Meet Our Lab Heroes AwardsTM 2018 Runner-Up: Elisabeth Paul
We were thrilled to announce Elisabeth Paul as one of our two Lab Heroes AwardsTM 2018 Runners-Up. Elisabeth received glowing nominations from her colleagues at Linköping University, who told us why she made their lab a better place to be! They not only commented on what a brilliant scientist she is, making great contributions to the field of clinical neuroscience despite only being at the very beginning of her career, but also told us how her kind, helpful nature made her one of the best people to work with.
Currently, Elisabeth Paul is a research assistant, soon to be PhD student, at the Center for Social and Affective Neuroscience (CSAN) at Linköping University, Sweden. Her research is concerned with psychiatric disorders, mostly focusing on the biomarkers and neural underlying of psychotic experiences in adolescents.
We spoke to Elisabeth about how it felt to be named one of our runners-up, what the next steps are for her in her career, the main advice she’d give to fellow early career scientists, and more.
Congratulations, Elisabeth! How did it feel when you found out that so many of your colleagues had nominated you as their Lab Hero?
Leah had asked for permission to nominate me, but I did not know that she told the others at the lab about it. When I then first looked at the nomination on the website and saw that so many of my colleagues joined in, I was absolutely surprised and flattered.
How did it feel when you found out you were our Lab Heroes Awards runner-up?
After reading all of the nominations I did not expect to have a chance since so many great people were suggested. I was already incredibly happy about the nomination, and now I am even more so about being one of the runners-up.
Why do you think it’s so important to champion life science researchers, and what more could be done to show life scientists recognition?
Researchers face failures almost on a daily basis, may it be an experiment or the rejection of a paper or grant application. One important characteristic of a successful scientist is, in my opinion, perseverance, and recognition for your hard work by fellow scientists definitely encourages one to keep going.
What are you planning on using your Hello Bio travel grant for?
The travel grant comes at the exact right time. I have been thinking about going to the annual meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry in 2019 held in Chicago. The deadline is approaching so I will make sure to sign up for it.
Did you always want to be a scientist when you were younger, and why?
When I started high-school I really enjoyed chemistry classes because of the experiments, so I did enjoy science already back then. However, when I grew older, I decided to study psychology, originally with the goal to become a psychotherapist because I like to help and interact with people. Now I am a neuroscientist, researching the neural underlying of psychiatric disorders, so I managed to strike a balance between exploring new things while helping others and interacting with patients.
Tell us a bit more about what you’re working on in the lab at the moment...
One of the great benefits of working at CSAN is that I could get involved in several projects and thereby learned a variety of methods and gathered knowledge about different psychiatric diseases. In the past two years I have been involved in projects about depression, the influence of childhood trauma on mental well-being and addiction. My PhD project, which I will start soon, will be focused on biomarkers of psychotic experiences in children.
What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?
A typical day usually involves some experiments (mostly at the fMRI scanner) or lab work, some time for data analyses or organizational matters, some meetings, either with my supervisors or with the whole group and of course educational talks by internal and external speakers. A typical day also involves a lot of unforeseen tasks like helping out others with their experiments and solving emerging issues. And of course, it involves talking to my colleagues to check that everything is going well for them.
What is it about your field of research that gets you most excited?
Psychiatric research demands a high level of interdisciplinary knowledge, combining, amongst others, genetic and environmental aspects, neuroanatomy and functioning, and behavioural sciences. This multifactorial nature of mental disorders fascinates me. In addition, mental disorders contribute profoundly to the global disability burden, and yet we know so little about their causes. My aim is to contribute to a more detailed knowledge about the underlying neural mechanisms of mental diseases, which can hopefully be used to develop suitable drugs and to increase the awareness about psychiatric disorders in order to reduce external factors that aggravate the disease burden for the individual.
What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing life scientists and their work?
This is a difficult and complex question. Amongst many others (getting grants, keeping up with technology, developments in their field and regulations, you name it) I think one big problem is that evaluation of scientists is so strongly based on publications. This leads to an immense pressure to publish which can make it hard to focus on thoroughly designed and well-executed experiments that can actually contribute in a meaningful (not only statistically significant) way to the current knowledge.
What advice would you give to life scientists just starting out in their careers?
Since I am just starting out, there is a lot I still need to learn myself. But the one thing I can advise is: don’t be afraid to ask. No matter if you need advice or help, or if you need clarification of something. You are just at the beginning of your career and no one expects you to know everything (ever). So don’t be shy.
Which scientists working today do you most admire, and why?
I have encountered many great scientists who influenced and encouraged me and whom I admire, as lecturers, colleagues and mentors. A great scientist for me is someone who shares her knowledge and enthusiasm, who challenges you and encourages you, even in times of failure.
What’s your favourite science quote?
“Our virtues and our failures are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.” – Nikola Tesla
What do you think is the greatest scientific discovery of all time?
There are so many great scientific discoveries in all areas of science that it is hard to choose the single best without downgrading all others.
Thank you so much for speaking to us, Elisabeth! And congratulations again! We wish you all the best with your PhD, and hope you have a wonderful time in Chicago next year.
Read the interview with our Lab Heroes Awards 2018 Winner, Dr Enitome Bafor, here.
Additional resources for early career life scientists
One of the things we’re most passionate about is supporting early career life scientists. Here are some guides and resources that you may find helpful:
- The Life Scientists' Guide to Wellbeing
- The Life Scientists' Guide for New PhD Students
- The Most Common PhD Problems & How to Get Past Them
- View all of our guides
- Apply for a Travel Grant: every month we give away $500 to PhD students and Postdocs so that they can attend a scientific conference. Give it a go - it's really easy to apply.
- Read advice from other scientists - in our Interviews with Scientists' series
- Molarity Calculator: a quick and easy way to calculate the mass, volume or concentration required for making a solution
- Dilution Calculator: an easy way to work out how to dilute stock solutions of known concentrations
- Mini-reviews, Pathway Posters & Product Guides: a set of technical resources to answer your questions on a wide range of topics and to help you get started quickly
- And - when you get to the stage of planning your experiments, don't forget that we offer a range of agonists, antagonists, inhibitors, activators, antibodies and fluorescent tools at up to half the price of other suppliers (check out our price comparison table to see for yourself!). The range includes:
And finally - don't forget to check back in to the Hello Bio Blog - with features from experts, posts on lab support, events, competitions and some fun stuff along the way!