Destination PhD... via the scenic route


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The 2015 series of Careers After Biological Sciences talks at the University of Leicester (UK) included two presentations by current PhD students. They had taken very different routes from their initial undergraduate degree into their further studies. In this presentation Ananthi Ramachandran [BSc(Hons) Biological Sciences (Microbiology), 2009] describes stepping out of academia and then back into it several years later.

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Destination PhD... via the scenic route

  1. 1. Careers after Biological Sciences Destination PhD via the Scenic Route By Ananthi Ramachandran
  2. 2. About me WHO AM I? • Ananthi Ramachandran QUALIFICATIONS: • BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences (Microbiology) CURRENT OCCUPATION: • 1st Year PhD student- interactions between bacteriophages, epithelial cells and C. difficile.
  3. 3. My Journey from BSc to PhD  Graduated in July 2009 from UoL  First job September 2009 I am NEVER going back to uni again!!
  4. 4. In the Working World  MSD Animal Health (Merck Sharp and Dohme)  Animal pharmaceutical company  Veterinary vaccines  Scientific Officer, maternity cover. R&D department  “Campylobacter team” – Reduction of Campylobacter present in chickens  Consolidated and put into context basic microbiology skills learnt at uni  Great team, great friends  Based in my home town- Milton Keynes.
  5. 5. In the Working World  Maternity cover- 1 year  Job hunted after 6 months of being in position - unsuccessful  2 positions opened up in MSD AH  One in same department, one in BTS (Biotechnology and Support)  Went for the BTS role-New skills, better career progression (more likely to be promoted)  Dec 2010. Scientist- BTS, temporary contract with a view to be made permanent.
  6. 6. In the Working World  BTS- production support and troubleshooting department.  Other projects linked with other departments  My allocated project- development of cell line tests to replace the use of mice in QC testing.  Involved developing, optimising and validating cell line assays on Clostridial toxins.  Training and management of cell culture team  Transferring methods to QC department. DEC 2011- MADE PERMANENT
  7. 7. Meanwhile at home…. Family were making a list of things I should be doing to develop my career: • Think about what I really want to do • Will I really get any more opportunities at MSD AH? • Job hunt  change jobs • Further qualifications (MSc) • Additional courses
  8. 8. Difference of opinions FAMILY ME Think about what I really want to do Laboratory work was something I enjoyed and I was happy to continue with it. Will I really get any more opportunities at MSD AH? I was in the best possible department in the company. But I had to be realistic about career progression in the department. Further qualifications (MSc) Couldn’t afford it, plus a few years working in industry equates to an MSc. Additional courses Too much “working from home” not motivated enough for that Job hunt  change jobs I decided this was the best option for me, keep job hunting and applying for jobs that interested me.
  9. 9. Time was flying by…  2012 came and 2013 was looming  Job applications  rejections  A few interviews  rejections  More responsibilities given at work but no recognition.  Started to feel more demotivated What should I do? How can I progress? Maybe I should have done an MSc
  10. 10. An opportunity arises…  Team leader and main boss suggested….  Initial reaction   I thought my bosses had lost the plot!  Why on earth had they suggested that? I SHOULD DO A PHD!!
  11. 11. Difference of opinion #2 Me  Not smart enough  Intimidating  Struggled with my BSc so PhD I had no chance  Didn’t have “that way” of thinking Bosses  Very supportive  Listened to me  Simplified PhD  Suggested I do it through work  6 years part time  YOU CAN DO IT!!
  12. 12. DECISION MADE! (sort of)  This was it. I was going to do a PhD.  I CAN do it!  BUT…..  Did I really want to spend 6 years on a PhD at MSD AH?
  13. 13. Decision definitely made  I wanted to do a PhD, but not while working at MSD AH  Job hunting stopped, PhD hunting began.  Applied for a few in London (commutable from MK).  And Leicester.  PhD applications were as competitive as job applications  Lucky break came…Back to Leicester Oct 2013!  Pathogenesis of Acanthamoeba keratitis.
  14. 14. Extraordinary Events  First PhD student in the lab- thrown in the deep end. Expected to learn everything myself. Work experience helped!  More students joined after 3-8 months.  8 in total, with me being the most senior student  All the projects overlapped.  No distinctive aims and objectives.  End of 2014 decision was made by the department to give all of us new projects and new supervisors.  Starting from scratch…. Best in the long run, short term stress for long term gain.
  15. 15. What I have learnt  It’s never too late to do a PhD.  Ensure support network is there if doing a PhD through work.  Pick a subject you are going to enjoy working on.  What techniques will you learn throughout your PhD?  Try and speak to the students in the lab, are there post docs/other PhD students to support you?