Anna Upton

Anna's doctorate was funded through BBSRC and GlaxoSmithKline to research drug resistance in the organism that causes tuberculosis. After a postdoctoral research position at Rockefeller University in New York she now works with the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development.

"I completed a combined bachelors/masters degree in molecular biology and biochemistry at Oxford University. My final year project sparked an interest in research and I won a ‘co-operative’ doctoral studentship from the BBSRC and GlaxoSmithKline to research drug resistance in the organism that causes tuberculosis. I thought I would pursue a career in research, but was unsure whether this would be in academia or the pharmaceutical industry. My studentship allowed me to work at GlaxoSmithKline for six months, which was a perfect opportunity to decide which environment I liked best.

"Having decided that academia could be for me, I went on to postdoctoral research at Rockefeller University in New York. By the middle of my contract through attending conferences, I had become really interested in global public health issues and international development. I realised that my interests are broad and that I could not get excited about writing a research proposal for a faculty job. I decided to look instead at the not-for-profit sector.

"I wanted to learn more about global public health policy research and advocacy so I took a job with The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance), a not-for-profit TB drug developer which aims to develop drugs that are not only effective but affordable and accessible. I started out as liaison for the Stop TB Working Group based there and have since moved into a research management position, co-ordinating off-site research projects and helping to evaluate new research opportunities, as well as generating ideas for new drug discovery projects. Both my roles at the TB Alliance have required a research background and my academic training and knowledge have been put to good use in each.

"My doctorate has been crucial to my career. Subject knowledge, connections gained and the ability to critically read scientific papers all continue to be extremely important. My ability to manage projects, multi-task, solve problems and think in an analytical way were developed, to some extent, during my doctorate. Writing my thesis and papers taught me how to write clearly for a critical audience and taught me patience! I learned to work effectively with all kinds of people. Mentoring students helped me immensely – I am sure I am a better manager and motivator today because of that experience. I am not daunted by the prospect of a very long, complicated project as nothing seems that bad after finishing a doctorate! I can manage my time effectively, motivate myself and deal with difficult people – perhaps these things are the most important transferable benefits derived from a doctorate.

"With hindsight, I realise that during my doctoral years I lacked knowledge of career opportunities available to me. The advice from my careers service and mentors was quite narrow. I did not try hard enough to find out about my options or spend enough time thinking about what really interested me and how to go about getting the career that I wanted."