Phd Career Profiles

Phd Career Profiles

A PhD opens up some fascinating opportunities. PGR graduates from the University of Glasgow travel and work in various industries around the world. Likewise, many PhD graduates from varied backgrounds have come to work at the University of Glasgow. Find out about the paths that former PhD Graduates have taken in their careers below.

See our case studies on hidden careers in Higher Education Adminstration here.

Academic Career Profiles

Emilie Combet - Senior Lecturer, MVLS

Photograph of Dr Emilie Combet AsprayName: Dr Emilie Combet
Job title:
Senior Lecturer, MVLS
School/department/institute: School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing
Institution: University of Glasgow

Career

What does your current role entail?

My job is split between research, teaching and admin. My group focuses on nutrition and the lifecourse – our projects are at the interface between lab, clinic and community. A large portion of my time is spent supervising graduate and undergraduate students, writing grants and papers. I also teach on the Masters in Human Nutrition, which caters for over 40 students per year. My main administrative duties are teaching-based, or related to the Athena SWAN activities in my school.

What are the key milestones in your career leading up to your current post?
  • I moved geographically – from France to the UK first, as an Erasmus student, and got the opportunity to study at PhD level.
  • After the PhD, I moved again, to Scotland this time, and also changed field. It was a big leap of faith, but it has paid off since.
  • Along the way, I met some fantastic people, who have shaped the way I think and work.
What do you think made you stand out to academic recruiters?

I have a versatile range of technical and academic skills, mostly thanks to changing field and moving around. I also have experienced different academic settings, which gives me an all round understanding of issues related to nutrition.

I am otherwise very enthusiastic about my work, and that of others around me, and have developed a very positive network of collaborators over the years.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to current researchers trying to secure a lectureship?

It will depend on the type of institution.

  • Being able to evidence resilience – in term of developing one’s own ideas, securing funding (seed level or even a summer bursary for a student), and publishing.
  • Demonstrating independence – it can be tough when working as a post-doc on someone else’s grant, but there are possibilities via new collaborations funded by mobility schemes for examples
  • Having some teaching experience beyond demonstrating is important but will depend on the type of post advertised. In my position, I think that being able to teach a very diverse student audience is key, being able to adapt teaching style accordingly.
What advice would you give to applicants making applications and preparing for interviews for lecturing posts?

Beyond making sure that the application and presentation are aligned to the needs of the institution and post, it would be to:

  • Highlight past achievements and how they meet the excellence criteria of the institution, with insight on future trajectory (plans for publication, new courses or teaching methods, new collaborations, grant proposals)
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm, drive and evidence of resilience.
Any other advice you can offer that you wish you had been given?

Everyone should have a good mentor (or several, whether these people call themselves “mentor” or not). In hindsight, I wish I had been more assertive from earlier on to express what I knew I wanted out of my career – this would potentially helped some conversations with the mentors I have had along the way.


Patrick Harkness - Senior Lecturer (Systems Power and Energy)

Photograph of Dr Patrick Harkness, Senior LecturerName: Dr Patrick Harkness
Job title:
Senior Lecturer (Systems Power and Energy)
School/department/institute: School of Engineering
Institution: University of Glasgow

Career

What does your current role entail?

I'm a Senior Lecturer, so it is a mixture of searching for funding, making sure that previously funded projects are delivered, writing publications, keeping teaching up to date, and doing my best to look after my team.

What are the key milestones in your career leading up to your current post?

It was very difficult for me to get my first postdoc position...

What do you think made you stand out to academic recruiters?

Hmm, I'm really not sure! Maybe we should ask Margaret, she is the one who took a chance on me.. :)

Helping Today's Researchers

What top tips would you offer to current researchers trying to secure a lectureship?

Have a plan for what you want to achieve, but also a plan that fits into the target institution.

What advice would you give to applicants making applications and preparing for interviews for lecturing posts?

That plan should include where the essential support will come from, what the publications will look like, and how any conflicts will be managed.

Any other advice you can offer that you wish you had been given?

Look up 'impostor syndrome'.


Lisa Kelly - Lecturer in Television Studies

Name: Dr Lisa Kelly
Job tile:
Lecturer in Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime
School/department/institute: Film and Television Studies/School of Culture and Creative Arts
Institution: University of Glasgow

Career

What does your current role entail?

In my current role, I teach and supervise Television Studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. I am responsible for designing and delivering a variety of core and optional modules, such as Advanced Topics in Television Studies and Television Sitcom, and for supervising Honours, Masters and doctoral students. In addition to performing administrative duties within FTV, I also sit on the College of Arts Newsletter Editorial Board.

I have recently secured funding from the Carnegie Trust for a research project and, having presented my work at a number of conferences in the past year, I am currently drafting an article to be submitted for publication. I am enrolled in the University’s Early Career Development Programme and studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice.

What are the key milestones in your career leading up to your current post?

I was lucky enough to secure a temporary lectureship (to cover research and maternity leave) while still completing my PhD in Television Studies. This gave me an excellent grounding in all aspects of teaching and administration.

I then went on to work as a post-doc on two AHRC-funded projects within the field of Cultural Policy. I now realise what a luxury it is to have time and money to focus purely on research and during this period I was able to build a strong publication record. However, after working on research projects that were ultimately led by others, I realised that I had to secure my own funding in order to take the next step in my career. So, in 2013, I successfully applied for a small Research Workshop grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh to investigate talent development across Scotland’s screen industries. This allowed me to begin developing my own independent research agenda and establish valuable networks across academia, policy and industry.

Another key moment was when I decided to apply for non-academic jobs and was selected for a highly competitive government graduate scheme in 2014. This made me realise that my skills could be applied elsewhere and that there was a world beyond academia. This actually inspired my performance in the final academic interview I had lined up - and I found myself being offered the post.

What do you think made you stand out to academic recruiters?

The majority of posts I applied for were for Lecturers in Film and TV, often with the focus placed more on the former, and Communications, Media and Culture. My varied work history allowed me to position myself within each of these areas, although I really saw myself as a dedicated TV scholar. Having been successful in securing research funding (however small) was undoubtedly important but, by carrying out knowledge exchange workshops, I had also developed key relationships with industry stakeholders and policymakers. This was an advantage, given the importance placed on impact and engaging with audiences outside of academia.

Securing funding and then successfully leading a project as PI had also given me more confidence in my abilities and I was very clear in my application and presentation about what I wanted to achieve when in post. The fact that I had recently published a co-authored book and single-authored article, as part of the AHRC project I’d been working on, also meant I was well-placed for REF. This all came together when Glasgow advertised for a Lecturer in Television Studies.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to current researchers trying to secure a lectureship?

It’s important to show you are an independent researcher with leadership qualities so try to produce single-authored articles where possible and aim to apply for small pots of funding. A lot of funding schemes are not open to researchers working on fixed-term contracts, so it can be difficult. This is why Research Workshops and Networks are useful.

Anything in particular relating to gaining experience in Research. Teaching or Administration?

Maintaining some form of teaching is also valuable as it will help you demonstrate your approach to learning and teaching at interview. If you are a post-doc, all of this will need to be negotiated with your PI but be clear about your long-term goal and the steps you need to take to achieve it.

What advice would you give to applicants making applications and preparing for interviews for lecturing posts?

Be passionate about the position and the place you are applying to and do your research in advance. You can get into the habit of applying for everything but it’s not the best use of energy and it often shows in interviews if you are not fully committed. Also take advantage of the excellent Careers Service on offer. Advisers are available for one-to-one appointments and there are numerous workshops you can attend, including mock interviews for non-academic jobs.

Any other advice you can offer that you wish you had been given?

Networking and publishing are, of course, key but also take time to be self-aware and reflective without worrying about comparing yourself to your peers. In today’s environment it may take a while to secure a permanent lectureship but, for me, it came at the right time and I’ve learned a lot (and acquired two children) along the way!


Andrew McWhirter - Programme Leader and Academic

Job tile: Programme Leader and Academic (lecturer/researcher)               
School/department/institute: Glasgow School for Business and Society, Department of Social Sciences, Media and Journalism                            
Institution: Glasgow Caledonian University: Staff Profile Page

Career

What does your current role entail?

What does it not entail?! I’m running a programme with 250+ students on it not including the other students from sister programmes which feed into our modules. That comes with a lot of responsibilities from monitoring academic health, progression and retention rates, NSS results, attending recruitment events, pastoral care and many other duties. In my research and lecturing capacity (because I am also an early career researcher) I’m expected to produce research outputs  and regularly apply for grants. I’m also tasked with designing and delivering new modules at UG and PG levels.

What are the key milestones in your career leading up to your current post?
Obtaining a PhD is the main one. I think you’d have to go back five years or more now to find institutions that would employ academic staff without that qualification. It is now really the first thing they will look for so if you want to obtain a full-time positon in academia then you have to have it or be very near completion of it.  

What do you think made you stand out to academic recruiters?
I often remark that if I had the opportunity of no strings (no young family for instance) and had undertaken my PhD in my early 20s then I would have aimed to complete the trifecta of conference visits, building up teaching experience and publishing research all equally. It is probably wishful thinking that anyone can do that strings or not. What I chose to do was focus on teaching because I knew the institution I wanted to work at required this trait as a top priority more so than research outputs. I think that’s what helped me stand out among the other candidates for my job. That and the fact I was willing to take on an unusual role of being an early career researcher as well as programme leader.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to current researchers trying to secure a lectureship?
I guess I just answered that one above… From my perspective as a PL I’d say that administration experience would be a sought after one but this is actually something that would be extremely hard to obtain if you hadn’t actually worked as a module leader in some capacity. That’s a catch 22 as often casual staff cannot lead modules.

What advice would you give to applicants making applications and preparing for interviews for lecturing posts?
Do a mock interview with Katrina! Ha! It certainly worked for me. I recognise that I have been extremely lucky in moving from graduation in July 2014 and into a job in August 2014. I have friends and peers who haven’t been so lucky. While I’ve had my share of application filling for lectureships and post-doctoral positions I haven’t had to do as much as them. One thing I have noticed though is that even when working to fixed-term contracts their chances have improved rather than holding out for that one permanent lectureship. In the end many of them have full-time positions now and one of them is even fixed-term in my department with a view to a permanent contract transpiring.

Any other advice you can offer that you wish you had been given?
Not really but some I was given I’d like to reiterate: the ‘fit’ is often the most important thing in academia. Not just in terms of your research interests but whether or not you can connect with the team you will be working in, mostly intensively over two 15-20 week periods of the year. I think if you have designs on working in a specific department you have to make yourself known and then see if that ‘fit’ can be a reality from both your own perspective and that of the team you have in mind.


David Moran - Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow in Sensor Systems

Photograph of Dr David Moran, Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow in Sensor SystemsName: Dr David Moran
Job tile:
Lecturer / Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow in Sensor Systems                       
School/department/institute: School of Engineering                                
Institution: The University of Glasgow

Career

What does your current job entail?

Teaching of undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses and PhD supervision, research and administration.

What are the key milestones in your career leading up to your current post?

  • I won 2 awards at international conferences during my PhD in recognition of my research
  • I did a few years as a post-doctoral researcher on quite a large and successful project that led to some high impact publications.
  • I applied for and was awarded an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship during my time as a post-doctoral researcher which allowed me to start to establish my own research career.
  • At the end of my EPSRC fellowship I became a Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow at the University of Glasgow and was awarded a proleptic lectureship.
What do you think made you stand out to academic recruiters?
  • The prestigious awards I had won during my early career as a PhD student.
  • My publication record (as first author mostly, showing I had a leading role in a lot of the research).
  • My vision and a convincing case for my ongoing research career .

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to current researchers looking to secure a fellowship?

Most fellowship applications look for 2 things: An excellent candidate and a good research idea that can blossom into a research career. Their track record should start to show the ability for them to lead research by themselves. Of equal importance is the quality of the research idea, which some people seem to neglect. It is important to remember that the purpose of a fellowship is to provide a boost to excellent early career researchers to establish them as a world leader in a prospective new area of research.

What advice would you to applicants making applications and preparing for interviews for fellowships?

For applications, make sure you emphasize your ability to lead research and provide evidence for doing so. Make sure the research idea is sound and provides a good basis to establish aresearch career from. Also answer the question of why you are the best person to lead this research area of research.

At interview be confident and enthusiastic without being obnoxious. Get across the key points of why you and why the research. Answer questions in a positive tone, even the negative ones.

Any other advice you can offer that you wish you were given?

Acquiring a fellowship is an excellent first step to establish an independent research career in academia. It is important to continue the momentum of success that comes from winning a fellowship though. So anyways plan your next steps and constantly seek advice from your more senior colleagues.


Jaime Toney - Senior Lecturer, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences

Photograph of Dr Jamie Toney Senior Lecturer, School of Geographical and Earth SciencesName: Dr Jaime Toney
Job tile:
Senior Lecturer                  
School/department/institute: Geographical and Earth Sciences                            
Institution: University of Glasgow       

Career

What does your current role entail?

I am currently a Senior Lecturer in a Research and Teaching position in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences. I lead the BECS Research Group which has a number of ongoing research projects related to paleoclimates, astrobiology, food and beverage use in ancient cultures, and biofuels. I teach on a number of courses for our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year undergraduate students, as well as, on our MSc courses. I supervise a number of PhD students and PDRAs in my research group. I am also involved in a number committees and admin roles at the School level (Athena SWAN SAT member, Health and Safety Fieldwork Officer) and at the University level (Research Planning and Strategy Committee).

What are the key milestones in your career leading up to your current post?

I started as a NERC-funded PDRA in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences (GES) in April 2011 just before receiving my PhD from Brown University, U.S. I successfully applied for a Lectureship in GES starting March 2013. I began building my research group and to my excitement was awarded a prestigious ERC Starting Grant (starting April 2015). I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in August 2016, and since then have been expanding my research group, my laboratories capacities and capabilities, as well as, performing research-led teaching.

What do you think made you stand out to academic recruiters?

I had a proven track record of publications and small grant successes, knew where I would apply for research funding, and fit with the Schools teaching requirements.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to current researchers trying to secure a lectureship?

Be confident. Market your strengths to fit the job provider’s requirements. There is no harm in trying – even unsuccessful applications/interviews provide important learning opportunities.

Anything in particular relating to gaining experience in Research. Teaching or Administration?
  • Try to gain experience in acquiring small grants.
  • Try to perform some level of independent research.
  • Take on people management/supervision when possible, for instance, co-supervision of undergraduate lab projects, MSc students, even unofficial co-supervision of PhD.
  • Do be willing to take on administrative tasks handed down, for example by the Head of School; however, be conscious that the tasks that you take on will further your career development. I would say, “No” to organising coffee morning (a lot of time setting up and cleaning up with little research or teaching advantage). I would say “Yes” to organising a seminar series that brings in either internal or external speakers as this furthers your networking opportunities.
  • Do take on some teaching if it is available and you do not have teaching experience, but be conscious not to overload your schedule.
  • Be proactive in P&DR to see what areas you are lacking information and discuss with your line manager, or with a mentor – how you can gain experience in these areas.
What advice would you give to applicants making applications and preparing for interviews for lecturing posts?
  • Know your audience:
    • What are the strengths of the department you are applying to?
    • How do you fit into their research and teaching strategy?
  • Set yourself apart from the competition. Many academic posts with have up to 100 applicants.
  • Emphasise why your research is innovative and exciting.
  • Emphasise how your teaching approach is engaging for students.
  • Show that you are a leader in the way that you present yourself and your research.
Any other advice you can offer that you wish you had been given?
  • Recognise that people who are successful have had their share of rejections.
  • You are more than good enough to apply.

Donna Yates - Lecturer, Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime

Photograph of Dr Donna YatesName: Dr Donna Yates
Job tile:
Lecturer in Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime
School/department/institute: Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research; School of Social and Political Sciences
Institution: University of Glasgow

Career

What does your current role entail?

Today? Marking papers...

Aside from that, my current role is a combined research/teaching position that, in many ways, is of my own design. On the teaching side I am developing three new postgraduate online courses about aspects of antiquities trafficking, art crime, and so on. The first goes live in September. I also am also actively applying for grant money to support some of the research directions that I want to follow, mostly the theft, trafficking, sale, and protection of sacred art in South Asia and Latin America. I've spent the past 3 years defining my own unique post-PhD research agenda and now I am putting that in practice. Lately I've also been traveling quite a lot for events related to the development of national and international policy: in other words, making the policy impact rounds with some of the results of my previous research.

What are the key milestones in your career leading up to your current post?

Securing a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship is, more or less, why I am here. I had what was more or less 1.5 years of unemployment post PhD before that where I couldn't even make the long list for an academic position. My research area is a bit too multidisciplinary for most entry level academic jobs and I was having trouble making my case. The Leverhulme, however, welcomes research that falls outside of traditional boundaries and they took a chance on me. This meant I could come to Glasgow, team up with top researchers, and do some work that I think is useful and interesting to a lot of people.

Of very recent importance: I answered the Uni's call for online course development proposals. Even though I was a research associate with a temporary contract at the time, I felt I had a strong idea for courses that would be fun for me to teach (essentially only teaching my core interests) and would be a unique offering for students. I put in the bid on my own, it was accepted, and at the close of my Leverhulme Fellowship I had a clear case beyond my research for the Uni to keep me on as a Lecturer.

What do you think made you stand out to academic recruiters?

I'm not sure academic recruiters really wanted much to do with me, at least not before the Leverhulme which is something that I personally applied to. I think up until recently, I was probably ranked rather low by recruiters. I was too much of a risk as my work doesn't really sit easily in any field: archaeology, art history, museum studies, criminology. It was very difficult to prove myself in a cover letter and, like I said, I didn't even get long listed for any of the academic jobs I applied to before the Leverhulme.

Judging from the response I got when my Leverhulme was coming to an end, that's changed. Before Glasgow finalised my current position, when I was still on the market, I was getting very positive responses. I think this is because I could demonstrate in very real terms that I could manage my own research programme, that I could publish the results (I put a lot of emphasis on publications during my fellowship), and that my work fit in to some major grand narratives, discussions, and debates both within the academy and in policy spheres. They no longer had to just take my word for it, I could demonstrate my strengths.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to current researchers trying to secure a lectureship?

You basically have to be the whole package. I know that is quite stressful to think about, but it can be done. I actually spent quite a bit of time reading through and thinking about the University's core strategic goals and devising a 2 year plan to be able to demonstrate that I was working towards those goals in a meaningful way. This is less excruciating than it sounds: by planning ahead I was able to make sure that how I approached all of these goals was consistent with what I actually wanted to be doing. I knew the Uni was interested in developing online courses and increasing international reach...so I developed a programme of online courses targeted at international students, but that relate directly to my own research. How things are set up now, ALL of my teaching is research lead teaching. In a way, this speaks to uniqueness, being able to articulate (and prove) why you are different, special, and should be hired. Everyone who applies to a position has a CV full of stuff. The question is are they able to translate that stuff into an image of what the Uni is looking for? I'd imagine the person who can gets short listed.

Anything in particular relating to gaining experience in Research. Teaching or Administration?

There are a lot of answers to this question, but I think one area that we should be focusing on gaining experience in is meaningful impact/knowledge exchange activities. These areas become more important every year and yet they are poorly understood among academics, and egregiously neglected in training during PhD. That might be changing a bit, however I think researchers who are able to go beyond the surface treatment of KE/Impact reap tremendous rewards with regard to attracting research funding, developing future collaborative partnerships, and appearing active and unique to hiring committees.

What advice would you give to applicants making applications and preparing for interviews for lecturing posts?

Well, I admit I've never had an interview for a lecturing post. The lectureship I am in now is the result of my postdoc fellowship work: I created a position around my strengths and partnerships within the Uni. That was clearly a better trajectory for someone like me. It isn't a traditional path, but not an impossible one. I'm still on a fixed term contract, but it is a foot in the door.

Any other advice you can offer that you wish you had been given?

Oh gosh yes, but it is hard to put it all here. I blog about some of it, when it comes up. Some general thoughts though (and note I speak from social sciences/arts): there is a big difference between doing your own research and assisting someone else's research, both in actual practice but also in how that experience is approached when you are looking to transition into lectureship. Even if you are in a research assistant position, you need to find interesting and creative ways to do your own thing, work on something unique, and get your own first author publications out of it. It's required...and it is a lot of extra work. The other thing which I touched on a bit before: research excellence alone doesn't cut it anymore. You may be convinced that your sparking work will get you noticed, that the hiring committee will be able to see the obvious quality of your outputs, but they really are looking for more than that. Indeed, they NEED more than that. They are thinking impact case studies, publicity and student numbers, and having the right kind of zazz and demonstrable impact to attract research funding. Academia isn't just doing research anymore, for better or for worse, so you must make sure that you're developing your skills in all areas of the academic job description.


 

PhD Career Films

Martin Bellamy - Glagow Museums - PhD History

Martin initially trained as a naval architect, but then worked on a series of temporary contracts in museum and galleries. He graduated with a PhD in history in 1997. This combined with previous experience enabled him to secure a job as Museums Curator for North Ayrshire Council. A PhD was not a requirement but the research training was ideal for curatorial work and was useful in gaining contracts for two books. The PhD and the publishing track record were vital in gaining a post as research manager at Glasgow Museums.

His work has evolved from specific subject knowledge work to building partnerships between the museum service and academia to develop research projects across a wide variety of subject areas.

Martin Bellamy [mp4]


Kimm Curran - University of London - PhD History

Kimm is originally from the United States and graduated from the University of Idaho in History and American Studies. She came to the University of Glasgow to study her PhD in Medieval Scottish History in 2001 and went on to complete her PhD in 2005/6 on Medieval Religious Women in Scotland.

Since 2005, she has worked in a number of sectors in and outwith academia. She has worked in the Heritage sector as a research assistant for the Aberdeen City Council Archaeology Unit; a project officer supporting Early Career academics in History for the Higher Education Academy; a volunteer support officer for the NHS; an academic secretary in Education and currently residing in Recruitment and International office as a Postgraduate Admissions officer for the College of Arts and Social Sciences, and Chair of History Lab+ at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. She keeps her fingers in the academic pie by supporting teaching initiatives in Medieval History at international congresses, writing briefing reports for the Higher Education Academy and supporting Early Career Academic in her role at the IHR.

Kimm Curran [mp4]


Neil Croll - University of Glasgow - PhD CEES

Neil graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1996 with an MA (Hons) History degree; from the University of Strathclyde in 1997 with a Postgraduate Diploma in Russian Language; and in 2003, from the University of Glasgow with PhD in Central and Eastern Studies. He began working in the field of Widening Participation in 2001 as a tutor on the University of Glasgow Top-Up Programme schools project and became Administrator of this programme in 2003. (The Top-Up Programme is the University of Glasgow's flagship WP schools project working with circa 1,200 S6 pupils across 40 schools annually. The schools have low progression rates to Higher Education and Top-Up assists in admissions and also induction and retention of students from WP backgrounds).

Neil became Director of the Top-Up Programme in May 2007 and added the role of University of Glasgow Care Leaver Support Coordinator to this in February 2009. Since November 2009, he has been the Acting Head of Widening Participation for the University of Glasgow.

Neil Croll [mp4]


John Gardner - Anglia Ruskin - PhD English Literature

John joined Anglia Ruskin as a Lecturer in English Literature in 2004, having previously taught at the University of Glasgow. He is currently the Programme Leader for English, Writing and Publishing, and is Principal Lecturer in English Literature. John teaches English Literature from Chaucer to the present day, but his research interests are mainly in Romantic period poetry and eighteenth/nineteenth century culture.

He has published on a range of authors and topics, including Lord Byron, William Hone, Charles Lamb, Percy Shelley, William Wordsworth, the Cato Street Conspiracy, the Queen Caroline Affair and the Peterloo Massacre. His monograph, Poetry and Popular Protest, is to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011.

John Gardner [mp4]


Suzy Houston - University of Glasgow - PhD Phonetics/Sociolinguistics

Suzy, originally from Stamford in Lincolnshire, came to Glasgow University to study English language in 1998, and went on to complete her Masters and Doctorate in the area of Phonetics and Sociolinguistics.

Since graduating in 2008, she has moved into the area of Learning Technology, and has worked in this area in both corporate and academic institutions and across a range of disciplines. Her previous post was as Learning Technologies Manager for accountancy professional body, ACCA, and she is currently employed as e-Learning Development Manager for the School of Law here at the University of Glasgow. She has been an Associate Lecturer for the Open University since 2005, and is one of the authors on the satirical site The Daily Mash.

Suzy Houston [mp4]


Rebecca Kay - GRAMNet - Phd Women's Experiences of early post-Soviet transformations

Rebecca has worked in higher education in the UK since 1998 and at the University of Glasgow since 1999. She is a specialist in Russian Area Studies, especially gender, care and rural transformations. Her teaching and research are grounded in qualitative, ethnographic inquiry into everyday lives, identities and experiences.

Rebecca received a first class honours degree in Russian and French languages from Bradford University in 1993 before moving on to undertake PhD research into women's experiences of early post-Soviet transformations in Moscow and provincial Russia.

Prior to taking up her first academic post at University of Birmingham in 1998, Rebecca worked for an International Non-Governmental Youth Organisation in Brussels. In 2010 Rebecca co-founded the Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet) a research and knowledge exchange network for researchers, activists, public and third sector organisations, which she co-convenes with Professor Alison Phipps.

Rebecca Kay [mp4]


Nalini Paul - University of Glasgow - PhD English Literature

Nalini combines her teaching career with a successful writing career. She currently teaches Creative Writing at DACE. She has recently returned from Orkney where she spent a year as the George Mackay Brown Writing Fellow. Prior to this she taught at the Open University.

She graduated with a PhD in English Literature at Glasgow University in 2008.  She studied Philosophy and Englsih Literature at Edinburgh University and has an MLitt in Creative Writing at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities. She has been widely published in poetry, fiction and journalism, in Canada, where she grew up, the UK and the US.  She is currently working on a collection of poetry inspired by nature and migration, and is writing a novel based on her family history in India and Canada, for which she received a Scottish Arts Council grant.  Nalini has worked collaboratively with artists in Glasgow and Biggar, where she was writer in residence at the Ruby Orange Gallery.  Her collaborative book, Leaf Fall, Seeing by Touch, was published by Grimalkin Press in 2006.

Nalini Paul [mp4]


Fiona Porter - Innovation and Energy Technology - PhD Laser Measurement Techniques

Fiona is currently Regional Co-ordinator for the Researchers in Residence Programme in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Fiona received an honours degree from Aberdeen University in Natural Philosophy (Physics) before carrying out a PhD in the use of laser measurement techniques to improve combustion efficiency at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in partnership with the University of Surrey.

Fiona continued researching combustion diagnostics, managing a range of studies and programmes. Fiona then changed field to understanding corrosion behaviour, initially for gas pipelines and subsequently managing research and programmes in relation to nuclear waste disposal. Since 1998, she has carried out business consultancy work in support of innovation and energy technology and policy studies.

Fiona Porter [mp4]


Rachel Smith - University of Glasgow - PhD Linguistics

Rachel is a phonetician and linguist whose research interests concern how people produce and understand speech. After beginning her undergraduate studies in English Literature, she graduated from King's College, Cambridge in 1998 with a degree in Modern Languages (Czech, Spanish and Linguistics). She obtained an M.Phil. (1999) and Ph.D. (2004) from the Department of Linguistics, University of Cambridge, where she subsequently held a three-year lectureship between 2003 and 2006.

She took up the RCUK Academic Fellowship at the University of Glasgow in 2006. This post began as research-intensive and has allowed her a gradual transition, over five years, into a full teaching and administrative load. In 2009, she became Principal Investigator on an ESRC-funded First Grant award for a two-year project researching Timing in Accents of English.

Rachel Smith [mp4]


 

2009/10 Graduate Career Profiles

Yi Chen - University of Electronic Science and Technology of China

Picture of Chen Yi, Careers Service Alumni Case Studies

Name: Yi Chen
PhD subject: Mechanical Engineering
School: Engineering
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

To gain more research skills for further career development.

If you returned to education after a period working in another career area, what were you doing before?

CAE Software Engineer, Siemens PLM Software.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

Assistant Professor at University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC).

What does your current job entail?

To contribute and provide leadership in research and teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

I have been well trained in every aspect for my current post during my PhD studies at the University of Glasgow, such as teaching, paper-work, writing, networking, which provide an international level assistance for my career development. E.g., as a student investigator of an ESA student project (with supervisors Professor Matthew Cartmell, Dr. Massimiliano Vasile and Dr. Gunnar Tibert, Deployment of a Spinning Space Web, Rocket Experiment for University Students (REXUS), European Space Agency (ESA), Suaineadh Team), the studies for this project provided me with very front-line experiences of the aerospace application in the real situation.

Some of the key stages in my career development:

  • 2012
    Principal Investigator, Reliability Analysis and Optimisation for Deployable Motorised Momentum Exchange Tether under Uncertainties, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), No. 51105061, (2012-Jan-01 to 2014-Dec-31).
  • 2011
    Principal Investigator, Computational Intelligence System for Multidisciplinary Design and Optimisation(CISMDO), the Innovation Fund for Small Technology-based Firms (Innofund), No. 11C26215113499.
  • 2010
    Assistant Professor, School of Mechatronics Engineering, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

External Activities

  • Reviewer for the ASME Journal of Vibration and Acoustics, January 2009 (www.asme.org)
  • Reviewer for the Springer, Memetic Computing, October 2009 (www.springer.com/journal/12293)
  • Reviewer for the Springer, Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems, January 2009 (www.springer.com/journal/10846)
  • Reviewer for the Springer, Astrophysics and Space Science, May 2010 (www.springer.com/astronomy/journal/10509)
  • Reviewer for Taylor & Francis Journals, Engineering Optimization, November 2010 (www.tandf.co.uk/journals)
  • Secretary General of “International Conference on Quality, Reliability, Risk, Maintenance, and Safety Engineering (ICQR2MSE 2012)”, June 15-18 2012, Chengdu, China, IEEE Chengdu Section Sponsored (www.qr2mse.org)
  • Secretary General of “International Conference on Quality, Reliability, Risk, Maintenance, and Safety Engineering (ICQR2MSE 2011)”, June 17-19 2011, Xi’an, China, IEEE Xi’an Section Sponsored (www.icqrms.uestc.edu.cn)

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

Try to establish professional network always.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

Training courses: project management, scientific writing, public speech also, work as a TA / a conference organisation staff is very important training course for every PhD student.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

Time management and work efficiently, don’t spend all day in the Lab.


Guillaume Dauphin - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique

Picture of Guillaume Dauphin, Careers Service Alumni Case Studies

Name: Guillaume Dauphin
PhD subject: Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) dynamics in the Foyle catchment (Ireland), a Bayesian approach
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

The reasons for undertaking a PhD were twofold. Firstly, I’ve always had a general interest in Biology and became a scientist in order to work on trying to understand and explain the processes occurring in nature. Secondly, I later became more interested in working on research topics with potential applications such as conservation.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I am currently working at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA, French national institute for agricultural research). I am occupying a 2 years post-doctorate position during which I am conducting a viability analysis of the natural population of Atlantic salmon in the Allier catchment.

What does your current job entail?

I’m mainly in charge of gathering all data available regarding the Atlantic salmon population in the River Allier and building a model that will allow estimation of historical abundances of Atlantic salmon in the River Allier as well as the contribution of stocked juveniles in the dynamics of the population.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

My current position requires similar skills to those I developed during my PhD and presenting some aspect that I haven’t examined previously. I also had the chance on the project, to continue working with my PhD supervisor who suggested this project to me.

At the end of my PhD, I was lucky enough to have several offers for post-doctoral positions. One of the reasons I chose my current project was to take the opportunity to build on the relationship and develop collaborations with people I already knew. This has been a great way to enhance my network and I look forward to working on a new project in the future with new people and new challenges.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

It is still early in my career and I’m still looking for my own path but I would suggest it is important to discuss career choices with as many people you can (not only your supervisors) in order to get a broader vision of what would be the best thing to do. Also keep in touch with people you meet during your PhD (in your lab, in conferences… ). This will facilitate potential future collaborations.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

Even if it is not the most attractive topic for many students, it is important to make sure to grasp at least the basics concepts and use of statistics and modelling tools. In ecology, these skills are much demanded and having them will open doors for collaboration with other scientists and finding job opportunities.

Also last year I co-organized a European PhD and post-doc conference (NoWPaS 2011, www.nowpas.eu). This is certainly a great experience as it requires dealing with topics that are not specifically science related but can always come handy such as building a budget, managing an important group of people and the associated logistics.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

Try to make the most of it: meet people, attend seminars/conferences.

Last but not least: don’t forget to do other things non PhD related, I always tried to find some time to do some sport in the evening this is what kept me sane on the days when things weren’t working well!


Jian Gan - Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Picture of Jian Gan, Careers Service Alumni Case Studies

PhD subject: Neuroscience
School: Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

I was interested in medical research. I wanted to pursue an academic career in this field.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I am a postdoctoral research fellow now. I am working in a public funded research institute.

What does your current job entail?

An academic career demands a doctorate. You want to maximize your manpower and brainpower to publish high quality papers during your PhD. Meanwhile, you need to develop your communication skills, especially presentation skills. A PhD requires hard work and efficiency. Getting to know your peers during conferences is very helpful.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

Plan early, work hard, be open to different voices. Write your thesis as early as possible. Be aware of long-lasting paper revision before publication.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

Never give up when you are facing difficulties in your project. Talk to your boss. Make him your friend. Learn to be emotionally independent.

You have to be more skilful than your boss when you are finishing your PhD.

Make your career plan as early as possible, work hard for it. Be focused, and determined if you find you really want to be in academia.

The Grad School course was helpful.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

A faithful, supportive partner/friend in your life is pivotal for your success in science.


Roland Kuepfer - CEO

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Name: Roland Kuepfer
PhD subject: The low cost production imperative & foreign direct investment decision by small and medium sized enterprises
School: School of Business and Management
Year of Graduation: 2010

 

 

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

The aim of generating theory and producing insights into the strategic management practices of the firms in focus and their positions in relation to uncertainty, predictability, and preparedness for the outcome of their decision-making related to the phenomenon.

If you returned to education after a period working in another career area, what were you doing before?

I did a part time PhD at UoG; so I was always (or since 28 years) involved in international business.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I am the CEO of a stock quoted company in Switzerland, which is globally active including production sites in Switzerland, Germany, Romania, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and China.

What does your current job entail?

A lot of responsibilities to all known stakeholders a global group has.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

The PhD title enhances a lot your credibility in working together with your stakeholders; especially of course in investor relations but also together with your employees.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

The “PhD research process” is a wonderful experience in which you debate with yourself about your topic of interest and of course with your supervisors to make it valuable for the public.

It is worthwhile to take the pain to do it.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

Intense communication with any “supporter” and with any who has done it – do not hesitate. Listen and compare your actual stage at conferences and at meetings.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

Iron-will to do it – it is worthwhile!

Choose a “simple” topic; do not have the intent to change the world.

Emphasis on your time organisation.


Uwe Hermann - Company Director

Picture of Uwe Hermann, Careers Service Alumni Case Studies

Name: Uwe Hermann
PhD subject: Logistics, Simulation, Production Planning, Operations Research
School: Business & Management
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

Personal reasons most of all; it has always been my dream to do a PhD at a highly reputable UK University, so I did it. This study was chosen as it supports my business opportunities the most and Glasgow offered me the opportunity for part-time study that was not available elsewhere at that time.

If you returned to education after a period working in another career area, what were you doing before?

I ran my own company which I continue to do and will do so in the future.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I have been running my own company in logistics consulting for 18 years as its president and CEO. There were no significant changes in title or career, but there were highly significant changes in my daily business environment since I finished my PhD.

In addition, I will take up a part-time Professorship in Operations Management, Logistics and Supply Chain Management. This decision is completing my personal business life targets of academic work in combination with day-to-day operations.

What does your current job entail?

I am the CEO of a 12 staff international consulting company.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

My Glasgow doctorate is the elementary basis for my future professorship. It delivers the highly demanding prerequisites for this new teaching post here in Germany. This is particularly the case on basis of the structural and methodological background of my work.

In addition, my Glasgow doctorate has earned me numerous compliments from all over my business environment, especially the large amount of work resulting from my actual research oriented approach in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

The topic of research and the field of business should have a large number of coherences and interdependencies. Both, academic work and business interests (those that earn your living and helps you to realise your dreams), should grip into one another and complement each other to such an extent, that you are perceived as an expert in your areas of activity from all of your future stakeholders. Following this statement or advice will ease your entry into the world of business and demonstrate your ability to forecast, plan and implement your entire career propositions.

In some stages of your research work you will encounter thoughts, ideas or simple reflections that at this time of your academic progress might seem to be totally revolutionary or even inconceivable. Do not trash them, but keep them in a safe place or storage, even broaden those thoughts to such an extent that you will be able to recover them at a later stage. – If you are lucky, you will find later that you were far ahead of your time at the time of your research.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

To answer this question satisfactorily, one needs to have a general look at their own work. Here, I found the most rewarding experience from my entire PhD work the reasoning of my chosen methodology. The verification and the validation of my work have further enriched my entire business behaviour. The reason for this is that I find ever so many people around me arguing with facts or figures for which they have absolutely no such verification, sourcing, validation and of course, no methodological background. Therefore, I would highly recommend to all current students to follow the general rules of good and robust research in a close relationship with their supervisors.

In this context of a successful PhD and later a successful CV, I see foremost the skills of robust quantitative reasoning and truly solid qualitative ground work.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

There is only one more chunk of wisdom from my side, especially for all those part-timers out there:

It is probably going to be the toughest time of your life. Doing a PhD, producing your day-today business performance and managing all those challenges at work alongside your own private life in your family and with your friends. All those challenges next to academic work that demands top quality work and highest perseverance from you will finally be most rewarding for you on that day of your graduation and on many, many opportunities thereafter. – It is all worth it.


Basudev Lahiri - National Institute for Standards and Technology

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Name: Basudev Lahiri
PhD subject: Split Ring Resonator (srr) Based Metamaterials
School: Electronics and Electrical Engineering
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

I was always interested and passionate about pursuing research as a main career objective. I started my MSc in Electronics and Electrical Engineering from Glasgow University with a focus on optoelectronics as my main project work. During my MSc project I came across two wonderful people as my supervisors (Dr. Nigel Johnson and Prof. Richard De La Rue) who were pioneers in their field but above all very down to earth and very approachable. They encouraged and inspired me to take on difficult challenges.

I enjoyed my MSc project work immensely and before it got finished I had already made up my mind to pursue a PhD under them. Fortunately, they were kind enough to accept me as their PhD student and working under their supervision has been one of the best moments of my life.

If you returned to education after a period working in another career area, what were you doing before?

I completed my Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communication in India. After that I chose Glasgow University to pursue an MSc. I chose Glasgow particularly due to its strength and reputation in the engineering field.

Apart from that, I had heard many great things about Scotland and the city of Glasgow and wanted to find out for myself. I stayed and worked in Glasgow for seven years and I must say it far exceeds what I have heard. Glasgow is one of the best places for an international student to study and make new friends. Scottish people are friendly and polite and go out of their way to help total strangers. The breath-taking surroundings around Glasgow and up north cannot be matched either.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I am working as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Centre for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST is a Federal Laboratory of the United States’ Department of Commerce.

What does your current job entail?

I work in the field of Bulk Heterojunction Photovoltaics (Solar Cells). My work entails fabrication of Nanoscale plasmonic structures and their optical characterisation. I use Photo thermal Induced Resonance (PTIR) techniques to obtain Nanoscale infrared chemical imaging.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

During my PhD work I was fortunate enough to work in the state of the art James Watt Nanofabrication Centre (JWNC). JWNC has this direct hands-on approach for their users and that helped me to get specialised in many sophisticated nano fabrication techniques. Due to the inspiration from my supervisors and the availability of the JWNC facility, I was able to push myself and my research to the limits and was able to publish some path breaking results in reputed scientific journals. My work got recognised in the scientific community and the nano fabrication techniques that I developed were valued.

For my Post-Doctoral experience I wanted to move to a different place having similar reputation to that of Glasgow. I chose NIST which is a highly reputed measurements standards laboratory. All the skills that I acquired in Glasgow allowed me to join NIST and continue my research. After finishing my Post-Doctoral work here I would love to return to Glasgow and contribute towards its academic research.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

I would ask researchers to be absolutely passionate about their work. PhD study is very intense and very intellectually challenging. Don’t do a PhD just for the sake of it. Do it only if you love to pursue research. Believe it or not, 90% of all our experiments result in failures and many times it is very frustrating if you are not getting any results for days. You have to have patience and resilience to perform different experiments systematically and note down every single step. We learn mostly from our failures and hence it is paramount to critically analyse each and every result.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

I would highly recommend current students to take on the responsibilities of Teaching Assistant (TA) or Research Assistant (RA). Not only they are monetarily rewarding but they also help in increasing confidence levels. I found it a valuable experience to interact with undergraduates and help them with their course and lab work. Not only did it refresh my own concepts that I had learnt many years ago but it also made me learn how to make specialised subjects accessible to all students of different backgrounds.

The University organises a Post Graduate Conference every year for PhD students. I found it very helpful to take part and interact with other PhD students who were in the same situation as me. During the conference they had prizes for the best presentation and best poster. Competing for those prizes not only increase confidence but also enhances the quality of the work done.

Presenting your own results in international conferences is also very rewarding from a learning point of view and enhancing your CV.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

In my opinion, to have a good PhD you must have patience, must work methodically and must interact a lot with your peers and competitors.

Before starting any experiment you must be absolutely clear of the outcome that you desire. And once the experiment finishes you must analyse it to determine why it did or did not work. You must understand and be very clear of all the process that you are doing and should be able to explain why any particular step is followed.

Lastly, after a couple of years into your PhD, you must be able to figure out or predict a few steps ahead of your research outcome and hence alter your experiments accordingly.


Kate Maxwell - Independent Researcher

Name: Kate Maxwell
Employment Sector:
Academia
PhD subject:
Medieval French Song (French and Music)
Year of Graduation: 2009

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

I wanted a career in academia or tertiary-level teaching and research; I was fascinated by the subject area; I got funding; I had an excellent project.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

Running a language editing business for Swedish academics wishing to publish in English (I now live in Sweden), working from home alongside caring for my son (7 months) and daughter (almost 3 years). I do occasional teaching for the university or private sector. The business also allows me to continue my research as an independent researcher, offsetting research expenses against income tax.

What does your current job entail?

(Apart from being a mum!) Self-promotion, advertising, reading, proofreading: dealing with delicate issues such as telling someone their English isn’t half as good as they think it is (but in a nice way!). Lots of admin - tax in a foreign language isn’t exactly fun (so I pay an accountant). My USP (unique selling point) is that I am also an active researcher, so to this end I write articles, and am editing a book. I also compose music, and I am studying Swedish part-time.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

It’s fair to say that my business is something which I enjoy doing, but am doing for the moment in order to be able to spend time with my children while they are young. I still hope to get a ‘proper job’ in a university in the future, and this is a way of keeping up-to-date with research and getting to know local researchers, and get paid for it. If I didn’t have a doctorate, there’d be no point: I’m in a much better position to help people with their language and academic writing because it’s what I do, too.

Before moving to Sweden I worked at a university in Paris as a lectrice (native language assistant), and this was a fantastic year for me. I also have a TEFL certificate.

Between children, I spent a year working as a teaching fellow in my old institution. This gave me an absolutely thorough grounding in teaching experience (much more than at GTA level), but the international commute also made me realise that my family was more important to me than my career at this time. The kids will only be young once; I want to remain in the same country as them. That’s why I’m studying Swedish and keeping up my contacts through my business: if we stay here (and we’d like to) I hope to be able to break into the Swedish academic system.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

Get a back-up plan. I’m so glad I did a TEFL certificate; it has been a key resource for working abroad.

Be open-minded and follow your instincts: at the end of my PhD I turned down a place on the civil service faststream because I just couldn’t imagine myself as a ‘pen-pusher’. To think that I might have been in London, bringing in tuition fees (which I wholly oppose), and dodging the rioters... Instead I am working from home, looking out over lake Vättern, working with a sleeping baby beside me and with a happy little girl at pre-school just around the corner. I never, ever imagined myself living like this, but it’s lovely.

Don’t give up on your dreams, but accept they might not happen all at once. The job market is not great at the moment, so make the best of things. I still hope to get (what I call a) proper job, but for now I’m enjoying combining being a mum and working for myself - the best of both worlds.

It’s never too late to move. We found out my hubby had been offered a job in Sweden the day after we found out I was pregnant with our first child. Suddenly life plans had to change, and for the better.

Use your imagination. Personally, I decided that ‘self-employed’ was much better than ‘un-employed’. Having decided to stay in Sweden if possible, I need to get fluent in the language to work permanently. So I thought up my business, and I’m plugging away at the publications. Sure, it’s not what I envision spending my whole life doing, but it’s doing the CV - and the contacts - no harm at all; indeed quite the contrary.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

I really enjoyed the Grad School. It ruled out a number of options for me, and brought in some new ones (including starting a business...). I wouldn’t, however, say it enhanced my CV, since no-one really seems to know what it is.

If you want a career in academia get involved in everything you can in your department. Be a dogsbody for conferences. Get your name on grant applications - recruiters love to ask about them, and you don’t have to mention the ones that don’t work. By all means get involved with editing student publications, since editing (of some description) is something you’re bound to have to do at some time in the future, but don’t waste your best stuff in there (I did, and now no-one reads it): if it’s worth publishing, it’s worth publishing anywhere. That said, student journals are fantastic for getting a feel for the process, and for having your work torn to shreds by an anonymous reviewer for the first time. (Can you see my scars?!)

Any other pearls of wisdom?

I could have saved myself time and energy if I’d not spent my final year applying for every job going: only go for ones you have a realistic chance of being interviewed for, because your time is precious. Be patient, and if you’re not one of the lucky ones to walk straight into a post-doc job, then make the best of the time you have to explore other things, and to boost your publications.

Be proud of what you have achieved - a PhD is bloody hard work and to get to the end in good shape, for many of us, borders on the miraculous.

It’s your life. Most of us are into our late 20s (at least!) when we graduate: think about all those things you wanted to achieve before you were 30 (40, 50, etc). Why not backpack around the world? (You’re used to having virtually no money anyway!) Go on a retreat and find yourself? Learn a new skill or language? Start a family? Take some time out to be you in whichever way is right. A PhD is such a slog, a bit of breathing space at the end of it will do your inner self good in the long run.


Kerry O'Shea - Research Assistant

Name: Kerry O'Shea
Employment sector:
Academic Research
PhD subject:
Thin Film Magnetism
School: Physics and Astronomy
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

I really enjoyed a research project I carried out in the final year of my degree and wanted to continue research in a similar field. I also thought a PhD would give me a good chance of getting a job after graduating.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I’m currently employed as a research assistant at Glasgow University, working on a large European project called IFOX, exploring novel materials for future memory and sensor devices.

What does your current job entail?

My current job is mainly research based with some teaching duties such as lab demonstrating or tutoring. I carry out research in collaboration with the other academic and industrial partners in the network to meet the project deliverables.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

Due to the nature of my current job, having a PhD was a requirement. The area of research is slightly different to that of my PhD, therefore I saw it as an excellent opportunity to broaden my research interests and develop my skills. The PI of the project at Glasgow was also my PhD supervisor, therefore I knew the people I would be working with, which is a bonus.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

If you want a career in scientific research, then a strong publication record will put you in an excellent position for employment. I would advise trying to publish as much as possible before finishing a PhD.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

I would recommend getting as much experience of public speaking as possible, at conferences or public outreach activities for example. It really builds confidence and answering questions from different audiences will be good preparation for the viva at the end of the PhD. I was involved with a science exhibition aimed at the general public and having to explain complex ideas to school children was hugely beneficial, it was also lots of fun!

Any other pearls of wisdom?

Enjoy the experience! It’s the only time you will get to focus entirely on your own research. I would also advise getting in contact with other PhD students as it can be quite isolating at times and it helps to know there are others going through the same thing.


Amanullah De Sondy - Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies

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Name: Amanullah De Sondy
Employment Sector: Academia
PhD subject:
Theology and Religious Studies (Islamic Studies)
Year of Graduation: 2009

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

From my undergraduate years at Stirling University to my Masters degree at Abertay Dundee, I was enticed by great teachers for a thirst for knowledge. It may come as a surprise but each step of my academic career has fallen into place without me even concentrating on making it happen. I think great teachers make great students and the best students never want to become their teachers – humility and modesty is key to academic learning and growth.

If you returned to education after a period working in another career area, what were you doing before?

I was one of the few, if not only, Muslim teachers of Religious Education in Scotland. I taught at several schools up and down the country and also worked on re-formulating much material on Islam for schools. But, again, I felt I could do more in terms of academic studies and so decided to keep pursuing higher degrees.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I am now an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Miami in Florida, USA. I have been very lucky in getting hired after my PhD in 2009. I initially taught at Ithaca College, upstate New York, from 2009-2010 and then I was hired by the University of Miami. I’m very proud as a Glasgow boy of Pakistani heritage breaking into the academic world in the US. I was born and raised in Glasgow and it was the proudest moment being capped for my PhD in my home town. That I will never forget!

What does your current job entail?

I teach courses on Introduction to Islam, gender/sexuality in Islam, Asian religions, contemporary Islam through film, media and music. I am also very much interested in working with the media on public understanding of Islam and have worked with several nationally acclaimed US mediums to this end. And I am still a regular contributor to Thought For The Day with BBC Radio Scotland.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

I was pushed by great mentors at the University of Glasgow, especially Dr. Lloyd Ridgeon, who was a constant source of inspiration for me. There are always moments in the life of a PhD student’s life when they think of giving up but my supervisor charged me with so much energy every time I sat to talk to him. Being a student at the University of Glasgow also helped me refine my media skills and I think broadening my view and presentation of Islam in this way greatly strengthened my career potential, making me much sought after.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

To remain focused and not think too much about post-PhD life and to make sure that you pursue something outside of academic walls. I umpired at Wimbledon for two years to get away from books (and this has been great for job interviews)!

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

I would say listen very carefully to your academic supervisor, I often feel that PhD students get ahead of themselves by thinking that their PhD supervisors are getting ‘old’ or not ‘losing it’ but in fact they are wrong and this closes the mind to soaking up essential gems from those who have been doing this work for years.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

If you have the opportunity to work abroad do it but don’t be surprised when Paolo Nutini’s ‘These streets’ comes on, you well up thinking about the streets of Scotland in general and Glasgow in particular!


Dr Catherine Stewart - MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit

Name: Dr Catherine Stewart
Employment sector:
Academia - Post-Doctorate
PhD subject:
Statistics
School: FIMS/Engineering & Mathematical Sciences
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

I had really enjoyed learning Statistics at Glasgow Uni as an undergrad, so knew for sure that I wanted to do a postgraduate degree. I originally had a place to do a Statistics Masters degree, but in the summer before I was due to start I saw an advertisement for a Statistics PhD in the MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit working in an area of Statistics that I had been really interested in as an undergrad, so the topic area of the PhD was the main reason I did it.

Secondly, it was to gain a postgraduate qualification from a good university which I thought would make me look more appealing to prospective employers.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I am currently working as a Career Development Fellow (CDF) in the MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit (with my PhD supervisor). This is basically a 3-year post-doc position as a public health statistician.

I started the CDF just over a year after completing my PhD. Prior to this (i.e. immediately following the PhD) I had gone to work with Royal London as an actuarial student. Royal London is a Group consisting companies in the life insurance, pensions and investment sectors. I worked here for just over 9 months before deciding that it wasn’t the career path for me. There was too much further study involved considering I had already spent 9 years at university working towards undergraduate, Masters and PhD degrees. Furthermore, after having been responsible for putting together a thesis for the PhD (basically being in charge of my own research) I felt that I wasn’t being given enough responsibility as an actuarial trainee. For me, the job wasn’t very exciting and I missed working in public health. I also missed the whole research process from doing literature reviews, to analysis to writing up results and so decided that a move back into research would be the best option for me.

What does your current job entail?

In my opinion, the post-doctorate position is basically like a PhD, but instead of writing up a thesis at the end, I am focusing on learning to write up papers and have them published in journals. This position is building on what I learned as a PhD student and I will have a lot of opportunities to undertake further training to set me up for a career in research. Specifically, I am involved in two different projects at the moment. The main project is investigating how various health outcomes are patterned by educational status in Scotland. The second project involves looking at the association between air pollution and mortality in Glasgow and surrounding areas in West Central Scotland.

I also do some lecturing in the School of Maths and Statistics on a first year Statistics course.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

Some of the modelling techniques I used during the PhD will be applied in the position I am doing now, so I think that helped when I applied for this post. I knew I would enjoy the work as I had done similar work in the past during the PhD. I am working with my PhD supervisor and we had worked well together during the PhD. This was one of the main reasons I took this job over others that I had applied for at the same time.

A career in research was not what I had in mind when I completed the PhD, so having a break and trying something completely different was a big influence. I was very unhappy in the actuarial job and felt that I wasn’t getting the chance to make use of skills I had learned during the PhD.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

If you know you want to stay in research/academia then I would definitely try to get along to as many conferences/seminars as possible – as well as giving practice at presenting, it also gives you the chance to network, meaning potential employers may keep you in mind for any upcoming postdoc positions! Also take advantage of any teaching opportunities during the PhD – although my postdoc is purely research based (the teaching I do is not a requirement), if you are doing your postdoc in a university, you will most likely be expected to contribute to teaching. Also try to write up papers from your PhD either during or soon afterwards to add to your list of publications.

If you are moving outside of research, then I would say that extra-curricular activities are definitely more of a focus in interviews – at least that was the case for the interviews I had when applying for an actuarial student position. Most employers outside of research don’t understand what a PhD is and in one interview I had they viewed it as more of a hindrance than a help, thinking that I would struggle to make the move out of research into the private sector. They assume all the applicants being interviewed are qualified to the same level and are looking for something extra as to why you should be employed. Attending a course on interview techniques offered by the Careers Service helped me think about how I would answer questions in interviews, and it was useful when I came to doing it for real. Most of the questions want to hear about your experiences of things like team work, when you have held a position of responsibility etc and they get fed up hearing about peoples’ examples in a university setting so the more extra-curricular experiences you have, the better. Also attend any open days that prospective employers have.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

Don’t be afraid to try something different. Choosing a career now doesn’t mean you are stuck with it for the rest of your life! When I finished my PhD, all I had ever known was university life and was desperate to try something new. Although the actuarial career didn’t work out, it helped me realise that research was what I enjoyed doing the most and that it was the career path I wanted to take.

Don’t just focus on the financial rewards. Although a well-paid job would be the ideal, job satisfaction and enjoyment is, in my opinion, much more important.


Dr Kirsty Ross - Postgraduate Research Associate, University of Strathclyde

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Name: Kirsty Ross
Employment sector: Academia - Postdoctoral Research
PhD subject: Novel strategies to prevent & treat pneumococcal disease
School: CMVS, School of Life Sciences, Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

I knew early in my undergraduate studies that I wanted a career pursuing scientific research. I believed that a PhD was essential for progression up the academic ladder, & I knew that it would stand me in good stead looking outside of academia as well.

If you returned to education after a period working in another career area, what were you doing before?

Following my undergraduate graduation, I worked at the Moredun Research Institute as a research assistant, assisting in the development of a new vaccine technology. The technology uses bacteriophages as delivery vectors. I performed ELISAs & purified ‘phage as part of my work. This technology has now been spun out as a SME called BigDNA & I am proud to have contributed in some small way!

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I am currently working as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Strathclyde in the Higher Education sector.

What does your current job entail?

My current position is funded by the charity Arthritis Research UK. I am investigating the role of mast cells in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) & whether they may be viable targets for novel therapeutics in the treatment of RA. My day ordinarily starts with catching up & replying to emails, meetings with colleagues about potential collaborations, & then I spend the rest of the day in the lab or animal unit.

I work with isolated primary cells in tissue culture to understand the mechanisms by which they communicate, either by cell-to-cell contact or secreted mediators. I also work with multiple animal models of disease, using in vivo imaging methods to understand the disease processes as they unfold in normal mice or in genetically modified mice. I also help supervise & train undergraduate & postgraduate students in the lab.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

A doctorate was an essential pre-requisite for my current position. My previous position was made redundant & I had two months of unemployment before I secured this position.

In those two months, I made contact with various scientists that I had met through previous work, requesting chats over coffee for advice & suggestions for future career directions. I also volunteered in a lab that I was interested in working in & that led to a short consultancy for a contract research organisation (CRO) establishing a new method of monitoring RA.

One of those informal chats led to an email about this position, I submitted my CV, was fortunate to be called for interview & secured the job! During the two months out of the lab it gave me plenty of think about what I actually want to do with my career & life in general, and where I’d like to be in five to ten years. This was helped by advice that I received through the mentor-training programme run by the Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering & Technology.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

My main tip would be to not sleep walk through your PhD. By that I mean that your research is important, but you should also seriously think about what you want to do afterwards, & it is unlikely that you will be able to walk straight into a postdoctoral position without some legwork. It is difficult for everyone looking for a job right now, but there are positions available. Most organisations tend to recruit internally or through friends of friends.

Don’t drift from position to position, but take charge of your career &, most importantly, talk to people. Don’t be afraid to drop that top professor an email to request a chat over coffee. They won’t bite & most have a lot of time for up and coming researchers, as do others in careers outside of academia.

Equally, if you’ve decided that you don’t want to remain in academia then that is not a reflection on you ‘failing’ as a researcher. It isn’t for everyone & a PhD leaves you superbly equipped with soft transferable skills to have a real impact on any other career path that you might choose.

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

To make the most of your PhD experience I would recommend attending as many relevant courses as possible that are offered by the University. In particular, I would recommend the Project Management, Writing Your Thesis Using Word & How To Find A Job courses. This type of training is expensive & hard to come by outside of academia.

I would recommend joining relevant professional societies, such as the British Society for Immunology or the Society for General Microbiology, as they often offer reduced membership for students & access to financial support to attend conferences & continuing professional development courses. It also improves your CV by showing that you are capable of acquiring funds yourself, long before you might be eligible for Principal Investigator grants.

Submit abstracts to relevant conferences & volunteer to present posters or presentations, as these are valuable additions to your CV.

Contributing to teaching by demonstrating also provides you with further communication skills as you teach to individuals with differing levels of understanding.

Create two CVs, one with details of everything that you have ever done, and a second one that might be sent to prospective employers. The first is for your information & allows you to cherry-pick specific instances to include on your abbreviated CV for employers.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

I came across the following blog post only recently, & I found that it really resonated with me & many of my friends, whom I would describe as intelligent, high flying people: www.sarahaskew.net.

I have detailed the website above but I will paraphrase just here:

“Imposter Syndrome is described as feeling anxiety, insecurity, frustration & fear that you will be uncovered as a fraud… Impostor Syndrome also comes with a weird paradox: we feel that everyone else in our field is much smarter than we are, but we fail to acknowledge that these very smart people have hired us to work with them. They hired us to further their own career (no one hires you to do you a favour!). If you’ve ever been involved in the hiring of a PhD student or a postdoc, you’ll know that these positions are massively oversubscribed. Yet if you are in one, someone you consider to be much smarter than you picked you from this huge batch of applications as the best candidate for the job. Why aren’t we better at trusting that judgment?… Finally, it helps to realise that many senior people too suffer from Impostor Syndrome. One scientist, who comes across as supremely smart and competent, once told me this, after delivering a keynote speech to a thousand-plus audience. They still feel like they’re on the verge of being uncovered as a fraud, and the audiences only get bigger.”

I suppose my last piece of advice would be that you are not alone!


Dr Kristina Weaver - Institute for Environmental Negotiation

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Name: Kristina Weaver
Employment sector: Environmental Negotiation
PhD subject: Geographical & Earth Sciences and English Literature (joint)
School: Faculty of Arts
Year of Graduation: 2010

Career

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake a PhD?

I entered into the PhD program knowing that I probably did not want an academic career (I was more attracted to applied work), but as a serious scholar I did want to delve into my subject in more detail and to create an option to return to academia, in some form, in the future.

I had the opportunity to spend a year of fieldwork in Nigeria, which was also a priority for me.

I always viewed the PhD as a potentially versatile degree. As a US citizen, the UK system suited my goal to complete the research degree in less time than a US social science PhD typically entails, which made sense to me given my desire to transfer to a non-academic career track. When the funding came together, it seemed to me that the PhD course would be a great opportunity.

If you returned to education after a period working in another career area, what were you doing before?

I travelled to the UK on a Marshall Scholarship right after my undergraduate degree. I think it is advantageous to take “time off,” but in my case I gained some of the benefits of diverse non-academic experiences by being engaged as a community organizer and activist throughout my education. I gained many transferable skills through academia and through the parallel community work I so much enjoyed.

What are you doing now? Please include the employment sector, type of industry or organisation and job title.

I am developing a career in the field of environmental negotiation, which is a broad and exciting world that combines elements of geography (one of the fields I studied for my joint PhD), environmental planning and design, mediation and conflict resolution, and community organizing.

I made my way into this career through aggressive networking and willingness to start with volunteer and pro bono work. I currently work as a consultant for two organizations: the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia and Skeo Solutions (a national firm where my work primarily involves environmental justice and community engagement projects).

What does your current job entail?

I work with diverse stakeholder groups to help communities develop solutions to complex environmental issues, to register their ideas and concerns, and to reach consensus on strategies for working together or moving forward. I get to use many different skills in my current career: facilitation and training (skills gained through both activism and teaching), research and analysis, and writing. In order to be competitive within this career field, I have taken some time over the past few years to develop my skills as a grant writer.

The basic ability to do this work was created during my academic career, but now I write grants for foundations as well as state and federal government agencies. Because I currently work as a consultant, my ability to write grants (a highly valued skill) helps me to get extra “side work” as needed.

How did your doctorate lead to your current post?

Because of my doctorate I was able to affiliate formally as a Scholar in Residence with one of my current employers – the Institute for Environmental Negotiation. While it was initially an unpaid post, it became a way for me to transition into doing regular contract work.

Every day I apply the skills I gained as a geographer and a writer, as well as those I honed as an activist and organizer. The contacts I made through my PhD have not particularly helped me break into this new career in the US, but I hope that I will be able to leverage those contacts when I have more time to tackle my goal of publishing my dissertation.

Helping Today’s Researchers

What top tips would you offer to researchers about managing their career if they want to follow a similar path to your own?

Although I knew that I did not want to aggressively pursue an academic tenure track job, I spent relatively little time during my studies exploring what alternative career options there might be. I had the mindset that I would be able to do that work once the dissertation was written.

In retrospect I wish I had taken better advantage of career services and gained familiarity with the “informational interview” tool of networking, which has helped me land my current jobs. My PhD completion coincided with the economic downturn and it was a stressful time to be contemplating breaking into something new. That said, in some ways my willingness to think “outside the mold” and to start with less than perfect positions has helped me in the long run. I would definitely echo the career advice out there that one needs to think of the core skills developed in academia and imagine the many creative ways those skills might be adapted to other fields.

The abilities to think critically, organizing complex projects, and write effectively are highly prized in nearly every sector. As someone who has always “zig-zagged” (I hold degrees in several subject areas), I now view my career path as a continuation of my education.

I feel lucky to be able to dive into some new areas of work and inquiry even after completing the doctorate. Advice I would give: while in your studies, get involved in other kinds of work that you enjoy (for me it was activism and community organizing). This can help you get through the doctoral program with more sanity even while you gain experience in other sectors. To be sure, when one transitions from an academic track to a “post academic” career, there is bound to be a period of uncertainty and a series of experiences or jobs that are less than ideal. In some ways I am still navigating that, but I also acknowledge that in today’s economy there can be real advantages to the versatility that comes with cross-industry experience.

A few years after completing my dissertation, I am starting to experience some of the rewards of my choices – both in terms of finances and quality of life/work balance. If such a path beckons, I wish you luck in your adventure beyond the academy!

What advice would you give in terms of making the most of your PhD experience?

I think it is definitely a good idea to get involved in conference organizing or academic research groups, or to get involved outside the academy during your time there. By learning to work effectively with people as you organize events or projects, you will gain skills that can be transferred to many different kinds of jobs and careers.

Any other pearls of wisdom?

Enjoy the journey!