Current Position: Research Associate, Demuris Ltd, Newcastle University
I grew up in the North-East of England and lived in close proximity to one of the best medical schools that the UK can offer, so it was natural that my professional desires would be tugged towards a career in Dentistry. With this in mind, I applied for Dentistry here at Newcastle, but sadly got rejected.
As a back-up choice and secondary route into Dentistry I chose Biochemistry. However I enjoyed the Microbiological and Immunological modules of my first year of study so much that I transferred to BSc Biomedical Sciences with Medical Microbiology as my specialisation. I shed my interest in Dentisty with the aim of becoming a researching microbiologist.
During the course of my studies I valued the relevance of the lecture and source material to practical, realistic applications.
The one-to-one support that many of our lecturers would happily offer was an immense aid in my studies, as well as in developing my own professional aims and compass. The vast amount of time spent in the teaching laboratories, especially on my course when compared with the other available biomedical disciplines, gave an extra lashing of hands-on experience.
On top of the superb teaching and facilities, Newcastle University’s many extracurricular schemes helped me gain confidence in a laboratory environment. I undertook a summer vacationship placement - a scheme that many of the academic staff are happy to supply during the summer after the secondd academic year.
For 12 weeks (many of them funded) I worked in the prestigious Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology studying the protein-RNA interactions of the B. subtilis Signal Recognition Particle RNA subunit. During this time the friendly and helpful staff and postgraduate students engaged me and guided my understanding of the techniques that I employed.
I found my project to be a fulfilling and practical use of my ample summer time. Supplementing and adding to this was my final year dissertation. This was another lab project that lasted three months. I studied the complex glycan utilisation by the gastrointestinal microbiota.
I gained my current position as a Research Associate with a Newcastle University-based company focused on antibiotic discovery, Demuris Ltd., mostly by luck, a handful of past experiences and being keen. The job market is and always will be a competitive field, but by persevering and using the skills developed during my studies I managed to gain employment within a relevant field.
A member of staff who I had previously liaised with had sent out application details by email near the end of my finals. It was relevant to my interests, so I applied. I found myself being fully employed three weeks after my final exams.
As soon as I started work I was applying and stretching my present knowledge of micro-organisms and lab techniques on a daily basis. I have ample experience working with E. coli and B. subtilis strains, for example, and could apply much of the plating and handling techniques I had learnt in the past to my new responsibilities.
However, I am tested with the actinomycetes strains that I now mainly work with. Their variety of shapes and colours is a constant source of novelty and intrigue to me. My role primarily involves the screening of these actinomycetes strains for anti-microbial activity, followed by the subsequent large-scale growth, harvesting and purification of novel compounds. Thus I have much ahead of me and have loved every minute that has gotten me to where I am today.