13 Jun 2016
The University of Strathclyde’s impressive Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences hosted the 2nd SCI Scotland Group Day of Science and Careers on 31 May 2016 with the theme Made in Scotland - Applied Research and Manufacturing. Building on the popularity of last year’s careers day (Starting Your Career in Chemical and Life Sciences) held at the Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen, this year’s event was fully booked with 64 attendees. Early career delegates (undergraduates and postgraduates) from various Scottish institutes, stretching from the University of Aberdeen to the University of the West of Scotland, were given the opportunity to network with scientists currently in the Scottish manufacturing industry and to listen to stimulating talks delivered by those who have experienced or are currently working in industry, SMEs and research institutes. The presentations offered a spectrum of career topics: from edible sausage casings, Deep Heat, the Scottish seaweed industry, to medicines of the sea, which no doubt introduced to the audience unfamiliar career opportunities and triggered new perceptions of career paths for scientists.
Dr Tiffany Wood of the University of Edinburgh and SCI Scotland Group Chair opened the event highlighting that SCI is an interdisciplinary forum, whereby young scientists can be informed of and receive assistance in their career choices, as well as encouraging attendees to take part in networking opportunities (you never know, you may just have met your future employer!).
Skills Development Scotland, the national skills planning agency in association with the Scottish Government, was introduced by Ronnie Palin. Around 9000 people are employed within the Scottish chemical industry and investment is targeted at four main areas: industrial biotechnology, skills investment plans, manufacturing strategy and the Grangemouth site. The scheme currently offers 12 week internship programmes, HND/C placements and Master classes. A bioscience laboratory skills course at Edinburgh Napier University and targeting gender bias in the Scottish chemical industry are future considerations in the pipeline.
Colin Brown from the ‘over the counter’ medication company, Mentholatum (Glasgow), which manufactures well known products such as Deep Heat, Deep Freeze and Deep Relief described his own transition from chemist to Mentholatum’s Director of Research and Quality Development. In his 30 years of being in the consumer healthcare industry he also worked for Syntex Pharmaceuticals and Quintiles. Mentholatum has also successfully ventured into industry-university partnerships through sponsoring PhD studentships with the Universities of Stirling, Dundee and Edinburgh.
The unconventional career path of Ryan Cameron, who currently works for Devro (Glasgow), suppliers of synthetic collagen food casings, was an enlightening session. He started off working as an apprentice for COMPAQ after leaving school at 17 years old, moved to the Czech Republic for two years with the company FOXCONN and then went on to complete a Bachelors in Biochemistry and a PhD from the University of Glasgow. Furthermore, he worked for the spin-out company, Sannox Therapeutics, for two years before joining Devro in 2015. The advice drawn from his own career path experience was that skills are gained from many job opportunities including a PhD, and all are transferable; expect disappointment when entering the job market, but persevere and the right job will come around.
Kirsty Black, technical developer at Marine Biopolymers Ltd. (Ayr), provided details of her progression from university studies (BSc in Biomedical Science, postgraduate diploma in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering) to joining an SME. The pros (close knit environment, knowledge of entire process to gain end product, involved in decision making) and cons (budgets of costs, resource constraints) of working for an SME from its foundation were highlighted as well as the skills gained from the positive experience.
KTP (Knowledge Transfer Programme) associate, Nicola Palmer, is currently the on-site chemist at Scotmas Group (Kelso), who specialise in chlorine dioxide biocide systems for drinking water, healthcare and agriculture. She described how she entered the Scotmas Group by taking part in a summer placement, which evolved into a KTP placement with Heriott Watt University from which she shall graduate with a DPhil this summer.
Ingenza’s (Edinburgh) head of fermentation, Dr Alison Arnold, gave an insight into her roles at the industrial biotechnology company ranging from industrial PhD supervisor to meeting potential customers worldwide (academics, chemical and therapeutic companies). A former chemist (BSc Chemistry, University of Aberdeen) turned microbiologist (Bioprocess monitoring, PhD, University of Strathclyde), Dr Arnold proved that skills obtained from different scientific areas can be combined and adapted for other uses.
The stages of entering academia were presented by Dr Katherine Duncan (Scottish Association for Marine Sciences) who will be joining the University of Strathclyde with a Tenure Track Lecture and Chancellor’s Fellow Drug Discovery from July 2016. Her impressive resume included a MChem 1 year placement at Florida Atlantic University, PhD carried out at the University of Prince Edward Island and a post doctoral fellowship (Marine Natural Products) at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Outreach programmes were the incentive to her studying a science from a young age and she continues to advocate the importance of such programmes.
Susanne Boyle, skills programme manager at Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC, University of Strathclyde), has a wealth of experience in the UK higher education system as well as industry. To name a few previous positions she has held: R&D analyst at Mentholatum and GSK, principal investigator at the Rowett Research Institute, Lecturer at Robert Gordon University and Glasgow Clyde College and head of learning at the University of Manchester. The importance of maintaining professional networks was recommended in order to optimise collaborative activities, as well as maintaining a professional profile via Twitter and LinkedIn and seeking mentors (academic/ business).
Attendees were given opportunities for informal discussions during the break sessions (lunch, tea break and wine reception) and provided with personalised business cards from SCI to distribute their contact details to new associates. Dr Tiffany Wood concluded the event focusing on the day’s themes: unique career pathways, maintain perseverance and a little tenacity to achieve the right job for yourself, stand out from the crowd (T-shaped skills) and again, network.
In conclusion the careers day was very successful, full of useful information and inspiration for young scientists, who were given the opportunity to interact with scientists who have experience to share.
Special thanks go to Dr RuAngelie Edrada-Ebel (University of Strathclyde), Dr Rainer Ebel (University of Aberdeen), Emma Thomas (SCI Membership Executive), Karen Hobbs (SCI Membership Manager) and the welcoming students from the University of Strathclyde for organising this successful SCI event.
2nd year PhD student, University of St Andrews
SCI Scotland Group Committee member