As unbelievable it sometimes seems, our life does not end on the day we get our PhDs, it’s quite the opposite really- we’re starting our careers! Sometimes it’s difficult to say what your next step will be – as PhD experience gives us so much that you can be almost anything! If you’re lost or a little unsure about what you want to do after PhD, the best way to find out is to ask around and that’s exactly what we’re doing! 

We’ve talked to Joe Dwyer, he did his PhD with Elisabeth Ehler at the Randall Centre for Cell and Molecular Biophysics and Cardiovascular Division, where he looked at the role of FHOD1 in the heart. After his PhD, Joe worked in the pharmaceutical market research, but then he followed his heart (pun intended) and now he’s a yoga teacher!

What was your PhD project on? What was your favourite part of the PhD?

My PhD investigated the role of the formin protein FHOD1 in cardiac muscle. Formins have often been shown to be important regulators of actin, a crucial molecule in muscle cells, therefore we sought to characterise FHOD1 in the heart through a variety of biochemical, molecular biology, and imaging methods. The best part of the PhD involved the use of fluorescent confocal microscopy to produce beautiful and almost psychedelic images of cultured heart cells. I enjoyed the level of independence a PhD student has during their studies.

What advice would you give to your past PhD-self? If you could do everything all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have advised myself to be more patient and persistent. Science students have to learn the hard lesson that many experiments do not work. I would have told my student self that an experiment that has not worked is not a failure but an opportunity to optimise and move forward to different strategies. If I could do it all over again I would be more outwardly expressive about my curiosity and fascination for my project (i.e., talk to more people about results and how to optimise experiments; ask for more help) and I would have approached my project with the mentality that my work is valuable.

When did you start thinking about your options after PhD? What helped you to decide what you want to next?

I started thinking about options in the second half of my last year of PhD. At that point, I knew that I did not want to have my life revolve around lab work, publications, and grant writing. The science game can be intellectually rewarding but it is ultimately a labour of love and can be very thankless with too many highs and lows. At that point in time, I was also seduced by the relatively high wages received for working in the city and became an analyst exploring the pharmaceutical industry. This was a decision I came to regret though.

What are you up to now?

After two and a half years of working a very stressful and mind-numbing job in the pharmaceutical market research industry, I decided to follow my true passions: yoga and music. I currently earn my living as a yoga teacher, teaching in studios but also assisting in teacher training programs. I am also preparing to go back to study next year in the Netherlands and plan on starting a bachelors degree in early music with the harpsichord as my main instrument.

How does your typical day look like? What is your favourite part about your current role? What surprises you most about your work?

I teach between 1 and 3 classes every day, which contrasts starkly to working a 9 to 5 job. When I am not teaching I am completely absorbed in my music studies. My favourite part of working as a freelance yoga teacher is being my own boss and having plenty of time to pursue my passions. Every now and then I still get surprised at how draining teaching a yoga class can be, especially when I teach a hot yoga class.

Was having a PhD crucial to get the job that you were after?

The PhD definitely helped in getting my job as an analyst and has also influenced my yoga teaching career. My PhD taught me how to be organised and how to persevere in stressful situations. While the PhD has not helped me grab yoga studio gigs directly it helped sculpt me into a unique teacher.

Apart from doing my PhD research, what else should I do to be the best candidate out there?

Don’t be afraid to explore and nurture passions and hobbies that are unrelated to your PhD.

What do you miss most about your PhD life?

The generous stipend provided by the British Heart Foundation.

Can you share your funniest or most memorable experience from your PhD life?

I had a hilarious wardrobe malfunction at one of the Randall Division Christmas parties. We decided to play a game where we had to pick up a plastic cup from the floor only using our mouths. I thought that leaning over in the box splits to get the cup was a great idea and ended up splitting my trousers wide open in front of half of the division. Thankfully I was wearing underpants!

Got more questions or fancy attending Joe’s yoga class? Check out his amazing poses on Instagram!

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Parivritta Padangustasana – revolved hand to big toe pose AKA dancing shiva pose. Gotta love twisting postures. They light the fire in the belly and create that tapasic desire to overcome fear and progress in one's sadhana. Join me on the mat this week: -Monday 10th April: 630pm hot basics and 8pm hot flow @yogahaven Islington. -Tuesday 11th April: 12pm hot flow @yogahaven Clapham; 630pm hot flow and 8pm hot basics @yogahaven Islington -Wednesday 12th April: 1230pm vinyasa flow @yogahaven Clapham; 615 hatha flow @workitlondon -Saturday 15th April: 10am hot basics @yogahaven Richmond -Sunday 16th April: 10am hot flow @yogahaven Clapham; 4pm hot basics @yogahaven Richmond. Please note that classes at KCL have temporarily stopped for the spring/summer period. Classes usually recommence early in the new school year but look out for the odd class and workshop at kcl my lovely @kclyogaandpilates yogis! #yoga #yogateacher #yogahaven #workitlondon #yogainlondon #londonyoga #parivrittapadangustasana #springtimeyoga

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