Case study

Senior research contracts administrator — Shannon Jones

Find out how the scientific knowledge Shannon gained during her degree has helped her understand the research her employer is involved with

What degree did you study?

I studied zoology at Aberystwyth University and graduated in 2019.

How did you get your job?

I applied for the role of research contracts and grants administrator in the research services - medical sciences division of the University of Oxford via a job advertisement on their website. I have since been promoted to the role of senior research contracts administrator.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree is relevant as the skills and knowledge I gained help me to understand the research that the university is involved with. Having a background knowledge of science from my degree allows me to understand the terminology used in the research proposals/applications and contracts.

What's a typical working day like?

I work as part of the contracts team and I manage a portfolio of lower-risk research-related agreements. I also draft agreements for third-party review based on the university’s and/or sector-wide standard templates.

I also assist with pre- and post-award research grants. This includes ensuring that the award is prepared and submitted in line with the sponsor's guidelines, advising on issues such as eligibility, being familiar with sponsor application submission systems and being the initial approver prior to recommendation for institutional authorisation.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the variety of work, working with a fantastic, supportive team and the opportunity to support critical research projects that are undertaken by the university, for example the RECOVERY and PRINCIPLE COVID-19 studies.

What are the challenges?

I really like how this role challenges me in a number of ways. For example, there is a large volume of studies/research projects that are carried out across the medical science division, so often there is a large workload with various deadlines to meet. Also, attention to detail is crucial for this role, along with effective time management.

I started work in March 2020, eight days before the national 'work from home' rule was implemented as a result of the pandemic. This was a challenging time for me as I barely had a chance to receive any training and had not met many of the people in the team. However, through my love for the work that I do, my motivation to succeed and learn, and the support of the team I work in, a year later I was promoted to my current role.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Don't give up - finding a job after graduation can seem daunting and scary at first. I tried a few jobs before I ended up in this role.
  • No question is a stupid question - if you are unsure of something or want to know something, just ask. This applies when applying for a role and once in a role.
  • Be open to opportunities that aren't directly related to your degree - you might not find your dream role straight away, or if you do it might not be what you expect. I'd advise being open and trying things that interest you as you don't know what they might lead to.

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