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Dr Ilse Pienaar

Dr Ilse Pienaar

Dr Ilse Pienaar
University of Birmingham
Who is your scientific inspiration and why?

Today we take for granted the endosymbiotic hypothesis for explaining the origin of mitochondria, entailing that mitochondria are descended from specialized bacteria that somehow survived endocytosis by another species of prokaryote or some other cell type, and became incorporated into the cytoplasm.

In 1967, Lynn Margulis (then Lynn Sagan) famously published “On the Origin of Mitosing Cells”, in which she proposed that eukaryotic organelles including mitochondria and chloroplasts evolved from endosymbiotic bacteria. As a mitochondrial biologist myself, I recognise the enormity of this intellectual achievement, which has set in motion much of how we understand the origins and workings of these essential organelles. My regard for her is even more so if you consider her career story, in that the 1967 paper was regarded by many as a wild evolutionary heresy. Yet, with quiet dignity and clear rationale she continued to defend her theory, only for this reasoning to prevail, to eventually transform our understanding of evolution, becoming so mainstream that it now features, entirely uncontroversially, in school biology textbooks.

In three words or phrases how would you describe your supervision style?

Supportive, Collaborative and Goal Driven

In one or two sentences please describe your strategies regarding the following.
Provision of training:

I prefer to take responsibility for your technical training at first, leading to more independence later.

Progression monitoring and management:

I like to be kept up to date, and will expect to see evidence of method development/data generation results on a weekly basis. However, I am here for advice and guidance to help you reach the goals you set for yourself, and for you to reach your full potential as a scientist.

Communication:

My door is always open to my students and other researchers in my group. I am happy to discuss any issues that are impacting your ability to fulfil your potential or the supervisory team’s expectations. As in all aspects of life, what you put into projects you can expect back. At the same time, I will encourage you to manage your work/life balance.

How often do your PhD students see you in a timetabled group meeting?

At least once per fortnight

In year 1 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per week

In year 2 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per week

In year 3 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per week

What form do your 1:1 meetings with PhD students take?

Face to face (if allowed under current health and safety advice)

Open door policy?

Yes, I am usually contactable for an instant response (if required) on every working day.

My expectation of PhD student working patterns?

The timing of work in my lab is completely flexible, and (other than attending pre-arranged meetings), I expect students to manage their own time.

Notice for feedback (e.g. on reports, manuscript drafts, thesis chapters)?

I need at least 1 week’s notice to provide feedback on written work of up to 5000 words.