Broaden your horizons: opportunities to gain skills and experiences outside your PhD (part 3)

Gemma Garrett, Careers Consultant

In the final part of this series, read on to hear more from our Broaden your horizons event last week, as part of QMULGradFest.

andrew hinesAndrew Hines, a third year SLLF postgraduate, spoke passionately about his teaching experience with The Brilliant Club, a charity that exists to widen access to highly-selective universities for school pupils from under-represented groups. The organisation employs PhD students and postdoc’s from all disciplines to teach.  Andrew’s role involves tutoring small groups of bright secondary school children from low economic backgrounds for two hour sessions at time. The experience enabled him to hone his communication skills by talking about his often niche and complex area of research in ways that could be understood by young, non-specialist audiences. Andrew gained an insight into what it’s like to teach to school pupils and developed his tutoring skills, whilst also earning some extra cash (all the positions are paid). As well as giving him an outlet from his PhD, Andrew’s involvement means he can now “sum up his PhD in three lines” – a valuable skill whatever his next career move.

ismail uIsmail Uddin
is a second year PhD student in SCBS. At the event he spoke about his involvement in the 2015 Biotechnology YES competition, a national business competition for PhD students and postdoc’s (similar schemes run for other disciplines, see the Young Entrepreneur’s Scheme website for details). Ismail and his team attended a three day residential workshop at GlaxoSmithKline in Stevenage, where they heard presentations from leading industry figures on all aspects of knowledge exchange and the commercialisation of ideas – from the requirements of a business plan and raising/managing finance, to intellectual property rights and marketing strategies. The team then had to develop a business plan for their own fictional company (based on a scientifically plausible idea), before presenting it in a dragon’s den-style pitch to the judges. The company they devised was called “Gexoderm” – an anti-microbial wound healing gel that decreases the time taken for pressure ulcers to heal. Their hard work and learning paid off, with the team making it through to the annual final in London. The experience enabled Ismail and his colleagues to develop their business know-how (helpful for commercialising research and generating impact in academia – and demonstrating ‘commercial awareness’ for roles elsewhere), and make useful industry contacts.

Each of the speakers spoke with passion and enthusiasm about the activities they are involved in. So, not only are these activities a great way to develop their skills base in new ways, they can be a lot of fun too!

Interested in opportunities available to you alongside your PhD to help you broaden your skills and experiences? We are here to help! You can:

  • Make an appointment with one of our Careers Consultants for Researchers, Tracy Bussoli and Gemma Garrett, to discuss this – or anything else related to your career – by calling the Careers & Enterprise helpdesk on 0207 882 8533.
  • Attend a careers workshop or event – Tracy and Gemma organise a series of workshops especially for PhD students, see more details at:
  • Visit if you are inspired by Ismail’s story and/or have your own business idea and would like to know more about the Enterprise support we offer.

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