My experience of the Janet Thornton Fellowship - Sunay Usluer

Wellcome Sanger Institute
Sunay Usluer, Janet Thornton Fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute
Sunay Usluer, Janet Thornton Fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

The Janet Thornton Fellowship offers scientists who have taken a career break, for any reason, the opportunity to return to science with a high-quality, three-postdoctoral fellowship in one of our faculty research teams. Below Dr Sunay Usluer shares her experience of being a Janet Thornton Fellowship Postdoctoral Fellow.

For context: how long was your career break?

My career break had lasted for two years when I applied for the fellowship.

How long have you been working at Sanger Institute?

14 months in total.

What was the most challenging thing about coming back to work?

After such a long break I was thinking I had missed the chance of returning to academia. The Janet Thornton Fellowship provided the opportunity.

The major challenges after coming back to work are to catch up with fast moving science in a new environment, and regaining self-confidence in lab work.

First thing you mastered or remastered after joining Sanger Institute

In fact I completely changed my field of research. Besides providing the possibility to return to academia, the Janet Thornton Fellowship gave me the independence I needed for spending time on learning and exploring new fields.

Tell me about some of your work that you are doing

Currently I am working on optimizing gene silencing with the CRISPR method to explore gene essentiality in human induced pluripotent stem cells.

Is the fellowship what you expected?

Because the fellowship defines my position as a scientist with a career break, it adjusts my expectations and expectations about me. At the beginning I felt I was lagging behind, and it was good to know everybody was aware of my career break, and that it was normal that I was a little rusty. I also received tremendous support from the Janet Thornton Fellowship committee and my fellow scholars, for which I am extremely grateful.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working at Sanger?

Besides the availability of state of the art technology and infrastructure promoting high-throughput science, Sanger provides great opportunities for learning and self-development. I feel equal importance is given to my scientific productivity and my personal development.

What does the Janet Thornton Fellowship programme mean to you?

At the point when I was thinking my academic career was ended after such a long break and I was looking for alternative fields, JTF made me think it is not over yet. Even if I had not got the fellowship, I would have continued to look for academic opportunities.

Best advice to someone who’s thinking of applying to the Janet Thornton Fellowship programme

Don’t think it is impossible to get into research again after a break. It is hard at the beginning, but other Janet Thornton Fellows and colleagues are ready to give support and make it easier.