Creative days and weekend agony

June 1, 2007

Name: Anne Cooke

Age: 31

Job: Neuroscience research facilitator and communications manager, Bristol University.

Education: BA natural sciences (neurophysiology) at Cambridge University and then a PhD at the Medical Research Council laboratory of molecular biology. While a postdoc there I applied for my current job - a new position to set up a new initiative, Bristol Neuroscience .

Working hours and conditions: I work largely independently, so have the luxury of flexible hours. But as a result, the job is open-ended - there's always more I can do!

Number of students and staff you work with: My immediate colleagues are the eight members of the Bristol Neuroscience steering group, but I regularly interact with everyone in neuroscience: in research, teaching and clinical practice, and both undergraduate and postgraduate students - about 600 people.

Biggest challenge this year: As the first such "facilitator" in the university, I have no template to follow - just lots of potential to get it wrong. I have developed my role continuously since starting. It is a wonderful chance to create a job that helps people carry out research more effectively and to take science into the wider community. The chance to develop this role, to see it become established and, in recent months, see three more facilitators appointed, has been fantastic.

Worst moment in university life: When I thought I had fatally wounded the electron microscope one Friday night - equipment costing about £250,000. I hadn't, as it turned out, but I endured a weekend of agonies.

What your office/working space is like: I'm deliberately peripatetic. I have an office in the anatomy department, plus space in a group office elsewhere. So far, I've worked in experimental psychology, psychopharmacology, physiology and pharmacology.

What university facilities do you use: Sports centre, bike shed, conference facilities.

Do you socialise with people at the university? Yes, a huge privilege of my job is the chance to meet truly exceptional, inspiring people, some of whom have become good friends.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? Anyone can be under pressure for a gamut of reasons unrelated to my interaction with them. By recognising those pressures, and learning more about their job as a result, I hope it makes me and my role more effective.

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