By Dr David Greensmith
Research careers are extremely varied, typically covering academic, industrial or clinical research but usually require the continuation of the academic pathway and strong interest in a specific area of biomedicine. These careers are competitive but are the literal advancement of science.
Where it starts after graduating: Most research-based careers start by securing a PhD position. You may need to undertake a Masters (preferably by research) first, but this is not an absolute prerequisite; it will depend on the level of research experience developed during your degree. For details see the recording mentioned later.
Where you can end up: There are many research-based careers in a huge range of disciplines. Broadly speaking, they fall into three areas: (1) Academic (undertaking research in a university setting), (2) clinical (for example working on clinical trials) and (3) industrial (product and process development).
Benefits of a career in this field: No two careers are the same and for most you will have a high degree of autonomy; you will heavily shape the exact course of the research you undertake and therefore your job. Successes mean a lot in research and can be incredibly rewarding. For example, you will publish your research and may become an internationally recognised expert in your field. You will likely travel the world to present at scientific conferences and in some cases pass on your knowledge to the next generation of undergraduate scientist.
Salford’s Research Careers Working Group (RCWG) seeks to facilitate undergraduate progression to research-based careers including Masters by research and PhD positions. I established the RCWG four years ago as a platform for students to engage with research and to mentor students through PhD applications. Since then, the scheme has developed, and we now have a dedicated Teams Site, student leads and a growing membership that forms a vibrant community of like-minded students.
The RCWG is suitable for all students at any level. As you progress through your degree, we’ll help you build a research-aligned CV through activities such as a regular journal club, dedicated seminars, discussion groups, learned society engagement, facilitated conference attendance, vacation scholarship and travel grant applications, research career events and scientific writing competitions. Then, when you are ready to apply for research-positions we will mentor you through the process.
On the 24th February, the RCWG hosted the inaugural “An introduction to research-based careers” symposium. Attended by around 40 students, I gave a brief overview of the PhD position then Dr Caroline Topham explained where a PhD can lead and considered the pros and cons of a research-based career. We were also joined by an international panel of scientists at various career stage who shared their experiences, advice and insight. The subsequent Q&A session was incredibly engaging. Don’t worry if you missed the symposium as it was recorded and can be accessed via the RCWG Teams site.
It’s also the first of many exciting events. Membership is free, and virtually all our activities are highly transferable; they will look good on any CV. As such, it’s well worth joining even if a research-based career is only one of many options on your radar.