Catherine Martin

Catherine stayed on in the lab to do postdoctoral research immediately after receiving her doctorate. Then she moved to London and got her current part-time job as a career development fellow.

"I was awarded my doctorate by the Open University (UK), having undertaken my studies at the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine in Oxford. The subject discipline was biochemistry and pharmacology. I obtained a PGCE immediately after my degree. I then studied for an MSc in neuropsychopharmacology, all at the National University of Ireland. During my masters I gave birth to my first daughter.

"After teaching science and maths to school children for a short period, I moved to the UK with my family and worked at Oxford University as a research assistant. I decided to register for a doctorate on a part-time basis. I published four papers in high-ranking journals during this time. My second daughter was born during my doctorate.

"Attaining a doctorate gave me an enormous sense of achievement and a tremendous boost in confidence – the confidence was the most important thing. The doctorate provides recognition and this has enabled me to work more independently and to seek collaborations for certain aspects of projects. Doctoral training also helped me to develop analytical and critical thinking skills, which are important both in research and in non-lab based work such as my current internship. With the benefit of hindsight I think I should have sought careers advice and taken steps to develop my transferable skills more: I would have made more effort to get to conferences and to network.

"Immediately after receiving my doctorate, I stayed on in the lab to do postdoctoral research. I then moved to London with my family. Five months later I got my current job as a career development fellow. My current post is part-time. I have responsibility for driving a project looking at a membrane protein involved in fatty acid homeostasis. I work at the bench and share the supervision of graduate and postgraduate students. I am intellectually involved in the development of other research projects within the group. I also write progress reports for funding bodies and research papers.

"Outside the lab I am a member of a committee conducting an impact assessment of the MRC’s corporate governance and communications policies to ensure they conform with the new equalities legislation. I have also undertaken (part-time) a science policy internship at the Institute of Biology in order to gain hands-on experience of working in the area of science policy and to get experience of a non-traditional academic science role.

"I would advise taking at least one postdoctoral research post, but do try to gain a personal fellowship early on to support an academic career. Otherwise try to find internships early in order to gain experience of other science roles. I have been on numerous transferable skills training courses, which have been very useful. I realised that I did not want to remain in academia because there were so few posts available, and because it is difficult to pursue an academic career whilst bringing up a family. I therefore sought experience outside the lab in order to strengthen my CV for applying for non-research posts."