Sir Henry Dale Fellow, Wellcome Trust and Royal Society, University College London
Mobility is a good strategy for directing your research, but it is important to have short and medium term goals and ensure any moves are aligned to those goals. Moving simply for the sake of moving usually doesn’t work.
Dr Anna Kuppuswamy was educated as a physiotherapist in India, but continued her research career in the UK and the USA. She first left her homeland to switch from clinical work to research; "There were no options to study the neurological conditions I was interested in in India, so it was an easy choice to move to the UK."
Anna’s choice to move between countries was mainly driven by her research goals; "Initially, I preferred the UK to the USA due to its geographic proximity to India and the more compatible time zones, in addition to the scientific environment offered by University College London, where I took my Masters, then Imperial College, where I took a PhD.”
After her PhD, Anna wanted to pursue her own ideas rather than be a postdoctoral researcher on someone else's project. So, she elected to move to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington DC, where postdocs were encouraged to start their own research programmes. An ideal situation from Anna’s perspective; “Mobility is a good strategy for directing your research, but it is important to have short and medium term goals and ensure any moves are aligned to those goals. Moving simply for the sake of moving usually doesn’t work.”
When asked to consider any challenges associated with international mobility, Anna has generally positive memories. She says that the shift from India to UK was about becoming an independent adult and living life away from her parents, but there was some cultural shock. When moving to the USA, it was a slightly different ball game; “I had completed my PhD, knew a lot of players in the field and was looking to carve out a niche for myself. Generally, it was a positive experience and my sponsor was very helpful. The only difference between the UK and USA were the levels of bureaucracy."
Anna found working in a USA government facility rather different from her UK research experience; "While working in the NIH, I gained valuable experience of how different systems worked, but it was highly bureaucratic and made me appreciate what I had had back in the UK. It broadened my perspectives and helped develop contact networks, but I didn't think I could carry on working in the USA. So, I found a position at the University of Bath and moved back to the UK. I now work at University College London.”