Melba and Damien have both extensive experience of academia. Because we have a direct experience, not only of what is required to be a successful academic, but also because we have first-hand emotions of the ups and downs of the profession, we have decided to share our experience with others and give you tools that are useful in your day to day work and also to ensure a better work-life balance.
We know each other for 20 years, as colleagues and friends. We have decided to create Success in Academia because we think that, together, we can make a positive difference to the life of other academics. We have complementary strengths that will expand our offer to you.
Damien is currently Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Sheffield in UK since 2012. Damien is Deputy Director of the Insigneo Institute and has more than 20 years of academic experience and leadership.
More about Damien
I did my mechanical engineering training at the INSA engineering school in Lyon, France, where I was greatly influenced by foreign students friends who showed me the benefits of living abroad. This led me to be an Erasmus student in my final year at Trinity College Dublin. This is where I met my first mentor, Prof Patrick Prendergast who was the President of Trinity College Dublin, with whom I did my final year project, my MSc Research, and my PhD. After Dublin, I moved to Toulouse for a short stay in the lab of Prof Pascal Swider working for Smith & Nephew, before I was offered a Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellowship at the Technical University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain.
There, I met my second mentor, Prof Josep Planell who is currently the President of the Online Catalan University, who gave me the opportunities to become an independent scientist and lead my own group at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia. During that time, I learned how to lead a group, how to do collaborative research, how to write research proposals and how to lead large projects. I also got very much involved with my own scientific community and became the President of the European Society of Biomechanics.
In 2011, I decided to follow my third mentor, Prof Marco Viceconti, and work and live in Sheffield where the new Institute for in silico Medicine was created. The move to UK was transformational, not so much in terms of science but in terms of responsibility. I thrived in a much more professional and competitive national environment, while having the chance to have an excellent local collaborative environment.
As Director of Research of the new Institute, I learned a lot from Marco and others. I was the Principal Investigator of large projects and my responsibilities grew within the Institute while I led a group of academics to form a collaborative group with about 20-30 PhD students and post-docs. This was enjoyable but also tiring.
In 2018 my wife and I decided to take a break and reverse our role: I would be taking care of our two kids (our daughter was not even 2 year-old) while she would start her business. The University of Sheffield offered me an unpaid leave of absence for 2 years. That period was rich in emotions, adventures and dreams with the family.
During that time, I realised that I had been very close to a burn-out and decided to work a lot on my own personal development. I read many books, listened to many postcasts and videos on YouTube on leadership and stress management. This is how I realised how the academic world can be challenging, that most of us are affected, and yet are not well prepared for this.
That is what motivated me to create Success in Academia with Melba so that others do not go as far or beyond the mental stress that I suffered. I also realised that I could share a lot more my experience with early-career researchers, junior academics and senior academics so that they keep enjoying doing what brought them to academia in the first place.
Melba is currently working in technology transfer at CIMNE Tecnología in Barcelona, Spain since 2014. She is a Transformational Coach, specialized in Organizational Coaching (Executive and Team coaching), she has more than 15 years of academic experience.
More about Melba
I have been working in technology transfer at CIMNE Tecnología in Barcelona, Spain since 2014. I did my Chemical Engineering training at the Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, Venezuela. I have always been attracted to medicine and psychology related topics as well as to living abroad and knowing new places and cultures. In my last year at the University, when doing my last year project, I met my first mentor, Prof. Joaquin Lira, who awakened my passion for research and the biomaterials field, and encouraged me to go abroad to pursue a PhD title and follow the academic path.
I came to Barcelona and got a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the Technical University of Catalonia. After that, I continued working on the development of biomaterials for tissue regeneration. I was awarded with several grants such as the Individual Marie Curie fellowship and other National grants that gave me the opportunity to work as a researcher in international centers. In 2007, I got a Ramon y Cajal grant from Spanish government and joined the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC).
I consider myself an apprentice, and enjoy learning and acquiring new knowledge. For this reason, I was not satisfied with my initial training and obtained a MBA from Liverpool University as well as a postgraduate degree in Finance for Executives from ESADE. Moreover, I am a Transformational Coach, specialized in Organizational Coaching (Executive and Team coaching) by the Cristina Naughton Coaching Center.
I moved to Technology Transfer which was also linked to research, from a different and more business oriented perspective. I accompany entrepreneurs, managers and R&D teams at broadening their vision beyond their limits to generate innovative ideas, efficiently lead their teams and manage their projects. I guide them in making intelligent decisions to achieve excellent results.
I know what it means being a researcher first hand. I know their challenges, their worries and their pains, I already experienced it … I do believe that my experience as a researcher and as a coach may help academia related people to find equilibrium in their lives while being successful in their profession and enjoy the beauty of the academic path. That’s the reason that motivated me to join Damien, combine our background, experiences and skills to make academia more enjoyable.