It's a bit nerve-wracking to write a welcome letter as as the new editor-in-chief of the MCAA Newsletter, a lot goes through your head. What to write? How to find the right balance? Will people even read it? What if people will actually read it? The list of considerations is long. When new MCAA chapter or working group chairs are elected, we ask them to write a few words about themselves, explain why they applied for the position, and share their views on the position. I will try to do something similar in this piece.
To many of you I am a stranger, so please let me introduce myself
My name is Oleksandra Ivashchenko, but I prefer to go with Sasha, and this is how I will be referred to in future issues. Yes, you may find it a bit informal, and that's exactly the idea. I am from a small town called Zolotonosha, just in the middle of Ukraine (just Google it, it is tiny and very central). After receiving MSc in Physics from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, I applied for an Early Stage Researcher (ESR, TRACE ‘n TREAT ITN, TU Delft) position in the field I had always dreamed of working in, namely nuclear medicine. Two postdocs and a 4 year medical physics residency later, I work as a radiology and nuclear medicine physicist at the University Medical Center Groningen (the Netherlands).
Why did I originally join the MCAA Newsletter Editorial Board?
During my PhD project I didn't really realize how lucky I was, as an ESR, to have the indisputable right to perform multiple secondments abroad, to have the opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary international team, to take many courses or workshops without the need to negotiate these needs with the Primary Investigator (PI). It was only after starting the first postdoc that I realized how ITNs differ from a standard PhD project. Despite common misperceptions, benefits of MSCA fellowships do not end with the submission of the final report. Through the MCAA, former fellows can apply for micro-grants, participate in various events, network and grow as a leader. In the past, I have benefited from these support opportunities. As a form of giving back, I wanted to increase awareness about the good work the organization is doing. First, I signed up for the Communication Working Group, but a primary focus on the editorial board was nearly instantaneous.
Why did I want to become the new editor-in-chief of the MCAA Newsletter?
The short answer is "I had no intention of doing this, at least not in the foreseeable future".
Since Gian Maria Greco did such a remarkable job as editor-in-chief for multiple years, this possibility didn't even cross my mind before. When we heard that there was a vacancy for the position, I was a bit taken back by the news. Obviously, I really enjoyed my time as an editorial board member and the creative freedom the organization has to discuss not only scientific, but also social issues. I would love to be actively involved in the transformation of the MCAA Newsletter and not only grow it, but also relate it more to topics that MCAA members consider to be of the utmost importance (e.g., let members speak through the MCAA Newsletter, not the Newsletter speaks to them). On the other hand, I was struggling to imagine how I would be able to add one more task to an already overloaded plate (a problem many of us have :) ). At the time, I was completing a residency, working on a part-time MBA, looking for a new job, completing my first personal grant, building-up the #ScienceForUkraine initiative that I am proud to help coordinate, and trying to come to terms with the fact that my homeland is at war.
I am a big fan of Robert Frost and he has a famous poem called "The road not taken". It starts with a poetic look at decisions one has to make in life:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
Sometimes decisions we make aren't logical or strategic, they're just the result of our journey into a "yellow wood", and they just need to feel right. Knowing how the poem ends, I closed my eyes, said it would be okay, and, out of hope or stupidity, responded to the opening. My candidacy was soon approved, a new job was found, the grant finalized and the #ScienceForUkraine initiative started to take root. Most importantly, we had one of the highest responses to the call for new editors and welcomed seven new members to the team.
What is my vision and hopes for the MCAA Newsletter?
Well, my vision is not to have a clear vision and try to find a way to develop the MCAA Newsletter into a bigger and highly interactive communication platform. Originally, the MCAA Newsletter was predominantly used to provide updates on the MCAA, its events and ongoing projects. I would like to expand the science communication section and normalize the discussion about the little-discussed challenges that researchers face. It is a difficult task, coupled with production timelines and deliverables of each Newsletter’s issue, but we have a great team. Each member of the editorial board is so creative and unique, so dedicated, despite the fact that they are all volunteers with a full agenda. I just want to make sure they have the resources and space they need to let their creativity shine.
In a few years, when asked to reflect on my MCAA experience, I'll be using Frost's "The road not taken" ending, and I owe it to Gian Maria's amazing leadership:
A shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
I just hope that other editors that we will have within my term will have an equally satisfying experience.
MCAA Newsletter, incoming Editor-in-Chief