- What Do PhDs Do?
- What Do PhDs Do? Case Studies
- Case studies in Physical Sciences and Engineering
- Bruce, plant chemist, PhD in colour chemistry
Bruce, plant chemist, PhD in colour chemistry
Occupation: Plant Chemist, Albion Colours Ltd
Sector: Industry (Manufacturing)
PhD subject: Colour Chemistry
Why did you do a PhD?
Basically to get a better job, or more precisely the right job – one which was in line with what I wanted from a career. I realised there was too much competition amongst graduates and wanted something that would help me stand out. I’d built up several years scientific experience through summer jobs, a placement as part of my degree and working after my degree and realised that if I wanted to work in research and ultimately to progress, I was either going to have to be prepared to work for many years in relatively mundane jobs or take the fast track route by doing a PhD.
Describe your current job briefly:
My work is a balance between research and development work, fine tuning existing procedures to improve the end product, and providing the plant operators with technical information to help them improve quality and yield.
Why did you decide in this career?
I always wanted a scientific career – applying the knowledge and skills I developed during my degree and PhD. This is very hands-on and includes a lot of problem solving and trouble-shooting.What was your job search strategy and how were you recruited?
My supervisor saw the job advertised in a trade magazine. There were few jobs available in my specialised area at the time. I was interviewed by various staff in the company at two interviews, including the Managing Director, then was offered the job by him at the end of my interview.
Why do you think you got the job? My university experience and scientific background were the best of all the candidates, even though I wasn’t familiar with plant scale chemistry. I demonstrated my willingness to learn about this during the interview and was able to talk about similar situations in previous jobs to show that I was going to be able to learn and contribute to the company.
Do you think a PhD has had a positive impact on your career?
Definitely – it has given me a lot more self confidence and drive to continue learning and improving my skills and knowledge in chemistry. When I’ve been in competition with Honours degree graduates at interviews I’ve been able to show that I can handle difficult science and create results.
In the long term I also feel that I have more opportunity to progress, particularly into non-research roles. I don’t plan to do Chemistry forever and feel that I’ve improved my promotional chances with a PhD.
What advice do you have for PhD students to boost their employability?
With a PhD it is easier to go into research so the three to four years of hard work are worth it. I think you are able to dictate what jobs you can go into so you have more options that with an honours degree alone. A PhD also improves your communication skills and ability to “talk the talk” which is essential in most jobs.