Skip to content

Mark Bray (Novartis) and Pearl Ryder (Broad Institute)

Subscribe using your preferred service

About this episode

#23 — In this episode of The Microscopists, we have a double-header for you as we’re joined by Mark Bray of Novartis and Pearl Ryder of the Carpenter Lab at the Broad Institute. Mark and Pearl share their career histories, from high school to med school to the lab. We take in their career highlights—including Pearl’s founding of the Future PI Slack peer mentoring group—as well as their thoughts on the importance of a holistic approach when making career decisions, wedding planning in a pandemic, and why in Mark’s experience, the move from academia to industry isn’t as scary as it sounds.

Follow Peter, Pearl, Novartis, and the Broad Institute on Twitter!

Share this to your network:

Sponsored by

Listen now

Watch Now

Please note that this is a Machine Transcription and may not be 100% accurate.

Intro/Outro (00:00:18):
Welcome to The Microscopists, a Bitesize Bio podcast hosted by Peter O’Toole, sponsored by Zeiss Microscopy. Today on The Microscopists.

Peter O’Toole (00:00:18):
Today on The Microscopists, I’m joined by Mark Bray of Novartis and Pearl Ryder of the Carpenter Lab at the Broad Institute. And we’ll be discussing, creating healthy working cultures.

Pearl Ryder (00:00:30):
I really believe that we should just be supporting people to be making the decisions that feel best for their whole lives.

Peter O’Toole (00:00:36):
Why mark was actually happy leaving the wet lab behind

Mark Bray (00:00:41):
You love on the cells. And then it’s just up and die because he didn’t do the right dance or the moon is in the wrong place or what have you,

Peter O’Toole (00:00:48):
Why the move from academia to industry isn’t as scary as it first seems.

Mark Bray (00:00:55):
So culturally speaking, I was wondering if there’s was going to be a huge shift that was worrisome, but it turned out to be not much of a shift at all.

Peter O’Toole (00:01:00):
And what does Pearl like to do to relax?

Pearl Ryder (00:01:03):
I think I have to admit that my secret is probably that I love reading trashy romance novels. That’s that’s the real secret.

Peter O’Toole (00:01:13):
All in this episode of The Microscopists, hi, I’m Peter O’Toole. And on this episode of The Microscopists I’m joined by Mark Bray from Novartis and Pearl Ryder from the Broad Institute. So welcome both of you. So this is a bit different to usual, cause you’re both relatively early career scientists relatively, I said, mark, relatively and actually both have one thing in common, which is you’ve both been in or working with Anne Carpenter in the past. So actually I’d like to introduce yourselves. So Mark hello, this is Pearl, Pearl. This is Mark. Cause I don’t think you joined you overlapped did you?,

Mark Bray (00:02:02):
Not at all. There’s the first time you met each other. That’s right. I came out in, out in 2016.

Peter O’Toole (00:02:12):
And Pearl, when did you start,

Pearl Ryder (00:02:13):
And I started in September, 2020, so quite recently, only about nine months ago.

Peter O’Toole (00:02:19):
Okay. So Pearl, where were you before you joined the lab?

Pearl Ryder (00:02:24):
So I do have a relatively, it feels like to me now a long training history. So I have been based at Emory University since my undergrad, essentially I initially went and joined an MD program at Emory. And then within the first month I asked so many questions of my professors that they said to me, like, are you in the PhD program? But eventually I added on a PhD and did a PhD in cell biology at Emory. And from there I did a year of training in psychiatry at Emory, and then decided not to focus on the clinical work and did a post-doc at Emory in cell biology and genetics as well. And then finally decided to switch institutions and have joined Anne Carpenters’ group for a second, postdoc, this one focused on image analysis, analyzing microscopy images. So that’s the like one, two minute version of my training and where I came from.

Peter O’Toole (00:03:22):
I I’ve got a note you’re always at the same place and do you know what quite often that’s frowned upon? And they say, you know, you should never do your undergraduate and your PhD and then your post-doc all at the same place, but then you’ve done that. So I think that’s a good thing, bad thing,

Pearl Ryder (00:03:40):
You know it’s really mixed. I did it knowing that there were potentially consequences to my career and being a little concerned that for example, if I submitted grants to NIH, I might not be considered to have as strong a training potential and may not get the grant because of that. But for my personal life, it was the right decision at every step of the way. And so I just decided that like, I really wanted to be surrounded by this community that is in Atlanta and that it would be worth it, that my science would benefit from being happy, me being happy and supported by my community. And then I just kept going for it. And I got the grants. Like I was able to convince them that actually the science was still good.

Peter O’Toole (00:04:26):
Mark. What about yourself? What was your background before you came into Anne’s Lab?

Mark Bray (00:04:30):
Yeah, I just, before I get to that, it’s , my, my sister is in Atlanta. She went to Emory for her GED and she never left. She’s been there for over a decade now. So she has great things to say about Atlanta. But for myself. So my background, I went to been all, all over the place just from growing up to to here, but I did my undergrad at Tulane we New Orleans, Louisiana moved on to Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee, which I loved. So I’ve got my Master’s there and decided to stay for my PhD and finish that up in oh four, stayed for a one-year postdoc to just kind of wrap up some things with my my doctoral advisor and moved on to Harvard to as part of a new lab that was starting up with a professor who was a former student of my grad advisor. And so yeah, it’s there for, for four years. And then from there moved on to the Broad Institutes and then from there to Novartis. So I, when I put it on a map, it’s sort of this interesting trajectory northward towards the Northeast, which I did not, I did not expect. I did not think I would be in the, you know, in Boston for as long as I have, but you know, but here I am,

Peter O’Toole (00:05:47):
I usually ask near the end where you see the future going, but I guess if you go Northwards, I guess that’s Alaska or beyond. Yeah.

Mark Bray (00:05:52):
It’s pretty much either here then or like Iceland or so, or somewhere, that’s it. If I keep a vector in the same direction, although

Peter O’Toole (00:06:02):
I know it’s interesting to stand back on staying in the one place, it sounds like it’s quite addictive. Mark, even you are literally incest to us by going on to someone who’s very closely related to your doctoral supervisor. Do you think it’s still such a problem to do that anymore? I know I or is it an old view that you should keep moving.

Mark Bray (00:06:23):
Yeah. And I think for, for me it wasn’t, it certainly didn’t pose a problem in that it was just a very different different institution, different directions. So my grad advisor, his, his background was in physics, but he got a joint appointment with the biomedical engineering department of which I was apart. And then Kit Parker, I was the person I joined for the post-doc he went to kind of into bio-engineering proper. So it’s a very kind of two semi-related, but very divergent fields that I, I went in, even though the, the the genealogy is shared. So in that case, I don’t think it it’s never come up as an as an issue.

Pearl Ryder (00:07:07):
Yeah, I’d say the same for me that like, for me, it has really not come up as a negative people warned me against doing it. And I certainly got the advice that there could be consequences, but I have been deliberate about trying to select places where I feel like I will be getting, I, I was excited about the training that I was going to be getting. And the reason was because there was always something that was going to be new. And as long as you have that element I really think that, that it can be okay. That is of course coming from a place of relative privilege that, you know, my application may not be given the same scrutiny the other peoples are. So I think it’s also always a personal decision and whatever people choose. I really believe that we should just be supporting people to be making the decisions that feel best for their whole lives.

Peter O’Toole (00:08:05):
I, yeah, I think if you, if the research that you’re doing is strong and your outputs are strong, that’s what counts more than anywhere, anything else? But you, you said about the privilege also, if you’re in a reputable lab, it also helps that there is still that I know the business card on your CV, that gets you at least into the interview stage quite often. So your, your scientific backgrounds, because I think these may be different between the two of you. So start with Pearl on this one. What is your, so what, what did you major in

Pearl Ryder (00:08:41):
Like in, as an undergraduate or graduate? Yes. Yeah. So as an undergraduate, I was very focused. So I went into my undergraduate just like laser focused on medical school. So I was a biological sciences major. I then in graduate school, chose cell biology because I liked thinking at that level of complexity that going down to biochemistry and thinking only at the level of a protein felt a little bit too reductive for how I like to think, but in Oregon or a whole organism also, or even an ecosystem that was just too complex for me. So I chose the cell. I focused on studying the process of endosomes trafficking for my PhD, which, you know, is all about getting proteins to the right place in the cell so that they can perform their functions where they need to. But I really chose that for my advisor. I picked an advisor that I really wanted to work with for my PhD. And then for my postdoc training, I chose my first lab was a Drosophila kind of genetics and development lab, and also, you know, rooted in cell biology, trying to understand how cells are organized still. And from there, I did so much image analysis during that first postdoc that I realized how much I loved that. And that was what kind of spurred me on to apply for the position in Anne’s lab and move into the image analysis as my focus. So

Peter O’Toole (00:10:13):
It’s very life science on the way through interesting clinical, where actually, when did the clinical bit, you were laser focused. I was in Microscopy and being laser focused you’re laser focused well, right. Well, what happened? So,

Pearl Ryder (00:10:33):
So I was, this was always a really interesting contrast for me because I was, you know, through undergrad, I was definitely pre-med. That was always the plan. And I think it’s, I mean, it’s complicated, but there were personal reasons that really drove me towards medicine. We had a family history of having someone in my family who was very, very sick when I was growing up. And that really inspired me to see health and as just the most important thing that you could be working on in the world to try to impact people’s lives. And that really led me to medicine or that’s how I got into that focus. But then the actual experience of doing medicine, I was never, it was a mix, you know, there were things that I absolutely loved about it, but then there were a lot of experiences in being part of a very, very broken system within the US that were just kind of soul sucking and so depressing to be a part of. And so I did I never felt like I had a clear vision for how I wanted the research to combine with the medicine. Like for me, they were like two separate things that I could switch and go back and forth and do, but I wasn’t clear on how I was to bring that together into a career. And it was never deliberate. I never deliberately wanted to do the MD and the PhD. I selected the MD and then added on the PhD. So there was always intension there. And it was during my training, my intern year, where I was working as a doctor in a county hospital that was extremely underfunded facing a lot of issues where my patients just didn’t have the support from our society that they needed. And I really, I think I got depressed, like in hindsight, that’s how I see it now. And I just couldn’t go forward with that work. Like it was just draining me so much and I didn’t feel like I was actually helping my patients because I was so, so drained. And so I decided to stop. I knew that research was something that I loved and I felt like I could make a good impact doing that. And I just said, you know, I’m not going to renew my contract and then I’ll figure it out from there and eventually found my way back to research.

Peter O’Toole (00:12:55):
Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. That was really cool. That’s a really nice dovetail back to Mark actually, because you chose the clinical side to start with because you wanted to help and family history. And yet I would argue at that point that doctors can only diagnose and prescribe without the drugs. I can’t say they’re nothing because obviously that’s an exaggeration, but it’s have a profound effect. You need to develop the drugs in the medicine to help and to give them the tools, which is where Mark is right now as well. And I actually, I don’t say it because obviously a lot of Anne’s work in cell-profiler are base around that market as well. But Mark, you have actually at the cutting edge of that, but what is your background? Because I think you’re not so biological a the start.

Mark Bray (00:13:41):
No. So yeah. Let me, let me back up and I’m going to go all flying all the way back. So for me, like in high school science, my mom was a nurse and my dad was a welder. And so my mom had various medical textbooks littered around the house and I would just love to read them in the natural world, but always been a big thing with me. So when it came up to the college decision, I remember thinking, okay, I like biology. I like math and not so much chemistry like physics, what can, and this is in the nineties. So I’m thinking like what can combine all this into one nice package? And then I was hearing about this new thing called biomedical engineering or new-ish I guess. And so I went to like one of the, you know, guides for you know, you know, top schools and X, Y or Z major, I think like, I think they still have the stipend publish it even now found biomedical engineering just looked at the top 20 schools and just apply to like the first few or so plus a few local ones. So yeah, I came in knowing that I wanted a biomedical engineering sounded interesting at the time many schools didn’t have the defacto BME program. It was more like, you know, you can major in biology and mechanical engineering and put them together. But Tulane was one of the, several that had a biomedical engineering degree. So I went into that, loved it. Was there also with, with a fair number of pre-med students as well. And then at at the end I sort of felt like, okay, I’ve made it to the end of my undergraduate degree, but with BME, it’s such a kind of, you know, Jack of all trades master of none sort of thing that I was like, okay, well, how do I focus into something that I can actually get a job, a job doing? No, I’m not sure. Let me go to grad school and sort of punt the, the decision a little bit further down. And so with my my senior year advisor at Tulane who was in cardiac electrophysiology, that was her specialty. She recommended the person who I ended up working with for my grad degree. And so went to the, by the BME program at Vanderbilt and got focused there, but hooked on with this professor who who was in a living state physics. And that was his specialty. And so particle electrophysiology, but kind of straddling this interdisciplinary field in in best of both worlds. So that was eight years awesome time came out and at the end I was like, okay, so I’m, you know, I have my PhD, my, I have my Degree. Can I still get a job of this? I’m not sure. Let me do a postdoc. Since you said you probably sense a trend here. Um so in this case when I came up to, to Harvard, that was a real stretch in, in some, in some respects, because as I remember I had kind of two options at the time. I could either go to Harvard and sort of make the decision as to whether faculty was something I really wanted to do, which I wasn’t sure about. And really by going to Harvard, I’d really stretch myself, you know, go all out and see if this was a lifestyle I wanted to lead. My other option was going to the University of Alabama in Birmingham, or I had another professor who I’d worked with as a, as a grad student who was really great. So two very different, like both good places would have been good labs, but if I got to Alabama, I could have, you know, looked like a king on, on the NIH salary. Um whereas, you know, I could go to Harvard and be a pauper. But it’s Harvard. So I chose Harvard partly, you know, somewhat finance, but also to really see if I could really do, if I kind of had what it took to become faculty in a R1 type institution and also as a chance to get to it was my first sort of hands-on wet work, everything I’d done prior to you was all computational. Now at Harvard, I was actually like growing the cells, doing the microscopy myself and all that work. So it was four years there. And at the end it was said, okay, but work has, has been interesting. I’m never doing it again. So and then

Peter O’Toole (00:17:54):
The Wet work or the computation,

Mark Bray (00:17:56):
The wet, the wet work parts. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, you know, when you’re growing cells, you do you love on the cells and then it’s just up and die because he didn’t do the right dance or the moon is in the wrong phase or what have you, so that I with computational work, if something goes wrong, you know, chances are it’s your fault and it’s pretty straightforward. But by the end of the, the post-doc, it was still, I was still in this existential crisis. Like what, what now I’ve gotten all the degrees. There’s like, no other place I can go. And so it actually put me in a very strict, it was a stressful time figuring out what I was going to do. And I was also on the verge of getting married as well as engaged, you know, a family was in the offing. So it was, it was hard. And that’s when I found out about the Broad about Anne’s Lab. And then this whole staff scientist opportunity came up, which was something kind of a non-traditional route, which I had never heard of before, but it ended up being a great way, way forward eight years, awesome time. And then, you know, without even necessarily looking for it, Novartis an op a opportunity at Novartis opened up. And so I, I jumped on that, so I can go on further, but I’ll, I’ll hold off on.

Peter O’Toole (00:19:14):
Very good. So obviously Pearl you a very wet lab based start with not too much computational skills, Mark, you’re very computational and wet work, obviously wasn’t for you by the sounds of it. And yet you both landed up in the same lab, small gap between you, but gone through it. It’s quite a big change for both of you to go into one that is yeah. Anne’s lab cell profile. That he’s very focused if he’s got a need and thinking your skills to it’s a learning the need to understand. So mark, in your case, understanding, I guess the need to do cell segmentation, tracking analysis quantification, oh, obviously, you know how to make the images, I would guess you you’ve done imaging before, but now you had to get your head, I guess, around the analysis perspectives and how to enable it, how to make that work, not just applying tools, but to make and develop tools, how big a challenge was taking that step. But let’s just start with mark this time. Okay.

Mark Bray (00:20:23):
Yeah, that was so in some ways when I was at my doc, in some ways I was doing a little bit of the image analysis development work that I did at the Broad, just on a smaller scale, just for my lab was working in Matlabs making UIs and doing some image analysis there, along with the wet work I was also doing. And part of my kind of really reframing, reconfiguring what my trajectory would be, was really understanding and fully internalizing that the image analysis piece in my postdoc was what I really enjoyed. The cardiac electrophysiology part was fun, but it wasn’t really what drove me. It was the image analysis part. And so at that point I was able to say, okay, not my choices, aren’t so much, Novartis my pedigree put me, but more, what is it I really enjoy to do? And I started my search on that basis. And so when I got connected to Anne, it was such a great fit like it w I still remember when I did my,umy interview, my job interview there. And I really felt like I stuck the landing. Like I knew that this was like, this is where I need to be. And I had no issue like to sort of selling it. Like, I just, you know, this is why I should be here. But I think one of the things I really enjoyed when I talked to Anne during the interview at the very end, she, pitched it in part as, we are a, a platform enabling science for others. And so there was this kind of almost, you know, missional mindset, at least that’s how I, I heard it, like we are helping scientists. We are scientists ourselves, but we’re helping scientists do their work. And so that kind of, you know, you know, looking outside of yourself in order to help others, you know, even, you know, in this context was something very attractive for me at the time. And so, I, I went for it,

Peter O’Toole (00:22:18):
Very much team science. It’d be very much outside of the of the lab itself. What about you going from wet into a wet environment?

Pearl Ryder (00:22:31):
You know, for me, actually, there’s a lot of similarities with what Mark describes. So for my first post-doc, I did a lot of image analysis. I was also in a similar role of being the one in the lab who was interested in image analysis. And so I just, I had my own images that I had taken of developing fruit fly embryos, and I kept running up against this idea of like, we really wanted to quantify what we were seeing by eye. And so I just threw out the post-doc over the course of several years, built my own program, like my own analysis pipeline built in Python in order to do that analysis. In hindsight. Now I know I could have done it in cell profiler now that I’ve been in Anne’s lab. But you know, I really wanted to learn those skills. And as I got deeper and deeper into it, I had a similar realization of like, this is the stuff that like, I’m having to kind of like set. I literally had to set timers for myself during the Workday to be like, no, really you need to go up and like, start that experiment. Like I, and so when I joined Anne’s lab, I had a few of these moments where I’d be like really deep into thinking about an image analysis problem. And all of a sudden I would have a realization, like there’s nothing else that I have to like get up and go do. I don’t have a different responsibility now. And so it’s been a great transition for me because now I’m part of a group within the lab. So I can learn so much from people with more experience than me. And I get to think about multiple different problems. So I can draw on the fact that my training has gone into many different places. And I have this MD knowledge where you learn a lot about many different biological systems within the human body. And so I love getting to think about many different problems throughout the course of a week or a month. And we do a lot of work trying to help scientists, even just on our forum, where they can post a really short, small question about cell profiler. And I find it really rewarding to get to try to think about, you know, I can think about how can I do this for the problems I’m thinking about, but I like trying to think about it for other people’s as well. And I think that taps into that helper role, helping and being a bigger part of team science, but it also taps into some of the motivation for me personally, that like my personality lines up really well with that type of role that I get a lot out of being in those roles that initially drove me to medicine. But actually I’m finding it super rewarding as a way to express that within science

Peter O’Toole (00:25:15):
So, you’ve probably both missed. You’ve got you both helping scientists answer your question, but actually Pearl you, you mentioned it quite rightly so. You say that you spent a lot of time, not in the wet lab and find yourself spending less and less time. I can go round our labs. Maybe not the microscopy labs are always pretty busy actually, but if you go into the wet labs, generally, they’re not only wasted, some labs will be empty at some periods during the day, cause so much time, isn’t it, isn’t the spending time looking down a microscope, capturing images by whatever mode, it’s the analysis that is the bottleneck a it limits on what we can find out from the samples. Secondly, it’s the rate limiting step is what takes lots and lots of time and things like cell profiler are what make things easier, streamlines it. So not just enables you to find out stuff that you need to find out that you couldn’t before, but it speeds the process up to even do what you’d normally doing faster. So you, haven’t got to pike and program yourself and it’s just down on the package and you can use it. So I, I think it’s a tremendous step forward. So I’ve got to ask how’s Anne as a boss. So I’ll obviously Ann’s done one of these podcasts with us before, and she was utterly charming. What she really like go on.

Pearl Ryder (00:26:33):
She’s exactly like that really.

Mark Bray (00:26:41):
She genuinely is been an utter delight working with her. She’s probably going to be like embarrassed to even hear this, hear that stuff. After the fact, I, one, one small story, there was a a a cyto profiling conference a couple of years ago, and there was a mixer social mixer afterward. And I was talking to this one attendee a woman who was kind of newish in the field, but wanted to get in learn more. I think she was a post doc. And I told her I was part of Anne’s lab and I said, yeah, if you your interests seem to line up really nicely with Anne let me introduce you to her, she’s right over here. And this person I was talking to is like, you can shoot when she actually talked to me, like, I’m not just a regular person. And I’m like, no. Anne would totally like to, it was funny to hear almost from an outsider perspective, like she’s a Rockstar. And so just telling her, telling this person, like, no, she’s a regular human being. She, you can just go and talk to her. It’s perfectly fine. She’d be left. Delighted. It was just seeing the shock on her face. Like, she’ll actually just speak to me. So it’s yeah. And his, his in some, in many ways informed what I look for as a manager I’m not managing people right now, but if I were, this is the type of ethos I would like. And it also informed the type of manager I wanted for my Novartis job as well. Like when I started, when I started looking at, stepped into it, part of it was the science, that was the draw. But I actually asked Anne to vet my boss to be, to say like, okay, this, this guy seemed cool. And this person also had a ethos in team building, building a culture, that sort of thing as well. And, and so Anne informed what I looked for move moving forward and in terms of my next career step.

Peter O’Toole (00:28:36):
So a that almost sounds like obviously they interviewed you for the post and then you got your, your now boss to be interviewed by Anne and then fans go, yeah, you can go by Can’t have been that complex,

Mark Bray (00:28:47):
All sorts of machinery moving there. Gr

Peter O’Toole (00:28:54):
So, so Pearl you’re still in the lab, aren’t you? I think I’ve got a picture somewhere of you.

Pearl Ryder (00:29:02):
That’s right. That’s our team

Peter O’Toole (00:29:05):
Ducked down a bit. So it’s a large team, isn’t it?

Pearl Ryder (00:29:09):
I grown a lot. And one, I, one thing I think that has been really smart about the way that the team has grown is that there are teams within the team. So we all work together, but I’m part of an image analysis image analyst team that is led by Beth summit. Cemini who she’s on the far. Yeah, that’s her. And so she is the leader of our group. And so we have like a small team of about six of us, which is a really manageable size where you don’t feel like you’re going to get lost. And then we’re within the bigger imaging platform. That Anne is the ultimate director of, and you know, one just small anecdote about Anne in particular is that we were doing we were all having a lab, kind of virtual get together. I think it was our holiday party. And we had to, as a break kind of icebreaker, just fun game, we had all answered different questions. And then the goal was to guess who each person was based on their answers to these questions. And one of the questions, he was like, if you had a magic wand and you could just like wave it, what would you do? And the response to on one of them was just make everybody be nice to each other. And it was instant. It’s like, yeah, that’s Anne, we just know like she genuinely cares about people and puts a priority on both, not only the wellbeing of the people within her lab, but also models it herself and prioritizes her own health and wellbeing. And I think that is extremely important because I’ve been in many training situations where people tell you about, you know, mental health and wellbeing, but the model that you are presented with by the people who are the ones in power are, it’s nothing at all like that they’re just stressed out of their minds. And so it’s been, so it’s been such a refreshing experience since last September to be a part of a group that is, has a very healthy work culture.

Peter O’Toole (00:31:15):
I’ve got to. So I know Beth a little bit. Who’s the better boss then Anne or Beth. I should have asked you that before you swallowed. Sorry,

Pearl Ryder (00:31:28):
I’m going to decline to answer that there’s no better boss. Like they’re both, they work together to support us. So I’m just going to decline.

Peter O’Toole (00:31:36):
Let me stop recording. You can tell me at a later point. Mark did you ever know Beth?

Mark Bray (00:31:43):
Yes. Yes. We definitely, we definitely did overlap. I would also decline to answer the question as well, however and Beth is now sort of the newest, elevated or promoted to the head head of this group. And as soon as I saw that, I just immediately reached out to her and said, congratulations. Like, this is just awesome. Awesome for you. Cause knowing Beth and how much she has helped with the put the lab culture together as well. I can see that you’d be doing a great, you know, it’s an extension of what she’s already doing and she, and, and more so I could see her doing a great job in that’s

Peter O’Toole (00:32:15):
That’s that’s I know Beth from different conferences and she’s super easy to sit down and talk to and she really helpful. So I guess the same ethos is there that she wants to, help has that community side I’m always looking for other options and mark, I think I’ve got to get to the right one. This is one of your pictures

Mark Bray (00:32:38):
Picture, an older picture. I forget what year it was, but this was back when we could still like do kind of team building. I don’t know if the lab does this even like pre pandemic, whether there are outings that the, the lab currently does, but this was way, way back when, and you probably don’t recognize any of the faces. But we, it was a, a whale-watching tour. So we just went to the Seaport, boarded a ship, and I don’t think we saw any whales on that outing, but it was, it was a lot, it was a lot of fun, you know, it’s, you know, even though we’re all in, we’re all in Cambridge, it’s, it’s not that often we get to meet up outside of, of of the lab. So this was one of those sort of nice opportunities where we can come bring our families and, and hang out and the weather was awesome.

Peter O’Toole (00:33:25):
What was these people? This looks like a steel girder in

Mark Bray (00:33:29):
Yeah. So yeah. What was the issue there? So this was I forget where that group. Yeah, so that’s exactly right. It is a steel girder. People were encouraged to come and sign their names on it. I forget where that girder actually supposed to go. I I’m assuming it wasn’t hopefully not too much of a load bearing load bearing structure. But yeah, it was just one of those things that the whole Institute was invited to put your name on the Broad. And so we, as a lab came down in in signed it

Peter O’Toole (00:34:00):
From going there, what was the biggest challenge of moving in fact, just over your careers, what have you found the most challenging time? So I’ll start with Pearl on this one.

Pearl Ryder (00:34:16):
Yeah. So I think for me, it’s no question that it was the year that I was working as a psychiatry intern. I would just, we, you know, we’ve set work hour limits for our health care system so that residents can average no more than 80 hours per week. But that’s a lot of time to be spent. So I was working six days a week and it’s just really draining work to be faced with, sorry, they’re doing yard work outside of us. I don’t schedule this, so I don’t have control over when it happens.

Peter O’Toole (00:34:52):
I did ask you what you most challenging time. Wasn’t finding it. Just to note, we had a quick break to let the gardeners pass. Mark. What have you found challenging?

Mark Bray (00:35:07):
Let’s see. So most I’m trying to think the most, most challenging time. So I’ve kind of, I alluded to this a little earlier, just that time between the postdoc and, and the Broad where it was just really hard in terms of not knowing what the next career step was going to be. It felt like so much was riding on what this decision was, and it just felt like the big unknown and like just dark and not knowing even which way to step or which, which way to turn. So that was that was really, that was definitely really tough. And then once I may have through that, things were, were significantly better. I think the other challenge was coming from the Broad to Novartis. It was a much easier, you know, trans transition overall, cause it’s kind of a continuation of the same trajectory. Um but it’s also my first industry job and so not knowing exactly what was, what to expect there. And I think I had certain stereotypes in mind, like from the academic side, it’s sort of, you know, from industry it’s all about, you know, making the product or you know, about the money or, you know, it’s a business, you know, at the end for us, we’re in the, you know, the Broad and the altruistic nonprofit world and landing at Novartis and finding out that it’s not at all that, you know, that way that’s, you know, it is very much about the science. So culturally speaking, I was wondering if there’s going to be a huge shift and that was worrisome, but it turned out to be not much of the shift at all. But the the big challenge I think, was being matrix into a much larger, larger organization and just sort of making, making my, my way there. Um I was told at the outset from, you know, when I landed several people at Novartis said, it’ll take you one or two years for you to feel like you’ve really, you really are, you’ve made it or you belong. And I found that to be true, not because people weren’t supportive because they totally were, but just simply being part of a, of a large group of lots of new things to learn acronyms and all sorts of all that sort of business. It takes a while just to wrap your head around it. And so yeah, after about two years, I’m like, okay, I think I finally, I finally, I finally got it. But a lot of that, the challenges there were ameliorated by having a really great, you know other great supporting scientists and scientists as well. So yeah, so my role was so I was ended up in a an in silico group, which worked on doing high throughput screening for the most part. And so my work was in was largely image analysis space. They had contingent who were dedicated to that, but a large, another part of it was also just simply chemi chemi formatics. So one of the, getting back to challenges when the first things I was dropped in on, in terms of job was, you know, pick these compounds for these pick a selection of, you know, 10,000 compounds for the screen. I haven’t had chemistry since high school. I’m like, what are these compounds again? What are they being used for? Where are the databases where that I period to get this, where is anything? So so yeah, so being able to get into the sort of chemical space and learn what was expected there it definitely took some, took some doing, and I, it took it I finally got my footing but I was, you know, reading books and kind of getting exposed to areas of science that I just had never had dealt with for, for a long, long time. Um so yeah, so that was another, another challenge, but as it stands right now, I do some of both, it’s still very much in its analysis focused. You know, cell painting is, is a large part of what I’m doing at Nova but also in some ways it’s much like at the Broad, I’m helping people and in various disease areas with their image analysis questions, and the model is much the same, they approach us, we interact, we collaborate. And it’s not just simply about, you know, here’s a pipeline one and done it’s about coming alongside them as they carry on with their, with their research as well. And it also expanding a bit more into the chemical space, you know, I’m still called upon to do you know pick calling chem compounds, selection, what should we run for the screen? What are the compounds that make the most sense? It’s kind of those sort of decisions as well.

Peter O’Toole (00:39:31):
Can I ask you might not be able to answer everything. What diseases have you been called on to help with?

Mark Bray (00:39:39):
So, yeah, those are the sort of things I can probably speak just mostly generally, but is as a whole, in some ways mirror, I wouldn’t say mirrors the Broad. So we have disease areas in oncology, musculoskeletal cardiac CT, CBM neuro neuroscience, and let’s see amino oncology, basically all the different disease areas. We have a separate group for, and I operate within a large hub called chemical biology and therapeutics. So with that sort of model I don’t think there has been any disease area that I haven’t worked in by, by this area. And I would love to be able to point to like, here’s a here’s a a therapeutic that’s on the market because of something I did. But the pipeline is so long as I’m sure, you know, like a decade or more that there’s nothing I can put my name to yet, but maybe, you know, wait a few more years,

Peter O’Toole (00:40:39):
They came out with a vaccine within a year. What’s taking so long.

Mark Bray (00:40:45):
Yeah. It’s definitely lit a flood, lit a fire now it’s like, yeah, what’s, what’s our problem. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:40:50):
Maybe more big money will go behind certain, certain aspects maybe to speed these things up. Maybe you might be the hub, what the name of the hub was again.

Mark Bray (00:41:00):
So CBT chemical biology and therapeutics,

Peter O’Toole (00:41:05):
And you were surprised at having to learn about chemicals with that name

Mark Bray (00:41:06):
Exactly. I shouldn’t. Well, that was, it was a that was. Yeah. So that was formed after I got there, but beforehand the group I was part of was the CPC chemical and proteomics sensors, still chemical. So I, yeah, I really should have known

Peter O’Toole (00:41:22):
Pearl how’s your background going? Is that quietened down?

Pearl Ryder (00:41:26):
No, They’re really, they’re still going. They’re a little further away at least, but the,

Peter O’Toole (00:41:32):
After the challenges you’ve just heard, so you were in medicine to help you’re now hearing how Mark is playing a very central role, kind of, kind of at the cutting edge now of delivering that side. Do you ever see yourself moving from the sort of the more fundamental research which then feeds up to Novartis all the pharmaceuticals benefit from that fundamental basic science and who knows where it’s going to lead? I guess that’s where you are now, but also designing tools that mark will be using. How are we going to use? Do you ever see yourself moving out of academia and going into large pharma or seminar?

Pearl Ryder (00:42:08):
I could see that. I think there’s a lot of power at large pharma to be able to effect change. And one of the things I think that I have been trained through, like I’ve also had that experience of being within academia and there’s a lot of anti pharma kind of like culture around people who are doing basic science and those were the people who were training me. And I think it’s taken me a lot of time to think about that at a more nuanced level and realize that, you know, if you just write off this huge sector, you’re potentially missing incredible opportunities. And so one of the things that I have really liked about my role in Anne’s group is the fact that we do collaborate with pharmaceutical companies also with academic labs, like currently we’re straddling the border. But I think that has really opened my eyes to the fact that there is a lot of potential in that, in that world. So I could see that being a next step for me. And I love that it would draw on my clinical knowledge like that is something that the more I get to tap into that, the happier I am, like, I do love having that as an aspect of my work. It’s been great.

Peter O’Toole (00:43:24):
I think it’s better. It’s just, just thinking about it now. It’s wonderful that we’ve got microscopes, we’ve got analysis, we’ve got clinicians, we’ve got large pharma, how they all are needed to work together and all form parts of the picture, really, without any single components, it all falls down. You can’t finish the jigsaw without each partner within it. So I can’t, I can’t understand that, that the larger, the attitude that large pharma is not a good thing because without it, where, who who’s going to make the drugs, you know, how’s it going to be rolled out, becomes very inefficient, right? Startups are great. Don’t get me wrong about that. But ultimately they’re very inefficient at scaling up because they haven’t got the cogs to turn it, it all talk to the same system. Really. You were saying before about the most difficult time, and you said you were cycling to work and you were using that. I think that’s where we left you on that question.

Pearl Ryder (00:44:24):
Yeah. Yeah. You’re asking about coping through the difficult times. And for me, I, you know, the fact that I was based in Atlanta was very helpful because I had a large community around me here of people that supporting me my now fiancé, and then a lot of our friends plus his family was all here. So being able to get off from work and then connect with them was very helpful. And also I would cycle to work. So I got at least a little bit of fresh air.

Peter O’Toole (00:44:55):
Tell me, this is a picture of your mountain biking. This isn’t your work. Is it,

Pearl Ryder (00:44:59):
That’s not my commute to work. So that’s mountain biking in I’m mountain biking in Vancouver or Whistler near the Whistler bike park on this really incredible trail that costs more than a million Canadian dollars to build where you just climb up for several hours and then descend for like 45 minutes. Nice,

Peter O’Toole (00:45:23):
Thanks. A million dollars. Creating a trail and dance in Woodland is not mountain bikers do naturally.

Pearl Ryder (00:45:31):
It has drawn a lot of people to that area. So I wish I could remember the name of that trail right now. Cause it’s good. Mountain biker name of something silly Lord of the squirrels. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:45:43):
I presume this is also, this is a picture of you biking in the snow now also not your journey to work. Yeah.

Pearl Ryder (00:45:49):
Also not my journey to work. So travel is another thing that I love to do. And this is me, I’m I’m with my family. So it’s a picture of us. There’s my sister and her husband and one of her children. And then my fiancé Craig in the background. And we were out doing some fat biking in Maine where I grew up

Peter O’Toole (00:46:09):

Pearl Ryder (00:46:11):
Yup. These are the friends that I was talking about. So this is a group picture that we took recently after a dinner party that we have where every, the idea is that every quarter we have a fancy dinner party where everybody makes every household makes a different dish and brings their own plates and serving system set up and everything. So that it’s not that hard on the host. And then we have a course by course, fancy dinner.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:37):
So, so that was that. But I also, Mark, you talked about family, you are, and you mentioned this didn’t you about that, that difficult period that you are getting married, setting about having your family, which I’m just finding this picture. You are. I presume you. I presume your family, Someone else. How old are your daughters?

Mark Bray (00:47:03):
My daughters are now let’s see, almost 10 and seven and a half.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:10):
And how is these? Here’s a good question. And Pearl you as talking about 80 hour weeks in a clinical world. How many hours do you both think you were doing when you were working at Broad and at Anne’s lab?

Mark Bray (00:47:25):
Yeah, I think for, for me, I really tried to keep it to like a 40 hour, like nine to five type type of thing. And again, as, as Pearl mentioned Anne modeled the culture. So that was not not a huge deal. At Novartis I’ve tried to keep it to about, about the same and the culture is also pretty supportive of that as well. I think one of our issues as data scientists is that, you know, as long as you have a computer and a wifi connection, you can kind of work anywhere anytime. And so at least for me during the pandemic, that has been a huge challenge, like my, where I’m in my bedroom right now. Like there is no work life balance, strictly speaking. And so it’s just and I, I’ve only been back into the workplace twice in the past, you know, since March of last year. And so the struggle there is to limit myself to the number of hours I can work with family, like literally just a couple of doors away. So yeah, so my it’s, it’s interesting, like to tell my daughters that, you know, I am here, but I’m not here. Like when I’m in this space, you know, if you have, I’m basically it support for their remote schooling. But other than that, I need my space. So, so

Peter O’Toole (00:48:44):
You managed to balance that work life very well?

Mark Bray (00:48:49):
Could be, it could be better, could be better. It’s in one thing a question that’s been raised is what aspects of the pandemic? No, of course there have been a lot of negative you know, many negative aspects in terms of you know, financial psychology, psychological, emotional, spiritual the whole bit. But in some, in some cases, some good emerged from that in terms of here are patterns that were destructive before that I’ve had a chance to reset and what can I take forward? And so during this time I’ve been able by virtue of being able to spend more time with, with family. There are certain aspects where I’m like, yeah, if it weren’t for the pandemic, I would just be rushing out at seven, you know, seven o’clock to get to work as I normally did and come back for time for dinner and kind of grumble at the kids for a bit. And that, that would be it. But now I’m here with them and, you know, our our time together, especially in the mornings to become much more rich. And so I’m wondering as I transitioned back to on campus work what aspects of that can I preserve those canal kind of personal relations and connections that have been fostered over the past 18 months

Peter O’Toole (00:49:58):
Are the family being happy to move with you all being scientists? Quite obviously, it’s a bit like being a traveling salesman. You’re always moving or quite often moving locations with the family, quite happy to move.

Mark Bray (00:50:10):
So in my case, I tend to be kind of a stick in the mud, stay at home. So I mean you know, I’ve been here in Cambridge and, you know, yeah. Back when I was single, I could just move anywhere. My wife’s that she’s more portable. So I see this here, but really when it comes to being at the, at the technological scientific hub, you know, there’s like Boston and California, although I’m sure you can, that’s becoming more dispersed in my kids are doing like the school system here and so on. So I foresee that I’ll be here for at least the mid to long term. So, and I’m okay with that again

Peter O’Toole (00:50:48):
Novartis. Okay. You don’t have to give him a pay rise. He’s staying.

Mark Bray (00:50:53):
Nope. Novar Novartis has been a a surprising amounts of fun surprises. Yeah, definitely. I’ve been, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. There is a bit, a bit of me that wonders flight. Okay. Is it, is it normal to spend your entire professional industrial career at one place, but many of my colleagues in Switzerland in Basel, the mothership for Novartis, they they’re lifers, you know, that’s just kind of how it rolls. Yep. So, so yeah, it, if I’m at one place for the rest of my career, that’s probably not the worst thing in the world.

Peter O’Toole (00:51:26):
Pearl you mentioned your fiancé, I believe you are getting married on August the 14th. That’s correct. It’s coming up soon. Yeah. It’s amazing what you can find out on the internet to find that someone’s actually, you’re married. I didn’t quite expect that. Well, congratulations. Thank you. And excited.

Pearl Ryder (00:51:47):
Very excited. Definitely a week ago was super freaking out about wedding planning, but now I did a little bit more. We did a little bit more, it feels like, okay, we will have an event.

Peter O’Toole (00:52:00):
And how’d you, how’d you balance wedding planning and work. Cause that’s quite a demanding aspect. You know, it is

Pearl Ryder (00:52:07):
Actually quite demanding. And this goes back to your question about work hours. I actually volunteered for an 80% time reduction in my hours for three months that the Broad was offering to people for pandemic related distress. I was finding that I was getting really burned out with the zoom and the working from home and trying to be like on for 40 hours a week, but like it’s all through the computer. Because even though what we do is computational, a lot of the work would still involve working in person with teammates as you’re trying to figure something out. And it’s definitely draining to try to then do all of it through the computer. So that I think plus the stress of wedding planning, I decided to go to 32 hours a week. And so I work mostly six hour days, which has given me a little bit of extra time for the wedding planning

Peter O’Toole (00:52:59):
And riding the bike for recording podcasts. Of course, that’s right.

Mark Bray (00:53:04):
I can say, you know, hopefully, so one bit of advice I can give. So lame I think the night before my wedding, I was still answering questions on those cell profiler form and, Anne came in and said, don’t do that. I had the sense that won’t be a problem in your case, but just FYI.

Pearl Ryder (00:53:25):
If I find myself doing that, I will stop and think mark told me not to,

Peter O’Toole (00:53:29):
But mark, were you doing that because you felt you should or because that was a good way to relieve your own stress

Mark Bray (00:53:34):
It more the latter, the letter, you know, I’ve been there long enough that it was something I kind of enjoyed and it was a way to sort of like, let me just do something that I know how to do before I ventured into this next, this next, you know, like flight change

Peter O’Toole (00:53:49):
You’ve asked about challenging times. Well, you talked about how much fun you’re having. What has been, can you think of a moment whether it be in the lab or on conference or something else the most fun time, most entertaining go. What goes on? What’s the entertaining part in the, in the day jobs?

Mark Bray (00:54:06):
Yeah. So there are several things I could probably point to the first thing that my mind goes to is as a grad student, for me, it was actually, you know, I can’t say this for everyone, but being at Vanderbilt was a ton of fun. It was a great culture. Instead of people, we would do our work, go out, get drinks, have we had like parties every, every night again. So that’s part of the reason why I didn’t anticipate going stay in Boston as long as I did, because I thought I’d go back to Nashville. I might take a faculty job or something there and be in this environment that I, that treated me so well, that’s something I still kind of look, look back on as, as just a lot of fun in general. But the next runner-ups, that would be, I think, in, in again, being part of Anne’s lab and just being part of that community and culture. Um but aside from that, I think it’s, you know, it’s less about specific time periods of life and more about finding areas of enjoyment when you can, especially in the midst of a, of a pandemic with family in and around and so on. You simply you know, you count those oases of, of enjoyment and peace when you’re able to find them. And in many cases you can’t, you don’t just wait for it to happen. Sometimes you have to carve it out for yourself. It won’t just fall into your lap. But I have to say like, even things like just simply you know sitting in praying, or just simply having moments of silence for myself that doesn’t fall into the traditional definition of fun, but it’s meaningful and it’s, and it’s relaxing.

Peter O’Toole (00:55:54):
Don’t do silence. Pearl What about you? Fun time. It’s entertaining fun at work.

Pearl Ryder (00:55:59):
Well, you know, something that comes to mind. It is challenge more challenging to do things virtually, but we’ve had some really, for me, fun pair programming sessions, where we’re working together on trying, like I was trying to write some tests to test a part of the cell profiler software, where I had built in some new functionality and that part was easy to build in. But then I was trying to write test, actually make sure it works consistently. And the test, I just couldn’t figure it out. And that was like, got really frustrating for me at one point. And then I brought in a group of, of people like we got together with another image analyst in the lab who does a lot of software engineering plus one of the software engineers in our group and Beth who just knows everything. And we had just a really, both fun and relaxed time troubleshooting that problem together. So we were all working through it. There wasn’t a sense of like this meeting’s going to be over in 30 minutes and we have to get it through. It was just relaxed connecting with other people and working on a problem. It was great

Peter O’Toole (00:57:07):
Thinking of fun. I’m gonna ask you a quick fire questions before we get back to the serious stuff. So I’ve got a few other slightly more serious questions to find out. I don’t know. Who’s going to answer first, but we’ll find out what was your favorite item that you own start with Pearl.

Pearl Ryder (00:57:24):
My mountain bike,

Peter O’Toole (00:57:26):

Mark Bray (00:57:30):
Item. Wow. I see this gets back. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question before. I’m going to go with, oh, I used to have this mug that I used to love. Unfortunately it fell and broke not too long ago, but yeah. W w not necessarily quite like, you know, running from a burning building, I must save the mug, but it was something, it was something that I treasured for quite some time. Okay.

Peter O’Toole (00:57:55):
Well, what’s your pet hate? What do you really dislike? I’ll start with Mark on that one.

Mark Bray (00:58:03):
Oh boy, these loud noises and not like leaf blowers in the background. Again, I think you might get impression, you know, common peace is good. So loud noises are very jarring.

Pearl Ryder (00:58:21):
I struggle with people who judge other people. So then I judge people who judge people. It’s the, the, the, those names.

Peter O’Toole (00:58:30):
And that was me about to give you a 10. I won’t judge. What food? What’s your favorite food? Pearl

Pearl Ryder (00:58:39):
Probably a Mediterranean style, like hummus and fresh vegetables and things like that. I love that

Peter O’Toole (00:58:46):
Stuff. Okay. Mark

Mark Bray (00:58:48):
Ribs. And I’m a full-on carnivore.

Peter O’Toole (00:58:53):
What foods you most dislike go on Mark Mediterranean hummus and vegetables.

Pearl Ryder (00:58:57):
Cilantro. I hate cilantro

Peter O’Toole (00:59:01):

Mark Bray (00:59:05):
Liver. Ooh. Although foie gras I like that. So liver and certain, I think liver, how my mom used to do it.

Peter O’Toole (00:59:18):
Kidneys, kidneys. It got to be worse than liver.

Mark Bray (00:59:23):
Uh if it’s, if kidneys are done, right, they’re not too bad.

Peter O’Toole (00:59:31):
Mark. Favorite drink?

Mark Bray (00:59:33):
Oh, favorite drink? Let’s see, there was this coffee I used to love called the accelerator was like three shots of espresso. Plus you know, steam milk in whipped cream in a glass like about this big, that was that’s. What’s got me through grad school.

Peter O’Toole (00:59:52):
That’s not a drink that’s drugs, but I’ll let you off

Pearl Ryder (00:59:59):
For me. It’s it’s like very strong ginger extract with lemon. There’s a hot lemon ginger tea. It’s delicious.

Peter O’Toole (01:00:07):
Okay. Sugar in it too. Favorite movie Pearl

Pearl Ryder (01:00:13):
I don’t like movies. Clueless. I have to say Clueless.

Peter O’Toole (01:00:17):
Okay. Mark

Mark Bray (01:00:20):
I don’t think there’s so there’s so many

Peter O’Toole (01:00:27):
Okay genre Maybe

Mark Bray (01:00:29):
I’ll go science fiction as a genre, but one movie I’m very fond of is the Iron Giant. It never fails to make me mist up a little bit towards the end.

Peter O’Toole (01:00:40):
That’s nice. And so Pearl, you said you’re not a movie, so are you a book or TV type person?

Pearl Ryder (01:00:48):
I like both. I like books and TV.

Peter O’Toole (01:00:50):
Okay. What’s your, what’s your secret trash TV that you like?

Pearl Ryder (01:00:55):
I think I have to admit that my secret is probably that I love reading trashy romance novels. That’s that’s the real secret I can just devour them

Peter O’Toole (01:01:06):
And mark. Do you have a secret vice

Mark Bray (01:01:09):
Oh, a secret place? No, no vices, no vices at all. Yeah. What’s what, what, or yes, fortunately I’m I’m I try to have a good relationship with the internet, so I try not to binge watch stuff, but oh, okay. Maybe close to the amazing race. My wife and I love watching the amazing race because it’s like, you know, we watching these couples do these challenges and the two of us will turn to each other and say, okay, this is the part where this happened. You would curse at me and storm out or that kind of, that sort of, yeah. So that’s, yeah, that’s the closest we come to. Like binge-watching as advice

Peter O’Toole (01:01:51):
I love this 20 years time when you both mega stars, but you both big I am’s in the world we’ll be back and we’ll see if he’s still confessed to those. You got taste change. I’ve got two more things. Firstly, actually the importance of internships. Internships can have a bad name sometimes, but I know that certainly Pearl you’ve done internships at Mark. Did you do internships at all?

Mark Bray (01:02:15):
I did one as a undergrad,

Peter O’Toole (01:02:19):
How useful do you think they are worth to you? So

Mark Bray (01:02:24):
It, it, it turned out for me. So this was in, at Tulane. I went to the University of Minnesota for a summer internship and that was the, that was an a neuroscience group. And that was the thing that got me interested in neuroscience as a, in general, and allowed me to focus on cardiac electrophysiology when I returned for my senior year. And that kind of set me off on that trajectory. So scientifically speaking, it was like the thing I was looking for, like, this is something really cool that I can hone in on, in this general field of biomedical engineering. But also the internship program was actually, it was really good. It was a lot of fun, met a lot of people. So that was the other aspect, as well as an experience. It was also a really great, a really great time. And so both of those together, right?

Peter O’Toole (01:03:08):
Oh, so not only did you create a network you’ve got into networks quite literally in the neuro biology side. And Pearl what about you and your internships? Where they useful?

Pearl Ryder (01:03:18):
Yeah, for me, they were very useful because my family, no one in my family was in medicine or science. My parents are my dad ran a boat-building shop that my mom also worked at. And so having access to that world as a young person was very helpful. And in a way, like now I think your podcasts are also helping to span that gap where people can start to get to know the people who are scientists, even if they’re not already a part of that group. And that to me is very important because not everybody is grows up with access,

Peter O’Toole (01:03:54):
But which comes actually to one of the final points, which was slack. And I believe Pearl you’re the founder of the future PI Slack peer group. Yeah, that’s right. So what is that?

Pearl Ryder (01:04:06):
So that is a it’s a slack group for people who are postdocs. Most of the people in the group are in biomedical fields, but it spans quite a wide diversity of different, different areas of research. And the goal when I created it was to make a platform where just people could talk to each other and ask questions and get advice, recognizing that compared to graduate school, when you start as a post-doc in a lab you’re relatively isolated, like maybe there’s a couple other postdocs on your floor, or you might get to know them, but it’s not the same as going through a cohort of graduate students. And so I started that in 2017, I believe. And it’s really grown over the last four years. We have, it’s probably about 500 active members at any one point, but more than I think we’re at more than 4,000 people who have signed up over the years and who are actively like a part of the workspace. And it’s used by postdocs to chat to each other about questions they have, you know, is my boss treating correctly? What do you guys think about this? Advice about faculty applications? A lot of people asking etiquette questions, honestly about like, when should I send the thank you emails? Like how should I address them? All those types of things that just, you can not be sure of what you don’t know and it’s a platform to try to help get some ideas out.

Peter O’Toole (01:05:40):
So again, back to networks again, and using those networks and making that’s a really good, yeah, quite an inspiring group to set up, you must be really proud of how successful it’s been as well.

Pearl Ryder (01:05:54):
It’s, you know, I just happened to be the person who opened up the slack space and got the Twitter handle, but really it’s the group like it’s the people who have come in and join the has been amazing. And I absolutely am proud like people not me have organized studying the faculty job application process to try to get more insight into what that process is like, and they’ve published papers about it. And and also just, I see people being kind to each other on there every day. And that to me is like what I’m most proud of.

Peter O’Toole (01:06:30):
That’s cool. We, I have noticed we are actually now over an hour long, we’ve been time has gone far too fast cause I have not, I still have questions. I want to ask you if you want, hopefully five, 10 years time we can revisit this cause that’ll be awesome. And then I still have the same questions. Mark Pearl, thank you so much for joining us today. Loads of top tips, it’s been really great to hear about the difficulties in careers and changing careers. I love the way you to sort of just, you harmonize so beautifully in, you know, Pearl how you’re making the foundations to make change, to develop the drugs, Mark taking those building blocks, taking that career and actually impacting to the end point. I think it’s just amazing what you both do. So thank you very much from everyone in the community for everything you’ve been doing. And thank you for joining me today.

Mark Bray (01:07:26):
Thank you for inviting us.

Peter O’Toole (01:07:29):
And thank you everyone who’s been watching or listening on whatever platform don’t forget to subscribe and go watch Anne’s for sure. And there’s lots of other different podcasts we just heard actually from Pearl at the end about the importance of networking and how a group starts to impact lots of other clubs, not just the biomed as Chris Lintott who did Zooniverse go and watch, listen to his, just see how you can also get involved no matter who you are, what you do in helping science, which comes back to helping Mark the drug development and helping all of us on that note. Thank you very much.

Intro/Outro (01:08:06):
Thank you for listening to The Microscopists, a Bitesize Bio podcast sponsored by Zeiss Microscopy to view all audio and video recordings from this series, please visit


Scroll To Top