Applying for an Independent Research Fellowship at the John Innes Centre

Applications are now open for the Independent Research Fellowships 2022, an initiative where outstanding researchers are invited to apply to attend a Fellows Conference (to be held on 20th February 2023 at the John Innes Centre), with successful candidates being offered a Tenure Track Group Leader position from the outset, initially for 5 years. 

Dr. Laila Moubayidin, Group Leader of the Plant Symmetry group at the John Innes Centre and Royal Society University Research Fellow, is an alumna of the Independent Research Fellowships (IRF) programme .  

Prior to joining us here in Norwich, Laila earned a BSc, MSc and PhD from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (Italy), before moving here to complete her second post-doctorate position studying the development of the plant reproductive structure of the Arabidopsis flower. 

It was this position which sparked her desire to one day lead her own research group, she applied for the IRF and was invited to present her work and future research plans at the Independent Fellow conference in January 2017.  

“I started my independent research group on the 1st of January 2019; an excellent way to kick-off the year,” says Dr. Laila Moubayidin. “Before that, I was a post-doc at the John Innes Centre, since April 2013. I attended the IRF conference over the years in order to understand what it takes to make that important step. Nowadays, I believe the best way to be promptly informed about these opportunities is via social media and networking. 

“The IRF application is a two-step process which starts by making a compelling resume of your past scientific achievements and future aims. If selected, you will be invited to present your future vision at a dedicated conference at JIC. I found writing my application and presenting my data a great opportunity to better frame my questions and overarching aims and also to develop a long-term vision for my science and career.” 

Since joining the John Innes Centre, Laila has achieved various milestones and opportunities, including research publications and most recently featuring in the The Science of Symmetry (a video produced with The Royal Society which can be watched by clicking here).  

“Currently, my group focuses on the biological rules that guide plant organ development, specifically the establishment of radial and bilateral symmetry during Arabidopsis organ formation,” explains Laila.  

“We are interested in understanding how cells and tissues are specified and divide to set up the ground symmetric pattern within plant organs. There are undoubtably several aspects of my job that are highly rewarding and stimulating, from the discovery of new biological activities to mentoring young students. The John Innes Centre provides the opportunity to enjoy all those aspects and more, thanks to its scientific platforms, networking and collaborations with UEA and other research groups at the Norwich Research Park.” 

So, what advice would Laila have for other aspiring researchers considering applying for the IRF? 

“Because the application for the IRF is the very first step to a long journey, I believe it is extremely important to develop a clear vision of your science, but also consider key points that that will be equally fundamental to support your long-term, overarching research aims and career.  

“For example, consider the scientific environment and research questions explored in the institute and ask yourself: what synergies can I create to aid my research? What visions and strategies are in place in the institute, and do they align to the science I wish to undertake? Who would I collaborate with? Are the scientific platforms available to carry out your science but also to allow exploration of new, future questions? 

“There’s nothing quite like the moment a new idea strikes and makes a lot of sense and you dig yourself in laying the basis for a new project.” 

To apply for this year’s Independent Research Fellowships, please visit  

For further advice, please contact Professor Matt Hutchings:  

You can find Laila on Twitter @plant_symmetry  


Photo of Dr. Laila Moubayidin and seven members of her lab group standing outside in front of a green tree smiling
Moubayidin Lab Group                                                     

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