Fiona Louise Roberts started a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Sakamoto Group in February – weeks before the University of Copenhagen closed its doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, she has managed to find ways to stay busy and use her time productively.
Find out more about Fiona, why she joined CBMR, and her research goals, in this interview, the first in the ‘Faces of CBMR’ series.
Why did you get into biomedical sciences?
When I was little, my family took a trip to New York to visit my aunt and uncle. During this trip my Aunt, with a flair for the eccentric, took me to see ‘Bodies…. The exhibition’. This was a fascinating collection of preserved human bodies demonstrating the intricacies, complexity and beauty of human anatomy. At this point, I became interested in understanding more about biology. This interest was a fire that kept on burning all throughout my high school education (Biology was my favourite subject, naturally) and inspired me to study medical sciences at undergraduate level, and continuing to post graduate level. As I continued studying in the biomedical sciences field, I started to really understand Aristotle’s famous phrase ‘The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know’.
What attracted you to join CBMR?
Having moved countries several times as a child, I was interested to experience a new country and research setting after completing my PhD in Scotland. I wanted to move to a new work place which offered collaboration, excellent quality facilities, a healthy work-life balance, and an environment for high quality research to be conducted. As a young scientist, I aim to work on all aspects of my career development with the hope to become an independent researcher by learning new techniques and collaborating with colleagues. CBMR offered all of these opportunities and more.
What is your primary scientific question you wish to address?
I am interested in understanding more about the complex mechanistic pathways of metabolism. Of course, this is a huge and diverse area, but that’s the intrinsic beauty of the metabolic field – there are so many different and compelling areas of research to discover and become involved in. I hope to contribute specific knowledge to the metabolic field, with my current focus being on cell signalling and adipose tissue. Later in my academic career I hope to merge my knowledge and practical skills from my PhD with my expertise in metabolic signalling gained working in the Sakamoto Laboratory… watch this space.
What sort of research experiences do you hope to get in the Sakamoto Group?
The Sakamoto group offers a fantastic opportunity to gain a wide range of skills and scientific engagement. I hope to gain experience in sophisticated experimental design to aid me in becoming an independent researcher. I also aim to expand my in vivo phenotyping skills using novel mouse models, CBMR’s state-of-the-art metabolic phenotyping facilities present, and collaborations with other inspiring metabolic experts at the Center. I aspire to contribute to high quality papers and gain experience in scientific writing, including grant applications and outreach activities such as this blog. Finally, I hope to increase my engagement with colleagues and deepen my knowledge through continued collaboration and scientific discussion. These are a few examples, I could go on!
What do you want to get out of this globally challenging period?
I joined the Sakamoto group in February of this year, and I was so enjoying finding my feet both in the research facility and with my practical skills. I have to admit that I was sad to be told we must work from home. Since I recently completed my PhD, I feel like a large portion of my last year has been spent finishing paper/thesis writing and away from the lab. Like many of my colleagues, I am looking forward to getting back to what we do best: practical work!
However, with great encouragement from Kei and all members of my group, we have all adjusted well to working from home and I have made academic and personal goals for myself. For example, I have been working hard to comprehensively read through literature to gain a solid understanding of my new area of work and, as a result of this, I am now planning a Review article.
I have also been trying hard to establish healthy routines for myself to keep my mind and body in good shape. I started the ‘Couch to 5K’ running program to help me get more active, I regularly speak to my friends via Zoom and Houseparty and we host quiz nights and drinks nights together. I have an almost daily ice lolly and walk in the sun (if it can be found). I have been cooking good quality food for myself and my fiancé, although admittedly I still have to guess some of the Danish ingredients and cooking instructions
I think it is important that we aim to be productive, to feel a sense of achievement and worth during this time. It is critical to balance this with self care, investing time in hobbies and whatever brings you joy. Above all, it has been important to behave in accordance with issued guidelines for safe behaviour. I hope to emerge from this globally challenging period healthy, with increased knowledge for my professional life, and increased knowledge of what makes me happy in my personal life and how to achieve this.
In your view, what are some of CBMR’s unique features?
CBMR has many amazing and unique features, and I keep discovering more. The building itself is a beautiful architecturally, offering a work place that is bright, well designed and enjoyable to be in. CBMR has wonderful facilities, which offers an opportunity to use top of the range, high quality equipment to let you answer many research questions and explore complicated concepts. In addition, CBMR is a very friendly place, whether it is breakfast together on Monday mornings, a coffee break with your colleagues, or young researcher socials on Fridays, there is always something to engage in.
What do you enjoy about living in Copenhagen? Have you had to make any lifestyle changes after your relocation?
Copenhagen is beautiful city and there is so much to explore! I had never visited Copenhagen until my interview for my postdoc and it captured my heart straight away. One of my favourite things to do is cycle my bike around the city and to enjoy sunshine walks along the Lakes. I find myself enjoying the outdoor green spaces here, including my local park which has great running routes. Another lifestyle change includes the increased consumption of good coffee, great craft beers and even better food. Copenhagen is a food heaven!
Final message for students/postdocs considering an opportunity in Copenhagen or CBMR?
CBMR and Copenhagen have spoilt me for other places. My working and professional life here are so happy and satisfactory, and it seems this way for most people! Denmark has one of the happiest and most content populations of people and I can fully understand why. For anyone considering an opportunity in Copenhagen or CBMR I suggest you reach out to current employees for a chat and to have your questions answered by locals, or international researchers who have made the move over here.