Written by Nóra Lehotai and Dominik Fischer. Picture credits are mentioned by each picture individually.
In this MIMS Spotlight Series interview, you get to know Dominik Fischer, science manager at MIMS, and Nóra Lehotai, project coordinator at MIMS, also the host of the MIMS Spotlight Series, who make the MIMS Management Team, in close proximity with the MIMS Leadership. The Team ensures efficient management of tasks inhouse, nationally and internationally as MIMS is the Swedish node of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine.
Picture: Nóra Lehotai, credit: Niklas Mähler, and Dominik Fischer, credit: Lena Lee.
Can you tell us about your role at MIMS, what are you working on now?
Nóra works as project coordinator and also with communications.
“I organize meetings and events, coordinate projects at varying levels. I enjoy the personal contact with the community, providing day-to-day information and support, involving them in science communication and outreach projects. For the institute’s communication, I am taking up more and more tasks, creating new ways of highlighting success, importance and vision of the research done at MIMS via our website, social media channels, interviews and articles.”
Dominik is the science manager, and he is responsible for some day-to-day management, but also preparation and coordination of board meetings, recruitments and evaluations.
“One of my priorities for the upcoming weeks addresses the institutional evaluation MIMS will undergo by its Scientific Advisory Board in 2022. The evaluation aims to pronounce our scientific strengths even more in the future, while detecting those structural processes and support mechanism that can be improved. As I have become more settled in my role at MIMS, I´m also envisaging to provide strategic support for Nordic EMBL interactions and new funding applications.”
What were you doing before you joined MIMS and what attracted you to start a position here?
Dominik has a background in geography and was especially interested in human impacts on the environment.
“In consequence, I did a PhD on the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in times of global and climate change. After finishing my PhD, I took the opportunity to work on a subsequent project for a few months, which was funded by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
“Due to limited perspectives at the career stage of a postdoc, which was very disappointing experience to me, says Dominik, I decided “to change the sides”: I joined the Technical University of Munich (TUM), where I worked as project manager, mainly dealing with institutional design and recruitment of professors. However, after seven fulfilling years, I got attracted by MIMS´ international profile and ambitions. I had the feeling it´s time to leave my comfort zone.”
“I have the typical academic career path”, says Nóra. “I did my PhD in plant science in Hungary, then took up a postdoc position in Dijon, France, moving to Umeå from there to join the Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) as a postdoc. I worked for four years on the characterisation of the Mediator complex in plant cell culture, under the lead of Åsa Strand and indirectly, Stefan Björklund. Then I felt that I would like to be involved in science from a different perspective. MIMS was looking for a new generation of management and I was just the right fir for one of the positions.”
A lovely memory for Dominik: kayaking at Sankt Anna Skärgård. Credit: Dominik Fischer.
How was it to start at a new workplace during the pandemic?
“I started in the beginning of March 2020 and I had about 2 weeks before the pandemic really hit Europe and started to influence how and where we work, says Nóra. I was able to meet a few people still in person. Luck in bad luck: because the director, Oliver Billker, couldn’t travel due to the restrictions, we got a proper introduction to MIMS’ business, which was very helpful for both Dominik and myself since we started in a new role at a new workplace.”
Dominik moved from Munich to Umeå in May 2020.
“The pandemic has posed challenges to all of us. Here at MIMS, the new management team was responsible to move and hold the Nordic EMBL Partnership Conference 2020 online. I think we made the best out of this situation. Nevertheless, I´m looking forward to more personal interactions with colleagues and partners in the future.”
If you would not have your current profession, what do you think you would be doing?
“As I would describe myself more as a generalist rather than being specialised that´s a difficult question to answer. I´m driven by my interest to understand systems; doesn´t matter if this is the natural environment or an institutional one. This would perhaps qualify me to work as a consultant, but I cannot say in which field.”
Nóra: “I realized that I enjoy as much organizing things as a bit of chaos, the sudden unexpected. I also like working with people, motivating them, helping them. Thus, I think working in a public science/education centre or for a charity organization would fulfil my criteria, for now. Otherwise, I would do my hobby as full time, having my own company.”
What do you do in your free time and what are you most enjoying in living in Umeå, Sweden?
“I love Sweden for its pace, its nature, its traditions, says Nóra. I am constantly learning from my husband and his family about the Swedish culture, language and mentality. I like to be in the forest, walk and hike, hijack any dog who allows me to be pet, cross-country ski (very slowly), collect mushrooms and berries. I love cooking and baking; creating a dish from ingredients, it is relaxing.”
Dominik, a geographer by heart, really likes to travel and discover new places.
“I´m also keen on trying new sports and activities. Last winter, I tried cross-country skiing and in summer I went kayaking at Sankt Anna Skärgård, which I can highly recommend. Living in Umeå has the advantage to be surrounded by water (river, lakes, coast and sea) which relaxes me and helps charging batteries.”
Is there a little known/interesting fact about yourself?
Dominik’s secret is:
“I´m afraid of heights which prohibits me to enjoy views from mountain summits, towers etc. On the other hand, I´m very curious and don´t want to miss anything (especially not a beautiful scenery). Hence, there has always been an inner fight whether climbing to the top would be a good idea or not…”
Nóra says that she has always loved using microscopes and when starting to learn how to operate electron microscopes, during the sample preparation, she learned how to embed the sample into epoxy resin.
“I discovered that I can do this at home as well and be creative. As a hobby, I started to work with resin and create different objects - necklace pendants, hairclips, coasters, experimenting with dried flowers which I collect during summer, pigments and other materials.”
Resin items made by Nóra, some still in the silicone mold: coasters, combs, candle holder. Credit: Nóra Lehotai.
Family: husband and lots of plants in Umeå, parents in Hungary, sister in the UK
Countries where you have lived: Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, Sweden
When did you join MIMS: March 2020
Countries where you have lived: Germany and Sweden
When did you join MIMS: June 2020