Researchers start their careers from numerous backgrounds and in a variety of situations and circumstances. Some of us start out in large, rowdy zoos with lots of noise and smells; others are sentenced 3-5 years of solitary confinement in a wooden cubicle with a 25 year-old computer. And of course there’s everything in between. The level of support, help, companionship and access to expertise varies enormously. Regardless, the issues and challenges are often the same and it’s more than likely that someone else has already struggled through exactly whatever it is that is keeping you awake at night! It seems a shame to waste the collective experience and wisdom of everyone else that has, or is, in a similar situation to you and the ICECReam is about establishing a forum to make use of that resource.
The aim of The ICECReam is to provide a hub that connects and supports early career researchers all over the world. The hope is that it will serve several purposes:
Most importantly though, none of this works without active participation. You don’t need to produce something every week but without engagement it will fall over. There’s no point having an icecream if you don’t lick it!
The ICECReam was first created by some awesome ECRs: Steve, Nick, Tasha, Leo, Lu, Chris, and Zoe – and it is currently managed by Bruno, Hopin, and Tiê.
My story begins when I was deciding if I was going to be a Musician or Ophthalmologist, and chose physiotherapy, still not sure why. After few years at college, still trying to be a Musician, I saw that physiotherapy would make me happy, firstly because I found my wife in the classroom. After graduation I was preparing myself to be an ordinary physiotherapist, but fortunately I saw a lecture from my future Masters supervisors questioning the use of stretching in sports, and from this day I saw that research would be interesting for me (a curious minded person). So, I did the Masters degree at University City of Sao Paulo in Brazil, during which two amazing professors (Leo and Lu) started to intrigue me and my wife about doing a PhD abroad at The George Institute, Australia. So, I met my future supervisors and applied for a scholarship, and few months later I was about to start this new challenge. It was definitely the greatest experience of my life, not easy but wonderful. Now, I’m in the crazy and fun world of post-docs, more crazy than fun so far :).
Get in touch with Bruno: firstname.lastname@example.org
So, my relationship with physiotherapy is quite a love story… I was a ballerina for 17 years, and after 6 ankle sprains and some other fractures, I had to do a lot of physiotherapy and just fell in love for the idea of rehabilitating people. During my training in physiotherapy I used to love clinical practice, but science was always something that really intrigued me, and led me to present my first study at a conference. It was amazing, and after that, I knew that the science won me over… And not just science, but also a special guy that started this journey with me… What a brilliant idea, to do physiotherapy research helping patients and clinicians at the same time! After graduation we literally dived in science, starting a master degree. In parallel with the masters I also did a specialization in neurology practice and worked in clinical practice for 4 years. When I was about to finish the masters, my husband and I were presented with the idea of doing the PhD abroad. It was not an easy decision, but we closed our eyes and accepted this new challenge (including the idea of studying a new language)… And here we are! I got a scholarship from Brazil and came to Australia to start my PhD journey… The challenges keep coming, and hopefully that continues. So far it has been the best experience of my life!
Get in touch with Tiê: email@example.com
For the past hour or two I’ve been trying to think of an entertaining way of telling my story of becoming a physiotherapist and how I got to become a clinical researcher. But the truth is, my story is not the most entertaining and is not conducive to this style of writing. I didn’t find the love of my life in the classroom (like Bruno), nor was I a Ballerina (like Tie).
Maybe this is where things get interesting. Throughout my undergraduate training and clinical practice, I repeatedly felt guilty for not really knowing whether the treatments I was providing were really making a difference to my patients. After some introductory library tutorials on Pubmed and PEDro, a whole new world opened up. I was hooked. During my final year of training, I applied for a summer research studentship where I got to learn about summarising evidence using systematic reviews, got involved in a clinical trial, and so on… During that time, I got to share an office with other PhD students in the department and began to realise that they were having way too much fun. So after some (unneeded) contemplation, I jumped across the ditch and enrolled in a PhD at Neuroscience Research Australia. Reflecting back, the PhD really pushed me around in directions that I never would have thought to go. I started getting interested in methodology, statistics, scientific principles, and finding ways of persuading organisations to pay for my flights and accomodation. I also got to spend 3 years with a bunch of super bright and talented people who carried me over the finish line (who still keep me in check today).
I now have a real job, and I still continue to find new reasons (or post-hoc justifications) for why I enjoy this thing so much. I reckon this lyric by Morrissey sums it up nicely… “Everyday is like Sunday…” – each working day somehow feels like a weekend, but there’s always a lingering thought that Monday (real work) is just around the corner. Writing this blurb made today feel like Sunday… but now I’m staring blankly at my to-do-list that is making today feel like Monday.
Get in touch with Hopin at: firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was a kid, I really wanted to do one of these three jobs: fireman (which kid doesn’t want to do that?!), pizza maker, and scientist. Later during my adolescence, I naturally developed a quite critical attitude, in fact, during school classes I was rarely interacting with the teachers except to correct their mistakes (someone told me later that, apparently, that was the reason why they did not like me). About to finish high school, I really wanted to do something related to science but I was told that science is not a job (which can be true if you live in Italy). I had to rule out that option as well as the other two options because of fear of height (fireman) and wishing to study more (pizza maker). Like Bruno, I don’t know exactly why but I chose to study physiotherapy, probably because of the desire to become the physiotherapist of the Italian national football team. However, I soon realized that the competition leading to the desired job was way too tight (one position for something like 50.000 physiotherapists in the country). Also, to put it in Steve Kamper’s words, I understood that it was better FOR the patients if I was doing something else. So, when I discovered that it was possible to do physiotherapy-related research, my ancestral love for science won me over. Being a researcher was still not a job possibility in Italy, so I just needed to find another place on earth…
…while repeatedly visiting Amsterdam for leisure, I fell in love with the city and the Dutch living habits (?!), and decided that was the place to start my research “career”. I did a research master in epidemiology and I just finished a 4-year PhD in musculoskeletal health at the EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research (now Amsterdam Public Health). My PhD journey has been unexpectedly intriguing, I discovered the good things about being a researcher (try do address research questions, writing publications and grants, travel the world, meet people from different countries and cultures, work with the major world experts on a topic!) and the annoying ones (mainly: where does the money for your next salary is going to come from?). So far, my research has mainly focused on low back pain, outcome measurement and systematic reviews, but I try to keep a careful and open eye to all big things happening in the scientific fields that most interest me. Hopefully, the just started post-doc journey will lead me to become an independent researcher, but if that does not happen… I still have two unsatisfied professional loves from my childhood (although I am still afraid of height).
Get in touch with Alessandro at email@example.com
Steve Kamper (Senior ICECReamer 🍦)
I began my professional career as an Environmental Scientist but was infected with some sort of millennium virus that saw me leave a nice job, regular pay packet and secure career path and return to the life of a student. Truth be told it wasn’t that hard a decision, Uni was great first time around, loads of golf and sleeping-in and very little responsibility, why wouldn’t you go back? Going back involved doing a Physiotherapy degree, which once ticked off led to a stint treating musculoskeletal patients in private practice. Once again though the lure of having a student concession card proved too much and I enrolled to do a PhD at The George Institute, attached to the University of Sydney. My PhD experience involved research in back and neck pain, outcome measurement and placebo effects. I finished my PhD in 2011 and spent the next 3 years as a postdoc at the EMGO Institute in Amsterdam, I had a fantastic time, learned heaps and had stacks of new experiences. Since late 2014 I’m back at the George Institute in Sydney, enjoying the sunshine and trying to become an independent researcher.
Get in touch with Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tasha Stanton (Senior ICECReamer 🍦)
Sometimes I think we have to decide what we are going to be when we grow up way too early. My story reads like this: I went straight from high school into Physiotherapy and was quite excited that I’d gotten started on my career path so quickly. Self high-five! However, once I started working as a physio, I began to question if I made the right decision. I really DON’T like feet and I’m a physio?! I swear Karma sent me every single patient in Canada that had a foot problem! All kidding aside, I began to realize that I had a lot of questions about why we do things for certain conditions, and well, just a lot of questions about pain and injury in general and so I decided that perhaps research was the route for me. I did my Master’s in spinal biomechanics at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada and that gave me a great experience in coming up with my own research question and following it through. Then an amazing opportunity came up for me to do my PhD at the George Institute/University of Sydney and I grabbed it with both hands! Minus 30 versus plus 30? No contest! In my PhD I focused on clinical prediction rules (that aim to select physio treatments), evaluating a treatment-based classification algorithm for low back pain as well as standardizing outcome measures (related to low back pain recurrence). I received my PhD in December 2010 and I have just begun my postdoctoral fellowship working at Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of South Australia to study the neuroscience behind pain. I’m intrigued with understanding more about chronic pain and why we are so bad at treating it.
Get in touch with Tasha at email@example.com
Nick Henschke (Senior ICECReamer 🍦)
I always find it really hard to explain to people how I got to become a researcher. People tend to look at me funny when they hear that I get a lot of holidays (i.e. international conferences) and I say the people who do it are pretty funny (funny in a lame academic kind of way). I started off as a physiotherapist in a rehabilitation hospital, where I started wondering how to make my job easier (I never say I’m hard working, just efficient). In my mind, that would mean getting people better and out of hospital faster – in the process getting me to lunch quicker! When I started asking questions of all my more experienced colleagues, I got a lot of blank looks and mumbling about reading more textbooks. Frustration was setting in, though just when I was considering a life as a barista, I was offered a PhD position. I was told that a really large back pain project had already been started and all I had to do was come in and finish it off. Simple enough really… and from the first week I was hooked. I enjoyed the challenge of seeing a project through from a coffee break discussion to publication; the independence I had over my day-to-day schedule (and my career); and the people who made lame academic jokes funny. Now I’m a postdoctoral fellow, back in Sydney after two amazing years researching in Amsterdam. I research many different topics (musculoskeletal and beyond) and am just starting to explore the wide range of opportunities (i.e. holidays) open to researchers around the world.
Get in touch with Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leo Costa (Senior ICECReamer 🍦)
First of all I need to make it clear that the career that I really wanted to follow was to be a professional tennis player, but given that either my tennis skills as well as my sponsors (i.e. parents) were not very good, I ended up being a physiotherapist. As long as I challenged everything that my teachers said during my undergrad degree, I found out that research could be something that would make me happy, and it really did! I worked as a physio for nearly 7 years and during this time I got an academic position at a large University in Brazil as well as I enrolled in a master’s by research in sports training. During that time my research interests were about factors related to overtraining in high level athletes. It was a big mess! Working 40+ hours a week, plus doing a masters degree was not the funniest moment of my life. So, I decided to change my life radically, I found a crazy (but beautiful) girl that accepted to be my wife and we both moved to Sydney-Australia to do our PhD’s over there. It was the best 5 years of my life, working on back pain research as well as on the Centre of Evidence Based Physiotherapy from the University of Sydney. I have got my PhD degree in 2009. Since then I got a position as the head of the masters in physiotherapy from the University City of Sao Paulo / Brazil and I am feeling quite happy to supervise smart students to collect data for me! My current research interests are related to the efficacy of non-pharmacological interventions for chronic low back pain, measurement properties of clinical assessment tools, systematic reviews and (just for fun) I have been doing some clinical studies about risk factors for injuries in amateur runners.
Get in touch with Leo at: email@example.com
Luciola Costa (Senior ICECReamer 🍦)
Since the beginning of my undergrad degree in physiotherapy I knew that I did not just want to learn on how to evaluate and treat patients, so since then an academic position was a clear career option for me. The University that I studied had a program called “scientific initiation” which is basically an one-year program which you suppose to do a small piece of research, at that moment in time I was sure that research was the way to go! To progress on this career I knew that I needed to read a lot, and I found my first biggest barrier: I had no English skills at all! Meanwhile my boyfriend got an international scholarship to do his PhD in Australia, and I decided to go with him (now as his wife!). Then I faced the second barrier: the language! The problem was not only English this time, but also the cute Australian Language which is fully rich in slangs and a different accent! While trying to learn English I got a job as a research assistant at the University of Sydney in a project about electro stimulation in patients with spinal cord injuries. It was a great time which reinforced me that I was on the right track. After some English proficient tests, I was fortunate to get an Australian International Scholarship to start my PhD at the George Institute for Global Health (which is affiliated with the University of Sydney) in 2007. My research interests are related to the prognosis of low back pain and also related to clinimetric properties of measurement tools relevant to patients with musculoskeletal conditions.
Get in touch with Lu at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Williams (Senior ICECReamer 🍦)
I suppose, in a judicious sense, the first thing I shouldn’t say about myself is that I’m a potterer. Meaning I easily occupy my time with (not always) aimless tasks in an adrift manner. Some people would label this as procrastination, an easy habit to form after nearly 9 years buying movie tickets at concession rates. However, I liken ‘pottering’ to the act of pursuing new things semi-regularly. I guess that is part of the reason I ended up pottering around on a 40 metre yacht (no unfortunately not mine) between the Caribbean and Mediterranean for quite a while after my undergrad degree in Exercise Science. It doesn’t really explain how I ended up starting a PhD (that’s right not finished… yet) via a physiotherapy degree though.
Research for me was not some sort of a calling, one day I just found myself immersed in it. Right place at the right time really. Fortunately, the active process of ‘thinking’ did not impact too much on the inactive process of ‘pottering’. In fact the two seemed quite well suited and so my progression into becoming a researcher so far has been quite smooth. While most of my research to date has been somewhat moulded by my peers (I can call my supervisors peers can’t I??) my time in research has appealed to the curious side of me. I am excited to think wildly (sometimes profoundly), not just about back pain, but about an array of topics (which is where the pottering comes in). Even if this mostly involves – thanks to my low tolerance to a high intake of caffeine – a frenzied assembly of confused ideas. Thankfully, I get most of this out of the way in the first 5 hours of my day and find some time to collect data.
Get in touch with Chris at: email@example.com
Zoe Michaleff (Senior ICECReamer 🍦)
In early high school my physio asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. A number of fleeting career paths shot through my mind…. park ranger, stunt double, professional check out chick…however none of them felt like a true calling. I listed the things that I liked… sport, science, exercise…and then the obvious was said “how about physio?”. It ticked all the boxes and besides I had nothing against wearing a polo shirt for the rest of my life (after all they are low maintenance and comfortable) – and there it was, career path, tick. On my way to becoming a physio, I took a job as a research assistant to earn a few $$ and it was then that my path crossed with Nick, Steve, Leo, Lu and Tash. This group, who spent most of their time on the lounge throwing around health related ideas amidst laugher and multiple non-related health tangents, was my first exposure to the PhD life (and let me tell you it appeared to be a much more appealing and entertaining way to fill an afternoon than the 9-5 alternative). So here I am… clearing my own path in the musculoskeletal world (I wouldn’t quite say blazing a trail yet) however I am making head way through the hills and valleys… with the surrounding fog lifting ever so slowly. I keep my physio skills up by continuing to work at a hospital on weekends while during the week my research focuses on neck pain (in particular whiplash) as well as low back pain.
Get in touch with Zoe at: firstname.lastname@example.org
academic misconduct advertising Bec Bruno career Cartoon Chris W cochrane collaboration conferences cost doping evidence-based practice experiences experts fun grants hours interpreting research LBP Forum learning Leo C lifestyle Luciola C nerds networking new skills Nick H PhD placebo presentations profiles publications question of science reporting research methods research translation Sport stats Steve K study quality supervisors Tasha tips for research videos WCPT work-life workload writing Zoe M