Wuraola Akande, Giovanna Avellis and Natalia Balcazar Navarro have all completed their Marie Curie projects. They shared with us their “five tips” on making a Marie Curie Action a turning point in your career!

Giovanna Avellis Wuraola Akande Natalia Balcazar Navarro

Akande comes from Nigeria and worked on her Marie Curie project from October 2008 to September 2011 in Brighton, United Kingdom. Avellis also worked in the UK, this time in London, from June 1992 to December 1994. Balcazar Navarro benefited from an ‘Individual Fellowship among European Countries’ under FP5 in Duisburg, Germany. All three describe their time abroad as enriching for their career.

Tip 1: Work on an innovative Marie Curie project!

Avellis’ project tackled the problems faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large organisations in evaluating their products. She developed a methodology and a representation scheme for Non-Functional Requirements (NFRs) thanks to a Marie Curie Action Human Capital and Mobility (HCM) under FP3. According to Avellis, this project was crucial for the European Union – “Quality Engineering was a new paradigm playing a crucial role in the European market of Services and Applications” – and the project therefore helped her to build a basis for future research. Balcazar Navarro investigated the leaching behaviour of several industrial by-products, mainly from steel and from waste incineration plants. She stresses the importance of the project results “The obtained results were interesting not only for Germany, but also for other European countries.

Tip 2: Take this opportunity to grow your network and to find your mentor!

Akande worked on an international project through an Industry-Academia Partnership and Pathways (IAPP) grant under FP7. Her focus was on Macroporous monolithic cryogels for extra corporeal medical devices and the project involved four universities and three small companies. The experience therefore exposed her to a high level of networking “It gave me plenty of opportunities to participate in conferences and seminars and to work with different professionals.” She also met several professors and learned from them, as well as from representatives from American and European societies specialised in artificial organs. Avellis also had an opportunity to grow her network, and says, “Networking was one of the main achievements of my Fellowship.” Balcazar Navarro emphasises the quality of the relationships that she had with her colleagues: “People who at the beginning were my colleagues are now my best friends.” She adds that looking for a mentor may also be crucial, providing a source of more experience and advice from him/her.

Tip 3: Improve your technical and personal skills!

According to Akande, her Marie Curie Action helped her to boost and build up her career to the extent that she improved her technical skills. “I learned a lot in terms of medical devices. For example, I learned how to prepare cryogels and different new techniques in my field of research.” Currently doing a one year mandatory national youth service corps at the University College Hospital in Ibadan (Nigeria), Akande feels comfortable with the career perspectives that such an experience can offer for the future “Once I finish my service, I should have a secure and good academic position”. For Balcazar Navarro, the Marie Curie Project was a good opportunity to “learn to be independent, to be proactive and self-confident”.

Tip 4: Keep in touch with your peers and show off your project results!

According to Avellis, it is important to travel a lot during the final part of the Fellowship, so as “to network and to present the research results to other teams to build strong links for the future”. For Balcazar Navarro, her biggest accomplishment linked to her Marie Curie Action was “Being invited as guest speaker and specialist to the Conference Managing Steel Mill Wastes and By-Products: Crisis and Opportunity in Antwerp, Belgium”. So don’t lose contact with your peers and do not hesitate to show what you learnt during your Marie Curie Project to improve your visibility!

Tip 5: Reach scientific excellence!

According to Avellis, her Marie Curie project was a turning point in attaining scientific excellence. Indeed, she published 60 conference and journals papers, as well as three book chapters, which boosted her career “Thanks to this experience, I worked for the European Commission as an expert independent evaluator in Software and Services and Information Technology. Furthermore, I am currently evaluating SME research projects in InnovaPuglia, in collaboration with universities and research centres funded by European Regional Development Funds.