Kathryn Whitehead

Kathryn practiced her ability to deal with people and situations during her doctorate. She now works as a Research Associate at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

"I completed my doctorate at Manchester Metropolitan University. My subject was multidisciplinary, involving microbiology, surface engineering and chemistry. My route into academia was somewhat unusual. At college I was forced to take humanities subjects, which I didn't want to do, so I struggled. I did a foundation degree at college, then a HND, then a degree at the University of Central Lancashire, and then a doctorate. Until I started my doctorate, I worked part-time throughout. My jobs included laboratory technician, bar work, packing lettuces, and even working in a motorcycle shop. I always wanted to be self-sufficient, and enjoyed being challenged.

"My current research involves understanding why and how surfaces become fouled with micro-organisms. I design experiments, interpret the results, write journal articles and book chapters, and speak at conferences. I also co-supervise three doctoral researchers and do some lecturing. My doctorate and the expertise I gained were important for me, since I knew I wanted to continue in research and also lecture. I had two brilliant supervisors, and I think that makes a major contribution to a student's enjoyment – and successful completion. My doctorate taught me not only about science but also about dealing with people and situations. Multidisciplinary work can be particularly challenging. Academically, talking to a physicist, for example, can be very different to talking to a microbiologist – so I need to wear different 'hats' depending on whom I speaking to. You can never be sure what people's backgrounds, influences, or views will be – but it can also be a fascinating way to learn about their experiences."