The NMS Careers Day this week was a great success, with 60 PhDs and post-docs attending and listening to ten employers talk about their transition from PhD and post-doc onwards.
Key learning points from our opening speaker, Robert Bowles from the Royal Society of Chemistry:
- Industry is changing – look at SMEs as well as large corporates as they are outsourcing much of their R&D
- Use the professional body for your sector area (eg Royal Societies and Institutes – eg see IMA for maths, RSC (Chemistry), IOP (Physics) and so on) for networking, jobs, other opportunities, and news
- Your subject matter may not be what gets you recruited, but instead the high level analytical skills you bring – consider your values and interests when thinking about moving on.
Steffen Zschaler, Senior Lecturer at King’s, talked about his role as an academic.
- Remember that PhDs from other countries have more time to be building a CV, as their PhDs take longer. Other countries might consider a 3/4 year UK PhD to be pretty short. How will you write about it in your application?
- What do academics actually do? Steffen spends less than a third of his time conducting ‘research’ – he tries to steal some research time from his teaching and admin, but it is tricky. A good third of his time is spent in administrative tasks, and there is a lot of marking involved in the large subject cohorts.
- The best thing about the role is the freedom it brings.
Parimal Patel – Schroders
Parimal began his academic career at the University of Leicester, graduating in 2002 with an MPhys in Astrophysics. After completing a PhD in this topic in Nottingham, in 2006 Parimal made the transition into the corporate world, becoming an analyst, for Standard Bank plc. In this role Parimal was able to put his studies to use, particularly with regard to developing pricing models and analysis. Since 2013, he has been operating in risk analysis at Schroders.
Adele Julien – Researchers in Schools
Adele is in the third year of her PhD at The Open University. Her PhD research focuses on pollen-vegetation relationships in Ghana and pollen wall chemistry. This work helps to inform the interpretation of the pollen fossil record, which in turn aids our understanding of climate change over time. Alongside her studies, Adele is actively involved with The Brilliant Club, the organisation that oversees the Researchers in Schools initiative. Adele works closely with the RIS Head Office team to educate organisations and institutions about the scheme, which places PhDs in secondary schools as trainee teachers whilst allowing them to maintain a research profile. She also regularly speaks about the research that is produced through the initiative within universities. She has also experienced what it’s like to be on placement through the RIS program.
Neal O’Riain – Pivigo
Neal is the Community Manager at Pivigo, a data science training and recruiting company. Originally from Ireland, Neal has a PhD in Astrophysics from Trinity College, Dublin, and in his research career he worked on modelling the atmospheres of stars. During his time in academia he was heavily involved in science engagement and education. He is the founder of Student2Scientist, a science education initiative funded by Google and SFI, aimed at introducing computing centrally in the Irish STEM curriculum. At Pivigo Neal’s role is to support PhDs in their transition from academia to jobs in Data Science.
Jassel Majevadia – IBM
A scientist by training, Jassel completed a PhD on the fracture properties of materials for nuclear applications, where she worked within the faculties of metallurgy, mechanical engineering and condensed matter theory. It was here that Jassel first developed her programming skills using C++, Fortran, Python and SQL. This experience supported her in making her transition into the commercial realm, and at current her work at IBM is focused on delivering Proof of Concepts for cross-industry analytical solutions. At Imperial College London, Jassel founded an international summer school and conference on materials science and communications and also participated in a significant amount of science communication work, including presenting on the Discovery channel. Jassel is a passionate advocate of disseminating academic science within the public realm and regularly speaks for organisations such as Soapbox Science.
Karola Graupner & Alexei Mulko – Government Operations Research Scheme
Karola currently acts as an Operational Researcher at the Ministry of Justice, where she is involved in analysing statistics relating to the Criminal Justice system. Her academic background sits in physics, and she completed her PhD at Queen’s University Belfast. Following on from her studies, Karola continued to operate in a HE setting both as a Research Associate at Loughborough and as Assistant Laboratory Manager and the University of Oxford. She also holds a PGCE, and thus her varied background means that she is happy to advise people from a range of perspectives when it comes to answering the question What’s next? following the completion of your PhD.
Alexei holds a PhD in Mathematics from the Lobachevski State University (Russia). His area of research was systems of differential equations with periodic functions, existence of limit cycles and stationary points and analytical structure of the systems’ first integrals. Prior to this, Alexei completed an MSc in Financial Engineering from Birkbeck, where his area of research was commodities and commodity derivatives pricing. Within GORS, he worked as an operational researcher at the Department for Education (DfE) and later – Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). He is the leading analyst in carbon pricing at DECC and his work consists of developing pricing models and providing modelling advice across the government as well as driving the EU ETS policy development via analysis, impact assessments and engagement with the government and external stakeholders.
Judith McMarron – Elekta
Judith acts as functional lead within her team at Elekta and also works closely with the company’s Regulatory and Quality Assurance group. Prior to her commercial career, Judith studied a wide range of core physics and maths at The University of Manchester before moving onto The University of Edinburgh where she completed her PhD in Elementary Particle Physics, which was part of a project with CERN.
Stephen Harrison – Capco
As a consultant within the Innovation & Digital practises at Capco, Stephen delivers large complex programs that intersect innovation, strategy, technology and financial services. Stephen has been lead developer and product owner for a number of pieces of software, including both mobile and web-based applications for retail banks and internally at Capco. He is also part of the Digital R&D team, exploring new and leading-edge technologies such as machine learning, Blockchain and big data analysis. He has a 1:1 in Astrophysics, and a PhD in Theoretical Physics, both from University College London.
Notes by Aimee Wilde, Employer Engagement Officer, King’s Careers & Employability