Case study

PhD student — Jewel Ahmed

The skills Jewel developed during his pharmacology degree have come in particularly useful when studying for a PhD. Discover how he hopes to develop his career in research

How did you get on your course?

I knew from the second year of my degree that I wanted to pursue a career in research. My areas of interest were stroke, diabetes and cancer research. Therefore, I tried to gain some form of experience in these areas as soon as I could, tailoring my work to my intended research goals.

I carried out a stroke project, organised by Dr Christian Thode and Professor Arsenio Fernandez at Nottingham Trent University, before completing an in-vivo course and the Animals (scientific procedures) Act 1986 Home Office training.

Before beginning my final year, I conducted some cancer research within the department of preclinical research at The University of Nottingham, and my final year project involved pre-gestational diabetes. I then began applying for PhDs in neuroscience (stroke research).

The possibility of having some research published is an enticing prospect

How relevant is your degree to your postgraduate study?

Studying pharmacology was fairly relevant to the PhD I'm doing now. Although we didn't cover much on the pathophysiology of stroke, many of the lab experiences from Nottingham Trent University have helped me a lot during my PhD.

What does your course involve?

It involves so many different things, and every day can be different. I can spend a whole day just writing, or doing in-vivo lab work or web lab projects.

How do you use your degree in your PhD?

Writing reports with the guidance given at Nottingham Trent University has allowed me to develop good writing skills, which are tailored for research. I've also gained a range of lab skills that are very useful to my PhD.

What do you enjoy about your course?

I enjoy conducting research and the fact that it provides a different challenge each day. The possibility of having some research published, which I am close to, is an enticing prospect.

What are the most challenging parts?

Learning new things independently - I've had to learn a lot about statistics and the pathophysiology of stroke. It's also challenging trying to make the research up to the quality expected in order to be published.

What career do you plan to go into?

I plan to continue a research career as a postdoctoral researcher, or within the pharmaceutical industry.

How essential is your PhD to getting your chosen job?

It's absolutely essential. The research and lab skills I'm developing during my PhD are essential for both a career in research or industry.

Do you also need work experience?

The PhD should be enough, but if I choose to work in industry, I will probably need some industry experience.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to do a PhD?

My advice is to think about what you want to do as early as you can. The second year of your undergraduate degree would be a good time. Once you've decided, try to get as much experience as you can. Many opportunities will pop up; you just have to give them a go.

Also apply for courses as early as possible.