Occupation – Research Scientist (Microbiology/Immunology)
Qualifications held – BSc Microbiology, PhD in Microbiology/Immunology
Age bracket – 25-30
General comments – I started out in a general science degree and chose to branch into the microbiology path in the 2nd/3rd year of that. I enjoyed the lab classes, and particularly enjoyed the research project module during the final year of my degree. When I graduated I decided that working in a pharmaceutical company wasn’t for me – I wouldn’t enjoy the highly structured environment. At this point I decided that I wanted to further my education so I applied for a PhD. I enjoyed the PhD for the most part but it was hard work – you will be expected to design your own experiments and drive your project forward so you need to be robust and able to accept criticism and you must be pretty organised. After gaining a PhD you can expect to work as a postdoctoral fellow/associate for 3-4 yrs. The money is reasonably good but you will likely change jobs at least 2 times during this time (short term contracts), and chances are you will need to emigrate due to lack of positions in Ireland. The plus side of this is that your PhD is your ticket to travel the world, the down side is you have little job security and moving jobs so frequently can be tough on your personal life. After a few years of postdoctoral work you will hopefully have published enough papers to be able to compete for a permanent academic position (lectureship & running your own lab) – however these positions are few and far between and applications are highly competitive.
Day in the life – I work in immunology research. No two days are the same. Its not a 9-5 job – some days I finish at 3pm, some days 10pm. I often have to work weekends. However, I love my job – I am continuously learning new things, I get to ask interesting scientific questions and design the experiments to answer them. I travel to a couple of conferences per year and hear about the cutting edge research being carried out around the world. I also spend time training junior lab members in new techniques.
So basically – Its an interesting job with a lot of variety. You will constantly be challenged and rarely bored. You will have opportunities to travel. If you have good organizational skills and the ability to drive yourself forward than you would probably enjoy this job.
Hope this was informative to anyone considering a career in science