Case study

Research student — Coleman

Colman aspires to be a career scientist and believes there is no bigger thrill than discovering brand new pieces of information, but to make it in research you'll need patience and persistence

How did you get your job?

In the final year of my biomedical, health and life sciences degree, I began to search for a postgraduate course. Initially I began looking for a PhD, but soon found my degree wasn't specific enough and that the competition was too intense.

The MRes degree at The University of Nottingham offered the opportunity to engage in a full-time research degree that allowed me to upskill in the research area I was interested in. In other words, it provides an ideal stepping stone towards a research career.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My degree subject was relatively broad, which had both pros and cons when it came to moving forward.

The broadness of my degree allowed me to gain some experience in a variety of biomedical science subjects, but this broadness also meant I couldn't explore a theme deeper if I found something I liked.

Coming out of a broad degree like mine instils confidence in prospective employers that you've made an educated choice about your next steps in life.

What are your main work activities?

There is no such thing as a 'typical day' when it comes to a science job. It's true that you may repeat the same experiment for weeks on end trying to get good data and reproducible results, but that can vary widely day-to-day.

In general, I spend most of my time in the lab, working on a range of experiments. If I'm not in the lab, then I'm at my desk, reading published papers or typing up experimental protocols or interpreting data.

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

I aspire to be a career scientist. I would like to pursue research, which would mean getting a PhD position and after that keep moving along the academic career path.

I would definitely like to teach at university-level as well.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Few other jobs in the world allow you to discover brand new pieces of information. That is one of the most amazing parts about being a scientist and there is no greater thrill.

Microbiology specifically helps you understand all manner of diseases and join a very interesting battle between humans and pathogens.

Another interesting aspect of working with microbes that are potentially dangerous is learning to handle them properly on a day-to-day basis. It makes simple things like washing your hands all the more important.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Things quite frequently don't go as planned. Sometimes experiments outright fail and you can get stuck trying to solve a problem that you've been working on for weeks.

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

Research can seem very daunting and work intensive, but don't be afraid. Pursuing a research career is extremely rewarding and because it's an ever-changing landscape, there will never be a time in your life where you feel unchallenged.

Persistence and patience are the two qualities you need to succeed. Once you've got those, the world is your oyster.

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