Group Leader and Assistant Professor at Queen’s University, Canada

Jacqueline Monaghan

Jacqueline M.

Jacqueline studied biology at the University of Toronto and obtained a PhD from the University of British Columbia in 2010. She then moved with her husband to England to start a postdoc at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, before becoming an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Queen’s University in January 2016.

What do you find most enjoyable about being a group leader?

Although I’ve only been a group leader for just over a month, I find leading a small team exciting and rewarding. I like interacting with younger scientists and working together towards a common goal.

Did you ever consider pursuing an alternative career?

Yes. Young scientists face a variety of challenges in the workforce and should make themselves aware of other rewarding career opportunities outside of academia. However, becoming a group leader was always my ultimate goal and I feel so fortunate to be able to pursue this dream.

What was the biggest challenge you had to face during your career?

Although I benefitted from (and enjoyed!) moving between cities during my career, I sometimes found it a challenge to be far from home.

Did you ever feel like having to sacrifice your private life for your scientific career?

I find my work rewarding which tends to translate into long hours. Despite this, I feel quite fulfilled in my private life. In fact, I would say that my scientific career has offered me more opportunities than sacrifices. I was able to live in some wonderful places and make life-long friends – Toronto is a vibrant city, Vancouver is absolutely breath-taking, Norwich is a charming medieval city, and I’m excited to explore Kingston further.

Do you have any advice on how to maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Maintaining this balance is very important and looks different for everyone. My best advice would be to reflect on and truly understand what makes you happy, and respect this in your working life.

What do you think is the most common problem scientists are facing in their careers today?

Not diversifying enough. I think a broad and diverse skillset is key – a lot of junior scientists focus on lab work, which is of course extremely important. But, it’s equally important not to neglect cultivating other skills that are critical for their careers: networking, communication, management, writing, funding, team-work. Go to meetings, attend leadership workshops, get involved in student or postdoc committees, write as many grant applications as possible, peer-review papers with your supervisor, don’t shy away from giving seminars, and supervise students. The skills gained from these activities are transferable to a wide-range of careers outside of academia as well.

Do you have any role models or mentors who inspired you during your career?

Every one of my supervisors, from undergraduate projects through to my postdoctoral work, inspired me to pursue a career in molecular plant biology research. I also consider friends and family as role models and mentors – it’s good to surround yourself with people who inspire you!

What advice would you give a young woman who is considering a career in science?

I never considered my gender as a reason not to pursue a career in science. That said, women face unique challenges in academia and it’s important to be aware of these challenges and to demand change where necessary.

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