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Claire Brown (McGill University)

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About this episode

#42 — Claire Brown, Associate Professor & Director of the Advanced BioImaging Facility at McGill University, talks to Peter O’Toole about the importance of taking care of your staff, how she successfully set up a lab as a single mom and why simpler techniques are often the better choice. We’ll also discover why she got involved with Global BioImaging, her struggles being at the interface of biology and chemistry, and how she coped through a silent retreat.

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This is an automated transcript and may not be 100% accurate.

Intro/Outro (00:00:01):
Welcome to The Microscopists, a Bitesize Bio podcast hosted by Peter O’Toole, sponsored by Zeiss Microscopy. Today on The Microscopists.

Peter O’Toole (00:00:14):
Today on The Microscopists, I’m joined by Claire Brown Associate Professor and Director of the Advanced Bio Imaging Facility at McGill University. And we discuss about balancing a research lab and running a core facility.

Claire Brown (00:00:28):
I’m usually over committed. So I’m, I’ve been trying really hard to say no,

Peter O’Toole (00:00:32):
The importance of a people centered approach.

Claire Brown (00:00:36):
And so I think, and it’s not just having the bodies, it’s, it’s also mentoring them and, and, you know, giving them an environment that they wanna come to every day,

Peter O’Toole (00:00:45):
How sometimes simpler is better.

Claire Brown (00:00:47):
Do you really need confocal? You know, otherwise you will give you much more signal. You can look through the whole cell

Peter O’Toole (00:00:52):
And the importance of big networks in science.

Speaker 3 (00:00:56):
If you go to them and say, Global Bio imaging recommends we do this, they listen to you very different way than if you say, you know, I think it’d be really good if we did this

Peter O’Toole (00:01:06):
All in this episode of The Microscopists. Hi, I’m Peter O’Toole , University of York. And today on the The Microscopists, I’m joined by Claire Brown from McGill Montreal, Canada, Claire, how are you today?

Claire Brown (00:01:27):
I’m good. Thank you. Great to be with you.

Peter O’Toole (00:01:29):
Yeah, I kinda know you. Okay. Cause I’ve just been chatting with you beforehand, but you know, something I dunno about you is how did you get into microscopy? Oh, do you know I’m gonna go one better when you were 10. What did you want to be?

Claire Brown (00:01:46):
Yeah, I always love science, so I I remember getting the popular science magazines from the store when I was little and reading about the new gadgets and things that were coming out and telling my friends and siblings about these cool little, little inventions that were in there and always loved the outdoors. You know, we spent summers at our cottage, which was on the ocean and just nature was all around and learning about trees and rocks and fish. And yeah, so I think I always wanted to be a scientist. I didn’t have kind of a moment later in life that I, you know, changed my mind or anything. It was always what I wanted to do.

Peter O’Toole (00:02:25):
I see. So trees, rocks, fish. So we’ve got geology, we’ve got potential environmental biology. We’ve got Marine biology and here you are as a cell biologist. So, okay, so, so you love science. What was your, where did you, what was your first degree in, where did you do?

Claire Brown (00:02:45):
So I did my undergraduate at St. Mary University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s a small undergraduate based school. And to be honest, I went there because I thought it would be easier to get into the med school at Dalhousie, which is the bigger research based professional school. And I had been told your chances of getting in were better if you came from the surrounding schools. So I started off in biology thought I would go into medicine. And after a year of learning a textbook, this thick about animals and learning a textbook, think about plants. I decided I hated memorizing and that chemistry was way easier. And so I switched my major into chemistry and then I got to know about chemistry and organic chemistry was just memorizing different things, memorizing molecules instead of worms. So so I moved into to physical chemistry, which was math and was something you could figure out. And if you didn’t know the equation on the quiz, you could figure it out without the equation and, and stayed in the physical sciences after that. But then at the end of my undergrad, I was doing a project at electrochemistry and I’m like, oh man, I don’t know this isn’t really what I wanna be doing. So when I was started looking for graduate labs, I moved towards cell biology. So that was how I, I sort of found my way back to the life sciences but with a chemistry hat. So,

Peter O’Toole (00:04:16):
But do you think actually having that chemistry grounding and so, so, so from the, from that side, do you think that’s actually helped and having the physical side to it as well? Do you think it actually helps ground you more to help actually with the sound biology?

Claire Brown (00:04:33):
Yeah, I would say it’s, it’s great and it’s not great. So it depends on the context. I ended up in a chemistry depart where you know, most of the people on my thesis committee had no idea what I was doing. And I had an interesting interaction with one of the chemists. He said there was no data in my thesis. So because it was images, right. So I ended up taking a five 12 by five, 12 image and printing it on a piece of paper with all the, for the intensities that I put in his mailbox, just cause say here’s some of my data, you know? So, so it was hard because you were, you were at the interface and I think through my whole career, I’ve been at the interface and some people just don’t get what you’re doing at all. Um but on the flip side, I love the challenge of pulling the interesting bits at a chemistry and the interesting bits at a cell biology and then coming at the problem with a whole different perspective than people in either of those fields. So I it’s, it’s a lot of work, but I think in the end it’s, it’s worth it. And one thing though, I would say it’s much better now. I think at time there weren’t a lot of people cross discipline was hard even looking for jobs like you, weren’t a chemist, but you weren’t a cell biologist. You, you know, so, but I think it’s better now, but I think some of those challenges are still there.

Peter O’Toole (00:05:56):
So actually it’s interesting that you said it depends on what your job is, what your role is actually for those who dunno you, why is your current role cause that that’s also not made at all?

Claire Brown (00:06:08):
Sure. So as I mentioned, I’ve always loved being at the interface. And so Microscopy is certainly at the interface. So I run the it’s Bio imaging facility at McGill University, and I’ve been here almost 17 years. I can’t believe it. I started here in 2005 and part of the reason was during my postoc, I found like I was helping everybody with their, with their experiments. So I kind of became the, the Jack of all trades kind of dabbling in all the different experiments. But then I realized I didn’t really have my own project. And when this job came up, I thought this is perfect. I don’t have to have my own project. I can work on all kinds of interesting projects. And that’s what our facility does. We’re all the way we have bioengineering, chemical engineering, people from obstetrics and gynecology material science. So some people work on microplastics and environmental science and, and I just love the breadth and the, the, just finding a little bit about all these different projects and then giving them the tools they need to, to answer the questions they’re interested in,

Peter O’Toole (00:07:13):
Which, which I think is really good to hear, because I think there’s a lot of academics to core academics that actually find it hard to understand that you don’t wanna solve. You don’t wanna go into a specific subject matter. I, I would argue you talked about the breadth and, you know, looking at Jack of trade might, but actually it’s cause the depth is the technology and the application that needs a lot of depth to understand the technology, to apply it to such a diverse range of a bit. Like, I, I guess if you’re looking at one biological question, that’s your depth, but you don’t necessarily have the depth of all the technologies you are using to solve that question. So it’s a depth and breadth in a difference.

Claire Brown (00:07:59):
Yeah. Yeah. I would agree with that. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, I mean, that’s the big challenge, right? Picking the right technology for the researcher so that they get the best answer to their question. Right. And one of the most interesting things I still find to this day is, is trying to pull people back to the more basic technologies. And we just said that this conversation this morning with a group looking at antibody staining, and I’m like, do you really need confocal? You know, the widefield will give you much more signal. You can look through the whole cell. You can. So I think also pointing people to the right technology and, and if the most advanced fancy tool out there is the right tool, great. We’ll, we’ll do our best to help people use that, but always remembering to pick the best tool. And often it could be a widefield microscope or even DIC imaging or, or something like that,

Peter O’Toole (00:08:47):
Which is also more cost effective

Claire Brown (00:08:50):
For them. Others. Yeah. Yeah. There’s so many advantages, right? It’s it can be faster. It can be less data. It can be less instrument fees. Yeah. All kinds of benefits. So,

Peter O’Toole (00:09:02):
But the same or better scientific data.

Claire Brown (00:09:05):
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I think we, we struggle with this. We have this big funding agency, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and they fund all of our, our research microscopes and any high end equipment and research. And there’s been this association of the newest technique with innovation and I’m always harping on, you know, you can do very innovative science on a widefield microscope or on, you know, maybe a tabletop, but you know, a small teacher culture. It doesn’t have to be a, an advanced instrument. So I think we need to always remember that the science can be innovative. You just, or even how you apply the tool, maybe you apply a really a tool that’s been around for a long time in a really novel way.

Peter O’Toole (00:09:49):
I think, I think that’s actually a, for someone who’s not veeting to microscopy it’s quite good to hear, because I would say 90, 95% of the research needs a more basic microscope compared to the high end, but it’s the high end once they give that, that you can answer questions, you can’t do any other way that’s and really pushing the frontiers at that point. But of course, microscopes can cost how many Canadian dollars.

Claire Brown (00:10:18):
Yeah. I would say between a hundred thousand and a million,

Peter O’Toole (00:10:22):
But they’re cheap.

Claire Brown (00:10:24):
Oh, the high end ones. Yeah. You’re at million for sure.

Peter O’Toole (00:10:28):
Even the low end. So that’s what you, but I guess you didn’t want, I guess this role didn’t even exist when you’re an undergraduate, you know, cause these roles are, are relative last 20 years.

Claire Brown (00:10:43):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:10:45):
If you could be anything today, what would you do?

Claire Brown (00:10:49):
Oh, that’s a hard question. I think I would keep doing what I do now, but with more supports. So I would remove all the parts of my job that I don’t like, like the administration and the grant writing and the finances. And if I could just go to work and do science and help people do microscopy and, and work with people, I think I would, I would keep doing exactly what I’m doing.

Peter O’Toole (00:11:15):
Do do you actually dislike that admin and the grant writing and everything? Well actually secretly at the end of it, do you find it quite rewarding still?

Claire Brown (00:11:24):
I would say I dislike it. Yeah. The grant writing, I like the writing of the project, but that to me is only like 10% of the work. And then the other 90% is using the right font size and putting my CV in the right format and having the right margins and you know, it’s all that other stuff that, that I don’t enjoy the project itself. I do enjoy because it forces you to, you know, get back to the literature and read about things and, and get up to date and get your ideas spinning and brainstorm with your co co authors on the grant and so on. But,

Peter O’Toole (00:12:03):
And there’s a lot of text in tickbox text, Tick box. It isn’t good phrase now tickbox which actually can be quite arduous to write and sound different to what’s in the main proposal copy past.

Claire Brown (00:12:21):
Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I think I would keep, I love my work. I love my job. I think I would keep doing what I’m doing.

Peter O’Toole (00:12:28):
It’s impressive. Think you, you mentioned when you were young and you, you mentioned your love of nature and actually sent me some photos and some of them haven’t scaled perfectly. So what are the photos of, I guess this is one of the nature.

Claire Brown (00:12:46):
This is a view from one of the mountains and Val David, which is just north of, of Montreal. And I actually went there with a technician who was in my lab at University of Virginia when I was a postdoc and her and her daughter came up to visit me in Montreal and we spent the day up there. So it was really nice cuz we had hiked the, I always think about that. We had hiked the blue Ridge mountains in Virginia, lots of times when I lived down there and this is like the other end of that mountain range. So it was kind of nice to, to reconnect with her. It had been about 10 years since we’d seen each other and, and also to be on that same mountain range. So this would’ve been in August beautiful weather here. It was really nice day.

Peter O’Toole (00:13:31):
It does look nice, rather different this cold one

Claire Brown (00:13:36):
So, so this is a trail in Nova Scotia. I actually ended up spending quite a bit of time there during the pandemic working remotely cuz my family is, is there. And this trail is literally across the street from from my brother’s house where I was staying and I walked in almost every day. And it’s beautiful. There’s a little Creek on the side there that you can’t see and, and it’s about two K each way. So it was a nice, nice afternoon walk to take a break from the computer and zoom.

Peter O’Toole (00:14:06):
So they have good internet at the family houses.

Claire Brown (00:14:10):
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s with something I’ve forgotten about growing up there is how close they’re to nature. Like you’ve five minutes in any direction and you’re really in the middle of nowhere.

Peter O’Toole (00:14:20):
So got to ask we helped run those establishing safe working practices in for the core labs during COVID as part of that, where were you do, were you local or were you actually in the family place when we did those meetings?

Claire Brown (00:14:37):
I was in Montreal when we did those first meetings. Yeah. This was later I’d actually gone gone home to visit for Christmas in this would’ve been in 2020 in, in the fall and they had a, a very strict COVID rules in Nova Scotia. So I had to isolate for two weeks at an Airbnb with, with my son who was 20 at the time in order to visit my family. So we had to be 14 days in isolation and I decided to take the plunge and go for it. And so we planned to go for a month. And then when we were getting ready to come back to Montreal in January, they had just initiated a curfew in Montreal that you weren’t gonna be allowed out past 8:00 PM. You were allowed to leave your house after 8:00 PM. And and the COVID cases were really high in Quebec and they were really low in Nova Scotia. And I was like, Hmm, maybe I won’t go back right now. I, I wasn’t allowed to go on campus. So

Peter O’Toole (00:15:32):
I guess so.

Claire Brown (00:15:33):
I ended Up working remotely from there. It was really fun.

Peter O’Toole (00:15:36):
Just not allowed out the house.

Claire Brown (00:15:38):
Yeah. Quebec was the only place in north America that instituted that it was from 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM. You weren’t allowed to leave your property. So there was jokes about people lending their dogs around cuz you could, you could walk a dog. And I had to write letters for my students so that they could stay in the lab past eight. So they, if they got pulled over by the police, they could, they could show the letters. So it’s, it’s a bit eerie. There’s some pictures of some of the expressways here in Montreal during that time that there’s like no cars and it’s like 9:00 PM on a Thursday night. You know,

Peter O’Toole (00:16:13):
I, I, I guess COVID obviously becomes a lot more contagious after eight o’clock and before six o’clock in the morning.

Claire Brown (00:16:19):
Well, you know, it seemed to, I have to admit, I felt the same way as you, but it, it did seem to work. And I, I think there were a lot of people kind of popping over to the parents’ place after dinner or going to hang out with a friend or yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:16:32):
And I, and drink usually that time of day kicks in as well. But yeah.

Claire Brown (00:16:38):
But anyway, we, we were able to bypass it and and I got to spend lots more time with my family, which is kind of ironic where most people were isolated from their family. So I was

Peter O’Toole (00:16:49):
How big a part of your family? I think I presume this is one your family photos.

Claire Brown (00:16:55):
So this was my mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary and we got the whole family together. There was 50 of us I think. So I have, I have

Peter O’Toole (00:17:06):
Is that the same? Yeah.

Claire Brown (00:17:08):
Yeah. This is a, this is much later. So in the very back, my, the bride is not, not very visible, but my my nephew got married, so he was the first grandchild to get married and I have 32 nieces and nephews and 6, 6, 3, 6 grand nieces and nephews. So

Peter O’Toole (00:17:31):
How many brothers or sisters?

Claire Brown (00:17:33):
Nine. So I have four brothers and five sisters. And I’m I’m number nine at the bottom of the pack.

Peter O’Toole (00:17:42):
So were you the spoiled one?

Claire Brown (00:17:44):
No, I had a baby sister. So nine is definitely middle child.

Peter O’Toole (00:17:51):
So outta nine, how many scientists amongst them?

Claire Brown (00:17:57):
Oh, that’s a good question. I would say half.

Peter O’Toole (00:18:01):
Okay.

Claire Brown (00:18:02):
A sister. Who’s a medical doctor, sister. Who’s a nurse, a brother. Who’s a chemist and another sister. Who’s a biochemist. So half

Peter O’Toole (00:18:13):
I was going to say that they were all utterly dependent on you to help develop the drugs that they administer or deliver, techniques they all use come from you, but then you say you have a bio chemist.

Claire Brown (00:18:30):
Yeah, pretty, pretty diverse group, but but yeah, half in science, which is kind of neat and my dad was only doctor. So

Peter O’Toole (00:18:38):
What about the other half then?

Claire Brown (00:18:42):
We have a contractor my sister and brother both work in in home like they quote and install windows and doors for construction. Yep. Mostly residential. And my brother’s a contractor in commercial construction. One brother works for 9 1, 1. He’s a shift operator and my other sister actually has her PhD. But in theology,

Peter O’Toole (00:19:12):
I, I feel as I’ve just given you a test, cause you’ve just gone through all, they all do it. It sounds like, you know, what they actually do, which is amazing.

Claire Brown (00:19:20):
We’re pretty close. Yeah. There’s only 11 years between us and we do keep in pretty good touch my sisters and I zoom with my mom every week since the pandemic started and we, we, we all stay in pretty good touch. So

Peter O’Toole (00:19:34):
That’s really cool. So back back onto the science, can you remember what your first microscope was your, your first proper microscope. I don’t mean the one you might have had at home, but do you remember the first proper microscope you used?

Claire Brown (00:19:47):
I would say probably an undergrad at university, you know, when we were dissecting frogs and, and fetal hearts and looking at EMBAs and things under the microscope and that, so probably first year university.

Peter O’Toole (00:20:04):
I remember those, but I couldn’t tell you what brand they were or what model they were. No,

Claire Brown (00:20:08):
It’s it’s unfortunate and I’m not calling you from my office, but I, I have have a lights microscope in my office. That was my grandfather’s. Oh, wow. And he was the medical doctor for CNRA. So the Canadian national railroad. And he was the doctor who you go for your, your company checkup every year. And he had this microscope in his office and it’s got a wooden box and it’s a, a brass microscope. And each lens has the, the writing of the person, you know, the signature of the, the lens maker. And he my dad had it in his office as well. And he would do some simple blood tests and things. He would actually use it in his practice. So it was funny when my dad was retiring. He said to my mom, I’m, I’m gonna give this to Christine. And Christine’s my sister, who’s the medical doctor. And my mom looked at him and said, Bob, you have to give that to, so that was pretty funny, but maybe I can send you a picture of it afterwards, if you want. It’s, it’s actually on our course posters for the Montreal, like microscopy course. And That’s, It’s a really beautiful thing to have.

Peter O’Toole (00:21:22):
Yeah. I think the modern day microscopes are not as pretty for, I agree they they’re works of art, but they are not something you put on your mantle piece.

Claire Brown (00:21:32):
Yeah, yeah, no, I really it’s really something. And the fact that it was my grandfathers makes it really sentimental, you know, it’s nice to have,

Peter O’Toole (00:21:41):
And the, I guess doctors were doing their own sort of diagnosing doing their own sort of. And so they often they lose all that side, I guess.

Claire Brown (00:21:52):
That’s right. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:21:55):
So moving through Bina Bio Imagining, north America, Which you’ve got quite a big role,

Claire Brown (00:22:05):
One of the three co-chairs. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:22:08):
So how did that start? What, how did it start? What’s the purpose of it?

Claire Brown (00:22:15):
Okay. Can I go back a little bit?

Peter O’Toole (00:22:17):
Yeah, of course.

Claire Brown (00:22:19):
So I’ve always been one to bring people together, so I never like to reinvent the wheel and I know other people have done things, so why should I figure it out again? You know, and I was interested in starting something up in Canada. So Canada Bio imaging was something I was thinking about and I was doing some research online and I found Global Bio imaging and I was looking at their website and they had this big arrow going from Europe to North America and above the arrow. It said USA. And I thought, oh, I can fix that. So so I contacted them and I met with Antje Keppler and Federica, and it was right away. I talked with them and I’m like, I wanna work with these people. You know, they’re just fantastic in building networks and just fantastic people. So I knew right away, I wanted to work with them. So I joined Global Bio imaging. And then in order for Canada to be a partner with global bio imaging, we had to have a national group. And so that I used all of my, the information and everything I had learned from them to set up Canada Bio imaging, and we’re officially a partner of, of Global Bio imaging now. So at the same time or shortly after that there was this meeting at Janelia Research Center to bring together the people from Europe who are part of Global Bio imaging and some of the other networks, you know, as you know Biogen, UK and France, Bio imaging, and all of those with people in north America who were, who were in mostly in the US and some from Canada. And the idea was to, to learn from each other and see if there was interest in forming a north American group. So so that was a great meeting. It was a couple of days and there was technology talks. There was talks about networks. I actually gave a presentation about Canada Bio imaging and, and we have another group called the Canadian Network of Scientific Platforms, which is, is a similar group, but for all technology platforms. So it’s not limited to microscopy with the same idea of coming together and trying to solve common challenges that we have and have a voice to the government and the funders and so on. So when they were setting up the executive for Bina, they asked if I would be part of the group as a representative from Canada and the rest is history.

Peter O’Toole (00:24:49):
Yeah. And, and shout type for Mexico. Cause I think Mexico were at the meeting as well. And part of it through Chris wood, I think was there was that’s

Claire Brown (00:24:56):
Right? Yeah. The three countries,

Peter O’Toole (00:24:58):
It was interesting case. And it’s interesting. You don’t wanna duplicate, but you got Canada bio imaging you got, or you got the Bio Imaging North America, you’ve got Global Bio Imaging. It’s like, but you also mentioned the importance of going back to politicians, which needs to be not on the global necessarily, but back to your local government and how, how easy is it to get influenced directed of funders national funders.

Claire Brown (00:25:27):
So we’ve been struggling a lot in Canada, but that was why we formed the Canadian Network of scientific platforms because we found when we went as a group of microscopy, they were like, oh, that’s nice. You know, you’re, you know, off you go. But when we then came saying, we’re representing, you know, electron microscopy, Light Microscopists, nano fabrication facilities tissue banks, you know, the whole gamut, then we’re really representing the community across the whole country. And I’m sure as you and many of the listeners know the problems are the same, right. We have trouble re retaining recruiting and retaining staff. We have trouble renewing our equipment and it’s the same across all those groups. And through that, I’ve actually also recently made connections with the Canadian government labs. So these are labs that are funded directly by the federal government and they’re echoing the same, the same challenges. So now I find when I go to, you know, people in those positions, they’re representing that big community rather than just microscopy or just my facility. And also being part of being a, being part of Global Bio imaging. If you go to them and say, Global Bio imaging recommends we do this, they listen to you in a very different way than if you say, you know, I think it’d be really good if we did this. So I am seeing the, the importance of these big networks and the, the common voice and, and these international recommendations that are coming out of Global Bio imaging and, and all of that. So I think it is kind trickle down, but you do need the local groups too, because everyone has a different research environment and, and funding mechanisms and all of that.

Peter O’Toole (00:27:11):
Yeah. And I obviously fully agree, Royal Microscopical Society. Euro Bio Imagining, Bio Imagining, UK, utterly agree, and having that influence back UK has been really good, very early on at encouraging voices from core facilities and technologies, which I think is really good. From a UK perspective, you mentioned the network. So, so now you’ve got, oh my goodness. You’ve got your core facility, which is how many staff in your core facility?

Claire Brown (00:27:45):
I have three and a half, I would say one part-time and a couple of part-timers and three full-time.

Peter O’Toole (00:27:52):
Okay. So, so I think you sent a photo of a lot of them.

Claire Brown (00:27:57):
Yep. So this was a, a zoom party where one of our staff was going back to Europe and his family is back there. So he decided to, to head back. So so we decided to get together on zoom since we weren’t able to get together in person. So this was in early 20, 21. But I should say I have another hat. I also run my own research lab, so that’s kind of separate from the facility. So this is a, a combination of my facility staff and my students and postdocs. So,

Peter O’Toole (00:28:30):
So how do you balance the conflicts between those two sides?

Claire Brown (00:28:37):
So

Peter O’Toole (00:28:37):
You’ve got core facility, which is, which kind of serves users. It has a very different financial model. Then you’ve got your research. How do you prioritize? You got, you got a grant deadline, you’ve got a user need.

Claire Brown (00:28:53):
Yeah. It’s, it’s very difficult. I tend to I tend to try to do it as I go, you know, so next week what’s my, you know, what’s the priority I do find I’m usually over committed. So I’m, I’ve been trying really hard to say, no, I, I keep saying there should be a workshop on how to say no, but whenever I ask anybody, nobody really has a very good answers for that.

Peter O’Toole (00:29:19):
Yeah. Thanks for saying yes. To do the podcast with me.

Claire Brown (00:29:22):
Exactly. Yeah. It’s, that’s what I find hard is I, I think it’s because I really love what I do and I see the opportunities and the impact that I can have if I do all these things. So maybe I can give a couple of, so I, I had actually taken two days last April as a personal couple of days of reflection. And I, I turned off my computer. I didn’t look on media. I, you know, I just spent two days reflecting, went for walks and, and things like that. And I actually made a post-it note, a wall of post-it notes with, which was all color coded of kind of what things were facility, what were national networks. And and it was really helpful. And one of the themes that came out for me was to make it about the people. And if the, you know, if, if there’s a chance for a project, say, say, I wanna write this grant. And I know the person who’s working with me would be perfect for that grant. Then that would be a factor I might think about rather than recruiting somebody new, you know? And and I find when you, when you focus on the people and give them the autonomy and the skills they need, they can also take over. So I have really good people in my facility who can, who can fill in for me if I have to disappear for three days to work on a grant. And so I think, and it’s not just having the bodies, it’s it. So also mentoring them and, and, you know, giving them an environment that they wanna come to every day. And, and it’s not just about the science, you know, so that was one theme that came up for me was just sort of focusing on the people. And then the second one was these networks, you know, Canada, Bio Imaging, Global Bio imaging, BINA and just seeing how those networks could impact the whole community. And so I, and they’re not like it’s not twice as much work if I work with Canada Bio Imaging and BINA, the things I’m doing in Canada Bio Imaging feed into BINA and the things I’m doing in BINA feed into Canada Bio Imaging. So I think as long as there’s a strong overlap, then it, it kind of, I Don’t it, it’s almost like a phase separation, right. It comes to, it, it, it comes clear of, of where the overlaps are and where you should keep your focus, your energy. And I would say the same for my lab. Like in my lab, we study cell migration, but then the tracking algorithms we implement in the core, you know, where we get a new software in the core and my lab members are the ones testing it out. So my staff don’t. Yeah. You know, so it’s, it’s that sort of interplay, I guess, of the, of the different parts.

Peter O’Toole (00:31:50):
Okay. How many, how many users do you have at the core facility

Claire Brown (00:31:56):
In 2021? I believe we’re around 300 and we service about 120 labs.

Peter O’Toole (00:32:04):
So it’s just, it’s good to get that size perspective of what’s going on over here.

Claire Brown (00:32:09):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:32:09):
Supported by three and a half staff. Did you say?

Claire Brown (00:32:12):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:32:15):
Right.

Claire Brown (00:32:16):
That’s yeah. It’s definitely a challenge. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:32:18):
And if I remember correctly, you also, you obviously you charge, we all charge, but you are also being success. You’re charging and you do recover your running costs, don’t you?

Claire Brown (00:32:29):
We recover, we have our running costs, and then we do get some funding from the Canada foundation for innovation, for service contracts and repairs. And then the balance actually comes from my research grants. So, so I do probably bring in about a third of our costs through grants.

Peter O’Toole (00:32:47):
OK. So, so it’s,

Claire Brown (00:32:49):
So it’s ideal.

Peter O’Toole (00:32:51):
It’s very tough. So what, what do you do to chill out, Do you have time to chill out?

Claire Brown (00:32:58):
Yeah, well, I was saying, I really like the outdoors during the, the pandemic. I spent a lot of time walking, even in my own neighborhood. I’ve made it a point of walking every day, even if it’s snowing or minus 20 or raining or what not. So that’s certainly a big part of it. During the pandemic, one of the things I really got into was puzzles. I think that’s my mathematical mind coming out. Definitely

Peter O’Toole (00:33:24):
What sort of puzzles?

Claire Brown (00:33:27):
Oh, all different kinds, but I like colorful scenic, you know, flowers, landscapes

Peter O’Toole (00:33:33):
Actually coloring and

Claire Brown (00:33:35):
Coloring is another thing I do. Yeah. I find that really

Peter O’Toole (00:33:41):
It’s only took a few out.

Claire Brown (00:33:43):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like to color. I I actually I actually go on retreat once or twice a year. It’s been less frequent with the pandemic, but there’s a monastery near here where you can go on silent retreat. And the first I went, I was freaking out because I’m like, I cannot be silent for 48 hours. This is impossible, but I thought I’m gonna try it. And and I did. And, but the, the thing I found harbors my mind just couldn’t get into the retreat, you know, Friday evening. And, and I found if I colored, then it kind of all the thoughts cares and whatever went away and I was just focused on the, on the marker and the paper. So,

Peter O’Toole (00:34:26):
Yeah. So what other hobbies did I, I, I believe you bake.

Claire Brown (00:34:31):
I love to cook. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:34:41):
This looks like a big hairdo, it looks like bread?

Claire Brown (00:34:41):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:34:44):
Hope this is diversity too. Yeah,

Claire Brown (00:34:47):
That, that was a new year’s party. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:34:52):
Two, at least one’s far actually, I quite like bread as well, but chocolate

Claire Brown (00:34:57):
Chocolate cake. Yep. So that’s one thing I missed with the pandemic, for sure. And I’m, I’m, you know, gradually getting back to that with being able to go back to the office is, you know, you bake, you don’t bake a dozen cookies, you bake four dozen cookies, right. And then you take some to work and you drop some of the neighbors. And so I found during the pandemic where people were really isolating. I did make one dozen cookies for the first time ever, but now that I’m back in the office couple days a week, I’m always taking stuff in for my staff. So that’s good.

Peter O’Toole (00:35:29):
What, what about your son? Is it just one son you have? And is, is this a picture of your

Claire Brown (00:35:34):
Yes, that’s my son, Sam that’s a little while ago. He’s he’s 21 now. And yeah, that one’s cutting off on my screen. That’s quite appropriate.

Peter O’Toole (00:35:44):
He ‘s quite tall

Claire Brown (00:35:46):
He’s, yeah. He’s about six, four. And I’m not so tall. So this was actually at at after the ELMI meeting, he came over to Ireland with and we stayed in, in Ireland for a week after the ELMI meeting in 2018. And this is at the Guinness brewery in the, in the pub at the top of the, of the brewery, I guess. So I always joke that, yes, I am standing.

Peter O’Toole (00:36:14):
You can see the Guinness now. Sorry. I was hiding the Guinness in your picture of it. Yeah. I can see why your both smiling then.

Claire Brown (00:36:21):
Oh yeah. It was a really nice trip. Yeah. We went, we, he got the train pass and when I was at the conference, he was off fishing in Dun Lori, and he he learned the whole coast. He talked to all the local fishermen and we knew the best spots to go on the weekend. And yeah, it was a really, really great trip.

Peter O’Toole (00:36:37):
So was this ELMI Dublin?

Claire Brown (00:36:40):
Yeah,

Peter O’Toole (00:36:42):
That was a good ELMI wasn’t it?

Claire Brown (00:36:43):
It was great. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:36:45):
You have to say that.

Claire Brown (00:36:45):
Can’t wait to get back to travel,

Peter O’Toole (00:36:49):
But, but I presume you’re not doing ELMI this year.

Claire Brown (00:36:53):
I am not. No, I was thinking about it, but my it’s actually my dad’s 85th birthday week, so I think I’ll probably probably be going home.

Peter O’Toole (00:37:02):
That’s good. So you, so you like traveling, what’s the best place you’ve been to?

Claire Brown (00:37:06):
Well, I was really fortunate just before the pandemic. I was in Singapore for the Global Bio imaging meeting and I stayed on for a few days afterwards and, and spent a lot of time in Singapore. And I just love the, the culture and learning about new places in the world. And the museums were so interesting and the food and the botanical gardens, I could have just taken a a sleeping bag and hung out there for the whole week. You know, it was just so much to see. And

Peter O’Toole (00:37:38):
My one regret over there was not being able to get up to the infinity pool at the top of the cool with the three sites.

Claire Brown (00:37:47):
Yeah. Yeah. The the sands

Peter O’Toole (00:37:49):
That would be

Claire Brown (00:37:50):
Yeah. Love to, yeah, we got up there. I actually stayed after the Global Bio imaging meeting with Phil Hockberger and his wife. We stayed together. And so we were up there, the three of us on top of the, the sands. Yeah. But I don’t think I could ever go in the pool. I, I also had to stay a little bit away from the, the railing. It was a little, I don’t know, I’m not, I don’t mind Heights, but with the glass railing and kind of hanging out over the edge there, wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

Peter O’Toole (00:38:20):
It’s great place. And a big shout out to Graham Wright over there. A star.

Claire Brown (00:38:29):
Yeah. That was a great that was a great Global Bio imaging meeting as well.

Peter O’Toole (00:38:33):
Yeah. So traveling’s fun. What would you say that’s the most fun part of the job, or what would you actually describe as most, or even what has been the most fun time you’ve had in your academic career?

Claire Brown (00:38:47):
Mm, I would definitely say the traveling. Yeah. And it, and it’s not just seeing the place, but it’s the people too, right? Like, like with Global Bio imaging, I met all kinds of people that I had met before on zoom and never met in person and, and, you know, being able to, to have a drink together or, or go for a walk in the blue mountains or different things like that. And I was really fortunate in grad school. I collaborated with a group at Tel Aviv University. Me and my supervisor was pretty cool. He sent me to Tel Aviv to learn tissue culture and trans sections. So I, I got to spend a month over there in during grad school and got to meet grad students there. And then one of the grad students there came over to Canada and visited us. And it was really neat. The, we went to Niagara falls and you imagine taking somebody from Israel to Niagara falls and just the amount of water, you know, like she just was like, this is incredible. You know, the amount of water that goes over there in a second is probably more water than falls in Israel in a decade or something. I

Peter O’Toole (00:39:54):
I’ve never seen it. Never been there.

Claire Brown (00:39:56):
Yeah. no, it’s really, I went to grad school at Western University in London, Ontario. So it’s about a two hour drive. So whenever anybody came to visit, we always went to the falls. But taking someone from Israel was definitely a highlight. So it’s kind of all that intertwined, right? The food, the culture, the people they had just, she had just gotten a out of her military service because women do two years of military service before they go to University in Israel. And one of, I can’t remember what she did her lab mate was in intelligence, which was kinda interesting. And you know, and then we’re, you know, straight out of high school in the University and hanging out in the pubs. Right. It was just seeing, just seeing the differences and things was it’s really interesting.

Peter O’Toole (00:40:43):
So from the fun times, what about the most difficult time you’ve had in your career so far? I didn’t mean say so far. Like it’s

Claire Brown (00:40:54):
Difficultly, won’t be I think it was I had been running the facility for about five years and there was no stable funding and I was by myself and my son was only 10 and I’m a single mom, so it was just me and him. And there didn’t seem to be a plan, you know, the, the grant was ending and, and yeah, I was pretty, pretty much putting out a hundred percent at home, a hundred percent at work, and there was no clear path forward. But I ended up I guess one advice I would give for people. I found my advocates, you know, the, the PIs who had hired me and really confided in them with the situation and what was going on and what I was worried about. And because I had done good work, they wanted to keep me around. And, and that was actually when I started my own lab. So part of the idea was to put me into a regular faculty position so that my salary would be, stable. And then I could hire somebody to work in the facility with me through the facility fees. And so what was a really difficult time, ended up being a really key transition time when I was moved into a more stable situation, you know, and, and I guess if I didn’t get to that point, maybe I never would’ve had to push. Right.

Peter O’Toole (00:42:12):
Yeah, yeah. That, and I, I, I can’t actually comprehend how difficult actually it must have been to balance a hundred percent, you know, you know, lone parents who, a young child. Yeah. Your whole career hanging by a thread.

Claire Brown (00:42:29):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:42:30):
You can’t let off the throttle because doesn’t work like that.

Claire Brown (00:42:33):
Yeah. And then when you had time to yourself, you’d feel guilty. Right. Cause you’re not working, you’re not taking care of your kid or,

Peter O’Toole (00:42:40):
Yeah. So I, I, I’m so lucky that I wouldn’t know that I, I think that’s quite inspirational to hear how, how you FA found a balance. Yeah. Happy with that balance

Claire Brown (00:42:50):
Right now.

Peter O’Toole (00:42:51):
Yeah.

Claire Brown (00:42:53):
Yeah. I would say so. I, I I’ve reflect about that a lot. I’m a pretty introspective person. And I, I remember one time somebody calling me a workaholic and really bothered me and I thought, oh, why is that bothering me so much? You know? And then I, I really reflected on it and thought like, I love what I do. So if I need to write a grant on Saturday, but I’m gonna, you know, be able to hire these three awesome young students to do this really cool project, then that’s okay to spend my Saturday like that. And so I kind of came to terms with that. And, and now my son’s older, so he’s he’s 21 now. So his demands my time are quite different. Yeah. You’re still a parent, but they’re not the day to day kind of demands of when they’re young. And that was part of the reason I started my lab when he was 10. And I really didn’t wanna start a lab when I started the job at the, the Bio imaging facility, because he was only five. And I, I wasn’t crazy enough to think I could start a lab then. So it actually worked out quite well, that it was five years later that I, that I, you know, embarked on that part of the, of the job. And that really opened up a whole bunch of new avenues, cuz I was able to get my own funding and get some autonomy and, and really invest my research dollars into the, the platform and technology development and all that as well.

Peter O’Toole (00:44:10):
So it sounds like you’re very lucky to have those advocates

Claire Brown (00:44:13):
That was so important. Yeah. And I find it a bit hard now for some of them are starting to retire and things are changing and you know, it’s they’re a big part of why I’m where I am. So, but yeah, I would, I mean, it’s so important to find people like that in your own environment.

Peter O’Toole (00:44:30):
So take, you are still using them as mentors then and for advising us.

Claire Brown (00:44:34):
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. They’ve been around the, around the university for a long time and, and they’re, like-minded I think is really important. They’re also community builders. They’ve both been chair of our department. They, they bring people together, they try to solve problems, you know, work, work together and move forward. So it’s important to get the, the people who are like minded with you to help you forward. For sure.

Peter O’Toole (00:45:00):
So, so I was gonna ask, who’s been some of your inspirations and I guess, is there anyone else you’d like to give a shout out to who’s been an inspiration that’s helped motivate you and drive you in you career?

Claire Brown (00:45:12):
Well, I would, I would say my my family is a big one. Growing up in a family of 10 I didn’t realize until I went to grad school, how much I learned in that environment, you know, you get a roommate who’s an only child or has one other sibling and, and they grew up in a very different environment. So I realized how much social skills and, and negotiation and never getting your own way. And I always joke that my, my four brothers, the are the reason I’m so patient because they teased me every day for 20 years or so. And so I think my family and, and my dad too, like he he was a doctor right up until he was 78 and just really, really good work ethic. And, and and really for him, it was about his patients. He still did house calls right up till in his seventies. He was still doing house calls to make it so, you know, people didn’t have to try to get into the clinic and

Peter O’Toole (00:46:12):
With a family that’s so big and having to negotiate with them, I guess. And always, maybe that’s also where some of your networking and wanting to always network and bring people together and get people from. But you’ve mentioned a few societies, but it’s, you do a lot of it’s sort nonprofit organizations networking activities.

Claire Brown (00:46:40):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:40):
You sent me this other picture, which I can’t read at the top.

Claire Brown (00:46:44):
It momentum. Yeah. So I I’ve always been wondering people together. And I always use this example where when I go back to Novas Scotia on vacation, I I’ll get all my friends together for dinner and they haven’t seen each other, you know, and I’m like, you guys can get together when I’m not home, you know, but they, they don’t, you know, so they end up getting together every time I’m home. So I’ve always been kind of that, that person who, who gets people organized and gets together and, and I love it, you know? So in I guess just a couple years ago, I, I in 2016 I attended a retreat that was for Catholic single moms, and it was at a camp on a lake and the kids were welcome. And, and it was the first time I ever found an event that was actually specific for single moms in, in the church anyway. And I’m kinda one of those person, people who knows everything that’s going on, you know, and I did a, a postoc in Virginia and it was really, really hard there. The most of the moms were stay at home. Like at the, the moms at my son’s daycare were stay at home moms and their, their husbands worked and all the activities were Monday, Friday to nine to five. And, and then I found one activity on the weekend at the bookstore and it was daddy and me, you know, come and read a book with your dad. Like I don’t even fit there. You know? So I was always kind of looking for support and community in, in that single mom experience. So, so after that retreat me and several other women, co-founded this group called momentum and we now have over 60 members and we just hired our first full-time employee. And we’re trying to now expand the group. And this was an apple picking trip that we did in October. And it was so amazing that most of these moms have been so isolated. Like you think the pandemic has been bad. You know, some of them are in two bedroom apartments with a balcony and, and the parks were closed in that first round of, of shutdowns, you know, and for months and months, and many of them are not Canadian as well. So their family are overseas and, and in different places. So just this apple picking trip, they were all so grateful. And for me, it was just sending out an email, let’s go apple picking and, and showing up on Saturday morning to pick apples, you know, it’s to, so I think it’s the sort of the, the magnitude of impact you can have with such a small effort. So yeah, so we’re looking, I’m hoping we’re gonna go global with that one. We’ll see. But it’s picking up right now.

Peter O’Toole (00:49:13):
I, I just love the, you went apple picking. So you even got into core facilities with that as well. We got the core of it. Microscopy core facility, on that note with all that,usome quick fire questions with all those apples. Are you cider or a beer person?

Claire Brown (00:49:32):
Oh, both.

Peter O’Toole (00:49:35):
OK. Let’s go from the top of these. Would you say you were a fairly chilled or quite an intense person

Claire Brown (00:49:40):
Chilled?

Peter O’Toole (00:49:41):
Yeah. I, I, I would agree. Well, you’ve worked with me in the past, so you have to be chilled. I’ve probably found your limits. Oh, you a mess or a person?

Claire Brown (00:49:54):
Oh, I would say in the middle as well. Like it depends if it’s necessary, like, I can have a little clutter in the corner, but I can’t have the whole house. You know,

Peter O’Toole (00:50:05):
I can go that, PC or MAC

Claire Brown (00:50:10):
I’m going to say both again, because I have, I love my iPad and my iPhone, but I would never buy an apple laptop.

Peter O’Toole (00:50:19):
I’m gonna go with PC then. Mcdonald’s or burger king.

Claire Brown (00:50:23):
Mcdonald’s

Peter O’Toole (00:50:26):
What you go to when you go there. What’s your favorite

Claire Brown (00:50:28):
Mac combo?

Peter O’Toole (00:50:31):
I don’t even know what a Mac combo is.

Claire Brown (00:50:33):
Big Mac.

Peter O’Toole (00:50:34):
Oh, OK. Or.

Claire Brown (00:50:35):
Big Mac combo.

Peter O’Toole (00:50:37):
Mcchicken sandwich. Gotta be,

Claire Brown (00:50:39):
Oh yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:50:40):
Early bird or night owl.

Claire Brown (00:50:42):
Night Owl

Peter O’Toole (00:50:43):
Okay. So tea or coffee?

Claire Brown (00:50:45):
Coffee,

Peter O’Toole (00:50:47):
Espresso or Americano?

Claire Brown (00:50:51):
Mostly Americano, but I love espresso too.

Peter O’Toole (00:50:54):
Chocolate or cheese.

Claire Brown (00:50:57):
Oh, I get to stick with both. I’m just a both person. I have to pick one. Oh. If I had to pick one. Oh man. That’s really hard. Cheese

Peter O’Toole (00:51:06):
Would you find hard to, with that? You find it hard to live without cheese and, but chocolate,

Claire Brown (00:51:12):
Both. I’m gonna pick cheese.

Peter O’Toole (00:51:17):
OK. We ask about cider or beer. So what about beer or wine?

Claire Brown (00:51:22):
I just like everything. I don’t have like a gut reaction there. You know, it depends with nice steak. It glass of wine Friday night after work. It’s a beer.

Peter O’Toole (00:51:32):
Yeah. So is that a red, white glass of wine? Either. Red’s What’s your favorite food.

Claire Brown (00:51:50):
Hmm. That’s a hard one too. I like everything. This is my problem.

Peter O’Toole (00:51:58):
Well, well, that’s gonna be my next question. We, we, if you conference and someone put in front of you, what is your one bit of food that actually think I really don’t like that.

Claire Brown (00:52:07):
I was wear, sir. If,

Peter O’Toole (00:52:09):
If, if you go out and someone was to buy you dinner, it was a set meal and soon comes out in front. I just can’t eat that. I don’t like that.

Claire Brown (00:52:18):
Oysters.

Peter O’Toole (00:52:19):
Oysters. When you well, favorite drinks? I think all of them book or TV,

Claire Brown (00:52:40):
My lazy side says TV, but my, I, I would actually prefer a book.

Peter O’Toole (00:52:46):
And what’s your TV? Vice. What? Gone admit to the one thing you wouldn’t want people to know? You watch?

Claire Brown (00:52:54):
Oh, on TV. I love the like espionage like Homeland, the, The Terrorist. 24 is one of my favorites back a while ago.

Peter O’Toole (00:53:10):
They’re binge worthy aren’t they?

Claire Brown (00:53:12):
I like hallmark movies.

Peter O’Toole (00:53:14):
You like

Claire Brown (00:53:16):
Hallmark, hallmark Christmas movies.

Peter O’Toole (00:53:22):
What’s your Christmas Movie

Claire Brown (00:53:29):
These are too rapid. I don’t know. Favorite Christmas movie Rudolph.

Peter O’Toole (00:53:35):
Did he get good answers though? Favorite style of music?

Claire Brown (00:53:43):
Classic rock.

Peter O’Toole (00:53:45):
Okay, cool. And a question I’ve been introducing lately, what is your favorite item of clothing?

Claire Brown (00:53:53):
Oh, any big sweater? Like, you know, we’re in the winter here minus twenties, a big sweater with a nice collar and yep.

Peter O’Toole (00:54:00):
Woollen

Claire Brown (00:54:04):
Long as it’s not scratching.

Peter O’Toole (00:54:06):
Yeah. Yeah. Definitely, back to work again. So you actually a photo, I’ve gotta find this photo. Just to show you can use a microscope Uh that’s a 5 10,

Claire Brown (00:54:30):
No, it’s a 7 10, 7, 10,

Peter O’Toole (00:54:32):
Actually. Yeah. Cause they were square weren’t they? The five tens were square. So what’s your favorite microscopy technique?

Claire Brown (00:54:42):
Hmm, for my research it’s turf. I mean, I just love, I study fo adhesion since all migration. So when you get the turf just right and you get that really high contrast image of the adhesion with no background. Yeah. It’s very satisfying. I have some teaching slides where I go back and forth from widefield to turf. And just when it, when you get that high signal to it’s just so satisfying

Peter O’Toole (00:55:07):
You to reflect back on those times then. Oh, sorry. It’s not, it’s so sorry. Not a really bad mic cost joke. I, I ill stop with those jokes now.

Claire Brown (00:55:19):
That’s OK.

Peter O’Toole (00:55:22):
Where do you see the future where where’s the biggest challenge you have at the moment and where do you see microscopy moving in the future?

Claire Brown (00:55:29):
I think data management is definitely the biggest challenge. We have funding right now to get a Lattice lightsheet. And just in a three day demo we generated, I think, six terabytes and then we don’t even have a computer that can open the data, so we need to get a new workstation. And yeah, so data management for sure. And, and data analysis. And then I think the other is just the people again, you know, like getting the, the people with the expertise for these type of techniques and giving them a good work environment and, and keeping them, you know, retention, recruitment and retention. We’ve had some computer science projects and it’s really hard to get computer scientists who are interested in image analysis and stuff. Cuz they have so many job opportunities. And

Peter O’Toole (00:56:23):
I, I try and keep these very generic, but I’ve gotta ask my geek question. Is that a lightsheet seven you’re looking at

Claire Brown (00:56:29):
Yes.

Peter O’Toole (00:56:30):
Yeah. They look nice. I haven’t got one please. I

Claire Brown (00:56:37):
Dunno what to do with the once we get one,

Peter O’Toole (00:56:41):
Which actually’s not just to data storage, it’s

Claire Brown (00:56:46):
Analysis, think

Peter O’Toole (00:56:47):
You so much to do so much more with the analysis side as well, so much missing.

Claire Brown (00:56:52):
Yeah, absolutely.

Peter O’Toole (00:56:53):
In those data. I, I guess that’s why Jason Swedlow of his initiatives as well and moving towards to

Claire Brown (00:56:59):
Yeah. We’re we’re setting up a mirror at, at our facility right now, now, so the idea will be to get the lattice light sheet data right into that from the start. So

Peter O’Toole (00:57:10):
Right.

Claire Brown (00:57:10):
That should help.

Peter O’Toole (00:57:12):
But how do you find that with the expertise side? Because it’s not the data in image acquisition is one thing you sound biology and cell migration is another actually the comp the high end analysis is a completely different skill.

Claire Brown (00:57:29):
Yep. Yeah. So I’ve been fortunate recently. I’ve found Miguel’s got a large undergraduate cohort, and so what I’ve been able to do, it’s actually interesting. It took me a really long time, but once I found one person then the word travels, and so I actually have a student who’s doing her, her honors with me, her honors in physiology. And she’s gonna hopefully do her masters in AI machine learning of focal cohesions and the cytoskeleton. And then she had a friend who was interested in, in data analytics and cluster analysis of complex data sets. And then she had a friend who’s a coder who’s working with us to do an Napari plugin. So just in, in two years I’ve found three computer scientists through word of mouth. So I think just finding that first person, but we have had to stick with undergraduates. It’s very difficult to find and masters and PhD, unless you are like, I’m not a computer scientist. So, so I think you either have to collaborate with a computer scientist and they bring in the personnel or, or you work with undergraduates who are looking for internships and opportunities.

Peter O’Toole (00:58:40):
Yeah. I think, I think, I think what you’re doing is actually really cool. I think actually people who are in our position or even academic positions using those undergraduates can be really useful and it’s not using them. That sounds wrong. He’s actually offering them a way to their skills.

Claire Brown (00:58:56):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:58:56):
With very proven manner that actually really helps their CVS as well. They have to part interesting challenging projects and most cooked up just to tick tick box again.

Claire Brown (00:59:09):
Yeah. No, they love it. Yeah. They get so excited and you can just see it in their faces that they see that. So one of our projects was a Nepari accelerator program project and it was funded by Chan Zuckerberg initiative. So now the student is also tapped into all the Chan Zuckerberg initiative offerings for Nepari, and she’s just, you know, finishing her undergraduate in computer science. And I don’t think she’d ever, she probably hadn’t heard of Chan Zuckerberg. Right. So it’s yeah. You just see, and that’s what I love right. Is with the networks you’re connecting people and, and the amount of work you need to do is very little, but by making that connection, it has a huge impact on the person you’re, you’re connecting, you know,

Speaker 4 (00:59:51):
And I I’m gonna do a quick plug, actually shameless plug, but Stephani Otte actually gave a talk on the podcast. So go, if you don’t know what Chen Zuckerberg initiative is back, go back and listen to Stephani’s talk, but they are actually, they’re a really welcome new stream of funding into science. That’s funding in a different way. And it’s addressing science in a different way. That’s often being, not neglected, but in ways that I think really helps core and key areas, especially around technology the technology that’s often needed to, to solve the scientific professions. We still a big shout and of course BINA

Claire Brown (01:00:31):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (01:00:31):
Significantly by as well.

Claire Brown (01:00:34):
Yeah. So I think they’re, they’re trying to build the network, which I think is what, you know, ties everything together. What we’ve been talking about. Right. If you connect, I think that was one thing I realized in that sort of couple days of reflection. I would mention that I realized at this point in my career that my network is equally, or I may even say more valuable than my knowledge at this point. So I may not know something, but right away, I know who I can contact, who either knows or can tell me somebody who will know

Peter O’Toole (01:01:03):
Is that,

Claire Brown (01:01:04):
And I, I don’t think pardon,

Peter O’Toole (01:01:06):
Is that not Google?

Claire Brown (01:01:07):
Absolutely not. Yeah. I, I never realized that as a young, like I would recommend, I always tell my students this in my classes, like don’t underestimate your classmates, don’t underestimate the TA. Like you never know you, the conferences, not just to listen to the talks and give a poster, but to meet people. And you just never know how those connections will come back around in your career, you know? And it’s it’s very, it’s very interesting to think, you know, your, your network being so valuable and I, I didn’t realize it until more recently, I think.

Peter O’Toole (01:01:44):
And, and so actually for our PhD students actually is a computer is a actually a mathematician. But being looked after by really comp science maths with the data analysis side and yeah, with the co supervisor, one being a newer biologist with the question yep. Ourselves with the technology and how to address the data analysis questions. And then obviously a professor math, who’s got the, of the, the complex analysis, but certainly encouraging the students to create their own networks and develop networks. And many of our courses that we run, we try to get them to keep in touch with each other after the courses.

Claire Brown (01:02:25):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (01:02:26):
To form their own network. Cause net it’s so powerful and they’ll be universities, actually, their next job offering link could be there as well. So not just solve problem, be their next job.

Claire Brown (01:02:40):
Absolutely.

Peter O’Toole (01:02:42):
We are. I’ve just looked at the time and I we’re outta time, but I have to show this one photo. Which one are you?

Claire Brown (01:02:52):
I’m the third one from the top in the front. If my arm’s over the railing,

Speaker 4 (01:02:57):
Third one from the,

Claire Brown (01:02:59):
I have my arms over the railing down a little bit. Yep. That’s me. That’s me.

Peter O’Toole (01:03:08):
So I just thought

Claire Brown (01:03:10):
That’s my parents still live in that house.

Peter O’Toole (01:03:14):
Wow. And how many years have they been in that house then?

Claire Brown (01:03:18):
About 60.

Peter O’Toole (01:03:22):
And, and just by the, also you also into photography, if I like the sunset of the podcast and yeah, really quite, oh, I feel like a weather forecaster know,

Claire Brown (01:03:43):
I think there’s high winds in the upper stratosphere there.

Peter O’Toole (01:03:49):
I’ve,

Claire Brown (01:03:50):
I’m just guessing I might have it wrong. I thought it sounded right

Peter O’Toole (01:03:55):
Over the, so I’m gonna say thank you very much for joining me today and thank you or watched and please do subscribe to whichever you’re watching or listening on go, and you can go listen to Stephanie, go and listen to more about America through, I think talked a bit about it. We’ve got Alison North talked about it, but Claire actually, you’ve been quite an inspiration throughout this. I think some really inspirational stories that hopefully many people who listening will actually learn from and help them develop their careers as well. So Claire, thank you very much.

Claire Brown (01:04:31):
Thank you.

Intro/Outro (01:04:32):
Thank you for listening to The Microscopists, a Bitesizebio podcast sponsored by Zeiss microscopy to view all audio and video recordings from this series, please visit bitesizebio.com/themicroscopist

 

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