I was recently involved in organising an event called “Chemistry Careers – What’s Next?”, which showcased the diversity of careers options open outside academia to people with a chemistry research background. Our department has PhD and Post-doc Forums, which represent the research students and staff in the school, and the chairs of each forum made up the rest of the organising committee. Given my role interacting with business and industry, I was able to provide advice and use my network to attract speakers for the day.
“Chemistry Careers-What’s Next?” consisted of talks by professionals working in science-related careers and a networking session giving opportunity for those attending to find out more about the different careers showcased. A variety of sectors were covered during the day, including industry, patent law, publishing, consultancy, teaching, business and marketing. It was pleasing to see a number of Nottingham PhD alumni return to describe their current jobs. These included patent attorney Freya Hine (Adamson Jones), environmental consultant Adrian Chapman (Oakdene Hollins), Martin Whitaker (Fusion IP/Diurnal Ltd) and David Ring (AkzoNobel).
Plenty of advice was available about the current job market and how best to look and apply for jobs. Simeon Ractliffe, a recruitment consultant and founder of Access-ScienceJobs, described how to use agencies to your advantage while Clare Jones outlined the support available through the University of Nottingham’s Careers and Employability Service. Joanne Thomson, Campaigns Manager at the RSC, discussed the different roles available within the RSC graduate scheme such as publishing and marketing, and I talked about working in technology transfer. There were also presentations by TeachFirst and STEMNET highlighting the need for talented scientists to get into the classroom and inspire the next generation.
The event was organised after the PhD and Post-Doc forums received feedback asking for more career’s talks and advice to be available, especially around non-academic careers. The appetite for this information was apparent from the turn-out: over 100 PhD and post-doctoral researchers attended, about 2/3 of the total number in the department.
Personally, I think events such as “Chemistry Careers-What’s Next?” are crucial in informing researchers about the types of jobs open to them. For those who want to enter the academic path, there is plenty of advice and mentoring already available at University. Career Fayre’s are also common, but tend to focus on corporate or graduate jobs and appear more aimed undergraduates. Consequently, PhD students and post-docs are often left unsure about how to step out of academia and find the right job. Many also fear that their academic skills are not valued or appreciated by employers, who will deem them academically institutionalised and commercially naive.
This is where we intended “Chemistry Careers-What’s Next?” to come in, as a bespoke event aimed to break down some of these misconceptions. Martin Whitaker was confident that owning a PhD in Chemistry means that any career is possible. This statement may seem an exaggeration but given the broad range of careers our speakers described, there is certainly some truth in it.
I kept track of the various talks by tweets, which I’ve collated here.
I was also involved in organising a series of lectures which involved industrial chemists talking about their work and careers. A summary of those talks can be found on the SCI website.