Li Su

My ECR Story


Looking back on my career so far, I have to say that I had a “bumpy ride” and kept feeling that I am falling behind my peers.

During my PhD and first few years of my postdoc, I was troubled by some degree of lack of support primarily due to my supervisor’s ill-health and very short contracts. I had a few publications on Artificial intelligence (AI) and neuroscience but unfortunately had very few citations partly because of the unpopularity of AI at that time.

However, I made the right choice to learn neuroimaging and started to use my computer science skills to develop new analysis methods.  My postdoctoral experience in London and Cambridge gave me the reputation in neuroimaging and perhaps as a good citizen helping others with their research.

I still felt that I was falling behind my peers who have one after the other got PI positions, and I struggled to demonstrate my “independence”!

“In my own mind, I knew that I am very independent because I have almost single-handedly navigated through many difficult situations, both in research and life in general as a young migrant arriving here alone from Asia.”

The tide turned as dementia and AI gradually become more popular as research topics. My vision, skills, and experience in both areas put me in an advantageous position. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Research UK Senior Research Fellowship, I started my own lab combining AI and neuroimaging studying cognitive dysfunctions in dementia. In his book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, Douglas Adams famously said “anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.” I think that “modern AI” and neuroimaging perhaps were these inventions and they have indeed made my career.

In 2020, I was appointed to the Chair of Neuroimaging in Sheffield. I still consider myself at the tail end of the early career stage, by no means a senior scientist that I have always looked up to. However, I think that at least makes me qualified to suggest some tips to ECRs.

What has helped me along the “bumpy road” was:

  • being persistent, not giving up when my peers all got their lectureships
  • being a good citizen and being open, helping others is helping yourself
  • research like many other things in life is a messy business – be resilient and have a sense of humour!