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Photo of Professor Afsie Sabokbar
Photo of Professor Afsie Sabokbar

Welcome to the divisional team, Professor Sabokbar! Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what attracted you to this position?

I have been a bone cell biologist since 1991 and have been undertaking research on pathophysiology of osteoclastic bone resorption at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Muskoskeletal Science (NDORMS) since 1994, initially as a post-doc (under the mentorships of Professors Nick Athanasou & David Murray) and then as an independent PI. Over the past two decades, I have supervised a lot of post-graduate research students and I have extensive experience working with students who are facing personal and academic challenges.

I have been in a privileged position to be the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) at NDORMS since 2002, a role that I now share with Associate Professor Chris Murphy of Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology. In 2008, (with support from Professors Graham Russell and Raashid Luqmani) I launched the biennial part-time MSc taught course in Rheumatology (later renamed to MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences and now under the new directorship of Associate Professor, Andrew Judge), mainly designed for clinicians and allied health professionals. Given my previous and current extensive experience as a post-doc, PI, DGS and MSc Programme Director (as well as being a mum!!) I totally understand the needs of students and research staff to advance their transferrable skills for their career progression.

What do you hope to achieve in this position?

The University of Oxford provides a plethora of opportunities through the Medical Sciences Skills Training hub, Careers Services, Oxford Learning Institute, IT Services, Oxford Research Staff Society (OxRSS), Enterprising Oxford as well as individual department-run programmes. As part of the Graduate School, there is currently a very well run list of workshops for research students in Medical Sciences, thanks to Ms Jane Rudman and Ms Veliborka Milivojevic.  Ms Rudman and her team are exhaustively working to develop and enhance training provision and I will ensure this is maintained to the highest standard.

Another of my objectives for the next year or so is to establish the divisional Research Staff Advisory Group which will serve as a mechanism through which common issues can be discussed and solutions identified, and also one which can work through the governance structures to influence work in this area. I am also aiming to pool resources within MSD to instigate a resources from which a list of training/workshops as well as opportunities in entrepreneurship and innovation can be easily accessed by research staff. Although some of the MSD-organised training programmes are offered to Division's research staff, presently there is no central resource from which post-docs and other research assistants can find a comprehensive list of workshops/courses. Additionally I plan to organise an annual event to celebrate the research contribution made by the post-docs and RAs at Oxford with presentations from eminent speakers, past research staff and the opportunity to network with a variety of Oxford-based companies.

I think there are significantly more additional avenues one could take to enhance the career development of our staff in academia and beyond. Having recently been appointed as the Divisional Director of Skills Training and Researcher Development I do hope I can fulfill this responsibility with the help of many colleagues not only from MSD but also from other Divisions and the University.

It sounds you’ve got a very busy year ahead! Maybe we should chat again in 12 months time and you can report on the progress so far.