An interview with Dr Rafferty

Dr Ged Rafferty is head of the King’s Muscle Lab.  Here, he tells us a bit about his career and his work.

Did you always want to be a scientist?
To be honest, I would have liked to have a been a professional cyclist, but unfortunately, my shameful lack of athletic ability put paid to that.  It is my love of cycling that really sparked my interest in human physiology, although I had always enjoyed biology at school.

What made you decide to go into research?
I studied Physiology at the University of Leeds, because at the time, it still had a large component of human physiology in its final year undergraduate programme.  This included a week long trip to undertake cold water immersion experiments at the Institute of Naval Medicine in Portsmouth with Dr Mike Tipton, now Professor at University of Portsmouth.  This, alongside my research project on muscle composition in the leg, really captured my interest and led me to undertake a PhD.  I did my PhD at King’s College London, looking at control of breathing.  After that, I worked for a short time at the Ministry of Defence and then became a lecturer back at King’s – I’ve been here ever since!

What do you like most about doing research?
It is very clichéd, but learning new things!  I really get a kick out of expanding my knowledge and satisfying my desire to understand how things work.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?
As a Senior Lecturer at King’s College London I am expected to undertake research, teaching as well as having administrative/management responsibilities.  While teaching is quite time consuming, not just requiring the time spent in direct contact with undergraduate and postgraduate students, it is not without reward, especially when you feel you have connected with the students and they have that “light bulb” moment of understanding a topic.  While it is research that I get most enjoyment and satisfaction from, one of the hardest aspects is the continual pressure to obtain grant funding to support my research, both in terms of the equipment and materials required by specific research projects but also for the salaries of staff involved.  Obtaining funding from grant awarding bodies such as UK research councils and charities is highly competitive and most applications are not successful, which considering the time effort that goes into preparing an application can  be very disappointing.

What is the most satisfying thing about your job? 
There are many, but I suppose the culmination of a period of study resulting in a postgraduate student obtaining their PhD is incredibly rewarding.

What one piece of advice would you give to people thinking about a career in science and/or research?
You need to be enthusiastic about the topic you are researching.  Without the drive that comes with being interested in a field of research it is very difficult to achieve the desired outcome.  Research can be incredibly exciting when studies are going well and interesting data are coming through. Unfortunately there are many occasions when experiments just don’t work or the data are not clear or studies become monotonous and repetitive.  Having the enthusiasm and interest in the topic is what carries you through.

Thanks very much Dr Rafferty!

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