The Project

The Project

Introduction from Dr Emma Compton and Dr Nicola Phillips

Postdoctoral Researchers in the School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee

The range of careers that are open to those who have a Science PhD is vast, however approximately half of those who achieve this qualification will choose to begin their career as a Postdoctoral Researcher performing research under the supervision of a Principal Investigator (PI). The 2013 Careers in Research Online Survey showed that the majority of these researchers wish to follow a career in higher education research or teaching . In the long term, however, the low number of available positions means that competition for academic roles is high; deciding whether to follow the traditional academic career path to run your own research group or to pursue a different one can be daunting.  This project was initiated to help demystify these decisions by looking at the career pathways of successful scientists within and around the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee.

We have interviewed people who are at different stages along the academic career track, from a newly recruited PI, just forming his own research lab, to the Vice-Principal of the University. We’ve also taken a look at some who left the ‘traditional’ path to fulfil different roles within the University of Dundee for which their science training is highly valuable. We have translated their career paths into interactive timelines so they can be easily visualised and compared.

You will see how varied each career pathway is; from those staying in one institute to those who have moved all over the world, working full-time or part-time, and the family commitments which have influenced their decisions. We have highlighted the positions they have held, from their first undergraduate degree to where they are now at the start of 2014 and the papers they have published. For those that have stayed in academia, we show the funding they received which allowed them to start their own research programme and the additional roles they have taken on as their careers have progressed. For those that have moved away from the bench we have charted the journey that has brought them to where they are today. There are video clips of the interviews with each person so you can listen to the stories behind their choices as well as links to information about outside organisations such as funding bodies, journals and societies that have been important in their careers.

Whether you are considering a career in Science or are simply interested in those who work here we hope you find this project interesting. If you are at school and are thinking about a career in Science, take a look at the Schools page for more information.

Much of the advice we have been given is that you shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and follow your passions; most of the scientists we interviewed didn’t have clear career goals at the outset. We hope that you find this website interesting and useful in helping you plan your career and we wish you the best of luck for the future!

There is also an accompanying brochure.

Dr Yogesh Kulathu

Programme Leader, MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit

Yogesh is a new PI in the process of establishing his own research group.

Dr Matthias Trost

Programme Leader and Head of the Proteomics Division in the MRC-Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit

Matthias has been running his own group for around four years and provides mass spectrometry expertise and facilities for others in the College.

Dr Sonia Rocha

CR-UK Senior Research Fellow, Lecturer and Deputy Head of The Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression, College of Life Sciences

Sonia has been a PI for approximately nine years, running a very successful research group as well as lecturing to undergraduates.

Dr Nicola Stanley-Wall

Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology and Deputy Head of the Division of Molecular Microbiology

Nicola runs a well-established research group and is passionate about engaging the public with science.

Professor Claire Halpin

Professor of Plant Biology and Biotechnology and Deputy Head of the Division of Plant Sciences

Claire worked in industry following her PhD, she returned to academia to run her own research group eighteen years ago and is involved in science policy in the UK and abroad.

Professor Kate Storey

Professor of Neural Development and Head of the Division of Cell and Developmental Biology

Kate runs her own research group alongside her management responsibilities and being Director of a not-for-profit publisher. She took a career break and worked part-time while her children were young.

Professor Doreen Cantrell

Professor of Cellular Immunology, Wellcome Trust Principal, Research Fellow and Vice Principal and Head of College

Doreen maintains a very successful research group alongside her management roles as well as chairing the MRC Infection and Immunity funding panel.

Dr Emma Compton

Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Emma has worked in the UK and USA, in Dundee she has been Co-Chair of the College of Life Sciences Postdoc Association and is hoping to move career to the area of staff development.

Dr Jonathon Urch

Public Engagement and Outreach Co-ordinator

Jon was inspired to make the move from academic research after being involved in Sharing Science, a project discussing research with the general public.

Dr Rachel Toth

Joint head of Molecular Cloning Group, MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit

Rachel spent several years as a postdoctoral researcher before moving to the College’s cloning facility, a job she loves as it allows her to remain in the lab whilst having management responsibilities.

Dr Linda Morris

Senior Lecturer

Unusually, Linda went to University after bringing up her children and running her own business. She got involved in teaching during her PhD and postdoc, leading her to realise that this was her ideal career.

Dr Robert Ford

Assistant Director of the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit

Rob left the academic path early to work in Industry. After fifteen years he returned to work in Research and Innovation Services at the University, eventually becoming College Secretary.