In December 2023 we were pleased to announce that the Isaac Newton Institute’s Solidarity for mathematicians (SLM) programme, run in partnership with the London Mathematical Society, received a second grant of £600,000 from XTX Markets. The initial purpose of this donation is to be able to provide extensions to some of our first participants whose 12 month involvement are coming to an end.

After an application and interview process, we are very pleased to announce we have offered extensions to seven of these participants, who will continue their research at their host institutions until September 2024. INI has spoken with two of the participants who have now started on their extensions to hear about their experiences of the programme so far and the impact that the extension opportunity will have on their career and research.

One of these applicants was, in fact, offered an extension on the Solidarity programme a few months before the extension interview process began. Special consideration was given in her case, as she missed several months of her first year of the programme due to maternity leave.

You can listen to a podcast interview with Dr Olena Domanska here:

Below you will also find a written interview with a “Scheme B” (political refugee) participant who has very recently started their extension at their host institution. This person requested to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.

Our sincerest thanks to everyone involved in the continuation of this valuable programme.

Interview with anonymous “Scheme B” (political refugee) SLM participant

How did you first hear about the scheme? 

 Several years ago, I applied to participate in a workshop at the University of Manchester. Subsequently, I communicated with the organiser, who recommended the programme.

What led you to apply for it?

I applied for the programme because I am deeply moved by its noble mission of providing protection to researchers in the mathematical sciences who have been required to leave their country of residence. The programme’s unique focus on not only offering a safe haven but also facilitating the continuation of their important work aligns with my values and aspirations. This programme resonates with my belief in the global nature of scientific inquiry and the importance of providing support to scholars who face adversity. I am excited about the prospect of not only finding a safe home for my research but also being part of a community that values diversity, collaboration, and the resilience of the mathematical spirit.

What was it like for you to settle into not only a new country but a new mathematical sciences community? 

Settling into a new country and the mathematical sciences community has been transformative, both personally and professionally. Adapting to a different cultural and social environment was challenging yet enriching. The Institute’s commitment to a safe and supportive space played a crucial role in easing this transition, fostering warmth and inclusivity. This sense of belonging goes beyond geographical boundaries, making me feel welcome and valued. However, professionally, integrating into a new mathematical sciences community has presented some unexpected challenges. Despite the diverse and talented researchers at the Institute, I initially found myself placed in a non-mathematics department instead of the mathematical sciences, primarily due to family problems. While I anticipated that collaborating with the non-mathematics department could be a unique opportunity, I discovered that the dynamics were not conducive to the mathematical research I had envisioned.

Despite challenges, I am optimistic. Clear communication and understanding collaboration expectations across disciplines are crucial. Despite initial differences from my expectations, I actively seek opportunities to engage with fellow mathematicians. This experience emphasises the importance of flexibility and adaptability in international collaboration. Eager to overcome initial obstacles, I aim to make a valuable contribution to the vibrant research ecosystem at the Institute.

What was your experience of the first year of the programme? 

For the first three to four months, I dedicated a significant amount of time to settling into the city, addressing challenges like finding accommodation (which proved to be the most challenging aspect for me) and enrolling my children in school. Once I successfully navigated these initial difficulties, I was eager to resume my research. During this time, I enjoyed fruitful collaborations with academic friends who provided valuable support as I applied for various academic positions in the UK. Additionally, I seized the opportunity to write a proposal for a grant. Overall, my first year in the programme involved overcoming initial challenges related to relocation and family matters, followed by a return to my research activities and engaging in collaborative and productive academic endeavours.

How do you feel to have had an extension of your time on the programme?

I feel grateful and appreciative to have been granted an extension of my time on the program. This extension allows me the opportunity to delve deeper into my research, further contribute to the academic community, and maximise the benefits of the programme. It also provides a chance to explore additional avenues for collaboration and professional growth. Overall, I view the extension as a valuable opportunity to continue my journey within the programme and make a more substantial impact in my field. Since I am indebted to the programme, expressing gratitude through publishing papers is the least I can do. Therefore, I aim to complete them to the best of my ability.

What impact has the programme had on you?

The programme has had a profound impact on me both personally and professionally. On a personal level, it provided a supportive and inclusive environment, easing my transition to a new country and mathematical community. The commitment to a safe and welcoming space has fostered a sense of belonging beyond geographical boundaries.

What does the future hold for you?

The future holds exciting possibilities for me. I am enthusiastic about continuing my research and academic pursuits, building on the foundation established during the programme. I aspire to contribute significantly to the mathematical sciences community, fostering collaborations, and furthering the boundaries of knowledge in my field. Additionally, I plan to explore new opportunities for professional growth, such as attending conferences, workshops, and engaging in interdisciplinary projects. Overall, I look forward to a future filled with continuous learning, meaningful contributions, and the pursuit of excellence in my academic endeavours.

What advice would you give to anybody considering applying for SLM?

My advice to anyone considering applying for the program is to seize the opportunity with an open mind and a proactive approach. Prioritise clear communication and collaboration, both within and outside your field. Be prepared to adapt to new environments and challenges, as this programme offers not only a protection but a platform for personal and professional growth. Utilise the support networks provided, engage with the vibrant community, and take advantage of every opportunity for research and collaboration. Embrace flexibility and resilience, as these qualities will be crucial in navigating the diverse landscape of the programme. Lastly, have a clear vision of your goals and how the programme aligns with your aspirations, allowing you to make the most of this enriching experience.

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