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Case Study: Megan O'Donnell

Personal details
Degree:BSc Geology Profile picture
School(s): School of Geography and Geosciences
Year of Graduation:Jun-2014
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Centre of Ecology and Hydrology
Job title: Atmospheric Pollution Research Assistant
Occupational Sector: Research Analysis
What has been your route to getting your current position?
I was awarded a paid internship at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Penicuik, Edinburgh starting immediately after graduation 2014. On completion of the internship I was asked to remain on at the CEH as a Research Assistant and complete a piece of atmospheric chemistry research I had started during my internship. This research is to be published in a relevant atmospheric sciences journal around November 2014.
What does your job involve ?
Data collation, ratification and analysis. Computer programming and coding. Presenting and reporting my research to senior members of CEH. Independent research and learning.
What are the best bits of your job ?
Contributing to the forefront of atmospheric research. Having skills gained during my studies at St Andrews valued. Being trusted as a junior team member to work independently and theorize constructively. Having my work published in international journals. Working within a prominent UK research institution.
Why were you successful?
I applied to the internship at CEH through the InterConnect programmed called CareerWISE. This is an initiative funded by the Scottish Government to help encourage young women to take up careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths as they are often under-represented within these sectors. I would recommend this placement program to any young women in the STEM sectors. Summer research placements across a variety of subjects and environments helped me stand out experience-wise and demonstrated my inter-disciplinary abilities, allowing me to complete an atmospheric chemistry placement having never studied chemistry since early high school.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
Report writing, presentation skills, scientific problem solving, time management, IT literacy (MS Office, GIS, R, SPSS, etc.), science communication.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
No matter how heavy your schedule is at university, nothing can really prepare you for what it is like to commit to working on a project 9-5, Mon-Fri. I think this can be one of the greatest challenges of adapting and enjoying a graduate job. The social life is very different to university, people often have families and out of work commitments making socialising a task rather than a default. The hours of work at CEH are good and I rarely have to take work home with me (only when approaching a deadline), however I commute for 3 hours a day due to the distance between my home and the office and this really eats away at my weekdays. Consider commuting distance very seriously when you are looking at jobs.