Pilot program fills gaps in researcher training

Western News file photo

Piloted by Western Research, the Research Fellowship program is designed to teach leadership and planning skills to early to mid-career principal investigators. These skills were aspects of researcher training previously untouched by any program, explains Juan Luis Suárez, Associate Vice-President (Research).

In a political climate where division seems to be the norm and facts debatable, Western has gathered a group of 20 researchers to build rapport among each other whiling polishing the skills necessary to be global thought leaders.

Piloted by Western Research, the Research Fellowship program is designed to teach leadership and planning skills to early to mid-career principal investigators. These skills were aspects of researcher training previously untouched by any program.

For some, the transition from bench or field investigator to international thought leaders is easy and natural. For others, it can be challenge, explained Juan Luis Suárez, Associate Vice-President (Research) and Research Fellowship program leader.

Targeting principal investigators whose research programs are growing, this program allows members to learn from each other, as well as benefit from personalized instruction about effective leadership and networking.

“We were strategic in picking our first cohort of researchers; they are diverse and across many disciplines. These people would likely never talked to each other about their careers and challenges as we tend to stick to our own areas of exploration,” Suárez said.

Special to Western NewsJoanna Quinn, Director of the Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-conflict Reconstruction, says the new Research Fellowship program, piloted by Research Western, says the program turned out to be “the experience I didn’t know I needed.”

As an extension of the support services offered by Research Western, the program includes monthly working sessions that range from learning about changes in government funding programs and collaborating with colleagues internationally, to moving beyond research projects to long-term research planning and developing the skills to inspire and implement innovation as research leaders.

“I was somewhat skeptical at first,” said Joanna Quinn, Director of the Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-conflict Reconstruction. “But the Research Fellowship program is turning out to be the experience I didn’t know I needed. Whether it’s learning about best practices for securing grants, understanding the difference between management and leadership, or how best to mentor graduate students, as well as each other, it has been so worthwhile.”

Ana Luisa Trejos shares Quinn’s enthusiasm for the program.

“Not only have we all received training that has helped us all leverage more opportunities to share our work, I recognized that we all face the same issues regardless of the research field or our level of experience,” said the Electrical and Computer Engineering professor. “We’ve shared new ideas and perspectives about how to problem solve, which has enabled me to solves many of my ongoing challenges.”

Launched in September 2018, the initial cohort of 20 will continue until May or June. Suárez hopes to launch a second cohort of 20 this September. That group would follow the same framework, however have the advantage of drawing on the experience of the previous cohort.

Western News file photoElectrical and Computer Engineering professor Ana Luisa Trejos says the new Research Fellowship program, piloted by Research Western, has helped her recognize that “we all face the same issues regardless of the research field or our level of experience.”