with the drive, energy and enthusiasm John has for everything he does. The last year working on the BRC renewal has been very tough, but John gave everything to try and ensure success and I knew my role was to provide support to him. In spite of the pressures of knowing so many people’s livelihoods depend on the funding, we’ve still managed to find time to chat about our hobbies and, as appropriate, had a laugh about some of the issues we’ve encountered along the way.
If you were not in your study programme/job currently, what would you like to be doing?
My school wanted me to consider becoming a PE teacher (I was a county tennis and badminton player) and I wanted to be a bilingual secretary before I realised the German language and its strange word order wasn’t for me.
I do wonder if I might have enjoyed a role, such as a radiographer or physiotherapist where you train for a job for life. I think the stability of a permanent role is what I have been seeking.
And if my body had been up to it, I’d have liked to play tennis at a higher level than I achieved.