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Staff Biographies

Karina Prasad

Head of Office

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Karina has spent more than 20 years as a senior project manager for the Charity and Higher education sectors both in the USA and UK. These included a leading national Children’s charity in the US and Age Concern (Now AgeUK) here in the UK.

Following a number of years working with graduate matters and programmes related to clinical academics, Karina is now the Head of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPdA), at the University of Cambridge. Previously Karina spent eight years at the University’s Clinical School of Medicine where she set up and ran the Clinical Academic Training Office.

Karina is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art, a Professional By-Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge and holds positions on numerous Cambridge University committees including human resources, researcher development, entrepreneurship and leadership development, volunteering, and equality and diversity matters related to gender. Karina also engages widely with national and international organisations related to early career research staff.

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Liz Simmonds

Assistant Head of Office (Strategy)

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Liz is assistant head of office with responsibility for strategy. Liz works on policy development and projects relevant to postdocs at the institutional and national level. She is chair of the university’s Concordat Working Group, which is leading the implementation of the Researcher Development Concordat. She also sits on the University REC and Athena Swann operational committees, the DORA working group, the staff survey operational team, and the advisory board for CUSPE.

She is secretary to the PdOC Society, and also supports the Postdoc Chairs’ Network. On a national level, she represents Cambridge on Researchers’ 14.

Liz has been working with postdocs for more than 12 years. In 2007, she joined the University of Cambridge where she helped to set up the Postdoc Careers Service, developing workshops, resources and offering individual support to help postdocs achieve their career aspirations.

Prior to joining the University, Liz worked as a Programme Manager at STEMNET, an organisation dedicated to engaging young people in STEM subjects, and as a News Editor for Chemistry in Britain magazine. She has a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge.

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Susie Chan

Assistant Head of Office (Operations)

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The Operations Manager role covers Finance, HR, Communications and administration of the office, centres and projects.

Susie joined the University of Cambridge in 2000 and has worked in a number of roles, including the creation and management of central finance support teams, business process improvements, project management for building refurbishment, as a member of the Finance Division’s management team and interim finance manager for the Judge Business School.

She has served on the Staff Childcare Committee, Greenwich House Management Committee, Greenwich House Green Impact Team and as chair for the Social Committee. She currently sits on the NWC Stakeholders Group, serves as a non-executive director for two University subsidiaries and oversees operational aspects of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and its three centres.

Susie’s interests include enhancing the customer/user experience and implementing improvements to the work-life balance of staff and the volunteer corps. She is committed in helping with the building of the new community at Eddington.

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Katia Smith-Litiere

Project Manager (Knowledge Transfer & Entrepreneurship)

Contact: katia.smith-litiere@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Katia is the project manager of the postdocs 2 innovators (p2i) programme. The p2i network is a partnership between five leading European HEIs and three global businesses with the aims to develop and strengthen an entrepreneurial mindset in postdoctoral researchers and encourage not just entrepreneurial activities but a broad approach to endeavours both in and outside academia.

Katia has over 15 years experience in life sciences and the healthcare sector, initially as academic researcher and subsequently through consulting for government and for pharmaceutical, diagnostics, medical device, biotechnology and consumer healthcare organisations. Previously, co-founder and Director of Programmes and Partnerships of the Cambridge Science Centre, an educational charity aimed at highlighting the relevance of science, technology, engineering and maths to our everyday lives through hands-on exhibits, events and outreach programmes.

Katia is currently a director of Biomakespace Cambridge, a non-profit organisation creating an open access laboratory outside academic and industry premises, providing members with affordable access to a well equipped lab and prototyping space, as well as to training and social events.

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Kristen Frers

Projects & Programmes Coordinator (Job Share)

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Kristen oversees the OPdA’s projects and programmes for postdocs which includes a Fellowships programme, a mentoring scheme, internship/secondment opportunities and College affiliations.

Previously, she worked as a Research Coordinator at the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences coordinating internal funding streams and a social sciences research programme.

Prior to moving to Cambridge to pursue a PhD, she worked in the museums sector in the US. Kristen holds a BA (Hons) in English and History from Loyola University Chicago, an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a PhD in History from Cambridge.

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Nicole Horst

Projects & Programmes Coordinator (Job Share)

Contact: nicole.horst@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Nicole is currently the Programme Manager for several of the OPdA's programmes for postdocs, including the Borysiewicz and Canada-UK Fellowship Programmes and the mentoring scheme. She also supports a variety of informational and training sessions that run through the OPdA and is involved in the development of leadership training for postdocs.

Nicole previously worked as a postdoc in the Departments of Psychology and Physiology, Development and Neuroscience. She was instrumental in the foundation of the Psychology postdoc committee and helped shape University policies and practices related to postdocs as a member of the Departmental Postdoc Committee Chairs Network and the GRAduate Students and Postdocs (GRASP) Forum for the Graduate School of Life Sciences.

Prior to moving to Cambridge from the US, Nicole completed her PhD in Neuroscience followed by a postdoctoral project, both at Yale University. She also holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Kettering University, which required extensive periods of cooperative, practical experience working as a student within Ford Motor Company.

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Jenny Hayward

Communications Coordinator

Contact: communications.opda@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Jenny manages all of the OPdA's communications, including the website, weekly newsletter, social media channels, and films. She also provides communications support for the OPdA's projects, such as comms strategy, graphic design, production of materials, and promotion.

Jenny has worked at the University since 2015, initially in the Office of External Affairs and Communications, where she worked in Research Communications, before joining the OPdA in 2016.

She also sits on the WiSETI Working Group for promoting and supporting women in STEMM at the University, and the Communications Committee for the p2i network.

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Hollie Godden

Committees & Societies Coordinator

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Hollie provides support to postdoc groups including PdOC, EPOC, PCN and the College Postdoc Convenor network. She takes responsibility for day-to-day society secretarial duties, event and meeting administration, as well as postdoc group projects and funding calls. She also works to support committees and working groups in the OPdA.

Hollie has an administration background from her time in the NHS and Unified Administrative Services. Before this she was working in an administrative role, within a University department, supporting the department including postdocs in research groups.

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Stephanie Tolhurst

Project Coordinator

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Stephanie’s role as a project coordinator involves the co-ordination and administration for a range of OPDA programmes which include p2i (Postdocs to Innovators), Leadership Fellowships, mentoring and researcher development activities. General tasks include preparing project plans, monitoring and reporting on these plans and supporting project events, workshops and conferences.

Stephanie has over 13 years’ experience of working in higher and further education. Stephanie started working for the University of Cambridge in 2018, originally within a university department, supporting the organisation of undergraduate placements. Before this, Stephanie worked at a higher education college for over 11 years as a Project Coordinator and Apprenticeship Assessor.

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Lydia Nowak

Project Coordinator

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Lydia’s role as a Project Coordinator involves the coordination and administration for a range of OPDA programmes which include p2i (Postdocs to Innovators), Leadership Fellowships, mentoring and researcher activities. General tasks include preparing project plans, monitoring and reporting on these plans and supporting project events, workshops and conferences.

Lydia has a background in Education; initially training as a primary school teacher. Having previously worked for the Cambridge Assessment Group, Lydia started working for the University in 2017 in the Development and Alumni Relations Office.

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Ceren Kaser

Centres Coordinator

Contact: contact.opda@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Ceren joined the OPdA as a volunteer in 2014 and is currently working as a centres coordinator providing administrative support with the running of the three postdoc centres and volunteers corps.

Ceren created and runs the OPdA Wellbeing Lunchtime Series “Postdocs' Work & Family Life” which focuses on the personal challenges of being a postdoc and explores ways to balance professional and personal responsibilities. The series also creates opportunities for postdocs to meet other researchers and share their personal experiences in a supportive environment. 

Prior to joining OPdA, Ceren worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 11 years in sales and product management.

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Shaun Ballisat

Centres Coordinator

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Shaun joined the OPdA in January 2020 in the role of Centres Coordinator, providing administrative support for the three postdoc centres.

Prior to this, with a background in music, Shaun ran a concert series at the Swinburne Hall, programming events for the students at Colchester Institute and for the general public. This led to a more diverse role as a duty manager at Firstsite Gallery and later as a centre co-ordinator at the IP-City Centre, managing conferencing facilities and serviced offices. 

Shaun recently moved to Cambridge to take up his new position at the OPdA. When not at the OPdA Shaun can either be found on a badminton court, at a classic car show or playing the trombone at one of region’s theatres.

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