Case study

Pharmacology PhD student — Emily Hobson

Emily is in the final year of her PhD and is looking to continue her career in research. Find out more about her work and her tips for developing a research career

What degree did you study?

I began my career in pharmacology by studying a BSc in Pharmacology and Drug Discovery at the University of East Anglia. After graduating in 2019 with a first class degree, I began my PhD studies in Pharmacology in the School of Pharmacy at the University of East Anglia.

How did you get your job?

In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I looked into PhD programmes and reached out to one of the professors in my department who was advertising a PhD position in her lab. After discussing the PhD project with her, I applied for the PhD and was selected for an interview - after which I was offered the position.

What's a typical working day like?

Typically, I spend most of my day in the lab, conducting experiments and analysing my results. However, working in a research lab means my hours can vary depending on the experiments that I need to do. I also spend some time reading through journal articles, supervising undergraduate project students and attending local seminars.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The thing I enjoy most is sharing my research with other people - whether that be students and other researchers in my department, or with the wider public. It is really motivating when someone takes an interest in my work, and it reminds me of the importance of my research. Some of the greatest moments of my PhD have been volunteering at public engagement events, such as science festivals, as I love to see people getting more engaged in STEM subjects.

What are the challenges?

One of the greatest challenges is perseverance. Scientific research is very rewarding, but it can also be very difficult, and experiments often don't work out the way you'd hoped they would. You have to be able to pick yourself back up if you make a mistake and learn to adapt your thinking if things don't work out.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree is very relevant to my current role and future career aspirations. In my undergraduate pharmacology degree, not only did I learn the principles of pharmacology, but I also gained lab experience and organisational skills that have been invaluable in my current role.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Over the course of my PhD, I have gained more responsibility within my lab group and have also had the opportunity to assist with lecturing and supervise undergraduate pharmacology students. I have also taken on additional roles outside my university, such as with the British Pharmacological Society, where I am the chair of the Early Career Pharmacologists Advisory Group.

I have also participated in several public engagement and outreach activities, for example with the Norwich Science Festival and Norwich Cancer Research Network. I am now in the final year of my PhD degree, with aspirations to continue my career in pharmacological research.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into research?

  • Build your network - getting to know other researchers in the field is really helpful in understanding your subject area and also allows you to find job opportunities.
  • During your undergraduate degree, look out for any summer lab placements or projects that you could apply for. When applying to PhD programmes, lab experience is always a valuable asset to have.
  • Don't underestimate the value of soft skills such as organisation and presentation skills.

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