Case study

Epidemiologist — Emily Petherick

Emily's innate curiosity was the perfect trait to start a career in epidemiology, where her daily activities include in depth research and analysis

How did you get your job?

After my degree in applied sciences, I completed a Master of Public Health part time while working as a research assistant at Monash University in Melbourne. This was followed by a PhD in epidemiology at the University of York.

I am currently working as a senior epidemiologist at the Bradford Institute for Health Research. I saw the post advertised on, which is a great source of academic and research jobs. I applied after first visiting and speaking to the projects programme manager to get a sense of what would be involved in the job and the organisation.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My undergraduate training was a degree in applied sciences in physical education, followed by a Masters of Public Health and then a PhD in Epidemiology. This job has given me the chance to apply all areas of my education given the very broad remit of research and teaching I've been involved with.

What are your main work activities?

My main work activities involve the provision of epidemiological analyses and advice to all aspects of a birth cohort study.

This includes designing questionnaires, collecting and cleaning data, writing papers and providing advice to colleagues and, increasingly, contributing to grant applications.

Additionally, I supervise students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level to enable them to complete epidemiological and statistical analyses.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Being infinitely curious, I genuinely enjoy learning new things and being able to pass that on to others whether it be students or colleagues. I feel incredibly privileged to be afforded that in a job.

I further enjoy being able to work as part of a team of very talented people making exciting new discoveries, which may translate through to improvements in population health over time.

What are the challenges?

The things I enjoy also can be challenging because there is just not enough time to look at all the interesting questions you can come up with. You do have to be able to juggle multiple projects and deadlines, which is challenging but worth it.

How has your role developed?

My role has enabled me to develop a range and depth of research experiences and skills in longitudinal analyses of birth cohort studies, as well as the chance to collaborate with many talented academics both in the UK and internationally.

I have had the opportunity to be involved in research covering early childhood growth, mental health, asthma and data linkage to primary care amongst others.

My long term career ambition has always been to be in a role where I can combine teaching and research. Earlier this year, I was successful in obtaining a lectureship to teach epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at the University of Loughborough.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Epidemiology is very multidisciplinary, requiring strong quantitative and writing skills to ensure that your findings can be disseminated. If you like numbers and like unravelling mysteries in applied settings, it's a great career.

Be open to new ideas and accept that you will always be learning as the methodologies and knowledge base is constantly evolving.

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