Dr Alejandra Zarate-Potes

When Alejandra joined Prosper in 2022, she had been a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University for two years – with over five years’ experience as a postdoc. Working within the faculty of Biological and Biomedical sciences, her research centres on the evolutionary and molecular biology of host-microbe interactions.

Alejandra is passionate about teaching, research integrity, and motivating students to be curious about innate immunity. Following her year with Prosper, Alejandra is continuing her work as a Senior Research Associate and hopes to get more skills under her belt as a biomedical researcher.

Role on starting Prosper cohort

Senior Research Associate, Faculty of Biological and Biomedical Studies, Lancaster University. 

Case study conducted

May 2023. 

The challenge

At the start of the Prosper pilot, Alejandra felt worried about her future career. She had spent her career moving from one project to another
within academia, investing all her time and energy into them without giving much thought to what she wanted to do in the future or how to get there.

Like many postdocs in her shoes, Alejandra didn’t fully grasp how wide her options were and wanted to explore what her future career could look like – both within and outside of academia.

“I joined Prosper because I hadn’t been conscious and strategic about my career path. I wanted to take back control over my career direction and development.

The Prosper journey

Alejandra found Prosper’s ‘Reflect’ resources - with their emphasis on self-understanding - useful, and regularly kept a journal which she used to structure her career development and set action points.

Alejandra also valued taking part in Prosper’s coaching activities, regarding it as a safe space to connect with peers, discuss problems, and work together to find solutions.

“The coaching was a safe space for constructive discussion and getting lots of feedback.

As well as using Prosper’s ‘Act’ resources to update her CV and LinkedIn profile, Alejandra engaged with the ‘Explore’ section of Prosper to navigate her options within the life sciences. She initially conducted an informational interview with her boss to better understand his role. Afterwards, she conducted another with a work supplier she knew who had previously worked in the NHS.

As a result of reaching out, Alejandra was able to gain a better insight into research jobs both within academia and beyond, and a greater appreciation of the different pathways open to her.

“The information in Prosper’s career clusters helped me to find a lot of individual industries I didn’t know existed within the life sciences space.

Next steps

Following her year with Prosper, Alejandra is continuing her work as a Senior Research Associate and hopes to get more skills under her belt as a biomedical researcher. In the future, she plans to explore how the natural evolution of the immune system can help treat infectious diseases - with the ultimate goal of using this knowledge to improve human health.

While she is keeping her options open about how to best pursue this goal in the long term, with Prosper’s support she now has a better idea of what those options are. Importantly, Alejandra has taken ownership of her career development, and started to take a more pro-active, forward-planning approach to her professional journey. Prosper’s resources have helped put her in good stead for the job application process, and - with an updated CV and a better appreciation of how to tailor it to specific opportunities - she plans to apply for a broader variety of roles and organisations in the future.

“Prosper gave me the confidence to know that I will find a role in which I am able to reach my full potential – which may well
be outside of academia.

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