How To Get Into Scientific Research - An Interview With Ben Harvey

Name: Ben Harvey Ben

Age: 21

Degree: Biomedical Science

Current job title: Research Technician

Current workplace: University of Sheffield

Career/long term goal: To be a successful scientist in top organisation, preferably specialising in Molecular Biology

What made you pick this job?

I chose to be a Research Technician for many reasons really; the first being that I needed experience in an academic setting. I knew I wanted to work for a Russell Group University so I focused my search on these. The University of Sheffield is now funding my Masters part time but it’s also really useful to take a year out of education to work in the Industry and make contacts in a high-ranking research institution.

The skills that I’m gaining from working in this environment will transfer really well to other areas of Science and the varied nature of my work really appeals to me as I’m not yet sure which area I want to specialise in.

ChemistryHow did you get the position?

After my final year exams, I began applying for anything and everything in the area of Academic Research- sort of a scatter-gun approach! I was sending out about 40 applications a month post university but it eventually paid off as I had a job by the middle of July.  The post I’m in at the moment is great, because I’m working on a variety of Molecular biology projects for different researchers- so I’m learning new things everyday.

What skills do you feel are the most important in your chosen line of work?

Having a meticulous nature is necessary as you have to consider things from every angle before moving on in your research. The number of times I thought a project was finished before it actually was isn’t worth thinking about! The ability to question others and yourself is pretty important as well!

On the research side you’ve got to learn to decipher what’s relevant from what isn’t pretty quickly. You won’t always have time to read a 10,000 word paper! It’s a question of knowing what you’re looking for at the beginning, picking out relevant papers based on their abstracts, reading the first line of each paragraph to see if it's worthwhile reading more!

How is your job developing these skills?

I feel like I’ve completely changed the way that I work by learning how scientific research is done in the industry and by doing it every single day. I’ve gained countless lab skills which are all transferable. Having confidence in your ability to work independently is something that I’ve come to appreciate. I was given very little responsibility initially but I fought hard for more! I feel like it’s given me a bit of an edge over people hired at the same time as me.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in terms of your job, and how did you overcome it?Lab

The application process was definitely the most difficult part! I lost count of the amount of applications I wrote and the number of times I amended my CV!  I included as many skills and as much experience as possible to ensure my CV matched exactly what the Institutes wanted. What I really discovered is that your classification grade is much less important than your experience.

Are you happy with the direction the job is taking you in? Is it helping you to achieve your long term goal?

Ultimately, I determine how much I get out of it. I’m a technician for the department which means I’m not restricted to one project; I can approach someone and ask for work and then gain extra skills from that experience. I learnt very quickly to network with people working in areas that interest me and from this, I have been able to do what I enjoy. I’m currently involved in several molecular biology related projects in a very broad range which looks great on my CV.

At the end of the job I’ll have 2 years experience, a Masters degree, and be in a great position to move my career forward.

And finally, do you have any advice for students and graduates reading this article?

Get as much work experience as you can. It’s never too early to start looking. Also, if you want extra responsibility- just ask for it! Finally, make sure that your paper application is as polished as possible before sending it out. That is key! 


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