Call of the lab
After studying chemistry at the University of Oxford, the call of the lab led me to join the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Chemical Synthesis at the University of Bristol.
In the first year of the CDT programme, I undertook three short research projects which gave me the opportunity to sample a range of different types of chemistry. Following brief stints as a Polymer Chemist and Organic Carbohydrate Chemist, I decided on Inorganic Organometallic Chemistry, joining the group of Professor Paul Pringle.
From the outset, the CDT programme helped me to develop transferrable skills such as teamwork, communication and problem solving. The cohort approach provided a quick and easy way to make friends in labs across the department. With numerous opportunities to present to a range of audiences, I was able to develop skills that would one day enable me to present at the Pacifichem conference in Hawaii.
Another focus of the CDT was to give its students an appreciation of the range of chemistry careers available not only in academia or industry, but also other areas from science writing to working as a patent attorney.
Indeed, it was during a CDT-organised visit to a local patent attorney that I become aware of the potential value of the intellectual property created in academia.
Beyond the doctorate
Once my PhD was complete, I began to explore other career opportunities at the forefront of scientific innovation. Through connections made during my time at the CDT, I secured a position as a Technology Transfer Officer (TTO) at Cardiff University.
As a TTO, I was able to help translate academic research into commercial opportunities, many initially funded by EPSRC.
The Technology Transfer office manages the University’s EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), and I helped to administer this during my time at Cardiff. The IAAs provide devolved funding to universities allowing them flexibility to provide small amounts of money to researchers. These funds can be used for further proof-of-concept studies, secondments into industrial companies, or engagement with market consultants or regulatory experts, for example. In being able to react quickly to opportunities, the IAA allowed us to add value to existing EPSRC investments accelerating their potential to deliver real-world impact.
Whilst at Cardiff, I was also awarded a Technology Transfer Career Transition Fellowship through a joint initiative between LifeArc and the US-based Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM).
It was during my time working in Technology Transfer that I began to appreciate the complexity of the research funding landscape in the UK, and after working closely with the Research Development Office at Cardiff, I became interested in working for the Research Councils.
In February 2018, I joined EPSRC as a Portfolio Manager in the Healthcare Technologies theme. As a major part of my job is running calls and processing research proposals, the interaction with cutting edge science is part of my daily life. I really enjoy getting out and meeting members of the research community and hearing about scientific advances first hand.