Graduate story: SBCS to QTemps success

35127929411_040c522062_zHi! I’m Piriyah and I graduated this year from Queen Mary with a biomedical sciences degree and am currently working in a temporary role as a Data Administrator. At the time of graduation I had decided that I wanted to follow the traditional path of a life sciences graduate and pursue a career in research. Now you may be wondering why I decided to apply for this role….

It was during my final year, that I came to realise that my ideal job would be one in which I could spend the entire day working in the lab. This is because I thoroughly enjoyed carrying out a lab-based research project for my final year dissertation, which unlike most students, I would say was one of the highlights of my 3 years at uni.

Not only was I able to work alongside researchers, who are experts in their fields, but I was also able to get a full experience of all the components that comprise research in academia. Although the project was challenging, I had really enjoyed my time working in the lab, to the extent that I made the decision to pursue a career in research!

By the time that graduation arrived I had an idea of what sort of job I wanted but I hadn’t planned on how I was going to enter into the field of scientific research. My immediate options were to apply for further study, to look for entry-level laboratory based roles or training placements such as in hospitals.

However, these options weren’t straightforward. With applying for a masters, I couldn’t decide on which field of science that I would like to specialise in. I wanted to make sure that the masters I applied for would feed into the sort of subject that I would be interested in possibly carrying out further research in.

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Graduate story: Beyond the lab

shahidMy name is Shahid Dharamsi, and I graduated from Queen Mary in 2015 with a Masters in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. As a ‘man of science’, it would only seem logical to utilise such a degree by working in a research department for a pharmaceutical company, or further the educational pursuit by applying for a PhD position with an acclaimed professor. Perhaps stretching, but not exceeding, the limits of the logical approach, one may try their hand at teaching science at various levels, working in schools and colleges across the country.

My story is a little different. As I sit here, on the 19th floor of a skyscraper in Canary Wharf, in between audit meetings and performance reviews, I’m able to conclude that it has been a rather unconventional period since my final exam (Colloidal Chemistry)! I work as an auditor on a three year graduate programme for one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, EY, and am 12 exams out of 15 on my way to becoming a Chartered Accountant.

The journey began when I embarked upon an internship, organised by Careers & Enterprise, working as a PR intern for a medical technology start-up called Geneix. I immersed myself within the business for my three month placement, learning new skills each day to include journalism, project management, and market research. Curiously, I felt very much at home whilst operating in an environment that was very much alien to me at the time. I enjoyed the feeling of the unknown, and the ability to be an effective part of a vibrant team. Whilst there was no aromatic resonance, or Schrodinger’s equation to solve, I felt the softer skills developed from my degree were utilised to great effect.

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NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) – Is it for me?

You may have heard about the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), seen as one of the main professional options for science graduates wanting to work in healthcare. It will reopen for applications in January 2017. So is it one of the options for you to consider after you graduate, and if so how best should you prepare for a successful application? 

Read on for further information about the programme from Careers Consultant Maya, who works with SBCS students.

Is this scheme the default option if I am taking a science degree and am interested in healthcare?

The short answer is no as the scheme is so competitive. In 2016 there were 5,768 applicants for 258 places in the whole of the UK. Not all applicants are fresh out of an undergraduate degree either, which makes the competition even fiercer. However, if you think you would like to do lab and scientific analysis in a hospital or other clinical setting, working in a team with other scientists, doctors and nurses, and do not want a research career, then it might be very well worth finding out more and giving it a go!

In 2016, clinical immunology had by far and away the highest competition ratio, with 80 applicants per post. There was some good news for the clinical bioinformaticians though, with only 5.25 applicants per post – see table below.

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Application advice – Covering Letters for Science Students

As an Application Adviser who works primarily with the School of Engineering and Materials Science at QMUL, I meet a lot of students who are writing covering letters for jobs and internships. The problems these students encounter are by no means specific to SEMS, nor even to science subjects in general, but there are some specific challenges that science students face when writing covering letters.

One of the main difficulties is finding a balance between technical detail and marketing your more general skills and competencies. Many jobs in engineering require, as you might expect, a high level of technical knowledge and expertise. If this is the case then you need to demonstrate that you have these skills in your covering letter by detailing relevant experience. The trap that some students fall into, however, is to spend most of the covering letter describing, in precise technical detail, the projects they have worked on.

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My QInternship in Nanotechnology

Queen Mary University of London participates in the “Science without Borders” scheme – a scheme that enables Brazilian students to receive scholarships to study at overseas institutions for one-year undergraduate study abroad programmes as well as at postgraduate level on both split and full PhD programmes. Rayla Novais da Costa  is one of the students who participated in the scheme in 2015-2016 and has attended a year in the Biochemistry course in the School of Biological & Chemical Sciences. Below she writes about her experience of being on a QInternships placement and how she made the most of her time being here with us.

What made you apply for this particular role? 

First of all my interest in this particular role was because of the field, nanotechnology. I believe that my interest in this particular field started when, on my first semester in the university, I had to prepare a presentation about nanotechnology. Then, as my course is in the biotechnology field, when I received the e-mail about the role I was sure that this was my chance to develop my skills and to have an international experience working for a British company. So, I applied immediately.

What did you do during your experience?

My routine working for Applied Nanodetectors (AND) was basically spend the day preparing, testing and analysing data about the gas sensors. I used to arrive at the lab around 9am. Before beginning the experiments, we (Dr Victor Higgs, managing director of AND and I) usually sat down for a few minutes to prepare what should be done on that day and set an objective. Then I began to prepare the samples, run some of them before lunch, go for lunch around 1pm, return around 2pm, prepare more samples and do several analysis to see what was achieved in that day.

What did you learn from the experience?

I’ve learnt a lot during these 9 weeks. But the best thing I learnt was to how science require curiosity, dedication and passion. Everyday we faced a different situation in which I had to know how to be a scientist and look for solutions. So, in general I developed skills in physics, biochemistry, and nanotechnology that provided me with a new vision in the biotechnology field and helped me to decide what I want to be as a professional.

What surprised you about your experience?

What surprised me the most was how science coupled with technology has given a new hope to the world. I mean, working in a big lab with people from different fields, I noticed how science can help the community quality of life. Also, how technology has enhanced our chance to achieve new solutions for several diseases that concern people nowadays.

Rayla

Is there anything you would do differently?

Yes. I think If I had had more time, I would have studied more about nanotechnology. Specially to try to help better the company when some problem came up. Also to understand more about the nanosensors technology before starting the practical work.

What difference did the internship make to you?

The internship basically changed me for a lifetime. As nanotechnology is a growing industry in Brazil, if I had not caught this internship I may never have this opportunity in Brazil. So I am one of the few who have this experience in my country and of course it will differentiate me when I apply for a job. In addition, my interest in nanotechnology increased my desire to learn more about it, and makes me think about following this field in my future.

What tips do you have for other students and graduates looking to apply for a QInternship?

The best thing I would say is to enjoy all the time during the graduation. Try to do everything you can at university(e.g. summer internships, research projects, tutoring, junior enterprise, student union etc). This way you will know what you like and what you dislike and choose the right thing by the end of your graduation. Also, if you are an international student from an exchange program, divide your time between university and trips; traveling is the best way to become an open minded person and it also makes you a better professional, a person that knows how to deal with people from different cultures. Trace a goal and make it happen!

Internship for PhDs and postdocs

Johnson & Johnson Drug Discovery Internship Deadline 16th July 2015

This internship is exclusive to Queen Mary PhD students & postdoctoral researchers in life sciences schools/departments.

This internship would involve supporting Johnson & Johnson’s Therapy Area and the Medicinal Chemistry Leads in the evaluation of a number of new drug discovery opportunities by providing a well-structured and thorough analysis of publicly available information on selected emerging biological targets. The internship project would involve constructing a strategic database of all laboratories, projects, researchers and clinical studies (completed and on-going) in the field of AAV gene therapy and related technologies.

lab

This internship will be fully funded by QMUL for a maximum of 200 hours, and has a start date of September 2015. The successful candidate would need to commit to work 20 hours per week for five consecutive weeks, and the remaining hours can be spread out flexibly over the remaining months. This internship is paid at £12.50 per hour.

For more information take a look here: http://tempjobs.london.ac.uk/QueenMary/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=3309.

To apply for this role please send your CV and covering letter stating your relevant skills and experience by email to Nicola Persue-King, Internships Co-ordinator (n.persue-king@qmul.ac.uk; 020 7882 6924), by midnight on Thursday 16th July 2015. All enquires about this internship should also be directed to Nicola Persue-King.

SEPnet’s Software Bootcamp

QMUL School of Physics & Astronomy is a partner of the South East Physics network (SEPnet) and on 13-14 June we organised and hosted a Software Bootcamp at QMUL’s Mile End campus. The event was attended by students from many of the SEPnet partner universities. The aim of the bootcamp was to equip students with technical skills whilst giving them an insight to the industry of web development. Sean Cooper, 3rd year MSci Physics student at QMUL shares his experience of being thrown in the deep end of programming and what he learned.

The weekend before last I attended SEPnet’s notorious Software Bootcamp. Wait…let’s jump back a month: it’s a warm Monday afternoon, too warm may I add to be sitting in the library for what may as well be the thousandth consecutive day, and I’m studying with a couple of friends for our upcoming Nuclear Physics exam. Suddenly, one of them mentions some ‘coding workshop’ that everyone but me seems to know about. I jump on my mail app and fire off an email. Apparently, I should learn to check my emails more often. These kinds of events are especially popular among my peers and it’s no wonder that I didn’t get a place. I did however get put on a waiting list and after a few more weeks I got a second chance at applying for a ticket. Alas, I was at my cousin’s wedding, but that ticket will be mine yet. Now, if you read the first line of this paragraph then you can probably guess what happened next: third time lucky I suppose.

SoftwareBootcamp_Crop5 (2)

The Event

Ben Evans, co-founder of jClarity, hosted the workshop. I had never heard of Ben before, but there was one thing that I knew for sure the moment I saw him: this man has a fantastic head of hair. It soon became obvious that Ben had done this whole public speaking shebang before; he quickly gained the room’s full attention. Among the plethora of subjects that were touched on we covered:

  • The origin story of Unix operating systems.
  • Command line programming in Unix (Bash).
  • An introduction to Python.
  • The Agile software development methodology.
  • Git, GitHub and how to use repositories.

Of these topics, I definitely found the Unix stuff the most useful. The internet is full of great resources for learning about Unix but many of them assume some basic knowledge. Ben did a great job of introducing us to the subjects without assuming the patronising tone that many of the online resources do. He weaved interesting anecdotes into his explanations and gave a good grounding from which we could go on to build a more concrete understanding.

The Inside Approach

Ben, and his colleagues who helped throughout the weekend, didn’t just bring their skillset with them, but also their real world experience. I found it really interesting to see how people who work in industry would approach problems and suggest solutions. Often, when people give talks to students about working in industry, it feels as if there is some impenetrable barrier between our world and theirs. This weekend tore down that barrier and I was able gain a real insight into what it’s like to be a software developer. These two-day workshops really do allow you to make a more personal connection with the presenter, something that was far more useful to me than the skills that I learned. SEPnet and the careers department at Queen Mary University of London always do a fantastic job organising events like this one. They help students find internships, give them the chance to fund their own projects, and offer invaluable real world advice. I’ve definitely had more of my fair share of these opportunities; I even received funding to start my science outreach project ScienceNation. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt from this weekend, it’s that I am 100% going to be attending the next one.