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Medizinische Fakultät

Janna Hastings

Janna Hastings, Prof. Dr.

  • Seit 01.08.2022: Assistenzprofessorin mit Tenure Track für Medical Knowledge and Decision Support UZH
  • Forschungsgebiet: Medical Knowledge and Decision Support
1999 BSc (Mathematics and Computer Science), University of Cape Town
2008 BSc Hons (Computer Science), University of South Africa
2011 MSc (Computer Science), University of South Africa

MA (Philosophy), Open University, UK

2019 PhD (Biological Science), University of Cambridge, UK

Doctoral thesis: Metabolic Influences on Ageing in C. elegans: "A time series multi-omics and metabolic modelling study", University of Cambridge

2019 - 2022 Postdoc: Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg (Institute for Intelligent Interacting Systems)
2019 - 2020 Postdoc: UCL (Centre for Behaviour Change), University College London, UK
2020 - 2022 Postdoc: EPFL (Bioinformatics Competence Centre), University Lausanne
August 2022 Assistenzprofessur: University Zurich

Wissenschaftliche Arbeit versus andere Berufstätigkeit: Weshalb haben Sie sich für die Wissenschaft entschieden?
What motivates me the most is curiosity, interest, connection and impact. Research offers many opportunities to pursue one’s own curiosity and interests, connect with colleagues and collaborators, and make an impact with the findings of one’s research.  In my case, I have had a non-traditional career and worked for several years outside of academia after finishing my Bachelors studies. Thereafter I made a gradual transition towards research while studying part-time alongside to my employment and raising a family. I benefit from the additional experience and broader perspective I gained through my non-traditional career path, and it also helps me to be confident that I’ve now found the right path for myself.

Was gefällt Ihnen an Ihrer Arbeit und was ist das Besondere dabei?
My research is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and that is also when I am happiest. I explore topics at the interface between computer science, psychology and medicine. My favourite part of the work is the adventure of developing creative technological innovations to address unmet real-world needs, and the joy of exchanging ideas with colleagues from different disciplinary perspectives, which exchanges benefit all of our research. Recently, there has been a big focus on the impact of artificial intelligence technologies on different domains within medicine and society. People are excited and nervous about the technology and its impact on research, clinical practice and daily life, and there are many questions to which nobody yet knows the answers. Having the opportunity to study questions at the forefront of this exciting transformation is a great privilege.

Gab es in Ihrer Karriere besonders prägende Durststrecken oder Misserfolge? Wie überwanden Sie diese?
It is perhaps not widely enough recognised that every research career is full of failure and rejection. Papers and grant proposals are regularly rejected and one must accept this as a normal part of the daily work in research. In my case, one big personal failure that comes to mind is that I dropped out of my first PhD programme after failing to make progress and discovering that the topic and group was not as good a fit as I had hoped it would be. It took me a while after that to work up the courage to try again, but I was successful the second time around. Resilience and endurance are important attributes for a scientific career. Nevertheless, it is also important to trust one’s instincts when things don’t feel right. There are often second chances.   

Welche Person / welche Institution hat Sie in Ihrem beruflichen Umfeld am stärksten unterstützt?
It is hard to choose a single person or institution, as I have benefited from so many over the years. Notably, for a significant portion of my career prior to completing my PhD, I was at the EMBL-EBI bioinformatics institute in Cambridge, where my group leader Christoph Steinbeck was hugely supportive of my early research efforts despite my not yet at that time being fully qualified as a researcher, and encouraged me to pursue a change of career direction by applying for a PhD. A great leader recognises the potential in their team members beyond traditional boundaries delineated by official qualifications. I was also hugely supported by my postdoctoral advisors, notably Susan Michie and Robert West at University College London, Till Mossakowski and Fabian Neuhaus at the Otto-von-Guericke University in Magdeburg, and Nicolas Guex and Christian Iseli from the EPFL. There is not enough space to name all of my many supportive collaborators over the years, who gave me opportunities and supported my projects and applications, but I would like to mention Barry Smith of the University at Buffalo, and Stefan Schulz of the University of Graz

Hatten Sie (besondere weibliche) Vorbilder, die Ihren Werdegang beeinflusst haben? Welche?
I have been hugely influenced by Professor Susan Michie who leads the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London in the UK. Professor Michie is enormously inspiring and hugely successful while at the same time being a wonderful person. She seems to have an almost limitless level of organisation and capability, attention to detail, effective resilience and leadership, while remaining excited and inspired to make a positive difference in the world.

Welche Massnahmen ergreifen Sie als Professorin, um den wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchs (insbesondere Frauen) an Ihrem Institut zu fördern?
My group currently has a majority of young female scientists. I strive to create a welcoming and inclusive place for women to excel, bearing in mind the specific biases, challenges and obstacles that disproportionately affect female researchers. I particularly encourage a connected and humanistic working environment where each individual is supported to discover their own unique research style and direction and to find their own balance.

Welche Tipps geben Sie einer Jungforscherin mit auf den Weg, die eine akademische Karriere ins Auge fasst?
Focus as far as possible on the positive. Connect with yourself and your values and use these to drive your research direction. Try to find your people, your intellectual community. Stay curious and open minded. Read widely and explore what is going on in other disciplines and fields of research. Most of all, have fun!

Ist es aus Ihrer Sicht eine Herausforderung die Balance zwischen der Forschung/der praktischen Arbeit in der Klink und der Familie/dem Privatleben zu halten? Wie gehen Sie damit um?
I think that finding a balance between work and private life is a challenge for everyone in research, but particularly for parents with children. I have three children and as a result I am very conscious of how precious family time is. There is always an infinite amount of work to be done and it can be hard to set those boundaries to protect family time. In my case, finding the balance involves accepting that neither one’s work nor one’s parenting can be perfect. Accepting shifting priorities and circumstances gracefully is key – when the little one is ill, the deadlines might be missed. Another key is having very good babysitters or friends who the little one can visit when needed.

Instituts-/Klinikadresse:  Institute for Implementation Science in Health Care, Universitätstrasse 84, 8006 Zurich