Helen works as an orthoptist in a role which combines research and clinical work. Learn more about the project she's currently working on and her future career ambitions
How did you get your job?
I studied for a BMedSci (Hons) Orthoptics at The University of Sheffield, graduating in July 2016. Since then I've started a part-time PhD at the University of Leicester, which I'm expecting to complete by 2023.
During my final year at university, a research orthoptist post at the University of Leicester was brought to my attention. After completing an application and personal statement, I was offered an interview and was thrilled to accept the post the following day.
What's a typical working day like?
I'm currently working on a project in artificial intelligence (AI) and imaging. This means that on any day I could be recruiting families to take part in the research, analysing clinical and genetic results, or working on writing a paper with the intention of publishing.
I also work in a clinical post and usually have one day a week where I'll examine both paediatric and adult patients in a hospital setting.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
One of the best aspects of the job is the incredible variety of work. The university also offers great opportunities to develop your skills with various training programmes. To date, I've attended courses in GraphPad Prism Statistics, speed reading, a 'Preparing to Teach in Higher Education' course and a high-performance computing course.
What are the challenges?
The biggest challenge you face is learning to accept when projects don't go quite as planned. You have to be prepared for projects to continuously change direction and must be able to adapt.
You’re often working on multiple tasks and must have the ability to prioritise your workload and work methodically in the most efficient way.
How is your degree relevant?
My orthoptics degree was a perfect balance of theory-based, individual and practical-based learning, which have all helped massively in my current posts.
How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?
When I initially started in Leicester I was provided training on new systems and equipment, which I then used to work on multiple projects within the department. Since then my post has developed to allow me to work on a specific AI project, in addition to projects investigating interesting families for their phenotype-genotype relationship.
I've more recently been offered opportunities to gain teaching experience and present my work. I'd be interested in pursuing a teaching position in the future, as well as looking further into academic roles.
What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?
- If you want to pursue a career in orthoptics, try work shadowing an orthoptist to gain an idea of the type of work environment and daily tasks.
- If it's a research orthoptist post you're interested in, start familiarising yourself with the latest developments in ophthalmology research and learn how to effectively read an academic research paper. This is a great skill to acquire.