This post is contributed by Dr. Christiane Helling & Dr. Peter Woitke
Being part of your research team
The change from a sole, ingenious, curiosity driven researcher to being a group leader of several postdocs, PhD students, summer and final year students, or even a research project manager for several European universities, is quite a leap. It might go unnoticed for the outside world, but such a change of tasks imposes a stress level that we weren’t prepared for. Being an excellent researcher and getting this certified by the ERC and by the EU/FP7 is something, but by no means the whole story. And this is where CAPOD comes in.
Our Head of School was our first port of call and he pointed us in the right direction: Erwin Lai as part of the CAPOD team stepped in equipping us with knowledge about team dynamics and team management. We would sit down with Erwin during a first session to discuss what our day-to-day life as a research team leader was and what it meant to lead an ERC/FP7 project. It became quite clear that this did not fit into any of the classical ‘team leader’ categories, and also that we did not have the time for week-long courses. We needed the knowledge now.
Erwin returned to CAPOD and came back with a one-day workshop tailored to our needs (i.e. knowledge gaps). It was a real eye-opener!
Meanwhile, many more young research group leaders have benefited from this course which was newly introduced by CAPOD and tailored to our needs by Erwin Lai. Since our first meeting with Erwin, we kept in contact. He was a constant support in our team management exercises. Erwin moderated a team retreat day in MUSA’s fantastic Learning Loft, and team building activities in preparation of a FP7 review meeting. Both events were prepared in close interaction between the project PIs and Erwin. Both meetings were a great success, scientifically and group-support wise. All of us walked out feeling so much more energized. We all were part of that team we were trying to build. (A small side effect was that the FP7 referees were really enchanted.) The project PIs owe a big thanks to CAPOD and, in particular, to Erwin Lai!
PIs, go and talk to CAPOD, they are a great port of knowledge if it comes to being part of your team and leading it at the same time!