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.

    We hope you enjoy reading the Blog and will be inspired to tell us your views.

    If you want to suggest things that students and graduates might find helpful, please let us know – we want to hear from you.

    Karen Barnard – Head of UCL Careers

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

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    Want to gain work experience while studying for your PhD? This is one way of doing it.

    By Vivienne C Watson, on 20 July 2017

    CeyhunHave you ever thought about getting into consulting or want to gain some practical experience whilst you are studying? We asked Ceyhun, a PhD student, who has been working as a freelance researcher through Freshminds recruitment consultancy (a boutique recruitment agency resourcing candidates for consultancy projects) for the last 3 years, to share his experience. Whilst completing his qualification, Ceyhun has worked on more than 30 short term research based projects, using his analytical and quantitative skills to build an impressive profile of commercial experience, before making the official transition into the working world.

    Hear what he had to say about managing the study/ work split and the skills he’s gained.

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

    I’m still in the process of moving as I’m currently finishing up my PhD. I was surprised by how welcoming the consultancy job market is towards PhD graduates and that they really admire the research skills and the analytical thinking.

    What does an average working day look like?

    It usually starts with an overall plan that gives me a good idea of what the goals are of today’s work and how I can organise the tasks of the day. These can include meetings with colleagues or checking on the outcome of yesterday’s work. In most cases the overall plan doesn’t work out and it’s is important to have the ability to be flexible and adapt. The job is not just sitting in front of a computer but includes a lot of collaborative thinking and collective activities, such as developing ideas through open discussions.

    How does your PhD help you in your job?

    My PhD in Food Policy is very practical and focuses on real world problems rather than abstract theoretical models. This is particularly relevant when you have to understand the scope of problems and the value chain on a process or product. The methods I use are very useful to understand how data has been collected and can be used in project. My PhD skills also include practice in having strong evaluating logic and drawing clear conclusions, which is transferrable to convincing clients about the research outcomes of the project.

    What are the best things about your job?

    The best thing is the variety and breadth of work. For example, today, you may be working on the South American window market, and next week it’s about a struggling chocolate factory in Italy. There are no limits and there is no set daily routine for projects. You learn so much every day, and it’s not just about the products, but also about the culture of certain markets and countries. In this sense, the work stays interesting and never gets boring.

    What are the downsides?

    As mentioned earlier, you need to be flexible and you need to be able to adapt to the needs of the project and team. This can also include days where you can’t just leave after 6 or 7pm, and that’s something I was totally aware of. So far, from my experience, there are times where you have to stay late to get the project done which is not always ideal.

    What tips would you give researchers wanting to move into the same, or similar, role?

    If you want to go towards consultancy, it is important you can demonstrate that you have some degree of relevant experience. In my case, employees were keen on my practical research and communication skills, as well as my analytical approach to problems, but less about the number of articles I have published or the number of conferences I have been to.

    Instead of working for many months on one publication, I use my time constructively and may split my time by working on a short term project role at a consultancy.

     

    Ceyhun obtained his Master’s degree in Human Geography at Eberhard Karls University Tubingen in Germany and is now undertaking his PHD in Food Policy at London City University. Through this he looks at governance and policy structures for methods of boosting food sustainability policy.

    You can also have a read at his PhD page for more details: http://www.city.ac.uk/arts-social-sciences/sociology/centre-for-food-policy/phd-students/ceyhun-gungor

     

    Freshminds is an award winning boutique recruitment consultancy, placing top talent across different levels of experience into a range of strategic and commercial roles, either on a permanent, or a freelance and interim project basis.

    Our specialised Research Projects team works on an advisory and consultative structure, helping to connect leading businesses or small boutiques with top candidates on a short-term basis to find business solutions. Projects can range from 1 day, to 6 months across a variety of industry sectors.    

    Interested to find out how Freshminds can help? Visit www.freshminds.co.uk to find out more, or get in touch with Emilie at Emilie.Pain@freshminds.co.uk    

    Engineering solutions for businesses: a careers case study

    By S Donaldson, on 1 June 2017

    Simon ChildDr Simon Child has a PhD in Space Physics and is now a Solutions Engineer at Tessella, an organisation that “uses data science to accelerate evidence-based decision making, allowing businesses to improve profitability, reduce costs, streamline operations, avoid errors and out-innovate the competition”. Simon spoke at one of our Careers in Technology forums for researchers, and then kindly agreed to chat about his career again for our blog.

    How did you move from academia to your current role?
    My PhD was in Space Physics, working primarily with data taken by the Ulysses Spacecraft. As that mission was coming to a close, to stay in academia would have required a shift in research focus. Also, I was not sure if the nomadic life of a postdoc was something I was truly interested in doing long term (a couple of years here and there, moving where the research funding takes you). As such, I started looking for a career in industry. I started my job search with a clear idea of what I was looking for: something that would challenge me, somewhere I would have interesting problems to get my teeth into and continue learning and developing and, if possible, somewhere I could retain some level of contact with the space industry.

    I put my CV on Monster and was contacted by a couple of recruitment agencies who put me forward for a range of different roles. Knowing what I know now, that approach had both benefits and drawbacks. On the positive side I was made aware of companies and opportunities that I hadn’t uncovered on my own and the consultants helped me to improve my CV. However, I now realise that the majority of companies do not use agencies for their recruitment and have their own internal recruitment teams, especially for graduate and postgraduate entry level roles. Tessella is one such company.

    Early on in my academic career, I had flagged up Tessella as one of the companies I was interested in applying to. I was attracted by their focus on training and development and the opportunity to work across a wide range of technologies and sectors, including the space industry. After I applied, I was delighted to be invited to a first interview and then a second interview assessment day. During the recruitment process, I was impressed to find out about the company’s portfolio of clients and projects, as well as the similar mind-set of the people I met. When a job offer came through, it was not a hard decision to accept it.

    What does a normal working day look like for you?
    I am currently a Solutions Engineer at Tessella and what I do day-to-day depends on the project I am working on. My typical activities include: systems engineering (engineering trade-off studies, producing technical requirements specifications, designing algorithms to be used in a Radar DSPU); systems architecture (how the algorithms will talk to the rest of the real-time software within the system during flight); simulation and modelling; data analysis/machine learning; control engineering; software engineering. Ultimately I am helping our clients solve some of their really difficult technical challenges.

    The majority of my work is computer based and I also regularly attend technical meetings, with both clients and colleagues. Depending on the project I could be working full time in the Tessella office in Stevenage (where I am based), or spending some or all of my time working on client sites alongside their engineers and scientists.

    My role does not involve much long-distance travelling – each Tessella office tends to work predominately with organisations in close proximity. However there have been opportunities for colleagues to spend extended periods of time working with clients in France, Germany and Spain, as well as with colleagues in our offices in the Netherlands and USA.

    What are the best things about working in your role?
    I really value the relationships I have built up with both colleagues and clients. Tessella recruits graduates and postgraduates from science, engineering and mathematics, so my colleagues are all like-minded, intelligent people. That said, everyone has expertise in different areas, from different domain knowledge to various technical skills, so there is a lot of collaboration and innovative thinking to solve clients’ problems, which is also one of the best things about working here. I also enjoy the work that we do – projects are always challenging and interesting and I am always learning something new.

    What are the worst bits?
    To some people, the prospect of starting out on a project with an unfamiliar, complex problem to solve may seem daunting, but I relish the challenge. Starting from scratch and building up a solution by employing my knowledge and skills within my team is really satisfying, especially when what I have created is successfully delivered to the client.

    Is a PhD essential for your role?
    A PhD is not essential to work at Tessella; we also recruit people with MSc and BSc qualifications. However, it certainly helps to have a PhD. I use a lot of the skills that I developed during my PhD, including data analysis, programming, computational modelling, data visualisation, verbal and written communication, problem solving, time management, mentoring, networking, and more. The reason over half of the company have PhDs is because all of those skills, which have been developed further during postgraduate studies, are invaluable in solving the complex challenges facing our clients. The ability to build relationships with clients is arguably just as important as your technical skills, so confidence and communication skills are also important.

    Where do you see yourself going from here?
    Every year, I have an appraisal with my manager, part of which includes reviewing and updating my career development plan. This contains things like my long term career goals and what I need to do in the short term in order to achieve them, as well as what training I need to undertake for my immediate project needs. The appraisal is also a review of my performance – good and bad – over the previous twelve months so that I can identify what areas I need to work on in order to guide my career in a particular direction. Feedback for appraisals is sought from all areas across the company, from directors to any technical or head office staff you have worked with.

    Over the course of my career, I have chosen to stay on a broadly technical career path, from a junior developer to leading project teams. However, I have also taken opportunities to take formal training in other areas, including, project management, technical sales and business analysis. I have also had the opportunity to spend some time working in those roles, to give me an idea of what is involved should I wish to transfer into one of them in the future.

    I am also a line manager, currently to one junior technical member of staff. I really enjoy this part of my role: working with him early on in his career, helping turn all those ideas and thoughts into a career plan, then helping him reach his goals. I am looking forward to managing more staff in the future.

    What top tips would you pass on to a researcher interested in this type of work?
    Unless you are looking for a job that will specifically utilise your PhD research, it will be your transferable skills that make you valuable to an organisation, for example, problem solving, teamwork, presenting complex ideas, debating issues, etc. Identify your strong and weak areas and take advantage of opportunities to develop and improve them. You can also make yourself more attractive to potential employers by developing yourself outside of your PhD, for example, building your confidence, public speaking, leadership, etc., so get involved with new hobbies and extra-curricular activities.

    Sparkly technology pic taken from Octavio Santos Neto

    Dr Karen Kelsky told us how to get tenure in the US

    By S Donaldson, on 24 May 2017

    USA

    Last week, Dr Karen Kelsky, tenured professor turned careers guru, and author of The Professor is in, spoke to our researchers about how to hack the US academic job market. She focused specifically on US ‘tenure-track’ positions, which involve a few years of teaching and research, and then guarantee you consideration for a permanent academic appointment. However, most of her advice was applicable to post-doc roles too. If you couldn’t make it along, here’s a summary of the take-home points:

    – The market is tough. In case anyone is under any illusions, the US is not an easy alternative to the UK. Karen told us the US produces ~60,000 PhDs a year, and a tenure-track opening may attract 200-1000 applications. Just like here, the majority of US PhDs end up leaving academia.

    – The Academic Search Committee are more overworked than you are. The academics sifting through applications are even busier than you are, so Karen estimated they give only ~2 minutes of attention to each tenure-track application. Better make the good stuff easy to find!

    – Know the institution. Karen talked us through US university types – from Ivy League to Community College – and it’s certainly a more complex system than ours. But just as in the UK, when looking at lectureship positions, institution-type influences the pay and teaching/research load. Make sure you’re applying for a role that suits you, and you’re emphasising the right things in your applications. The Fulbright Commission and good old Wikipedia will give you an idea of US university types.

    – Stop thinking of yourself as a student. Karen was very firm on this. When looking to hire new lecturers the search committee are looking for a new peer, not a student. Present yourself as a peer, and have references from people who can speak about you as a peer. Start now. Network with as many people as possible, at conferences and via social media, sharing your outputs and your ideas. Like what? Like a peer.

    – Have a 5-year plan. A future focus in your applications, with a specific and detailed plan, will help recruiters see what an asset you’ll be to their department. And once you’re on the tenure track, sticking to a clear plan will help you meet the tough plublication criteria that qualifies you for tenure.

    – Brits babble on (and other nationalities are too blunt): For a US audience, Karen says we Brits are way too wordy. Don’t write a cover letter that reads like a Hugh Grant script. Present the facts, and get to the point. Karen also mentioned some nationalities write so bluntly it appears arrogant…even to a US audience whom many perceive as unashamed self-promoters! To check how you’re coming across, book a researcher one-to-one appointment to discuss your application documents.

    – (Almost) always negotiate. Once you’ve been offered a position, in the US there’s far more room to negotiate your pay and conditions than here. Karen outlines some rare cases where it may not be appropriate in her book, but for the most part, negotiate away.

    For more useful tips for getting ahead in academia, check out Karen’s blog and book, as well as our UK-centred schedule of academic careers workshops, covering career planning, applications, and interviews.

    Taking subject expertise into industry: a case study

    By S Donaldson, on 19 May 2017

    Dr Stephen Hassard has a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction from UCL, and is now a User Experience Researcher at Garmin. We asked him a few questions about his career journey so far.

    Hassard

    Tell us about your job.

    My PhD was in Human-Computer Interaction through UCLIC (University College London Interaction Centre), a joint venture between the Psychology and Computer Science departments of UCL. Five years ago I moved from academia into the field of User Experience Design as a User Experience Researcher at Garmin International. To provide a little context to what kind of work I do; I work within a multi-disciplinary team that builds in-car systems that are easy, and safe to use, while driving. Within my role as a UX Researcher I have two major focuses at my job: design work and research. On the design side of things I’ve done work on mobile apps, dash-cams, navigation systems, and infotainment systems. The design work I do is mostly creating wire-frames, developing prototypes, and testing proposed designs with users to make sure they are easy to use. On the research side, I run the driver distraction lab here at Garmin where I use a driver simulator and eye-tracking to make sure that the products we develop adhere to government guidelines for what is, and what is not acceptable, levels of distraction while driving. So in a nutshell I design apps that are as safe as possible for you to use while driving.

    How did you move from academia to your current role?

    To be honest it was a slow transition. While I was working as a Psychology Lecturer at the University of Winnipeg I started a consulting business that focused on providing user experience services to smaller companies who couldn’t afford a full-time UX staff member. When I decided to move into industry full-time the skills and experience I had built in my consultancy were invaluable in proving I had real-world experience when I went to apply for jobs in industry.

    When did you decide academia wasn’t for you?

    Two main factors came together to convince me to move from Academia to Industry. The first was the nature of the work I was doing in Academia felt so disconnected from the industry I was trying to help. I was feeling like it was becoming too theoretical and insular. The other was job stability. Working in academia involves long hours and an uncertain future. I wanted something more long-term and stable than what the soft-money of academia could provide.

    How did you find out about the sector?

    Working in the field of UX was something I had always wanted to do. My undergrad degrees were in Computer Science and Cognitive Psychology, and my PhD was in Human-Computer Interaction, so this was an area I was aware of from early in my development.

    How did you go about applying?

    This was I think the trickiest thing about moving from academia to industry. There were some jobs I applied to where having a PhD was almost a liability in that they assumed I wanted to be in academia and treated me with suspicion when I was looking for jobs in industry. I think this was based on the fact that some people just assume that everything you do in academia is simply navel-gazing and hence you have no real world experience that would apply to this job. The trick was really driving home the practical nature of my research and how it could help them, as a company, be more efficient and effective. Having a portfolio of concrete examples of my work really helped breakdown those assumptions.

    What does a normal working day look like for you?

    A typical day is probably doing a design review with the development team, working on some wire-frames in Adobe Illustrator, having a team-meeting to coordinate work across our team, and then prepping for the latest eye-tracking study I am hoping to start soon.

    What are the best things about working in your role?

    I love that my job is always different. Some days I’m doing creative work, like creating a new in-dash music player, and other days I’m running detailed and highly controlled experiments.

    And what are the worst bits?

    I would say the biggest challenge is the juggling of multiple things. As I am usually doing several different projects in tandem I rarely get the time to sit down and work on things that require more focus like writing up research for white papers or submission to journals.

    Is a PhD essential for your role?

    Strictly speaking no, as many UX researcher positions only require an MSc, but I have found that having a PhD makes it easier to jump into senior roles in bigger companies.

    What skills do you use from your PhD in your current role?

    The most important skills I use from my PhD are critical thinking, experimental design, and effective communication techniques. Doing a PhD forces you to learn how to break down a big problem in to smaller manageable chunks to tackle, run studies to better understand each of those sub-problems, and then communicate complex ideas to people who may not be as familiar with the nuances of your area as you are. Being systematic in how I understand complex problems, running replicable studies to understand the problem space, and effectively communicating those findings to stakeholders are key to what I do everyday.

    What top tips would you pass on to a researcher interested in this type of work?

    For academics looking to move into the field of UX I would say make sure you know the fundamentals of design that you are not likely to learn in academia (so know how to use the adobe suite of products, and at least one prototyping package like Axure) and work on selling yourself, with an emphasis on how your work and skills are applicable to the work being done in industry. It may be helpful to prep a portfolio of your work showing what you did and the direct results of your work. Also, look for your closest UXPA (User Experience Professionals Association) chapter and start attending their monthly events. These are great places to network and learn about job opportunities.

     

    Book now to attend a Life Science Careers Event for Researchers

    By Vivienne C Watson, on 8 May 2017

    Professional Careers Beyond Academia: Life Science Careers Event for Researchers

    15th May 2017 – 09:00 – 18:30

    UCL Careers has teamed up with the UCL Populations and Lifelong Health Domain Early Career Network and the UCL Institute of Child Health Post-doc Society to run a careers day that will focus on career paths for researchers outside of academia in the life science sector. The event will be a series of careers talks where you will have the chance to hear from employers who are PhD holders themselves. The careers talks will be followed by a  networking fair in the morning and a second networking fair in the afternoon.

    Agenda:

    09.00 – 09.30 Registration

    09.30 – 10.00 Richard Laughlin, Head of Organisational Development

    10.00 – 10.30 Dr Paul Sykes, Site and Resource Manager, QuintilesIMS

    10.30 – 11.00 Boston Consulting Group – speaker to be confirmed

    11.00 – 11.30 Dr Maebh Kelly, Senior Consultant, Pope Woodhead and Associates Ltd.

    11:30 – 14:00 Networking fair with a selection of employers and lunch break (Deep Science Ventures, National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, Boston Consulting Group, QuintilesIMS, Pope Woodhead and Associates Ltd, British Society for Immunology)

    14.00 – 14.30 Dr Kirstie Bennett, Senior Scientist (Pharmacology), Heptares Therapeutics LtD

    14.30 – 15.00 Dr Francis Lister, Special Project Lead, Deep Science Ventures

    15.00 – 15.30 Dr Hayley Syrad, Research Associate II, Outcomes Research, Evidera
    Dr Katherine Gibbs, Market Access Writer II, Market Access Evidera

    15:30 – 16:00 Elaine Denniss, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

    16.00 – 18:30 Networking fair with a selection of employers and networking reception (Deep Science Ventures, National School of Healthcare Science, Heptares Therapeutics, Evidera)

    To find out more please go to: https://courses.grad.ucl.ac.uk/course-details.pht?course_ID=2234

    Research students book here

    Research staff book here

    How do I build an academic career in the US?

    By S Donaldson, on 8 May 2017

    Karen publicity picGood question, right? At UCL Careers, we get asked this a lot: how does the US academic system differ to ours? And how do I maximise my chances of success over there?! If you’ve been asking these questions, you should book a spot on next Monday 15th May’s evening workshop. We’re shipping in an expert on the subject – Dr Karen Kelsky – to share her words of wisdom. And when it comes to progressing in academia in the US, Karen wrote the book. Literally. She’s the author of The Professor is in, “The definitive career guide for grad students, adjuncts, post-docs and anyone else eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D.  into their ideal job”.

    Karen will be speaking about the current American academic job market and offering tips for how to get on to the much coveted tenure track (as well as non-academic options). The event will begin with an interactive session on interviews by Kellee Weinhold from 5:00pm to 6:00pm, with Dr Karen Kelsky speaking from 6:00pm-7:30pm.

    To find out more and to book a spot, see the Eventbrite page here: http://bit.ly/2quKezt

    What’s working in a think tank actually like?

    By S Donaldson, on 21 April 2017

    ParakilasJacobCrop_0Dr Jacob Parakilas has a PhD in International Relations, and is now Assistant Head of the US and Americas Programme at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank. Jacob contributed to our Careers in Government and Policy forum for researchers in February. For those who couldn’t make it in February, Jacob also kindly agreed to give us an insight into his career path, below.
     

    How did you move from academia to your current role?

    I moved straight from my PhD programme into policy work, first at an NGO and then to Chatham House. It was always basically my intention to go back into the policy world; academia wasn’t really the goal for me. I’d previously worked in think tanks and government in Washington, DC, so I had some lower-level experience in the field and good sense that it was where I wanted to be.

    When I started applying for jobs in think tanks towards the end of my PhD programme, I heavily emphasised my research background, since it was what I was currently working on (and excited about). After a string of rejections, I re-focused my applications and balanced out my research background with my professional skills, which made all the difference in terms of being taken seriously.

    What does a normal working day look like for you?

    It depends enormously on the time of year, what’s happening in the world, and a variety of other factors. As a whole, my job involves roughly equal measures of fundraising, administration, management, research and public-facing work, but the balance isn’t consistent year-round. During the US elections, I spent a lot of time on public-facing work (TV and radio appearances, giving lectures, being on panels, etc.); at the end of financial years I tend to spend more time on management and fundraising activities. It’s almost never the case that my day involves just one category, so I’m rarely if ever bored.

    What are the best things about working in your role?

    We have a pretty direct line to policymakers – when we put out a piece of research, we can generally get it in front of relevant policymakers relatively easily. We also tend to be the first point of call for media when they need analysis on political developments, which means we have opportunities to speak to a much wider audience on a regular basis. Finally, my subject area means that I get to work on an amazingly broad range of topics – everything from US defence strategy to trade agreements to the potential role of artificial intelligence in geopolitics.

     
    What are the biggest challenges?

    We face a fairly constant pressure to fundraise to support our work. My institution is funded from a broad range of sources, which is the right approach for all sorts of reasons. But it also means that we have to develop and maintain relationships with corporations, governments, foundations and individuals – all of which require slightly different approaches, and which requires significant time commitments.

    It can also be difficult to balance long-term, strategic goals against the need to respond to daily events. That’s been especially true in my role over the last few months, since things have been moving so quickly and unpredictably in US politics & foreign policy.

    Is a PhD essential in your work?

    Not absolutely essential but very useful. Many junior think tank researchers don’t have doctorates, and in mid-career research posts/middle management it’s a mixture of people with and without them. At the highest levels – research directors, directors of studies, institute directors – it’s much closer to universal.

    The research skills are largely transferrable, though the style of writing is more different than you might think (I wrote a very policy-oriented PhD and it still took more than a year before people stopped telling me my writing was ‘too academic’). The biggest transferrable skills are fundraising, time management and project management, which all look a bit different inside and outside academia but rely on the same fundamentals. Finally, it’s not the biggest consideration, but having a PhD is also a helpful mark of credibility when you’re dealing with senior figures.

    What’s the progression like?

    Think tanks tend to be pretty flat hierarchies, which is good in terms of getting opportunities to do a range of different types of work, but less good in terms of offering a clear, predictable path upwards. On the plus side, they tend to be extremely well-connected, so from a think tank it’s pretty easy to make the jump to government, the private sector, self-employment as an independent consultant/researcher, or to NGOs. There are some examples of people who start out at the first rung of the think tank ladder and climb straight up to heading a programme or institute, but most people move up through the various sectors adjacent to think tanks. In other words, it gives you a lot of options.

    What top tips would you pass on to researchers interested in this type of work?

    Talk to people! On the whole people, in this sector are friendly and open to polite requests for informational interviews. It also gets you on their radar, which helps when it comes to applying for jobs or finding consulting opportunities.

    I can’t stress the importance of administrative skills enough. A large portion of my average day isn’t directly research-related (despite the fact that I’m a researcher). That’s true throughout the think tank world: almost no one has a pure research job, so you have to be able to capable of doing a whole range of work – and to show that in your applications.

    A PhD’s experience in Healthcare Data Science

    By S Donaldson, on 10 April 2017

    MaheenAs part of her PhD, Maheen Faisal undertook a three month placement at uMotif, a digital healthcare company. This type of hands-on work experience is great for career exploration, and Maheen learned lots about herself and the industry. She’s kindly agreed to share her experience, below, so you can learn from it too!

    My background is in Mathematics – I have a BSc Mathematics degree and an MSc Applied Mathematics degree. Data Science was a field that I was always interested in exploring but the context never seemed very interesting to me. When I came across a Data Science role in a healthcare company, it was almost like a fusion of two things I was quite interested in and decided to go with the placement.

    My placement was at uMotif which is a digital healthcare company that provides a patient data capture platform in the form of a mobile phone app. In 2016, uMotif launched a global study “100 For Parkinson’s” where people with Parkinson’s disease and without tracked their health on their smartphone for 100 days. This resulted in the generation of a large complex dataset consisting of over 2.2 million data points and 4218 participants.

    My role at uMotif was that of a Data Scientist and it involved using advanced statistical analysis techniques and machine learning to analyse the 100 For Parkinson’s dataset and to explore hidden patterns in the data. Various questions were posed by uMotif to use the dataset to a) understand the Parkinson’s population better and to discover potential digital biomarkers of Parkinson’s and b) to utilize the dataset to understand how uMotif as a company could improve participant/patient retention in future studies.

    Towards the end of my placement, I had the chance to convert a complex network graph into a powerful and engaging info graphic for the 100 For Parkinson’s end of study press release: http://umotif.com/news/the-dataset-from-100-for-parkinson-s-exceeds-2-2-million-data-points. This was quite fun and rewarding, to have a physical outcome of my work that was shared with the participants of the study.

    I gained a lot of experience working with “Big Data”. The first thing I learned was MySQL which is a database management system, in order to be able to query the data that I needed to work with. I completed a Machine Learning course to grasp the basics of Machine Learning. I then learned how to use the Machine Learning and Statistics toolbox in Matlab, R and the Amazon Web Services Machine Learning console. I also learned how to use Tableau – a brilliant data visualization software program, which helps visualize complex data.

    Honestly, at times the work placement felt extremely challenging and I felt as though I would not be able to accomplish much or meet the expectations of my placement supervisors. Persevering through it however, I learned that I sometimes underestimate myself and can actually pick up difficult concepts quickly and meet expectations.

    When thinking about whether the placement influenced my career decision I would say yes and no. Previously, I was pretty sure that I would stay in academia as I quite enjoy research. I also wasn’t sure whether there was anything out there for me that I would actually enjoy. At the moment I’m still not sure whether I would like to stay in academia or not, but I do know that if I ventured out, that Data Science is a field that I would enjoy working in.

    Top Tips for other researchers?

    1. Make sure you sit down and think about where exactly you would like to work or what you would like to do. It may not be immediately clear so start with something really basic and build from that. For example, if I had not gone down my current career path, I would probably be a doctor or be working in healthcare in some capacity. With that in mind, when I was brainstorming for my PIPS, I tried to look for healthcare related roles until I found something that interested me.
    2. Don’t be shy when contacting companies, the worst that can happen is that they won’t reply. I got my work placement by sending a message through a generic “Contact Us” form on the company website!

    Leaving academia but not Higher Education

    By S Donaldson, on 22 February 2017

    Dr Eliza Burton studied for her PhD at UCL’s Institute for Ophthalmology and now works with us at UCL Careers as a Placements, Internships and Vacancies Administrator…which made it nice and easy for us to share her PhD careers case study with you all.

    eliza_picHow did you get into your current role?

    Towards the end of my PhD I began looking for roles within higher education but outside of academia. Although I always enjoyed carrying out research, I had moved on a lot since the start of my PhD, having a baby and acquiring a mortgage along the way and was keen to pursue stable, permanent roles. I had always enjoyed the University environment and working with students, so pursuing a career in this sector seemed like a great choice.

    I had taken on a variety of responsibilities during my PhD, aside from straight research and this had allowed me to gain experience in university administration and student facing roles. When it came to applying for jobs I looked for opportunities which matched these skills.

    What does your normal working day look like?

    I am currently in a part-time position working 3 days a week. My role varies from week to week and has evolved over the course of my time here as I have taken on new responsibilities. A typical day might see me liaising with external employers, over phone, email or in person; preparing student careers newsletters; planning and hosting careers events and promoting job opportunities to our students. No two days are the same and the varied academic calendar means that the role changes throughout the year.

    What are the best bits?

    The role has allowed me to develop and take on new responsibilities since I started, setting me up well for future job opportunities. UCL has a great training and development scheme and although I am in the office less regularly than full-timers, I do not feel overlooked for openings. The team atmosphere has been a real change from doing a PhD which is often quite a solitary pursuit. This means the work is less high pressured than research, with a more collaborative focus.

    And the biggest challenges?

    Compared to a PhD the hours are much more structured. I was always fairly regular with my working hours whilst studying but if you are the type to prefer more autonomous working arrangements the shift to a 9-5 role could be challenging.

    Did you need your PhD?

    A PhD is not essential for the role but equally it is not uncommon, and you’re unlikely to be the only Dr. There are many transferable skills you can develop across the course of a PhD as well as commercial awareness of the higher education sector. The key is learning to identify these skills and applying them to non-research roles. For example, my PhD involved clinical research and many of the people skills developed during this have now been applied to dealing with external clients who approach the Careers Department wanting to engage with UCL students.

    Where do people go from here?

    The progression opportunities in higher education in general are good. There is a structure for career progression and it is common for people to move across departments with transferable skills. There is a lot of support and working within a large University means that there are constantly new opportunities arising.

    What top tips would you pass on to researchers interested in this type of work?

    I would recommend taking on additional responsibilities during your PhD/ post-doc aside from pure research. By taking on opportunities such as supervising students, assisting in events and aiding in departmental administration you can come out of PhD with a broad range of skills on top of valuable research and analytical knowledge. Make use of the contacts you have within your department whilst still a student to find out as much as possible about the type of roles available.

    Oscar-worthy careers inspiration from La la land and Whiplash.

    By S Donaldson, on 9 February 2017

    !!Spoiler alert!! In addition to deeply valuable careers insight, this post will give away film plots.

    It’s the film that divided UCL Careers. La La Land is a box office and awards ceremony hit, but not everyone understands its success. The argument in our office has been raging for weeks, so most lunchtimes look like this SNL sketch.

    But whether you’re a clueless philistine who just didn’t get the film, or a film connoisseur who loved it (joke…sort of), I hope there’s one thing we can agree on: La la land is about careers. And its writer/director Damien Chazelle’s 2014 film, Whiplash, is also about careers.

    So as well as a moving cinematic experience, here are three careers-related lessons we can take from Chazelle’s films:

     

    1) Role models are pretty useful

    Whether you’re heading to Paris inspired by an aunt’s foolhardy dip in the Seine, dreaming of re-establishing a tragically lost jazz bar, or decorating your music school dorm room with drumming legend photos, it’s much easier to start on a path when you’ve seen others walk it before you.

    So when you’re looking for career inspiration, gather as many case studies as possible. Take an interest in your friends and family members’ careers. But don’t stop at people you already know. Why not try searching UCL’s alumni community or LinkedIn for PhD graduates from your discipline? What are they doing now? How did they get there? And make use of the case studies we provide. At our researcher careers events, we invite speakers from a range of industries to chat about their roles and career paths. We also regularly post PhD career story inspiration on this blog.

     

    2) Careers involve compromise and sacrifice

    La la Land and Whiplash explore the sacrifices made to follow a dream. For instance, to be a world-class drummer, you apparently have to sacrifice the skin on your hands.

    But sacrifices and compromises aren’t simply the domain of creative greats, they’re part and parcel of every career (and all of life, really). There are so many things that can be important to someone in a career: money, prestige, location, like-minded colleagues, work-life balance, chances to progress, fun, etc. etc. etc. But not all jobs offer all of them all of the time. Sometimes we have to prioritise those values that are most important to us, and at the expense of other things, even if it’s just in the short term.

    No one finds this process easy. If you need help working out your career priorities, or making a career decision, come and speak to us in a one-to-one researcher careers appointment.

     

    3) Even the greatest candidates need resilience

    Whiplash and La la land show us everyone faces rejection at some point. Thankfully, most people’s career rejections don’t involve being publicly fired or having chairs thrown at their heads. But rejection can still be painful.

    ‘Resilience’, a bit of a careers buzzword at the moment, describes the hardiness that helps people move on positively from rejections. That could mean accepting rejection for highly competitive roles or funding opportunities is common, and shouldn’t dissuade you from trying again. Or it could mean taking feedback on board and putting in an even better application next time. If you’re struggling to work out how your applications or interview technique might be improved, check out our online and face-to-face applications and interview advice.