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Abir’s Story: Returning to Research in Computer Sciences at the University of Bristol


Before my career break, I was an active international researcher in computer sciences having studied and completed my postdoctoral research in France, Canada and Lebanon (where I was born). I gained ten publications and gave talks and presented posters at conferences.

I finished my PhD in 2007 at the University of Joseph Fourier, France. During my PhD, I worked on the design, development, and evaluation of a communication system for older people using the user centred design approach. Following my PhD I spent a year in a private company and a further two years in postdoctoral research.

I moved to the UK in 2011 because of my husband’s career and made the decision to focus on my family. I wanted to bring up my two young daughters and decided to put my research activities on hold until I was ready to return to work.

Once my daughters were both settled full-time at primary school, I felt ready to return to an academic role. After a break of four years, I started to apply for research jobs, but found limited opportunities as my experience was judged to be in a ‘niche area’, with not many research groups near me working in the same area. As a result, I didn’t receive any offers of employment and started to become despondent, especially as I had worked at a high level in research.

During my career break, I always tried to keep a foot in the door of my former research career, by volunteering for local charities. I first heard about a Daphne Jackson Fellowship through a professional networking group and decided to contact the charity to find out more.

I noticed that some of the work that Prof. Gooberham-Hill was involved with within The University of Bristol’s School of Clinical Sciences and Faculty of Health Sciences correlated with my own research interests. I approached Prof. Gooberham-Hill to ask about working together on an application for the Fellowship on a research project studying accessible interface design for older people, a topic which related to my PhD and postdoctoral research.

After successfully completing the different stages of the application process, I was thrilled to be awarded a two-year Daphne Jackson Fellowship, fully sponsored by EPSRC and hosted at The University of Bristol. I am relishing the opportunity to return completely to my research activities. I can now build upon my research work to date but also refresh my skills, increase my knowledge, and learn new skills.

I am definitely enjoying being back in the research work environment and feel fully supported by my Fellowship advisor at the Daphne Jackson Trust, my host University, my supervisor and the study groups which I’ve joined. My research project is looking at creating interfaces to new technologies that will allow older people to use them easily, in order to better support older people living independently in their own homes. After my Fellowship ends, I know I will be better equipped to enter the academic or industrial workforce, thanks to the retraining elements of the Fellowship and the support I’m receiving.

Thanks to my Daphne Jackson Fellowship, my career path is clear again.