Elizabeth Vorkurka

Elizabeth gained a scholarship to undertake a doctorate in high energy physics, and completed her research at Cern in Switzerland. She began her career as a research associate in the medical imaging department at the University of Manchester, and from there moved into intellectual property protection for a medical imaging company in Edinburgh. She is now working as an intellectual property management and innovation consultant.

Elizabeth Vorkurka first shared her career journey in 2014. Ten later years later, we were delighted to catch up with Elizabeth once again, to find out how the last decade has panned out for her.

If you are doing something new, how did you find out about this latest opportunity? Was it, for example, through networking and connections you had?  

"I’ve continued to be an IP Management and Innovation Consultant through a business I incorporated since the interview.  I also continued to set and verify questions for the BBC’s ‘University Challenge’ until a couple years ago.  I have also been: a Research Associate with the London School of Economics in Social Psychology; a Retained Firefighter with the Scottish First and Rescue Service (for 8 years); and am about to join the HM Coast Guard. Two years ago, I went back to university to get a Law Masters in Innovation, Technology and the Law from University of Edinburgh.  All new clients and opportunities have come through referrals, connections, and networking.  I’d recommend anyone to keep talking to people about your interests, and opportunities will present themselves. Having a PhD also helped open doors and start conversations with people that I wouldn’t have been able to as ‘just another Management Consultant.'"

What competencies/transferable skills do you still use as a IP Management and Innovation Consultant that you learned doing your doctorate?

"I continue to use the research techniques,  ability to learn new subjects/skills, attention to detail and accuracy, and focused independent working skills I learned while doing my doctorate."

What would you say are the benefits of working as a consultant that you wouldn't get in academia? 

"Academia is great, but there are so many opportunities beyond academia that can be equally rewarding and/or arguably provide more of a flexible work-life balance or career path.  These opportunities could benefit from having a PhD."

With hindsight, is there any additional career advice (over and above what you gave us back in 2014)  that you would give your younger self doing a doctorate, about your career? Or that you would do differently? 

"Always do something that interests you.  It makes work so much easier.  And while a little stress can be useful, don’t let it overwhelm you.  It’s not worth it.  There is always more than one way to accomplish something."

Thanks so very much for sharing your story update with us.



The following text is a transcription of a career story collected by interview.

"My name is Elizabeth Vorkurka and I am an Intellectual Property Management and Innovation Consultant. It means that I advise businesses – predominately software companies, physics based high-tech companies, medical devise companies – on how they should manage their intellectual property. I went to university at the University of Illinois and Champagne Urbana. In my third year at university I had already decided to focus on physics instead of chemistry. I was getting a bit bored at university in the middle of nowhere in farmland in Illinois. And so I decided that I was going to be an exchange student, so I ended up as an exchange student at the University of Manchester. At that point I knew that I really liked my statistics lecturer and actually went back to the States and ended up getting a scholarship so I could come over and do a PhD with him. Err I started a PhD in the high energy particle physics group and did my research at Cern in Switzerland. I found it er very fascinating that you could look at the fundamental aspects of the physical world. I should explain that I do have multiple sclerosis and I was diagnosed just before my PhD. I started looking into ways of potentially moving into something that I would find that would hold my interest as much but might be more useful to people in general.

"And so I then found out that the medical imaging department had some research into MS for their MRI imaging lab, and went to the professor in that group once every two weeks for about two months explaining to him that I would really like to work for him, and finally he caved and allowed me to come in and work for him. So I spent three years as a research associate, a post doc at the University of Manchester Medical Imaging Department. I had a boyfriend who erm, refused to move further south than Newcastle and around this time I got slightly disillusioned with academic research, just the, the constant having to find funding. Two things happened in quick succession, one of them was I spoke to some people that I knew in the television industry erm about possibly becoming a researcher and I applied for a position in a small medical imaging company that did clinical software in Edinburgh. They were advertising for software engineers and at the time I had no real training in software development but they recognised that I had certain skills based on the work that that I had done, the research that I had done, and my background, the fact that I had such an experience in doing research that they hired me on not really knowing what they were going to do with me.

"They started having some problems with patents. They had been advised not to file any patents because it was, it's an extremely expensive thing to do. There was a company in the States who wanted to try to make an example of them and sued them. That started me working quite extensively in intellectual property protection in the company and working very closely with some patent attorneys. It is because of my research background that has enabled me to get to this point. Virtually everything that I do is research based. I didn't think that I was going to be what amounts to a management consultant, but I don't know whether or not I am going to be doing this another five, ten years, I might be moving into some other type of career. Who knows?"