Biomedical Sciences

Work/Life balance - Prof Tara Spires-Jones

Prof Tara Spires-Jones discusses how Biomedical Sciences supported her big move from the US

Professor Tara Spires-Jones

Personal Chair of Neurodegeneration, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences.

I joined the Deanery of Biomedical Sciences in 2013 as a reader and Chancellors Fellow. When I first received the offer, it was for a position with tenure review after 3-5 years. Although I very much wanted to come to University of Edinburgh, I declined, as I did not want to risk moving my children across the Atlantic to new schools, for a position that was less secure than the one I held at Harvard Medical School. However, the University responded with an offer of a tenured position as a Reader and I was also offered a salary in line with my anticipated career trajectory at Harvard Medical School. This recognition of the quality of my research, taken together with understanding of my family commitments, made an enormous difference. So, we packed up the kids, sold our house near Boston and moved the family to Edinburgh.

From the minute I joined Edinburgh University I was made to feel at home, with offers to collaborate and facilitate my work at every turn. For instance, within months of my arrival and along with two newly-appointed Chancellors Fellows, I applied for and won a grant from Alzheimers Research UK, to collaborate in studying a new model of Alzheimers Disease. In terms of career progression, the Deanery have been supportive in many ways. Some specific examples include:

  • Shortly after I arrived, the Head of my Centre nominated me for a FENS-Kavli Network Scholarship. I was subsequently selected as one of 20 scholars from across Europe. This helped me integrate into the wider European network after being in the US for 9 years.
  • In my first annual Performance and Development Review (Appraisal), my Head of Centre helped me lay out a clear plan towards progression to Professor. This included publications and prestigious grants, which he encouraged me to apply for.
  • In 2016, I was invited by the Dean of BMS to take over as interim Director of the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems. This opportunity to take a leadership role in BMS and in the University has helped my career progression immeasurably. It has also allowed me to help shape our new Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, as  key member of its new Executive group.
  • When a grant call came out to bid for a UK Dementia Research Institute, I was encouraged by senior colleagues to participate in shaping the bid for Edinburgh. We were successful in winning one of the only five Centre Awards in the UK. I will manage a substantial 5-year Programme grant as part of this award.
  • The Deanery supports flexible working practices from which I have benefitted. These have enabled me to balance the demands of my work with my personal life.
  • Finally, I am thrilled to say that with the support of our Dean, my application for promotion to a Personal Chair of Neurodegeneration was successful, with effect from 1st August 2017, only 4 years after my recruitment to BMS.

Thus, I do not regret for one second my decision to move to Edinburgh. The Deanery of Biomedical Sciences and the University have been fantastic in supporting my career development and progression, and in facilitating management of my family commitments and work-life balance.

Read Prof Spires-Jones staff profile