On Wed, 4 February 2009, a conference was organised at the University of Leeds to give students a taste of the opportunities available for them locally. SCI recruited representatives from diverse backgrounds and careers to speak at the event.
Julian Driver, ceo of Vickers Laboratories, offered his views on working for a SME (small and medium enterprise.) He discussed various commercial aspects of his company, such as product commercial viability and the emphasis on application development, rather than research, to optimise output. Although a solid background in chemistry is valuable, Julian stressed the necessity of interpersonal and team skills when working for a SME. Finally, students were impressed to hear that Vickers provided 1,000,000 litres of ‘liquid chocolate’ for the 2005 re-make of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Next, Mélanie Kah spoke about her career with government research institute CSL. Although a government lab, CSL is 50% business funded. As her laboratory is affiliated with the University of York, she maintains an option for moving into academia. She explained that participation in, and organisation of conferences and poster events, can further one’s career and reputation. Mélanie also emphasised the pleasures of daily life in a research team with scientists from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds.
Next up was Deborah Cowen, a PhD student at the University of Leeds. While realistic about the hard work, commitment and independence required, she stressed the advantages of a postgraduate degree for one’s career options. She highlighted the academic satisfaction to be gained and the opportunities to raise one’s profile and meet peers through poster presentations and conferences. Deborah underlined how essential it is to have a healthy working relationship with one’s supervisor.
Finally, Chris Pask of spin-out company DyeCat talked about working for a very small company indeed – DyeCat currently has just four employees. Although optimistic that his position allows him to explore several different roles in running a company, Chris conceded that immense independence and responsibility are required and that the risk-reward was arguably higher than in some settings. He discussed the business aspects of such a company, emphasising the importance of client networking and commercial interest in the company’s research.
The conference aimed to enlighten the students on career options and provide insight into various career paths, a process vital to imminently graduating students. Their response to the event was one of enthusiasm and appreciation. Mélanie Kah was certainly optimistic about the outcome, saying: ‘I have the feeling that we provided them with some useful information for their career and great advertising for the SCI, so I would definitely call it a success!’
SCI Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Group Committee