#MyPhDStory – ‘It takes resilience.’

StrengthWhy do we love stories so much? Could it be because of that powerful space it creates where our personal experiences  connects with someone else? We love stories in The Hub and in today’s article, Dr Yewande Pearse shares her triumps and challenges enroute to the qualification called a PhD! Amara got to learn about Yewande through her campaign and was (and remains) inspired by her journey. Enjoy!

APH: Please can you share your academic and professional background?

YP: I completed my BSc in Human Sciences at King’s College London in 2006. I then returned to King’s in 2009 to complete a Masters in Neuroscience with a Distinction. After my Masters, I worked as a Research Assistant for two years before taking up a PhD studentship at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. I have just completed my PhD in Neuroscience, which aimed to explore the potential for gene therapy in multiple forms of Batten Disease, a childhood brain disorder.

In layman’s terms, can you share what your research study/area is about?

Batten Disease is a group of inherited disorders that cause profound neurodegeneration and predominantly affect children. The symptoms are progressively debilitating and include blindness, seizures, intellectual decline and disability, dementia, loss of speech and motor impairment, with many children eventually becoming wheelchair-bound. Currently, there are no effective treatments available for any form of Batten Disease. My research is about finding innovative ways to treat this group of diseases with a focus on gene therapy.

So what is your PhD story? When did you realise that you wanted to undertake a PhD and how did you get into one? Why did you choose your topic?

#MyUniStory – Making the most of opportunities as an international student

StudyChatIn today’s study chat, Amara shares her discussion with Cynthia Ochoga, the President Elect of the Student Union at the University of Salford. Cynthia shares from her perspective as an international student and offers advice on managing the opportunities and challenges within Higher Education to maximise your experience. Enjoy!

APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background? 

CO: My educational pursuit began at Home Science Nursery and Primary School, Ikoyi Lagos. In 1998, I moved on to Queens’ College Lagos for my secondary school education.

In 2006, I attended the University of Lagos where I undertook a diploma in Cell Biology and Genetics. By second year it became apparent to me that science was not a field I wanted to pursue and then left Nigeria to Middlesex University (MDX) Mauritius campus in 2010 and studied Psychology and Counselling. In 2014, I went to Oxford Brookes University and did a conversion to Law degree (GDL) as my 2nd degree and in September 2015, I came to University of Salford for my MSc in Media Psychology and I’m half way through it at the moment.

I have worked in a number of different roles too. My first job was a three-month internship at Action Health Incorporated. In 2010, prior to moving to Mauritius, I followed my passion in journalism and worked as an intern at a radio station in Nigeria.

While studying at MDX, I was elected president of the International Students’ Society for Mauritius campus. I also joined AIESEC, an international youth development organization and rose to become Vice President of External Relations which I did simultaneously with my role as President. In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I worked for a month with the Mauritius Institute of Directors as part of a team that delivered an international conference.

After graduation, I went to Nigeria to participate in the NYSC programme. Since then, I have worked with BBC Media City as a research assistant for Mozfest 2015. I have also worked in a customer services role for Doddles Parcels in Manchester. I recently resigned to take some time out to prepare to take on my new role as the President of the Student Union at the University of Salford.

You started out your Higher Education journey in the Biological sciences, what spurred the switch to Psychology? Was it a smooth transition?

#MyCareerStory -Science Policy

Career2In today’s #MyCareerStory, Amara had the opportunity to interview Gabriele Butkute. Gabriele currently works as a Science Policy Assistant at the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society and in this insightful interview helps to demystify an often overlooked pathway for science graduates. Enjoy!

APH: Can you tell us about your educational background and career progression to date?

GB – I’m originally from Lithuania, which is where I completed my high school diploma cum laude. Soon after my graduation I came to London, had a gap year working in the hospitality business – which is really what people say when they worked as a waitress/waiter! I then embarked on a BSc Biomedical Science degree at London Met, from where I graduated almost two years ago now. Right after my graduation I got a fixed term job as an Events and Administrative Assistant at the Royal Society of Biology where I was tasked with organising three national Life Science Careers Conferences. Looking back, it seems ironic that I got this job when I didn’t have a clear career plan for myself! My next job was a Student Enterprise and Marketing internship at London Met where I spent seven months developing and integrating  enterprise into the science curriculum and encouraging students to develop softer skills and business awareness which are key for a successful career nowadays. Finally, a year ago I started my first science policy job at the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society, which is where I am now. I believe in internships and placements because I undertook two between completing my degree and starting my current job. My experiences  made me feel more comfortable with the career decision I have made.

You obtained a first class degree in Biomedical Science. Did you ever consider a career as a biomedical scientist in the NHS?

#PhDChat – ‘I didn’t just survive my PhD, I enjoyed it!’

You’ve done the research, you’ve ‘birthed’ your thesis, the last step between you and your PhD is the much dreaded viva voce exam. You have to sit in a room for a few hours to discuss your research and convince your examiners your work makes an original contribution to knowledge and is worthy of a PhD. In this article, Dr Emmanuel Mogaji reflects on his recent experience of undertaking a viva.

I was given six weeks notice to prepare for my viva. Even though I was quite confident about my research and my thesis, my approaching viva examination appeared very daunting. I reassured myself by telling myself I was going to enjoy my viva and not just survive it. To prepare myself mentally, I read articles and listened to various podcasts available on different websites.

When I heard former PhD candidates reflect on their viva experience, I always had this idea they had just survived it  – akin to escaping from a lion’s den. I didn’t want to be like that, I wanted to enjoy every bit of it. My most important preparation though was reading my thesis from cover to cover.

I reminded myself of the following facts –

#APHEvents – Networking; A Powerful Tool for Professional Success

The Aspiring Professionals Hub (APH) recently convened a workshop on networking with delegates comprising, students, University staff, members of public and diplomats who were in attendance at the Educational Forum which formed part of the activities marking the Inaugural Africa Week programme at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

We chose the area of networking as we realise how important it has been in shaping our career journey and is one of our mantras in the Hub.Our goal is simple – to demystify networking and to make it “real” for our audience especially those in the early stages of their career who might not have had the chance to network and for those who have, how to do so effectively.

The key to effective networking is to know what it is and what it isn’t– which we defined previously as ‘the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business’ We took this a step further by defining it as ‘the process of knitting together ideas, people and situations to create opportunity.’ 

Networking is about building relationships. We discussed the importance of networking and offered some tips to get our participants started.

Preparation – you should always be prepared to network and prior to attending an event it is important to ask yourself some questions such as;

o   Who will be at the event and who/what organisation(s) do they represent?

o   Is it a formal or an informal event and if so, how should you cater for your appearance – would you need to wear a suit? Would dressing informally affect your ability to engage with any high profile delegates?

o   What would you consider as personal success for you at the end of the event?

We also stressed the importance of having business cards. These are very cheap to purchase these days and having your role i.e. what you do and what you can offer, your contact details including a phone number and email address which you can be reached on is what you need to begin your networking journey.

 

Finally, we highlighted the importance of follow up. This can be arduous and often easier not to do but when done correctly it is generally seen as a polite gesture and more often than not, people do respond when you follow up after discussing and exchanging contact details with them at events.

So next time, how about a “Hello……, it was nice to meet you at…..”

We had a really interactive audience and enjoyed the activities where our delegates got the chance to plan their next networking activity. Hopefully we have met our mission of ‘engaging and equipping’ a few more professionals who will utilise the knowledge they have learnt for their development.

You can see some pictures from the event here

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Photo credit – Olivia Dixon

To find our more or read our previous articles on networking click here.

If you would like the Aspiring Professionals Hub (APH) to run a similar workshop for your organisation, please contact us – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

Finally don’t forget to join the conversation by leaving a comment, also feel free to share and subscribe to our network

#UniAdvice – Developing Self Awareness for professional success.

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Image – Geralt

‘What are your two greatest strengths? How do you think your greatest weakness will impact on your performance in this role?

I  was at a job interview. On the outside, I worked to project the confident, cool and collected interviewee. On the inside, I was on my knees begging ‘Please have mercy on this graduate in the wilderness of graduate employment for those of us without experience!’ I answered the technical questions with flair (at least I thought so). I talked about my dissertation, latest news in the sector…I could already see my staff ID card in the horizon. Then the question above was posed and I just went blank.

Thing is, up to that point, I had thought that interviews were only to test if an individual had the subject knowledge to do the job. ‘We are looking for an accountant, you are an accountant, you’re hired!’ However, prospective employers are also searching for an individual who is a good fit for their organisation. S/he has the knowledge and experience but…Is s/he a team player? Can s/he persevere through rejection? Is s/he inspirational? How does s/he manage conflict? Is s/he empathetic?

#UniAdvice – How I got my first graduate role!

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Image – Geralt

You’ve worked so hard to graduate with a good degree. You can recite your CV and personal statement verbatim. Yet, getting into your first graduate position seems like getting a camel through the eye of a needle! Worse still, you seem to be caught in the ‘Catch 22’ of ‘No work without experience and no experience without work’. In today’s article, Zohra shares her journey to landing her first graduate position with one of the world’s top pharmaceutical firms.

APH: Congratulations on getting first graduate role, please can you share your educational background?

ZA: Thank you. I recently achieved a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Pharmacology from Kingston University. Prior to this, I studied Biology, Chemistry and Maths at college.

You shared with the Aspiring Professionals Hub about how a lack of experience seemed to be a giant hurdle towards getting employed. How were you able to break through this barrier?

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