UCL Researchers
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    The UCL Careers team use this Blog to share their ‘news and views’ about careers with you. You will find snippets about a whole range of career related issues, news from recruiters and links to interesting articles in the media.

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    Karen Barnard – Head of UCL Careers

    UCL Careers is part of The Careers Group, University of London

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    Archive for March, 2015

    Being a Research Scientist in Schlumberger

    By Vivienne C Watson, on 24 March 2015

    peter-SchlumbergerPeter Johnson, Research Scientist for Schlumberger, completed his MEng and PhD in Engineering at UCL and tells us about his experience working for Schlumberger.

    How did I get the role I am in today:

    I am a research scientist for Schlumberger in Cambridge, UK. We supply technology to oil & gas companies (e.g. exploration, drilling, production), in 85+ countries and invest ~$1.2bn annually in research.

    I found a job advert on an online jobs board (jobs.ac.uk), I emailed my C.V. and then went through 5 stages of interview to get the job. I wanted a career in renewable energy, but applied for this job as an exception because of the great research infrastructure, the opportunity to travel and get practical experience (my first 18 months was spent on oil fields in Siberia), and the focus on fluid machinery, which is my area of interest, and the good impression that the people made on me.

    What I like about working in my role:

    Travel, industry exposure, interesting technology, challenging real world problems, funding for real research, the infrastructure to really bring a technology to market, smart people, great lifestyle (genuine 9-5), good pay/benefits.

    What are my biggest challenges?

    Large companies (126,000+ people) are chaotic and confusing; is extracting natural resources motivating?

    To what extent do I use my specialist knowledge and/or higher level skills obtained from my PhD?

    I don’t use my very specialist knowledge, but I do use my grounding in physics and engineering, which was enhanced by my PhD. Lots of analytical skills are also transferable (e.g. after learning fluid mechanics, electromagnetics is quite similar!). My practical experience during my PhD is very valuable, and above all my ability to analyse is essential to my job (including to the level of peer reviewed journal papers). 

    My top tips:

    The most important thing is to do your best at the job at hand, as this will allow you to show how capable you are. You cannot plan your career, so while you may aspire to particular jobs, don’t restrict yourself when you’re actually searching, because there’s so much out there that you don’t know – embrace the uncertainty as it is very exciting!

    Peter will be running the following Employer Led Skills Workshop for Researchers this Wednesday 25th March:

    Interviews – Communicating with Impact

    More information can be found here

    Research students book here

    Research staff book here

    Interview with a geoscientist

    By S Donaldson, on 23 March 2015

    James photoDr James Scotchman gained his PhD in Geology from UCL, and now works as a Geoscientist at Neftex Petroleum Consultants Ltd, a consultancy company that helps clients in natural resource exploration.

    How did you move from your PhD into your current role?

    Prior to leaving academia in 2012 I studied at UCL, gaining an MSci and a PhD in geology. My postgraduate research focussed on the study of Eocene climate and its influence on the geological record. During my PhD I was lucky enough to be offered an internship with ExxonMobil at their research centre in Houston, Texas. Whilst there I gained an insight into the role research has within hydrocarbon exploration.

    With my PhD completed I was confronted the choice of either continuing in research or entering into industry. I decided to apply for both.

    Post doctoral applications – In the time between interviews I began to write up chapters from my PhD for publication as this would help toward post doctoral positions I was applying for. By the time I was invited for interview I had two draft manuscripts ready for submission to peer-reviewed journals. For me the upside of continuing within research was the ability to focus on my interests and possibly hang on to the student lifestyle! The large down side I could foresee was the need for periodical re-application for funding so that I could continue research and potentially move institutions. Such uncertainty did not sound like fun to me.

    Industry applications – I applied for several graduate programs including BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and Statoil. With my focus on completing my PhD in the autumn/winter of 2012 I neglected to apply in time for many of the graduate programs, resulting in many of them being full for that year. For those graduate programs I was offered an interview the process was gruelling. Despite this, the hope was to enter one of these graduate programs with longer term employment prospects compared with postdoctoral positions. With applications to the larger hydrocarbon exploration companies being unsuccessful I turned to the smaller independent and consulting companies. Overall the interviews for these positions were more fulfilling with many valuable lessons learned from each one. The most valuable lesson learnt toward the end of my search was to highlight to the employers how I could apply my skills to what the company did and help them make more money/sales etc. Up to this point I had mainly described what I had done previously. Once I had realised this rather obvious lesson I was offered two positions that includes where I am today.

    What I like about working in my role

    My current role enables me to apply the skills (both geological and transferrable) gained from my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to a range of problems. Overall the position is a great combination of research and industry.

    What are my biggest challenges?

    With the position being a combination of research and industry there is no real downside, except for having a fixed work day. The days of lazing around in bed are well and truly over!

    To what extent do I use my specialist knowledge and/or higher level skills obtained from my PhD?

    Within my role the specialist knowledge I gained from my PhD is used from time to time depending upon the project focus. General geological concepts along with transferrable skills developed during my research are used on a daily basis. These skills include the use of MATLAB and Excel for processing large datasets and general presentation skills.

    My top tips

    As I stated earlier the best tip is to sell yourself to the employer by stating how you can apply what you have learnt to their problem/business. Talk to your supervisor(s) about what you are interested in and chat to people at conferences. You never know what can happen through networking!

    A Science Communicator’s Story

    By S Donaldson, on 19 March 2015

    Anthea MartinDr Anthea Martin gained a PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Dundee. Here she speaks about her role at CRUK as a Science Communications Manager.

    [Since giving this interview, Dr Martin has taken up a role as a Case-for-Support Development Manager at Marie Curie]

    How did you move from your PhD to your current role?

    I probably realised about 3 or 4 months into my PhD that a long-term career in research wasn’t for me – I found the atmosphere a little too competitive, and as I’m quite a shy person, I wasn’t great at the networking and self-promotion aspects of academia. But it was actually only a few months before I finished my PhD that I worked out what I might do instead. I was reading a journal, and it fell open on a page about a medical writer. The job appealed to me as it involved writing about science and giving presentations, which were parts of research I’d enjoyed. I applied to lots of medical communications agencies – companies contracted by pharma companies or biotechs to manage communications about new developments – and got a position at Gardiner-Caldwell.

    Gardiner-Caldwell had a great ethos of training and supporting new writers, and I learned a lot from them, especially about handling clients and stakeholder interests – the business side of science – and about writing for lots of different types of audiences. I was with them for about 2 and half years, and really enjoyed the variety of the role, but during that time I realised that I would feel more fulfilled working for a charity than for pharma companies. I actually had cancer when I was younger, and as a cancer survivor, one of the reasons I went into research was to try to give something back. So I figured working for a charity might be another way to do that, and that’s when I found a position at CRUK working on their annual report. I went on to work in a range of science communications roles at CRUK, culminating in my current role, where I work closely with fundraisers, and aim my communications directly at potential donors, hoping to move them to support CRUK’s work.

    What does a normal working day look like for you?

    I don’t think there is a ‘normal’ working day! I can be meeting with fundraisers to find out what they need for a particular fundraising pitch, searching our portfolio of work to find projects that might appeal to certain potential donors, or writing up projects that need support. I also sometimes go out and meet donors or scientists, or help fundraisers in a more strategic sense, sharing the next big developments that they should be fundraising for.

    What are the best things about working in your role?

    I really love being able to bring science and research to life. I think science can be an area people are afraid of, so it’s great to know that you’ve turned this potentially alien and scary thing into something real and inspiring for people. And helping people make the decision to give to a good cause is wonderful, as is working for an organization that touches so many lives. I also enjoy speaking with the scientists, and hearing about cutting-edge science, sometimes even before it’s actually happened, as it’s just at the funding application stage.

    I like the breadth of knowledge that I get in this role, as compared to the deep but narrow knowledge I acquired in research. I get to see the big picture of the science, and how it all fits together to benefit people. And I like my colleagues; we’re a very close-knit team, with a good sense of humour, and the same ultimate goal – but I also enjoy that I get to work independently a lot of the time too.

    What are the biggest challenges you face in your work/what are the worst bits? Please think about elements that might put others off, even if you don’t mind them.

    There’s a lot of sitting at a desk, which I suppose people can be a bit down on. If you’d told me when I was 21 that I would end up doing a desk job, I would’ve thought it was horrendous! But it’s really not all that bad. The other potential downside is the bureaucracy associated with any quite-large organization. Unlike in the lab, when it’s just you and your research, it takes lots of people, discussions, and processes to make a decision.

    What’s the progression like/where do you see yourself going from here?

    There are more supervisory positions in the team that people can apply for when they’re available. As I have, people also tend to move around within CRUK, which is a great way to try new things, and some people move on to communications roles at other organisations, like charities or universities.

    What top tips would you pass on to a PhD student/post-doc interested in this type of work?

    If you’ve only worked within academia, it can be really frightening when you’re thinking of leaving it. So I’d tell people not to be afraid! A PhD will give you a whole host of skills that employers care about: you’ll be able to forward plan, be efficient with your time, and to trouble-shoot problems. A lot of researchers are also driven, enthusiastic, and passionate, all qualities that are great to bring to any role.

    I’d also really recommend that people try to get some experience in the field they want to go into, even if it’s just a couple of weeks. That way you can learn more about the role, but also about the types of organization you might prefer to work for.

    Bookings open for A Future in Government and Policy: Employer Forum for PhDs and Researchers

    By Vivienne C Watson, on 6 March 2015

    26th March 2015 – 5:30pm – 7:30pm

    The aim of this event is to help PhD students and other researchers with their career planning by providing an opportunity to question, to hear from and network with employers that come from a variety of roles within the government and policy sector, who are PhD holders themselves. The panel of speakers will give tips on how research students can use their qualifications and experiences to enter this field as well as information about their sector.

    Panel of speakers will be:

    Dr Richard Malham – Senior Policy Officer, Academy of Medical Sciences
    Dr Joseph Elliston – Higher Scientific Officer, Government Operational Research (GORS)
    Dr Rory Yeomans – Senior Research Analyst, Ministry of Justice
    Dr George Windsor – Senior Policy Researcher, Nesta

    To find out more and to read the speakers’ biographies please go to: http://courses.grad.ucl.ac.uk/course-details.pht?course_ID=2214

    Research Students book here

    Research Staff book here

    Alternate academic careers Q&A online hosted by University of Birmingham

    By Vivienne C Watson, on 2 March 2015

    altaclecture2_edited-3Looking for a career in academia? Are you sure?

    There are a host of career opportunities open to postgraduate researchers once you finish your programme of study. As well as the traditional academic career paths, there are opportunities within higher education that suit the skills and experience of postgraduate researchers. Whether working to support research or student development, alternate academic careers can deliver many of the benefits of working in higher education but without some of the potential drawbacks of a life in research.

    This online event, hosted by University of Birmingham will allow you to put questions to a panel of higher education professionals who have not only supported the work of researchers around the world, they have also carried out postgraduate research themselves. If you’ve ever wondered what a career in public engagement, career development or student support might look like, or if you’re just curious about what else you could do with your PhD then join the panel on 16 March 2015 at 16:00 UTC/GMT.

    Further details including how to book can be found here: https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/studentservices/graduateschool/eventinfo/alt-ac.aspx