• Question: How did you know that you wanted to be a scientist and how did you achieve it?

    Asked by typing to Tomas, Richard, Reka, Paul, Laura, Kevin, Judith, Hannah, Emma on 21 Jan 2019.
    • Photo: Laura Nolan

      Laura Nolan answered on 21 Jan 2019:


      I always enjoyed science subjects at school and so from about the age of 15 I was thinking about how I could have a career in science. I ended up taking science subjects for the final 2 years of high school then went on to do a bachelor’s degree in science at Uni. I really enjoyed the experimental science work I did as a part of this degree and wanted to do more studies (PhD) but I didn’t have the marks to go straight into a PhD so I worked for a year in a lab to get more experience (and a couple of publications) and after that managed to get a PhD studentship. I then applied for a lot of Fellowships to get money to fund my research and was lucky enough to get one to move from Australia to the UK. Aside from the studies and Fellowships I think that achieving what I have thus far has required a lot of determination, perseverance and support from friends and mentors to keep me heading towards the goal(s) I set out for myself. It was not always smooth sailing, I was never the smartest one in the bunch, but I knew what I wanted to do and I kept going towards that however best I could!

    • Photo: Hannah Currant

      Hannah Currant answered on 21 Jan 2019:


      Like Laura, I really enjoyed science at school and was convinced I wanted to be a marine biologist, so went to university to study that. When I started my degree, I quickly learnt that I was less interested in the behaviour of marine species, and more interested in their genetics and molecular workings so swapped courses to Molecular Biology. When I was at university, inspired by some friends who were studying computer science, I decided to teach myself to code and found out that I loved it! I realised that there was a whole field dedicated to the combination of computer science and biology called bioinformatics. To learn more, in the summer breaks of university, I did internships in labs at different universities in the UK, where I learnt loads about computational biology. Also these research internships taught me that I really like doing research, asking questions and finding methods to get the answers. I applied for a PhD and started that straight after my degree which is what I’m doing now. I think overall finding out exactly what I wanted to do was a lot about trying things out and slowly narrowing down what you enjoy. Also trying to find new and interesting things to learn, or opportunities to take helped me figure out what exactly I wanted to do! I just focused on working hard on things that made me happy and with a bit of luck I’ve managed to make it this far!

    • Photo: Judith Sleeman

      Judith Sleeman answered on 1 Feb 2019:


      I always liked science subjects at school, but it was really a teacher who persuaded me to take science ‘A’ levels. He said that girls didn’t usually do well in science at that level and I don’t like to be told ‘no’! (It was a long time ago…..). Then, because I was good at sciences at A level, I was persuaded to apply to medical school. Fortunately I didn’t get any offers, as I would have hated it! So I got a job in a pensions office while I decided what to do, then applied for a science BSc at Bristol University. I had enjoyed the mini-projects I did as part of my biology A level, but it wasn’t really until I started my practical project in my final year in Bristol that I really realised what I wanted to do. I just felt ‘at home’ in the research lab and wanted to do that for as long as I could. I applied for several PhD studentships at different Universities and ended up at the University of Edinburgh. Once I finished there, I applied for a job in a research group in Dundee. Then I applied for a fellowship from the royal society to allow me to run my own lab. Half way through the fellowship (after some maternity leave), I saw a job as a lecturer advertised in St Andrews and applied for it. So, here I am…..

      Hard work, determination, support from my family, a large pinch of luck!

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