Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.
Job title and company: School and College Engagement Intern at Sheffield Hallam University
Approximate salary for your role: £17,750
Why are you doing that? These are the words I kept hearing from friends, family, old colleagues and new ones.
And the answer? Because I enjoy it.
I originally studied my undergraduate degree in Human Biology at Sheffield Hallam University. During this I went on a year’s placement to the Oncology department at the University of Sheffield, working within the Myeloma Research team. I loved it! Although the thought of our weekly labs at Hallam didn’t thrill me, the hands on experimental work on placement made me think creatively, develop problem solving skills, become analytical and put knowledge into practice. I definitely didn’t want to go back and sit in lectures. And that’s when I knew I wanted to come back and do a PhD.
I passed my viva and got my PhD in Molecular Oncology in March 2018 with no plans for the future other than strapping a backpack on and going round New Zealand for two months. The flight back was daunting, knowing I would have to kick off the job searching as soon as I landed.
During my PhD I had joined the Medical Postgraduate Society (MPGS), and became the chair. This involved going to staff meetings as a student representative, organising the yearly medical school conference and talking to incoming students to name a few responsibilities. As well as this I got involved in the Pint of Science Festival and STEM ambassador sessions. I began to look forward to these parts of my week a bit more than being in the labs. I enjoyed the organisation and logistical side of event planning and committee meetings, the delivery of subjects I was passionate about, and the hope that I’d inspired a younger generation to aim for something they might not have thought achievable.
So what could I do that combined all of these skills?
With this in mind I started looking for jobs based on science communication. I’m now working back at Sheffield Hallam University as a science and technology school and college engagement intern. This involves organisation of school/college visits into the university, with the aim of inspiring students to think about going on to do these STEM based degrees and the careers that could follow. It also involves going out into schools/colleges and delivering either general university transition advice, or subject specific tasters.
So far I have been involved in flagship events such as First Lego League, Engineering Development Trusts’ Industrial Cadets and most recently Science Week. Our team created a weeklong programme of events from subject master classes, to a night of science and comedy, to a weekend family science day, pulling in over 3000 students and members of the public.
Why are you doing that?
Many people wondered (and asked) why I had taken a graduate internship. Some people’s opinion was that it was a step in the wrong direction, why had I taken a job that was lower paid than most PhD graduates were aiming for and I could have applied for four years earlier straight from graduation without having to have a PhD. But those opinions don’t matter. If I could tell future graduates one thing it would be do what you want to do, not what you’re expected to do. Many of my fellow PhD colleagues went on to stay in academia or work in science industry jobs. But for me that wasn’t what I was going to enjoy. And could I have done this job four years ago? Not to the same standard, I’m learning things every day from the amazing team at Sheffield Hallam UK Student Recruitment and every day brings new challenges.
And The Future?
I don’t know and that’s also OK. Ultimately I want to do a job that I enjoy and that is fulfilling. At the minute this means trying to inspire students to come to university and have the amazing experience that I did. Do I miss being in the labs? Occasionally. Especially when a rowdy bunch of Y12s aren’t listening to a word I’m saying, then yes I’d do anything to be sat in a dark microscope room manually counting thousands of cells on my own. I often feel that other people have their lives and career ambitions all thought out, which isn’t a bad thing. But it also isn’t a bad thing to say I don’t know what I want to be when I’m older.