- What Do PhDs Do?
- What Do PhDs Do? Case Studies
- Case studies in Physical Sciences and Engineering
- Chris, scientist, PhD in physics and chemistry
Chris, scientist, PhD in physics and chemistry
Occupation: Senior Scientist, Kodak Ltd
PhD subject: Physics & Chemistry
Why did you do a PhD?
I wanted a career in science so a PhD was the logical step towards achieving this. I had worked for a year after my degree, but the work wasn’t closely enough related to science so I decided to return to university to undertake research. My choice was therefore based partly on career development and partly on personal interest in the subject.
Describe your current job briefly:
I work in industrial R&D developing photographic products. Our traditional markets (photo capture, media and processing) have changed considerably in recent years and we are currently involved in developing digital products, display technologies and ink-jet media to meet consumer demands for high quality home printing, easy to use digital cameras and display devices.
Why did you decide on this career?
I spent 16 months in academia after my PhD on a postdoctoral contract, but got the impression that funding for research was insecure, so the perceived appeal of secured funding in industry appealed to me. Of course, there is no such thing as security in any research area, as projects have to deliver within timelines, but at the time it seemed better in industry than academia.
What was your job search strategy and how were you recruited?
I browsed the vacancy pages of Physics World, New Scientist and used some job-seekers websites, although when I was looking for a job, these weren’t used as extensively as they are now. I also signed up with some specific scientific agencies. I found my current job in Physics World. I sent in a CV and was invited to the company for interviews and to give a presentation on my research on the assessment day. From this I was offered a job.
Why do you think you got the job?
I had the right combination of knowledge and practical skills from my PhD (in rheology and image processing) so my Physics knowledge and skills were important. I’d been for interviews previously with the right experience and knowledge and hadn’t been successful, so there was more to it than just my PhD. I think I got the job here because I was the right fit for the research group and company. I gelled well with the interviewers and they could see that I was going to fit in well.
Do you think a PhD has had a positive impact on your career?
Yes, definitely – a PhD is a good grounding for any research career because it teaches you HOW to do research. I also saw an instant benefit because I was recruited at a higher level than graduates and therefore was paid more!
What advice do you have for PhD students to boost their employability?
One of the main things PhDs have to offer is self-reliance - being able to get on with a job without constant supervision, but in industry it is essential to work in a team, so I’d advise people to think about how they will demonstrate this balance.
I’d also reassure them that the low-points of a PhD – the times when things go wrong and you have to get on even though nothing is working, are actually giving you another really marketable quality – your stubbornness and refusal to accept defeat is essential to employers, particularly in research!
Another appealing quality is self-management – being able to manage your own time and set up your own projects, so make sure that you do this within a PhD – take the initiative with your research. Develop your own ideas and the project management skills needed to do a PhD effectively, because they do have relevance and long-term benefits in your future career.