Justine Rudkin: Irish Division ECM Representative

Posted on May 3, 2019   by Microbiology Society

The second in our series of Early Career Microbiologists’ (ECM) Forum Division Representatives spotlights focuses on Justine Rudkin, from the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Oxford, as she tells us about her role and experience so far as the ECM Forum Irish Division Representative.

The Early Career Microbiologists’ (ECM) Forum Division Representatives ensure the views of the Forum are represented within the Society’s scientific programmes at the Annual Conference and the ECM Forum Summer Conference which, this year, will take place at Trinity College Dublin, 20–21 June 2019.  

We spoke with Dr Justine Rudkin, from the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Oxford, to find out more about her time as the Irish Division Representative on the ECM Forum. 

What made you decide to apply for the Irish Division Representative position?

I was looking for an opportunity to broaden my academic experience beyond lab work and to get more involved in the wider microbiology community. The Microbiology Society had been a longstanding presence in my career, from my first ever conference at the 2011 Annual Meeting in Harrogate, to getting postdoc position offers on the back of a presentation I gave at the Annual Conference in Dublin, which prompted my move to Ireland. I wanted to be more involved in a society that had always been supportive, and the Irish Division ECM Representative role was the perfect position for me.

What sort of things did you include in your application?

I explained my reasons for applying to the role: to champion the work of early career researchers and to make sure that our specific needs were being met. I included examples of initiatives that I had previously been involved in, such as a two-year stint as the Secretary of the Departmental Microbiology Society at NUI Galway and setting up a monthly postgraduate seminar series for my peers.

What does your role involve?

The role is very varied, but the main responsibility of the Division Representatives is to organise and host the annual ECM Forum Summer Conference. This conference is a new Microbiology Society initiative and is a completely peer-led conference for microbiologists who are early-on in their careers. My other roles have included peer-reviewing Harry Smith Vacation Studentship applications and Research Visit Grant applications, and acting as a judge for the Sir Howard Dalton Young Microbiologist of the Year competition.

How did your expectations of the role differ from the reality?

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I became an ECM Forum Division Representative. In my experience, attempts to get early career members more involved tend to be tokenism and tick-box exercises, and our opinions aren’t truly wanted or acted upon. The ECM Forum is completely different, and we have been very well supported by the Microbiology Society in bringing forward initiatives such as the ECM Forum Summer Conference, the co-chairing scheme and pre-Conference networking events at the Annual Conference.

What aspects have you found most challenging?

Working as a team almost exclusively via email has its challenges and it can be difficult to get decisions made in a timely manner. We have trialled various online platforms such as Slack and WhatsApp groups, but you can’t beat a face-to-face meeting for productivity and getting things moving. 

What has been the highlight of your time on the ECM Forum Irish Division?

Organising the ‘Fighting fire with fire’ session at the Annual Conference in Belfast was a lot of fun; from coming up with the concept and title for the session, to drawing up lists of potential invited speakers. Putting together a whole day session was a challenge and took quite a bit of work, but it exposed me to lots of research outside of my area of expertise and prompted me to get in touch with many scientists whom I probably would never have had the opportunity to speak to otherwise.

Do you have any advice for the next Irish Division Representative?

This position is what you make of it. You can just sit quietly on the committee to have it look good on your CV, or you can get stuck in and contribute. Get involved and engage with both the Irish Division and ECM committees – there will be plenty of opportunities to add to your skill set and widen your circle of connections.

Nominations for the ECM Forum Eukaryotic, Virology and Irish Division Representatives are now open. Find out more on our Nominations page. You can also submit your abstract and register for the ECM Forum Summer Conference on the event page.