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Dr Ana Cerdeño
Dr Ana Cerdeño
Making the most of mobility

At first, Dr Ana Cerdeño was unsure about applying for a Marie Curie Fellowship because it would involve spending too much time outside her native Spain. Six years on, however, she thanks her lucky stars she decided to go for it. “It gave me the chance to work alongside some of the world’s leading scientists at the John Innes Institute in Norwich and helped me to develop contacts and improve my scientific knowledge.”

These were not the only plus points. “Personally I had the tremendous opportunity of broadening my awareness of cultures through all the people, both scientific and non-scientific, I met at the institute,” she explains. Dr Cerdeño’s scientific career began in 1994 when she completed her first degree in general biology at the Universidad de Alcála in Spain. Following this, she moved to the UK to undertake a Master of Science in Biotechnology at the University of East Anglia. It was here she was encouraged to apply for a Marie Curie Fellowship to complete her PhD research doctorate. Her application was successful and between 1996 and 1999 Dr Cerdeño worked as a Marie Curie Fellow at the John Innes Centre.

The experience she gained through the fellowship programme gave her the confidence to try something different, so after completing her research she decided to move out of the laboratory and try scientific research through computer modelling. Dr Cerdeño now works at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge annotating and analysing genomes of pathogenic bacteria. “It is great to be able to acquire in-depth knowledge of many different bacteria in such a short time. During my lab days I worked with one or two bacteria, but at Sanger so far I’ve had the chance to work with four or five.”

Women can make a difference

Dr Cerdeño is full of tips for future fellows. “It’s important to make the most of living abroad. Try to immerse yourself in the culture, while at the same time using the fellowships to take further steps in your research career.” She also has the following advice for female fellows, “Many female scientists fought hard for equal opportunities and my generation is now starting to enjoying the benefits. I believe we should take advantage of these and try to make a difference. We should push to increase the number of women in higher positions on the scientific ladder. The new Sixth Framework Programme has better conditions and support for women than programmes before so why not make the most of them?”

Does she feel that there are improvements which would make it easier for researchers to be more mobile within the European Union? “All Marie Curie Fellows want to have the same taxes and benefits, but each country has its own laws and ways of understanding, which makes ‘equal’ mobility difficult,” Ana explains. “However, I have browsed through the FP6 information pack and can see that the European Commission is taking on board the advice of former fellows and making changes to avoid some of the previous problems.”

last update: 17-02-2003