• Question: How did you decide to research what you are at the minute? i mean did you just happen upon it by accident or did you get told to research it ye someone else??

    Asked by cat1231000 to Will, Suze, Mike, David, James on 15 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by muhammedalir, mariam19, siobhan8.
    • Photo: William Eborall

      William Eborall answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Hi cat1231000. During the final year of my degree I was taking a course of lectures by the person who is now my boss. I really liked the field of biology he was talking to us about, which was applied biology. Applied biology is about ways in which biology can be made to do useful things for us. For example washing powder contains things called “enzymes” which are little molecular machines made by living things (even you and me) which help break down stains in the laundry. My boss was telling us how people working for him had made plants which could eat explosives to remove pollution from the environment. This all sounded really interesting to me. So I went to see him.

      I told him that I was interested in making biology help us as humans and liked the work he was doing, and he told me he’d recently been awarded some money by the government to do some research on biofuels. He told me that the money could be used to fund a PhD studentship and he’d like me to do it. So I applied to the people who had given him the money, and they gave me the place.

      So I sort of decided what I wanted to do, and sort of got it by accident. Hope that answers your question 🙂

    • Photo: Suze Kundu

      Suze Kundu answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Hey 🙂

      I graduated from my Chemistry degree, and was actually training to be an accountant! It seemed like a good idea at the time, and the job is great, but it wasn’t really satisfying for me. I had a chat with my former inorganic chemistry lecturer that was doing amazing work on self-cleaning glass at the time, and loved the usefulness of his inventions. He mentioned that he had this project coming up, and had secured funding for it, so I jumped at the chance to be his PhD student!

      I don’t think that I would personally have done a PhD if I couldn’t see the usefulness of the research. Some people are great at expanding the knowledge that we have about science, and to let someone else work out how to use it, but that wasn’t really for me, so I went along this route instead.

      Although the application for funding was already in place, I’ve been able to make my own decisions about where I take the research, and how I go about it in order to achieve the goal that was initially set up – although this is totally with the help of my supervisor! When I first started, I thought that I’d never be able to make my own decisions or come up with my own new idea, however somewhere along the way it all started to click, and it snowballed, and here we are, with a patent and published sciencey work under my belt. And I’ve done it all in four inch heels too! Just goes to show that you can be girlie and a good scientist, all at the same time. You don’t need to take it too seriously, or turn into a really boring person for you to enjoy something that you find interesting!

    • Photo: Mike Dodd

      Mike Dodd answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      Hey everyone, I research heart disease, because several people in my family suffer from it. I have always been interested in the heart. When I finished biochemistry, I went and got a job for a small vaccines company. After a year the company closed and I was left jobless. I was reading a science magazine (yeah I’m cool!!) and found an advert for the PhD I’m now doing. I have some control over what I research. My boss has ideas and so do I. There is one set of experiments, that I just tried for fun and they worked really well. This now has been a major part of my PhD.

    • Photo: James Marrow

      James Marrow answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      Like the others, I was influenced by one person (Prof John Knott) – I really enjoyed his lectures on fracture of materials, and so when an opportunity to do a PhD in the area (with someone else, actually – Julia King) came up after a job interview at Harwell, I took it (I hadn’t actually thought of doing a PhD at that time!). I haven’t looked back (much) since and I’m still working on fracture….