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Case Study: Lydia

Personal details
Degree:MSci (Hons) Maths and Stats Profile picture
School(s): School of Mathematics and Statistics
Year of Graduation:Jun-2004
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium
Job title: Postdoctoral Researcher
Occupational Sector: Academia
What has been your route to getting your current position?

After completing my undergraduate masters I undertook an MRes Conversion to Environmental Biology for physical scientists, which was joint between St Andrews and Dundee University. After completing this course I took a year out in order to work out what I wanted to do – whether it was to work in industry or study for a PhD. I decided the latter is what I needed to do, since I was unable to find employment in my chosen field. I found a CASE EPSRC funded PhD studentship working for Prof. Chaplain in the University of Dundee Mathematical Biology group. I completed this PhD in Drug metabolism modelling in January 2011. I started my job at the VUB in February 2011.

What does your job involve ?

My job entails researching Toxin-Antitoxin module dynamics using a systems biology approach. Not much is known about the dynamics, so this requires me to have regular meetings with both the physicists within my department and the biologists at the VIB (Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie).

What are the best bits of your job ?

Sharing ideas and brainstorming with people from other scientific backgrounds.

Why were you successful?

Two aspects were particularly useful:

  • Having worked on a number of different projects during my education helped me to have a broad array of modeling techniques.
  • The MRes course allowed me to gain experience in interacting with people from other scientific backgrounds on projects.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?

The broad array of modelling techniques I learnt while taking courses during my undergraduate.

What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?

Doing a PhD is not for everyone, since it is an emotional rollercoaster. What I mean is that sometimes the research will be going well and you will be happy about that but it can also go badly. Research is all about being self-motivated and being able to take the rough with the smooth. As well as this – do not underestimate the value of taking time out from your studies or doing something unrelated. It clears your mind and will help you focus on what is important. For me my year out was an eye-opener, since it allowed me to experience not studying day in day out. I actually missed it and this is the reason why I started looking for a PhD studentship.