Dr Christina Picken

Christina joined Prosper as a Research Associate at the University of Manchester. Based within the faculty of Physical and Environmental sciences, Christina is currently working on an industry-led project to create
sustainable and biodegradable alternatives to plastic. Her experience ranges across academia and industry as a polymer chemist, with additional experience in the pharmaceutical field.

Christina is a passionate advocate for the environment, with a keen interest in areas of research that can make a meaningful impact in the pursuit of a more sustainable future. Following her year with Prosper, Christina is
continuing her postdoc contract, and looking to chart a future course that combines teaching with her commitment to sustainability

Role on starting Prosper cohort

Research Associate, Faculty of Physical and Environmental sciences, The University of Manchester. 

Case study conducted

May 2023. 

The challenge

When Christina first engaged with Prosper, she found herself in a similar position to some of her fellow postdocs. Her career-to-date had not given her much chance to step back and take stock of where her career was taking her in the long-run. She hadn’t had the time or space to give much thought to her career development in the round - to truly form a clear picture of her goals, values, and what she wanted from her
professional future.

“Before Prosper, I didn’t know what my future career plans were and what they would entail.

The Prosper journey

Christina already had experience of leaving academia for a role in the pharmaceutical industry, prior to her time with Prosper. She returned to academia after realising it better suited her preferred style of working, and after having found a role which aligned with her passion for sustainability.

Her experience made her determined to take advantage of Prosper, and to take a more considered view of her future – and what she wanted from her professional life – going forward. She found the ‘Reflect’ element of Prosper useful insofar as it provided the space and support necessary to consolidate and examine her experiences, and draw out salient conclusions. She was able to more clearly identify why she had made the move back into academia, as well as what she valued the most in her work.

“I think the self-discovery part of Prosper is revolutionary. It enables you to provide a narrative to your own experiences, and draw out and condense what is important from that. It’s been really useful.

Christina found the community and group coaching element of Prosper particularly valuable. They were a chance to meet other postdocs from a range of backgrounds and disciplines – to share experiences good and bad in a mutually supportive environment. She came to realise that many of her peers had similar feelings, misgivings and thoughts about their careers and futures. These sessions helped to her to become more comfortable with uncertainty, and also gave her an outside appreciation of her own talents and potential.

“Because we are a close-knit cohort, particularly with the coaching groups, we have created a strong, supportive environment where I can be truly honest with my colleagues. Being around a lot of people who are uncertain really helps you deal with uncertainty. I’m now far more comfortable with the unknown, which is important.

Next steps

Christina still has time left on her postdoc contract, and is continuing her work with the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub. Thanks in part to her experiences with Prosper, she now has more clarity about what she wants from her professional future. Rather than view her future through a limiting binary like ‘academia vs industry’, she now knows that above all she wants a role that combines teaching with her passion for sustainability – whether within academia, the wider sustainability space, or elsewhere.

“I now know that I want to work in a teaching position - whether this is a formal teaching role, or somewhere within the sustainable realm helping businesses and people to make more sustainable choices.

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