I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences. I moved with my family from the Netherlands to Cambridge in 2014, immediately after my PhD defence. At that time my three children were 4 months, 2 years and 4 years old, which was challenging financially and timewise, not having family support nearby. Thanks to funding from the Returning Carers Scheme I was able to boost my development as a researcher without compromising family life, and have been lucky to be able to use the fund several times.
• In 2015, I was able to buy a laptop to enable me to work more flexibly. As a developing researcher I sometimes need to work extra hours – for example because of a deadline for a paper. Due to caring duties it is not possible to stay longer at work, but now I am able to finish urgent work at home.
• Importantly for me, the Returning Carers Scheme provided funding to attend the International Stroke Genetics Consortium meeting. I did my PhD in stroke epidemiology and I am keen to expand my skills to stroke genetics. Attending this meeting enabled me to network with leaders of the global stroke genetics community and to learn about new advances in the field. This experience helped me to draft a fellowship application on stroke genetics, and in Autumn 2015 I obtained a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship from the British Heart Foundation based on this application.
• In stroke genetics, large datasets are essential for analysis and therefore collaboration is the best way to go. The Returning Carers Scheme again provided funding for the Consortium meeting in spring 2016, during which I was able to present my plans to the stroke genetics community and connect with potential collaborators.
• Finally, in summer of 2016 Scheme funding enabled me to visit one of the leading groups worldwide in stroke genetics, based in Boston, USA. During this 2-month visit I strengthened collaboration with the Boston group and collected new data to increase my sample size and accelerate my research project.