Barry, in his own words
I’m from Waterford, a small city on the south east coast of Ireland. After receiving my PhD in electrical power engineering from the University of Edinburgh, I was a Marie SkłodowskaCurie Actions MSCA-funded postdoctoral researcher in Madrid, where I researched sustainable energy technologies and electricity grids. I’ve also spent time as a visiting researcher in the US and in England. These mobility experiences were really influential for my research career. I’m now an assistant professor at University College Cork in Ireland, where I lead a growing research team of two postdocs, three PhDs, and several Masters students, and I teach power engineering topics. It’s always extremely busy, but I love my job so it never feels like work.
"I think it’s very important to promote the MSCA fellowships and make best use of the MCAA network"
Barry’s MSCA project definitely boosted his career and he is grateful about this. This is why he is happy to be a part of the MCAA. “I think it’s very important to promote the MSCA fellowships and make best use of the MCAA network, which is a unique network of extremely talented researchers with an international perspective. Also my MSCA postdoc mobility really helped me in my career, so it’s a chance to give something back,” he explains.
SECURING A STABLE FUTURE FOR RESEARCHERS
In his new role as MCAA Ireland Chair, Barry has big plans. “The goals are to grow the number of active members, and to share knowledge and experiences on the topics that are important to all MCAA Ireland members, regardless of discipline. These include how to find research funding, and how to find high-quality, stable jobs in research and academia,” says Barry.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a year of challenges. “It has obviously made all of our local and national events impossible in the traditional sense, and the last 12 months have been very quiet in terms of MCAA Ireland activities. We’re trying to address this by looking at options for virtual events, and we’re really keen to start in-person events up again as soon as we’re able,” explains Barry.
PREPARING FOR LIFE AFTER COVID-19
Despite the pandemic, Barry is keen to conduct activities for the Chapter in 2021. “The MCAA Ireland Chapter has been involved in organising local social events and an annual event with guest speakers focusing on career progression. We’re hoping to keep these events going, either virtually, or in person in the second half of 2021,” he adds.
Barry is also quick to note that COVID-19 and all the related restrictions and limitations are temporary. “It will pass,” he says. “Having access to emergency funds to support researchers through the pandemic (especially those finishing PhDs) is crucial to maintain continuity. There are now some grants available for this in Ireland, but these are not enough to meet the demand. A quick and effective vaccine rollout would also help a lot!”
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM
"I wish to offer inspiring and empowering opportunities for all MSCA fellows amid the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 context."
Cristina, in her own words
I’m a passionate Spanish historian specialised in European Integration History and I am currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow and Principal Investigator (PI) of the EU H-2020 research project ‘Navigating Schengen: Historical Challenges and Potentialities of the EU’s Free Movement of Persons, 1985-2015’ (NAVSCHEN) at the European Studies Centre (ESC) – EU Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence (JMEUCE) of the University of Pittsburgh and the Ca' Foscari University of Venice.
I previously was Assistant Professor in ‘European Culture and Politics’ at the University of Groningen and ‘Santander’ Senior Fellow in European Studies at the European Studies Centre (ESC) – St. Antony’s College of the University of Oxford, where I remain a Senior Member. Earlier on, I worked as PI, Lecturer and Leading Researcher in European Studies at: the CVCE – University of Luxembourg; the Robert Schuman for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) in Florence; the DG Enlargement of the European Commission and the European Parliament in Brussels and at the US Congress in Washington, D.C.
I am also a Member of the Global Young Academy (GYA) and Co-Leader of the GYA project ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic and Art’, as well as a Member of the Spanish Young Academy, where I represent the field of History.
I obtained my PhD in History and Civilisation (European Integration History) at the European University Institute of Florence (EUI), for which I received the FAEY ‘Best PhD Thesis European Research and Mobility Award’. My current MSCA GF research project NAVSCHEN aims to produce the first dedicated historical analysis of all worldwide available primary sources on the transnational roots, debates and conditions for the implementation of the EU’s free movement of persons.
The project’s overall objective is to highlight the value of critical historical analysis and the normative legacies on human mobility rights in the European integration process. In a nutshell, NAVSCHEN aims to address the current challenges of the EU’s migration and asylum policymaking from a Human Rights perspective by looking back in order to see beyond.
For Cristina, her commitment to becoming the Chair of the North America Chapter is above all altruistic. “I wish to offer inspiring and empowering opportunities for all MSCA fellows amid the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 context, so that their experience in the region (and beyond) makes a determinate difference in their future career development and in the unfolding of their personal potential, their ‘becoming’,” she explains.
TRANSFERABLE SKILLS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Cristina wishes to organise activities within the Chapter that will contribute to the development of transferable skills, such as:
exploring research publication opportunities with major university presses; publishing houses and high impact journal representatives in North America;
helping fellows develop soft skills and research presentation skills;
connecting researchers to enhance future common projects;
helping senior MSCA Global Fellowship achieve a distinctive professional development skill set based on actionable new capacities and networks;
contributing to the visibility and impact of Early Career Researchers;
building bridges for joint enriching actions between the EU and North America;
bringing expert advice on job searches within and outside the academic sector in the pandemic context and offering a welcoming ground for the diffusion of multifaceted creative expressions beyond the fellows’ fields of research (curriculum B).
MENTAL HEALTH AND WELFARE IN JEOPARDY
When mentioning the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on research so far, Cristina highlights the numerous negative consequences. “The closure of labs, archives, libraries and departments for a long time has impacted not only the rhythm of our work and creativity; it has also affected the natural exchanges as part of a highly interactive research and academic ecosystem and the building of collaborative networks normally leading to future common ventures,” she says.
In addition, mental health and a well-rounded approach to researchers’ welfare remains the most important concern as regards the pandemic so far. Therefore, the Chapter launched this first activity on ‘Rising above: The Impact of COVID-19 on our MSCA projects’. “We have more questions than answers in a collectively uncertain terrain, but some of us have gone through and overcame experiences which can helpfully shed light on others fellows’ paths,” explains Cristina.
THE POWER OF KINDNESS
To overcome the crisis we are currently living, Cristina emphasises kindness as a cardinal value. “Fellowships tend to revolve about conventional notions of ‘prestige’ and ‘productivity’, but this last year has shown us that kindness is key to anchor emotional health and to learn to admire ‘the other’, thus transforming competition into collaboration,” she says. Could the pandemic be a blessing in disguise in some aspects? “Time spent in self-reflection may also gift us with the most amazing discovery of all the different versions of ourselves. It may guide us towards the versions of ourselves we would like to become, both autonomously and in conversation with others who could potentially transform from opponents into valuable collaborators,” concludes Cristina.
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM
"We look for activities which can enhance the MCAA and MSCA awareness among the Brazilian scientific community"
Gledson, in his own words
I am a Brazilian analytical scientist working with sensors and data analysis for improving how we produce the things we eat, use and take. I applied for my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) fellowship when I was living in Lisbon, working for a consultancy company helping pharma and biopharma industries to optimise their processes. I moved to Scotland and spent five years there. It is a place where I have made great friendships and experienced memorable moments, thanks to the excellent conditions offered by the MSCA fellowship, the University of Strathclyde's vibrant environment, and Glasgow's friendly vibe. I am currently in Brazil doing a postdoc at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation.
When Gledson recalls what motivated the creation of the Brazil Chapter, he concludes that his experience in Scotland played a major role. “I became the Chair of the ABEP-UK, the oldest Brazilian association of postgraduate researchers abroad, which is completing 41 years this year. It was a great learning experience having to liaise with Higher Education stakeholders in the UK and Brazil,” he explains.
When he went back to Brazil, he founded the MCAA Brazil Chapter with a few MSCA Fellows and the help of Euraxess. The obvious next step to him was to apply as the Chair of the Chapter.
INCREASING MSCAS’ VISIBILITY
Increasing the visibility of the Chapter is one of Gledson’s main objectives. He explains why: “Marie Curie Actions are not well known in Brazil. Our ambition is to improve the Brazilian participation and approval rates in the programme. In this scope, we try to establish partnerships with the main Brazilian stakeholders, organise events, and offer training activities. We look for activities which can enhance the MCAA and MSCA awareness among the Brazilian scientific community,” he adds.
Due to the pandemic, 2020 has been a particularly tough year for researchers, according to Gledson. The Chapter had for example to cancel the 2nd Latin America conference. Fortunately, the event has been postponed and will take place online next March. “We lost several opportunities to meet people faceto-face, which is valuable to improve connections. But at the same time, we were able to bring our events to a bigger audience when we switched to the online format,” says Gledson.
RE-INVENTING RESEARCH ENVIRONMENTS
According to the Brazil Chapter’s Chair, we should not disregard that such a crisis, like the one we are currently living with the COVID-19, gives room for reflection on how research could be envisaged in the future. “I think we cannot lose this opportunity to discuss how to build kinder and better science environments. I hope we can finish the year having offered opportunities to our community to discuss ways of improving the research culture, especially here in Brazil, where such discussion is still very incipient. It would be great to have more volunteer members who could occasionally help us plan and organise our actions. We invite all members and their specific interests,” adds Gledson.
To build resilience and to maintain continuity in research, empathy is vital for Gledson. “We need to respect people’s needs if we want to have more sustainable careers and research outputs of better quality,” he concludes.
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM
"In the COVID-19 context, the key way to build resilience is hard work, innovative practices and persistence."
Joaquin, in his own words
I am Spanish, born in Zaragoza, with my family coming from Somontano, Huesca region. I have studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Zaragoza, with an Erasmus experience in Germany (FHTE Esslingen).
After a short student internship, I enrolled as a PhD student at LIFTEC (a CSIC research centre in Zaragoza), in the frame of the University Professor Training programme (FPU), including during the doctoral period stays at some other research centres (CHEC-DTU, IREC, FURV) and some teaching experience in the Fluid Mechanics Area of the University of Zaragoza.
After the PhD, I was awarded a Marie Curie fellowship to work for two years in Italy as Experienced Researcher in an Industria Academia Partnership and Pathways (IAPP) project (Green Kitchen), in which Whirlpool, SUPSI, the Polytechnic University of Milan and the University of Wroclaw were involved as partners. The main aim of the project was the investigation of innovative technologies and eco-design strategies in the field of home appliances for drastically improving the efficiency in the use of resources.
Since 2014, I work in Pamplona at BSH Home Appliances (Bosch Group), in the Heat Pump Competence Centre, dealing with innovation projects involving thermal, fluid and kinetic analyses of advanced technologies applied to vapor compression cycles.
For Joaquin, tapping the potential of the Spain-Portugal Chapter was behind his motivations to apply as a Chair. “I have developed my career in some research centres at international level, from both academia and industry, so this global perspective can be helpful to successfully accomplish the Chair functions,” he explains with enthusiasm.
Joaquin has already established the clear goals that he aims to reach within the Chapter:
Encouraging local networking among MCAA members on the Spain-Portugal basis, facilitating connections between MC fellows and alumni, and supporting activities that will add value to them;
Increasing the exchange of knowledge among people from different countries, sectors of the economy, and scientific disciplines;
Boosting cooperation and mutual understanding among MCAA members and external stakeholders;
Providing excellent conditions to generate constructive debate for researchers and citizens.
In 2021, Joaquin plans to increase the networking among Chapter members through specific social events. In addition, experiences between industry and academia will be promoted through appropriate forums.
Soft skills will represent the core activities of the Chapter with the development and enhancement of the knowledge in synergies, taking into account both scientific and non-scientific disciplines.
“We aim to engage with new potential members for the MCAA and ensure they become more actively involved in activities,” adds Joaquin.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES CAUSED BY COVID-19
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the events led by the Chapters have been conducted online. “Virtual events will surely be a must for most of the activities to be performed in the next months. Let's hope that with a bit of luck, we will be able to organise face-to-face activities soon,” he says.
Nevertheless, leading a Chapter during a pandemic implies being creative in addressing the pitfalls. “In the current times of uncertainty within the COVID-19 context, the key way to build resilience are hard work, innovative practices and persistence,” says Joaquin. Being agile is key to adapting to any situation.
“Once the new strategies and goals are decided and implemented, an agile approach is recommended to monitor the development of this new scenario, to learn from it, and to periodically review and readjust it, if necessary,” he concludes.
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Maya, in her own words
Originally from Bulgaria, I obtained two Masters of Science (MSc) degrees in psychology - from St Petersburg University, Russia, in 1985, and from Warwick University, UK, in 1995.
I have always been interested in the formal aspects of psychological research. My PhD is in Applications of Principles and Methods of Cybernetics in Different Areas of Science, which is an engineering subject in Bulgaria.
I am currently working at the Institute of Robotics of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and on my MSCA project as a "robopsychologist" in Bulgaria (to quote Isaak Asimov's book).
In 2017, a consortium including my institute as the largest beneficiary won a RISE project "CybSPEED: Cyber-Physical Systems for Pedagogical Rehabilitation in Special Education", involving partners from Greece, Spain, France, Bulgaria, Japan, Chile and Morocco.
I have been collaborating with the researchers from Japan, involved in CybSPEED, since 2006.
Firstly, Maya wishes to congratulate the previous Chair’s engagement. “Dr Anife Ahmedova invited most of the members and was a creative leader and supportive to every new member,” she says.
Secondly, she describes her own decision to apply as the new Chair as a compromise. “My personal wish was to elect a young Chair, full of energy! However, most of the young alumni moved to other EU countries for career purposes. I hope that young researchers will start returning to Bulgaria after their individual fellowships abroad,” she explains.
As the new Chair, Maya is keen to enhance motivation for scientific research among the members of the Chapter, to promote MSCA ideas and to expand the Chapter’s network of connections and activities. “We aim to keep in touch during the lockdown and to exchange experience with other Chapters,” she adds.
Maya is particularly proud to have enhanced the international reputation of the Chapter. “Since I became the Chair, new members joined the Bulgaria Chapter - mainly young researchers and researchers from other countries, such as Japan, Greece and Spain who are active participants in the CybSPEED project,” she explains. Seeing these good results, Maya hopes to build on the active and vibrant communication and events, initiated and ran by the previous Chair, with her help.
Maya recognises that leading a Chapter in times of COVID-19 has not been easy. “I must admit that COVID-19 has brought about bigger challenges than I expected when I became the new Chair,” she says.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL CONTACTS
Despite the difficulties, the Chapter has managed to organise online activities. “In October 2020, we set up an online course about artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic applications, and invited one of our members, Dr David Nunes from the University of the Basque Country, to speak,” explains Maya. An informal meeting to share personal experiences during the lockdown also took place.
Maya underlines the challenges of the current situation. “There are real difficulties in inviting people to be more active within the Chapter. One of the reasons resides in the obstacles that researchers face these days, another difficulty is due to the fact that I don’t know all the members of the Chapter very well,” muses Maya. To overcome these obstacles, she is planning to work more in improving personal contact with the members. “The current situation is also a big challenge for the way we think and communicate science,” she concludes.
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Petra, in her own words
I was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary. I am a pharmacist by training, I obtained my degree at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Semmelweis University in Budapest.
As I was interested in chemistry, one of the reasons for choosing this training was the high number of chemistry-related subjects. I prepared my Master of Science (MSc) thesis from organic chemistry and pursued my PhD studies also in this field, at Semmelweis University.
My thesis was about the extensions of an interesting ring forming reaction. During my PhD studies, I had the occasion to spend shorter research periods in Italy (University of Milan) and Slovenia (University of Ljubljana), as part of bilateral projects.
I obtained a Marie Curie - Intra-European Fellowships (IEF) grant in 2013 to France (Paris Descartes University), with Peter Dalko as supervisor. Our project (LIGHTLAB-TOOLS) aimed at the development of novel so-called ‘caged compounds’.
After the postdoctoral period in France, I went back to Hungary and took a position in an industrial research laboratory.
Following this highly formative experience, finally, in 2018, I returned to Semmelweis University, where I am an assistant professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy.
From a research point of view, I continue working on light-activatable molecules, supported this time by prestigious national funding (ÚNKP-19-4 New National Excellence Programme of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology; János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences).
"Going online is the motto of this year."
When Petra obtained a Marie Curie - Intra-European Fellowships (IEF) grant in 2013, she decided to become a MCAA member. She initially joined the France Chapter, and, subsequently, when she went back to her country of origin, the Hungary Chapter.
When she attended the MCAA General Assembly in Venice in 2016, Petra was struck by the fruitful collaborative spirit and decided to become involved more deeply in the association’s activities. “On the one hand, my motivation to apply as a Chair of the Hungary Chapter was due to my wish to work on the continuation and hopefully growing of our Chapter. On the other hand, MCAA is expanding rapidly and it would be interesting to be a part of this process and see from behind the scenes how the association could handle the novel challenges,” she explains.
As the new Chair of the Chapter, Petra aims to increase the engagement and activity of its members, find the tools and ways to meet and interact with each other, collaborate more with other chapters, and offer relevant networking and training opportunities for the members.
For Petra, the main current challenge is to continue online the activities led by the Chapter. “Going online is the motto of this year,” she says.
The Chapter had the opportunity to organise a digital Researchers’ Night in November 2020 and plans to adapt its strategy in 2021. “For example, there was a session at the Researchers’ Night 2019 about the impact of mobility on research careers. We are planning to organise the session this year under video interview format,” adds Petra.
To tackle the pitfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, time management and finding an optimal work-life balance is more important than ever, according to Petra. “Everyone should work out their own resilience strategy depending on the conditions. Personally, keeping under control the stressful/worrying influences (i.e., checking less the number of confirmed COVID cases or the news) is one of the areas I should definitely work on,” she says.
Although there are many parts of her work that can be done by a computer, the core activities of synthetic chemistry are based on laboratory experiments. Therefore, Petra hopes to be back to a full laboratory life very soon.
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM
"I thought that the best way to share my experience with other fellows was to apply as the Chair of the Italy Chapter."
Riccardo, in his own words
I am Italian and came back to my home country some years ago. I got my Master’s degree in electronic engineering and my PhD in atmospheric physics. I am expert in remote sensing of atmospheric extreme events such as thunderstorms, tropical cyclones and volcanic eruption clouds.
Mobility has been the leitmotif of my life: I worked as a scientist for a few years at the University of Perugia (where I got my Master’s degree), then moved to the European Space Agency to provide administrative support. But science was what I liked the most and I moved back to this research field in Denmark and the US.
After this experience, I worked for a UNESCO institute which supports developing countries, before moving to Austria for my Marie Curie Individual Fellowship.
I worked on my MSCA project at the Wegener Centre for Climate and Global Change in Graz, Austria, where I studied the capabilities of GPS to understand the structure of the thunderstorms and tropical cyclones.
Following my MSCA project, I came back to Italy with an AXA Research Fund at the National Research Council, and finally to the University of Padova with another grant.
Currently, I am a researcher at the Department of Geosciences of the University of Padova where I act as a work package leader of two H2020 projects and I develop new projects for future challenges.
Chairing an MCAA Chapter is not something new to Riccardo, as he has been previously leading the Austria Chapter.
When he went back to his country of origin, several MSCA recipients based in Italy contacted him to ask for advice. “I remembered the experience of being the Austria Chapter’s Chair as nice and productive. So, I thought that the best way to share my experience with other Fellows was to apply as the Chair of the Italy Chapter and to organise the Chapter as a practical support to all the Italian MSCA Fellows wishing to come back to their country and to all the MSCA Fellows living in Italy,” explains Riccardo.
Riccardo has four main objectives for the Chapter:
Supporting young Alumni with practical information. In this scope, a “Welcome to Italy” guidebook will be created to explain what to do once in Italy with the health system, the pension scheme, contracts, maternity/paternity leave, unemployment, etc.;
Boosting the career of experienced Alumni with the organisation of networking events aiming at encouraging future cooperation and exploring funding opportunities;
Improving communication (internal and external);
Improving the impact of the Marie Curie Alumni Association Italy Chapter (MCAAIC) on national policies. “One of the previous Chairs of the Chapter, Angela Bellia, obtained from the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research the commitment to recruit MSCA global fellows for a tenure track professorship. The objective is now to extend some of the benefits to all the MSCA fellows,” explains Riccardo.
Like many other Chapters’ Chairs, Riccardo hopes to increase the number of active members of the Chapter to tap into its potential. “The Italian community is the largest one among MSCA Alumni, but this is not reflected on the number of the Chapters’ members. This is showing that the Chapter must involve them in a more effective way, therefore we want to increase the active participation of the Alumni to our activities and make them feel that the Chapter can bring them benefits and have an impact on the future generations of researchers,” he adds.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events carried on in 2020 were all virtual, and this is going to be the case in 2021 as well. “We all miss in-person meetings, but in some ways, the virtual activity allows more people to get involved in the events. In the past, you could take part in the meeting, only if you were able to get to the venue. Otherwise, you were not in,” says Riccardo.
Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, Riccardo considers that digital activities bring benefits to the Chapter. “We formed a Chapter Board made up of six scientists who have never met before and who are from different Italian regions. Thanks to technology, we constantly keep in touch through WhatsApp, e-mail, GoToMeeting and social media, and we are able to work and collaborate as much as in ‘regular’ conditions,” he adds.
Technology is therefore key in building resilience. “Keeping in touch with colleagues thanks to the current technologies (conference platforms and high-speed connections), and especially having a strong collaborative network definitely helps to reduce the negative impact of the current situation,” he concludes.
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM
"MCAA can play a role as a mediator to help its members."
Theodota, in her own words
I am a Greek research scientist with a PhD in Physics from Nuclear and Atomic Physics Laboratory of Aristotle University in Thessaloniki.
I am currently working as a researcher at the Experimental Physics Department at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Since about 25 years, I am working in experimental high energy physics and participate in the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. I am (co-)author of more than 200 scientific papers with hundreds of citations each, published in top peer-reviewed scientific journals and also in numerous international conference proceedings.
I am a member of the Hellenic High Energy Physics Society (H-HEP) and the American Physical Society (APS).
Since 1996, I have been a mobile scientist, firstly as an Erasmus student in Helsinki, Finland, and afterwards as Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow.
I have worked as experienced researcher in different EU countries, at the Max-Planck Institute in Germany, Automoma University of Madrid in Spain, CERN in Switzerland and Yale University in the US.
The last 15 years, I am based at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
I have been a Marie Curie Fellow, experienced researcher in different MSCA programmes and frameworks like Individual Fellowships (IF), Return Grants (RG) and Research Training Networks (RTN).
I have been an active member of MCAA since its creation. Since then I was secretary of MCAA GEMS Working Group and the communication (social-media) manager of MCAA GEDI Working Group. Recently, I was appointed as the Chair of the MCAA Switzerland Chapter in the fall of 2020.
Theodota’s experience with the Switzerland Chapter started when she became its Secretary. It became afterwards important for her to apply as the Chair. “I believe that Switzerland Chapter should exist and prevail, given also the anticipated difficulties between the EU’s and Switzerland’s relationship in terms of free mobility, which could affect the life and future career of all scientists and researchers,” she explains.
A BUSY AGENDA
As the new Chair, Theodota aims to develop networking activities and bring the MCAA members in contact with similar groups or organisations gathering mobile scientists in other EU universities or institutes. She intends also to focus on international organisations like CERN in Switzerland and France and outside the EU, for example in the US.
The 2021 agenda of the Chapter is already busy, as Theodota explains:
“I’ve planned several meetings and webinars until August 2021 between our Chapter and other Working Groups like the Communication WG, the Science and Policy WG and the GEDI WG. We plan also to organise inter-Chapter meetings to share common interest seminars and workshops,” she says.
Theodota has also plans for the Chapter’s most active members. “I’m going to build a board of up to five members, each one acting as contact person and leader of an activity related to specific MCAA working groups.”
Theodota has also created social media accounts for the Chapter on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. “These have already several followers. In addition, we have a new Slack domain to chat interactively within our Switzerland Chapter members,” she adds.
Even if online activities have risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Theodota was already familiar with digital technologies and could therefore ensure a smooth transition. “We had our first virtual, and very successful, Chapter meeting last December and more frequent meetings and webinars are planned to follow. In addition, we have several social media platforms and chats for our communications available. Therefore, I am optimistic to convert these challenges into new opportunities for inclusion of more active members,” she says with enthusiasm.
Digital meetings and activities are expected to be carried on, according to Theodota. “We need to get more used to online communication and work remotely. In some research areas, this is more easily feasible and effective. Unfortunately, this is not always possible in other areas,” she muses.
MCAA AS A MEDIATOR
The MCAA has a major role to play in this context. “MCAA can play a role as a mediator to help its members. Especially since many mobile scientists are foreigners in their host countries, among them being a lot of women researchers and other minority groups, who right now face extra challenges to be able to continue their research,” she concludes.
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM
"I wanted to be there for others and to better connect with the local community in Austria."
Veronica, in her own words
I am a Ugandan by nationality but I spent almost six years in China (Hong Kong and Shanghai) as well as two years in several parts of Japan. I have been travelling so far in a total of 20 countries on all continents, except South America, and have worked or studied with people from various parts of the world.
I earned my Bachelor’s in International Trade, Master’s in E-Business Management and this year, I will complete my PhD in Digital Business. My research focuses mainly on Management Information Systems and International Management. My current research on the PERFORM project is focused on data privacy within digital retail at the Institute of Digital Business for the Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria.
Veronica feels comfortable in multicultural environments and this is why she decided to become actively involved in the activities of the MCAA. In this scope, she applied as the Chair of the Austria Chapter. “I was motivated to take up this responsibility due to my interest in people from diverse cultures. I am familiar with the challenges of working or studying in a foreign country. I wanted to be there for others and to better connect with the local community in Austria,” she explains.
LOCAL ACTIVITIES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
As the new Chair, Veronica aims to contribute to the local community in the areas of environmental conservation and other scientific fields, such as healthcare and information technology.
Scientists working on their PhD will also be given specific attention from the Chapter, as Veronica explains: “We are organising a career development workshop, where we wish to reach out to scientists who will obtain their PhDs in 2021-2022, to guide and inform them on the possible next steps for their career.”
Furthermore, the Chapter is also currently working on community projects focusing on the environment and other scientific topics.
To face the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chapter has developed online activities to enhance communication among its members. “We organised a fabulous online party at the end of 2020 and we keep interacting with our members on various communication channels,” explains Veronica.
For Veronica, the local level is crucial to build resilience and to maintain continuity in research, as local communities are not necessarily aware of the latest scientific publications and conferences. Eventually, filling this gap should help
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"The key for building long-term collaborations among scientists is not only the quality of our work and professional aptitudes but also our ability for empathy and care for our peers."
Virginia, in her own words
I’m Argentinian, from the Northwest, a province called Tucuman, I have worked and studied in Argentina and abroad with different scholarships: CONICET in Argentina, Fulbright in the US, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) in Germany, European Research Council (ERC)-associated scholarship in Israel. My MSCA Incoming Fellowship was at the Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mülheim an der Ruhr (2011-2013) and Return Phase in 2014 in my home lab in Argentina.
Last year, I was awarded the Georg Forster Experienced Researcher Scholarship to continue with my projects in Germany at the Phillips University in Marburg, but due to the pandemic, I had to postpone my trips.
I am a Biologist, holding a PhD in Biochemistry. My research projects are in molecular microbiology and my areas of expertise are molecular biology, omics and electron microscopy. Currently, I am an Independent Researcher and Director of the Center for Electron Microscopy (CIME) belonging to CONICET, and the National University of Tucuman.
For Virginia, developing a collaborative spirit in science is crucial. That is why she decided to apply as the Chair of the Argentina Chapter, as she explains: “In these pandemic times, the collaborations and networking in online training or meetings are key strategies to help scientists stay motivated and work in interdisciplinary projects, especially those related with COVID-19.”
BUILDING SCIENCE IN LATIN AMERICA
The Chapter needs, therefore, more active members, who can understand that the engagement with MCAA could help them boost their professional careers and build a better science in Latin America. To implement this vision, Virginia has set up four main objectives for the Chapter:
Enhancing communication among members, recruiting new members and building networks to present joint proposal to EU funding schemes;
Raising awareness about MSCA in Argentina and providing a platform allowing more Argentinian scientists to learn about MSCA and how to apply;
Improving the professional skills of Latin American researchers;
Providing a high-impact dissemination platform for young scientists to promote their work and to empower their communication skills.
As for the other Chapters’ chairs, 2020 has been a challenging year to carry on the Chapters’ activities. Getting digital became the new motto, even for those who weren’t familiar with digital platforms.
However, Virginia highlights that once the technological pitfalls were tackled, digital meetings brought some added value. “We can participate (or have attendants/speakers) in events where before was impossible without proper funding or time,” she says.
A RECIPE OF SUCCESS
Virginia emphasises that enhancing quality relationships is a good way to maintain continuity in research. “Building meaningful connections between alumni is a great way to build resilience,” she says. “The key for building long-term collaborations among scientists is not only the quality of our work, and professional aptitudes but also our ability for empathy and care for our peers. This is a great moment to put it in practice,” she concludes.
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM