Reflective report – Summer 1
Lucija Sili, Laidlaw Scholar (“The Development of Drug Delivery Systems to Treat Pulmonary Disease States Associated with Excess Mucus”)
During Summer 1 of the Laidlaw Programme, I have had the opportunity to conduct pharmaceutical research and contribute to the development of a drug which, when marketed, will greatly benefit the lives of people with diseases associated with excess mucus (e.g. cystic fibrosis, asthma, bronchiectasis, COPD, etc). I believe Summer 1 project has helped me develop my skills and behaviours on various different levels. These skills and behaviours will be crucial in determining my future career path.
Before the project even started, I anticipated great changes in the way my research will be conducted and the way I will be able to utilize my leadership skills, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Nevertheless, I have mentally prepared myself for these changes, trying to embrace them with ease. I knew that I will be dealing with a much smaller team and that certain practices may not be allowed anymore due to COVID-19 restrictions in the lab. For examples, some rooms required a maximum of 1 person to be inside, making it difficult for me to coach others. Luckily, some restrictions were avoided as my Supervisor provided face masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, and other products which we could use as protection. I found the engagement process with my Supervisor extremely easy as she was always accessible, responsive and ready to help with anything I needed. We met up once weekly to discuss my work in the lab, my progress, the development of my skills, and any issues that may have arisen so far. I have also engaged on a monthly basis with other people connected to this research, namely Prof. Fahy and his team in San Francisco conducting research on the same substance I used. I found these meetings very useful as they helped me expand my professional network and meet other researchers working in the field that I find so interesting.
I found that teamwork and collaboration is crucial in these kinds of projects because it makes things more organised and the work is done in the most efficient way. Furthermore, it strengthens the bond between researchers and makes the workplace environment more comfortable. I realized that when the team works as one, the tasks get completed perfectly; there is no need for repeating experiments and wasting valuable time. For example, at the start of the project, I had troubles in communication as I was afraid of asking too many questions and thus, in my eyes, bothering my teammates. This resulted in me conducting one lengthy experiment in the lab completely wrong and having to repeat it afterwards. I believe we learn the most from our mistakes, and this situation was the perfect evidence for it. After this, I haven’t experienced any issues communicating all the necessary information through to me and back to others.
To be perfectly honest, at times I felt exhausted, especially at the start of my project due to significant information overload. However, I soon acknowledged that this is something that is necessary on my way to become a successful leader and that I must push on for the sake of my team and the goal that has been set. By the end of the project, I have found that I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of work done and that the whole process itself was quite rewarding. Not only did I enjoy the research project, but the workshops, leadership sessions and other things that we were required to complete for the Laidlaw Foundation. For example, I found the Personal Development Plan (PDP) to be quite useful in identifying my strengths and weaknesses and coming up with a plan on how to develop or overcome them. Over the course of Summer 1 I have successfully implemented the goals I planned in my PDP, including becoming more confident with professionals and peers alike, expanding my professional and personal network, improving my verbal and written communication skills, and improving my lab and research skills. I have also found that using a Reflective Journal is extremely useful in tackling certain development opportunities. I would bring my Reflective Journal to work and write down all the things from that day or week that I wanted to reflect on. I was mainly focusing on improving my confidence through proposing new ideas on the way research could be done, my personal time management and the time management of the team, my mistakes and how I could have improved them, and such. I have come to realize that writing a Reflective Journal helped me identify important learning points throughout Summer 1, and it is certainly something I will be doing when leading my future research projects. Furthermore, I have also conducted a thorough critical review at the end of week 3 and 6 on how I am doing in the lab, what things I could improve about the research and myself, any issues that have come up, etc. In the critical review I included feedback from my team and how they view me, my progress, my transferable skills, my work, etc. This is something that I found the most useful as I was able to see how other people see me and improve my competencies using their critical feedback.
While working on this project, I have learned a great deal about leadership from a practical point of view. So far in the past I have only had theoretical background on leadership skills, either from my own personal research on leadership, or from Laidlaw leadership sessions. I learned that I am a coaching type of leader primarily, with a touch of transformational leadership. Reflecting upon the leadership development sessions, I realize that they played a huge part in my understanding of leadership and skills needed to become a successful leader. I have thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the sessions were quite interactive, as this made us all more involved and engaged with the session. I was delighted to see that there was a case study provided which allowed for thorough investigation of the topic, thus revealing new ideas and insights. It helped explore, in a detailed fashion, the dilemmas that leaders may face, and I feel like I’m now more confident to apply my learning in real-life. I have found the Clear & Confident Voice workshop quite challenging as it has really put me in a tight spot by making me engage with my audience and use my voice to connect with people. Previously I have found verbal communication challenging in many aspects, however, this particular workshop has enabled me to be more confident and influential. It has allowed me to understand more deeply the implications of my own voice and my verbal communication techniques in inspiring and motivating others to achieve a common goal. I believe that by applying the knowledge obtained from these workshops, combined with my coaching leadership style, I will be able to bring about a positive change within a group setting in my future research projects. I believe my leadership style contributes to increased self-responsibility of each individual within my group, which increases the likelihood of creating more leaders. I also believe it adds to increased self-development, which results in improved decision-making and problem-solving at individual and group level.
Throughout Summer 1 I have had extensive opportunities to connect with peers and experts alike. I have found that using LinkedIn is a great way of expanding one’s network and connecting on a professional level. In the past, I was reluctant to approach people, send them a message, or try to connect with them in fear of being dismissed. Joining the Laidlaw Scholarship Programme has pushed me to put myself out there and connect with people. This has resulted in the formation of some wonderful friendships, which I am truly grateful for.
My plans for Summer 2 include bringing my research project to the next level. I would like to lead a much larger group as I believe this will prove to be more challenging and will have a significant impact on my experiential learning. I would like to develop myself in the areas of strategic leadership, visioning, self-efficacy, self-reflection, and most importantly, understanding my strengths and when to use them. I really wish to focus on thinking more creatively, connecting with my team, encouraging their growth and improve myself in giving and receiving feedback. I plan on maintaining a more positive attitude, especially in times of difficulty, and would like to focus on deeply understanding my own motivation and motivation of others. All of this might be challenging in the summer to come, however, I firmly believe it will help me in my journey to becoming a successful leader.