Throughout life mentoring is a vital part of learning. It’s essential for career development, especially for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) in academia, but especially during the current climate!

Alzheimer’s Research UK already provides us with numerous platforms to communicate within our own Network, generating support and guidance from our peers, but also encouraging the development of friendships across research fields.

In late 2020, Dr Fiona Kerr had the fantastic idea to utilise these Networks by developing an Alzheimer’s Research UK Cross-Network Mentoring Pilot Scheme. This 6-month scheme included 20 mentee/mentor pairings between the ARUK UCL and Scotland Network Centres.

With help from Adam Smith (Dementia Researcher), Susan Simpson (Scotland Network Administrator), and the Alzheimer’s Research UK UCL & ECR Scotland Network Committees, the pilot scheme was launched in 2021. We collected applications and carefully selected pairings based on career stage and future aims.

I was lucky enough to be included in this pilot scheme as a mentee.

Through my postdoctoral role at the University of Glasgow, I receive a great deal of support and mentorship from my PI Dr Lorraine Work. But I also understand the importance of external mentorship and receiving guidance from someone who has recently carried out the next career steps I hope to follow.

Fortunately, I was paired with Dr Ian Harrison at UCL (Alzheimer’s Research UK / Parkinson’s UK Research Fellow).

Dr Josie Fullerton
Dr Ian Harrison

Dr Josie Fullerton and her mentor Dr Ian Harrison.

Through our first Zoom meeting, Ian and I introduced ourselves, our research interests, and career path to date. We discussed my current aims, things I hoped to achieve in the short-term, but also my long-term career goals.

It was so wonderful to hear Ian’s first-hand account of the fellowship process; from idea development to application writing, to actually recruiting and running his own laboratory group at UCL.

This scheme, with Ian’s guidance, has allowed me to step back and assess how to make myself a stronger candidate for fellowship applications, but also to specifically think about my research area and what scientific questions I would like to target.

In addition, this scheme has given me someone else to be accountable to. In our meetings, Ian was able to ask me about data and paper progression, and each month I couldn’t just say “Still working on that paper Ian…” – I had to have an update for him!

Recently, we’ve also discussed career decisions I’ve had to make, and it’s been invaluable to discuss them with an unbiased and experienced researcher! Also, I’d like to think this is a bidirectional mentorship to some extent. As we’ve been able to discuss specific techniques we use here at Glasgow and how they could be implemented at UCL.

Personally, I can’t recommend the Alzheimer’s Research UK Mentorship scheme highly enough.

I am hugely grateful to have been so carefully paired with Ian, as he has already encouraged me with paper submissions, assisted with my career progression and given me another person to moan to (apologies Ian)!

We are extending our mentorship pairing beyond the 6-month pilot scheme, and hopefully, we will be able to have one of our meetings in person and have a wee cheers to Alzheimer’s Research UK for setting this up!

You can find out more and apply for our Alzheimer’s Research UK Network mentorship scheme on the ECR portal.