Meet Dr Anne Moore: Proteus Project Manager

Anne discusses the skills required to be a great project manager and the challenges of ‘herding cats’.

You are the PROTEUS Project Manager which brings together several scientific disciplines. What is your own scientific background?

I guess my background is almost as interdisciplinary as the project! I originally did a maths degree and then had to choose between training to be an accountant or doing an MSc at Edinburgh in Microelectronics. I chose the Microelectronics option. After that I stayed on at Edinburgh University to do a PhD in Signal Processing. That led to a move to industry where I worked on several international research projects. All the traveling left me with quite a bit of time to occupy whilst I was away on business so I decided to do an Open University degree in biology (well it was that or spend all my evenings in hotel bars!) I subsequently found biology so fascinating that I decided it was time for a change in career and embarked on a second PhD, this time in Molecular Plant Sciences.

You seem to have chosen, throughout your career what may be thought of as traditionally male dominated fields of science. Why were you interested in these subjects and how was your experience of studying and working within them?

When I was younger I studied what I guess were traditionally male subjects because I did not like writing essays and I was good with numbers, I just got on with it and it never occurred to me that it was unusual for a female to be doing it. When I started my PhD in Edinburgh I was actually the first female in the signal processing group and recently my former PhD supervisor has actually become involved in the ATHENA SWAN scheme that promotes and supports women in science. I have never encountered any problem concerning my gender in fact when I started working in the Defence Industry, which is heavily male dominated, I got to do the ‘Top Gun’ Scene where I gave lectures to an all male audience of test pilots and I was never made to feel that my gender was anything other than positive!

How did you become interested in project management?

I’ve always been pretty organized and wanted to make sure things were scheduled properly and we had all the resources available. So when the project manager on one of the research projects I was working on left I figured I could either let someone else think they were managing the project or I could have a go myself! So I applied for the job, got it and found that I enjoyed the balancing act that is project management.

What are the challenges and delights involved in managing such a large multidisciplinary team?

The challenges – well have you ever tried herding cats? Seriously, there are so many different research groups involved in the project each with their specific research interests. So we have to make sure we get the balance right between doing novel research in individual areas and ensuring that we have something concrete to deliver at the end of the grant. The delights are much easier: the project is fascinating, and it will have real benefits in improving the quality of care people can receive. And, just as importantly, the team we have working on the project are brilliant. We have a great mix of characters but everyone is working towards the same goal.

What specific skill set do you think are required to perform well in this role?

You need a balance of scientific know-how, so you can help guide the project; clear-headedness to keep track of the budget and schedule; and the right balance of tenaciousness and bossiness to make sure things get done. It also helps to be able to think of several alternative solutions and options at once as things are constantly changing as the research evolves. Oh and the ability to know when the chocolate biscuits are about to run out, so I can re-stock the biscuit tin just in time!

What does PROTEUS want to achieve?

We want to deliver the first in-man devices that are capable of the dynamic sensing of key physiological and pathological events in the lung and blood of critically ill patients. It is an ambitious project and we will give it everything we have to deliver it.

What in your opinion are the 3 most important questions the PROTEUS project will attempt to answer?

We want to know if it is possible to measure physiology accurately deep in the distal lung in real-time and rapidly detect in situ pathogens in the lung. If we can find answers to these questions then we can really provide a transformative point of care sensing device for intensive care unit patients.

What excites you most about the PROTEUS project?

The fact that we will be using all this novel technology and will actually have the opportunity to do first-in-man trials within the time frame of the project. Taking the science from the lab into the intensive care unit for practical application is really exciting.

Who will benefit from this research?

Initially the device will be aimed at intensive care unit patients, so the patients and their families will directly benefit. Also giving clinicians tools to be able to make more informed diagnoses will be invaluable. Beyond that, the technology we develop could potentially offer significant improvements in fibreoptic sensing which would be widely applicable to fields outside healthcare.

And finally, what do you do when you haven’t got your project management hat on?

I do a bit of running, and have tried my hand at the odd triathlon. I also love cooking and baking and I am on a mission to bake the perfect gluten-free chocolate brownie.

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