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Video clip: Irene is adamant that scientists should always be driven by the ‘science itself’ and not by a goal of being ‘chief this or chief that’. She also says that people must take responsibility for their own career.

I have never regretted making science a big part of my career and that’s because I think if you have a real interest and a real spark, and you’re driven by the how and the why questions and the real desire to be able to try to answer those questions, you should follow your heart in that. But not ever be driven, if you’re a scientist, purely by reaching a high position. So to be driven by the science itself rather than a goal of being chief this or chief that.

But I would say that you also have to be realistic and that involves taking responsibility for your own career so not just hoping for the best that because you work hard it will be alright, but to think ahead and to realise that if you want to keep the doors open to be able to plan the career that you want, and to keep doing what you really like that it’s also you’re, a lot of it’s your own responsibility to seek out opportunities, to seek out people to talk to rather than to expect things to be delivered. Because if you don’t take a lot of initiative yourself it may well be that doors do close and then it’s very difficult for people trying to go backwards because it is the sort of career where, if you reach a certain point in that career it’s extremely difficult for example to apply for fellowships. But I think you should be aware of that early on and it’s not at this, the internet is out there, all the information is out there and talk to people. When you’re reading papers and you’re going to meetings, if you see people doing inspirational work go and talk to them ask for opportunities, ask for advice.

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