- What Do PhDs Do?
- What Do PhDs Do? Case Studies
- Case Studies in Biological Sciences
- Peter, researcher, PhD in oral biology
Peter, researcher, PhD in oral biology
Occupation: Research Associate
Sector: Education (Academia)
PhD subject: Oral Biology
Why did you do a PhD?
The main reasons behind studying for my PhD were firstly my first degree was in Biomedical Science and I quickly realised that I didn’t want to end up in a hospital lab as a Biomedical Scientist doing routine work with clinical samples.
I also had a sandwich placement at the Ministry of Defence during my penultimate undergraduate course which gave me a flavour for research. My final year undergraduate project was on “Identification of putative lipoproteins of Streptococcus mutans”. When a Ph.D at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, in oral biology, was advertised I applied and was successful in securing a three year Ph.D studentship
Describe your current job briefly:
I have recently returned fro the USA where I completed a two year postdoctoral position where I investigated mixed biofilms. I was looking at the interaction of a number of oral bacteria and how the interact to form a biofilm. The medical implications of these oral biofilms are periodontal disease and dental caries. Here I used a mixture of molecular and microbiological techniques.
My current position is as Postdococtoral position with University College London where I have diverged from Oral Biology microbiology to look at tooth development and tooth structure. I am however also keeping upto date with my molecular techniques with another project where I am studying the surface proteins of an oral bacterium with the ultimate aim of identifying novel surface proteins responsible for adhesion to the tooth surface.
Why did you decide in this career?
I have a real love for science, in particular research. I have a keen eye for detail and I am a perfectionist which gels well with scientific research and a passion to make new discoveries. I have stayed in the same field of Oral Biology so that I could hit the ground running following my Ph.D with the aim to increase my publication record, however, not all postdoc positions work out how you expect.
What was your job search strategy and how were you recruited?
I mainly use New Scientist, Jobs.ac.uk, and Reed.co.uk which a recruitment agency webpage to keep up to date with current vacancies. I however firmly believe that the majority of positions, even more so for academic positions are secured through networking, contacts and word of mouth.
The previous position was advertised through the American Society for Microbiology newsletter, however my PI at the time also knew the person recruiting therefore no interview was requested and it all seemed quite incestuous.
When I returned from the USA I wanted to break out of academia and secured a short term contact with a very small biotech company (2 -3 employees) who wanted to expand into contract research, unfortunately the contracts didn’t come as they had hoped and I was back in academia again through personal contacts. I choose the project I am working on at present as it provided a variation on what my previous positions had offered and enabled me to develop new skills and explore alternative avenues.
Why do you think you got the job?
I would like to this my personality and ability to work within a team but probably more so my background in Oral Biology and personal recommendation.
Do you think a PhD has had a positive impact on your career?
This is probably an easy question to answer when I my present position is a postdoctoral research in academia, however, side apart I would definitely say yes. I consider my Ph.D to be more than just a qualification but rather an opportunity to learn and develop a number of key skills which I am able to use in everyday life and in the workplace. These include analytical, written, computer, presentational, data analysis and networking skills. It has also given me the opportunity to flourish where before I had been hindered with average exam grades simply because I wasn’t the best student at written exams and school and suffered from pre-exam stress and nerves. My PhD enable me to explore avenues for which I had a natural flair and I was able to demonstrate my true potential.
What advice do you have for PhD students to boost their employability?
My best advice would be firstly to network and speak to as many people as possible who have already been through the system and have secured positions in the field they interested in applying.