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 had a catch up with Seema Mayank, who did her PhD with Jim McDonnell, and is now a biophysicist at UCB! Seema shares how she discovered that after all, she’s happiest in the lab, and if there’s one advice she would give us, is to go out there and talk about our science! More below!
What was your PhD project on? What was your favourite part of the PhD?
I did my PhD in Biochemistry and biophysics in Jim McDonnell’s lab studying biophysical characteristics of IgE. My favourite part of PhD was doing different biophysical, immunological and biochemical assays for my work. It was like approaching the same problem but a different route. The data from various techniques may not always match but it can complement and complete the picture you are trying to see at the end of PhD.
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 do the same thing but a bit faster. Students invest a lot of time in the failed experiments but there are hardly any successful experiments without failed ones. Also, I would give more talks as they allow you to take time off from the lab, look at what you have done so far and find a way to communicate the results to an audience that doesn’t know your project or techniques that well.
When did you start thinking about your options after PhD? What helped you to decide what you want to next?
I had a child after PhD so I didn’t take a job straight away. When I started a job, I joined a clinical trials unit. It bored me to death and I left it in 5 months to start at UCB.
If you are not enjoying the alternate career…maybe you belong in a lab!
What are you up to now?
I am biophysicist in UCB pharma. I am at an entry level scientist position and use biophysical methods for antibody screening and characterisation.
How does your typical day look like? What is your favourite part about your current role? What surprises you most about your work?
My role is mostly lab-based so I spent most of my time in lab setting experiments. My favourite part is presenting the data to respective teams. The screening data I generate helps the project move forward.
Was having a PhD crucial to get the job that you were after?
Having a PhD helps but it is not a necessity.
Apart from doing my PhD research, what else should I do to be the best candidate out there?
Presentation skills always help, don’t just stay in the lab and generate dat…go out and present it in meetings, conferences etc.
What do you miss most about your PhD life?
And the privilege of being a student and getting away with a mistake.
Can you share your funniest or most memorable experience from your PhD life?
The conversations I had with fellow PhD students in Randall corridors. Sharing the same pain of things not working and laughing over silly things….I particularly remember the international students with different accents. There was one friend who calls FACS in a particular way that resembled a rude word 😊
Got more questions for Seema?