Dr Julia Wilson is a FLIER participant and Associate Director at the Wellcome Sanger Institute near Cambridge. Here she tells us what she has learned on the FLIER programme and how it’s helping her to change the way we conduct medical research.
Q: What issue in health research do you want to take on and why?
A: I work in genomics, very much at the intersection between academia, commercial, technology and government. The UK has such strengths in genomics research and genomic medicine. So, there’s a huge amount of interest in staying at the forefront in research, but also applying this knowledge for societal benefit. We can only achieve this by working in an ecosystem that values all the players; none of us can realise the opportunities alone. We need to work together. In the last year, we’ve seen the value of genomics for the surveillance of COVID-19 variants, and we need to build on the success of this approach.
Q: Has there been anything surprising about the FLIER programme?
A: The intense camaraderie. This is an amazing group from diverse disciplines, backgrounds and areas of science, yet we get on so well. We support each other through life events as well as those rubbish times at work that attempt to derail us. We celebrate each other’s successes as our own and share opportunities and expertise. I have learnt a huge amount from every single FLIER. We’re friends for life.
Q: What have you done differently as a result of FLIER?
A: I’ve stopped attempting to do absolutely everything. I’ve delegated work, I’ve said no, and I’ve let things fall over rather than using my personal time. Transitioning from expert to leader comes with the realisation that I can’t do everything myself.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: So many things: listen more yet care less, keep learning, always be kind, never be smug. This could be a book I write one day, so I’d better not give too much away.
Q: What are your hopes for the future in research?
A: That we attract and retain a diverse range of folk interested in science, and that we value all of them for their contribution and allow them to fulfil their potential. Research is such a rewarding career, but boy, do we make it difficult sometimes!
Dr Julia Wilson is a participant in Round 2 of the Academy of Medical Sciences’ FLIER programme, a unique programme that will develop leaders of the future who can create collaborations across academia, industry, the NHS and government to drive innovation.
The FLIER programme is generously supported by the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation and the Government Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ‘Investment in Research Talent’ fund. You can find out more about our funding model and explore our donors here, or visit our Support Us webpage to explore ways to help our work.