Pathways Registration – Now Live

For all Manchester University PhDs (including recent PhD alumni**) and research staff, our on-line registration for Pathways is now live. What’s “Pathways”? Our biggest PhD and research staff career options event, on June 13th and 16th, so big its even got its own page on this blog for advance information.

However, now’s the time to go to our Pathways registration website and book yourself a place. Along with on-line booking, you can also get more information on who’s coming to take part in the question and answer panels, browse their “bubble CVs” (a very condensed form of CV), and find details of the workshops and events on the second day.

As anyone who has organised an event of this size will recognise, information about guests and workshops is still flooding in to us, so don’t be surprised if a lot more gets added closer to the date (still two weeks to go, a lot can happen in that time…)

I’d advise booking now to be sure of a place (we’ve had several hundred bookings already), and checking back just before the event to plan out your day(s) with the latest up to date guest and workshop information. As part of registration, you’ll be asked for details of the career areas and workshops which interest you, but this is mainly to help us make sure the most popular sessions get the larger rooms. You can change your mind on the day – in fact, it will be first come, first served at each session, so making sure you get there in good time for the sessions you really want to attend will be important (yes, I know it sounds potentially chaotic, but last year it went without a hitch, in spite of hundreds of attendees and up to 10 different options to choose from at any one time).

** The only problem with on-line booking is that it makes it more difficult for alumni who don’t work at the university and who want to attend. If that applies to you, you can either contact your former Faculty training team, or ourselves (at and we can sort out your booking. To be honest, if you completed your PhD several years ago, this may not be the event for you, as it will focus on first career steps. However, many researchers don’t fall immediately into their ideal job, and this event may still be of interest to our PhDs who graduated in the last 2 or 3 years.


Pathways Event – A Whole New Page To Itself

Following on from advance notice of our big annual PhD & researcher careers event, Pathways now has its own page on this site, with an overview of how the event will run, information for potential PhD and research staff delegates and for potential participants who are prepared to share information about their careers so far.

There will be a full, intranet/password protected website in May, where you can book on-line, but until then, have a look at what’s coming up, and learn how you can keep up-to-date with any other Pathways information.

Just click on the Page link above (on the black bar) to see what’s in store.

and there was even a free lunch...

Pathways – PhD and Research Staff Careers Mega Event

I’ve hinted at this before, but we’re now well into planning our annual careers event for Manchester University PhDs, now renamed “Pathways”, expanded to include our research staff and running over 2 days.
[UPDATE 14/4/08: And it’s now got it’s own page, here ]

On Friday 13th June (I know, I know…) we’ll be running Q&A panels and informal “Career Conversations” with as many people as we can find who got their PhD or were university research staff within the last 5-10 years or so. We had over 80 people talking about their careers last year, and we’re hoping to exceed that this year.

On Monday 16th June (assuming no disasters on Friday), we’re hoping to run a series of one-off workshops to help answer the question – “So, now I’ve heard about my ideal career, how do I make it happen?”

Where do you come in now?

  1. If there’s a career you’d like to know about, let us know asap. We can’t guarantee to be able to find someone with a PhD to turn up and talk about it, but we’ll have a go.
  2. If you have any friends who fall into the category of “up to 10 years since I did my PhD or left university research”, please point them in our direction. You might know all about them, but there are lots of other Manchester PhDs and research staff who don’t, so we’d love to hear from them, as the main way we find participants is through personal contact. Law, government roles and NGOs are often difficult areas for us to source, so any contacts from these areas are particularly gratefully received (and they don’t need to be Manchester alumni – we’ll take anyone who’s willing!)UPDATE, 8/04 : See comments on this post for suggestions already made, and add your own requests/contacts if there’s something you’re burning to find out about.
  3. Put the dates in your diary now, and start working on your supervisor/PI to let you attend.

If you want to put in a plea for your ideal career to be covered, leave a comment here. If you can offer a contact, just leave a comment on this post. If you mark a comment “Not for Posting”, I’ll still get to see it but I’ll make sure the details don’t get published on the blog (I can contact you directly if we need to correspond). Otherwise, I’ll publish your suggestions and comments so everyone can benefit from them.

PhD Vivas Streamed On YouTube?

I won’t even try and summarise this truly inspired posting from top Manchester PhD blog, Gooseania. Suffice to say you should just read

Fame, fame, fatal fame

and wonder what they’re putting in the water in the new Alan Turing Building …

For anyone considering doing a Maths PhD (or any PhD), this blog should be compulsory reading, if only to see what it can do to your sanity.

As our transatlantic cousins say, “Enjoy”.

PS. No rickrolling (see Wikipedia if you want to know what this is) involved in the above links – honest!

Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there 

Does A PhD Equal Experience? / GSK Job Ad

Worried that all the ads you see require experience, but you’ve spent the last 3+ years doing a PhD? Well, I’ve got evidence from a current advert for a role in GlaxoSmithKline that, in some cases at least, when they ask for all that experience – yes, they really do mean you, the one finishing their PhD, the one worrying that all their friends who got jobs straight after graduating did the right thing after all, and how can you get experience if you can’t get a job…

GSK are currently advertising for a Physical Properties Scientist at their Pharmaceutical  and Chemical Development labs at Harlow and Ware. If you look on their website, under “Experienced Hires” (search on vacancy number 46335), you’ll see that the Basic Qualifications needed are :

– “extensive experience in pharmaceutical development and physical property characterisation”

which doesn’t sound like a first job outside academic study. However, the ad my contact has sent me for the same role rewords this slightly as :

– “we are looking for PhD scientists, or equivalent experience, to join this high profile group” and asks for “a background in pharmaceutical development, and physical property characterisation…”

which could be just what you were looking for if you’re a PhD chemist, materials scientist or pharmaceutical scientist interested in analytical techniques relating to solid state and powder properties of potential pharmaceuticals. If this is you, get in quickly and apply through GSK’s careers website (it was advertised on 20th Feb).

If this isn’t the vacancy for you, use it to take hope that where a job ad asks for “extensive experience” in a topic close to your PhD, those 3 or 4 years learning to be a professional researcher and breaking new ground when it comes to the body of knowledge in your subject really can count for something outside academia – and apply anyway.

Medical Writing Event and Resources

Today we hosted an excellent Medical Writing careers event at Manchester, organised by Peter Llewellyn. Peter arranged for over 20 medical writing specialists to attend, either to give talks (many thanks to Mike Gazeley, Annick Moon and Jane Fraser) or to chat over a lunch provided with the support of UK GRAD.

I now feel I have a clearer view not only of the role of a medical writer, but also of other related roles. Hopefully those who attended agree.

I hadn’t appreciated the extent to which medical writers accept that their role is part of the marketing of a pharmaceutical product. They are there to educate the healthcare professionals about the client’s product, to improve sales. They have clear ethical responsibilities (it is one of the most regulated industries) and as former research scientists, it was clear that the speakers wouldn’t be doing the job if they felt they were being compromised – but it’s still part of the process of making money for the pharmaceutical industry, and not a career for anyone who feels uncomfortable with the commercial implications. On the plus side, if you’re a PhD / post-doc life scientist who thinks they’d like to do something related to marketing, this is one career to consider where you can combine your technical expertise and your creative flair.

Other related areas touched on were writers in regulatory roles – writing up clinical trials, presenting data and so on, for submission to the regulatory authorities before a drug is approved. No marketing element here, but maybe not the same level of variety and creative input that you would get in a medical writing job.

Talking to the exhibitors over lunch, there are obviously several other avenues to explore if the bench has lost its appeal and information is more your thing – medical information, clinical trials roles or even moving more into the advertising end of the marketing spectrum.

There is some great material in the slide presentations from the three speakers which are on Peter’s MedComms Networking website (or will be by tomorrow). However, if you weren’t there for Jane Fraser’s entertaining run through the qualities needed for a medical writer, you’ll have to use your imagination when you see her slides to decide which qualities match which animals. I loved the final picture of a rhinoceros – “you have to develop a thick skin but if you’re good at it, you get to charge a lot…”  [Update : Jane has added notes to the slides she’s put on Peter’s website and taken out the pictures so you will now have more of an idea of what her talk was about – but it’s not quite as pretty!]

Some other highlights of the day were :

  • hearing from Michael Thompson from Complete Medical Group that they were delighted to be there as they were looking for a trainee medical writer at the moment (so if you were inspired by what you heard on the day, now’s the time to go for it)
  • talking to Miriam Banner, who was a final year PhD researcher at Manchester until she spotted an ad on the Careers Service website for a medical writer for Alpharmaxim. She’s just finished her first 9 months in the job and was bubbling with enthusiasm for her new career. (Result!!! In the Careers Service, we don’t often hear “how it all turned out” so it cheers us up no end to find out that the stuff we provide actually helps.)

I’ve gathered together some resources for those wanting more information on these careers, or for anyone who couldn’t make it on the day.

 There are several good web resources with articles about medical communications, often written by medical writers themselves. Have a look at

There’s also a book called “Careers With The Pharmaceutical Industry” (ed. Peter Stonier, Wiley & Sons) which has lots of detailed information about a whole range of roles, including those mentioned here.

If we run another event like this, next time we’ll have a slightly warmer venue (or hold it in July) but for anyone who attended, we’d love to know what you thought of it all. Just respond to the e-mail you should get in the next few days and we’ll feed it all back to Peter and the medical writers who attended.

Scholarships for Final Year PhDs – If You’re Female…

Not sure how they square this with equal opportunities*, but the British Federation of Women Graduates have a number of scholarships available for women going into their final year of their PhD.

They are open to any nationality as long as they are studying at a British institution, and you need to make a case for the award to be made on academic excellence (not financial need). The application process for national awards opened on 1st December, and the deadline is 28th March 2008. There are also a number of international fellowships which you can apply for if your application is supported by the BFWG.

Finally, there is a charitable foundation associated with BFWG which does help with living expenses of final year PhDs for which separate criteria apply.

 So, something to do over Christmas, then.

* I’m assuming it must be something to do with the terms of the charitable trust?

Blogs, Networks and Your Research (plus some bioinformatics careers stuff)

Last week I went to a great talk by another Manchester University postgrad blogger, Michael Barton (no, really, a face to face talk with real people in a proper room – we don’t live in cyberspace all the time). 

He talked us gently through using web based tools for collaborating on the same document, sharing information and finding more information in your field, whilst demonstrating his skills as a cartoonist – lovely to think of all those academic brains in the lecture theatre spellbound, wanting to know how the story about the evil researcher, the laser gun and the cartoon girlfriend turned out in the end…

I can’t really do justice to the non-cartoon content, so Michael’s got a great post on one of his blogs talking about these tools – have a look here. His Bioinformatics Zen blog is where he posts about anything bioinformatics based, whereas his own blog is more specifically about his research.

Inevitably, the discussion after the talk immediately launched into what you can say on a blog or other web forum without it encroaching on “Intellectual Property” issues. However, it really seems to be no different to talking about your research to anyone outside your university. Lots of common sense and caution needed, but talk to your supervisor (and maybe those helpful people at UMIP) before you spill the beans and lose those millions before you’ve even realised what you’re worth. 

And don’t think that you can just be altruistic and tell the world, because you’re “not interested in the money, man” – your supervisor and funder might be, and apparently, they own your thoughts, according to the academic who raised the issue. If you’re interested in discussing this point further, why not take it up with … nah, better not name names (I like working here).

On a careers note, Michael has also posted on bioinformatics careers so if you want some inside info, have a look. Other useful bioinformatics careers resources are BioPlanet which has an active forum with job ads and Biohealthmatics which also has job ads and company listings, as well as a career networking section – both worth checking out.

Want to Talk To A Postgrad Careers Specialist?

Even if you can’t get a one-to-one careers appointment, there are several alternatives available over the next couple of weeks if you want to talk to someone about postgrad careers – both virtual and face-to-face.

  • The Postgrad Study Fair at Manchester Central (G-Mex) on Wednesday 21st November is the first opportunity. Whilst it’s meant for those intending to study at postgrad level, we also have a room full of careers advisers who are able to give on the spot advice on, well … we’ll have a go at just about anything. One limitation is that we won’t have internet access at the fair, so we might not be able to tell you which website has the detailed info you need (I’ve got about 3000 websites bookmarked and my organic memory retrieval system isn’t quite up to remembering them all) but we can discuss possible options with you, and how you might be able to find out more once you leave the fair. The big advantage for some is that we’ll help all comers, even if you’re not currently a University of Manchester student or graduate.
  • Web Chat on “What Can You Do With A Postgraduate Degree” on Thursday 22nd November – my first experience of real-time chat, I’ll be live from 3.30-4.30 pm (and no doubt half-dead afterwards). Any University of Manchester student or graduate can register to take part, and the transcript will be available for all to view after the live session. These webchats have been a new venture for us this year, and seem to have been well received – look out for more.
  • “Ask the Experts” webchat for PhDs from UK GRAD – a series of live webchats take place on 29th November, with a range of employers from academia, the public sector, the not-for-profit sector, as well as the private sector and careers experts (say hello to Alison, Salford University’s postgrad specialist while you’re there – she knows her postgrad stuff!). Have a look at the timetable to take part in the chat of your choice on the day or view the transcripts after the event.

New – Medical Communications Careers Event for Postgrads & Post-Docs

Just announced, we’re running an event for all those final year PhDs and post-doctoral researchers in fields related to life and medical sciences who are interested in medical communications (also known as medical writing) on Tuesday 18th December.

If you want to use your writing skills and your research background outside a university, or attended the Nature Careers Workshop in FLS and FMHS a few weeks ago and were taken by the idea of a medical writing career, this is a great opportunity to talk to people who have made just that leap.

Organised by Peter Llewellyn, a consultant with many years experience in the industry, there will be three talks from people working as medical writers, followed by lunch and the chance for informal discussions with representatives from at least 6 medical communications companies. In addition to information about what it’s like to work in medical communications, these representatives will also be able to alert you to any job vacancies they may have now or in the near future.

It all takes place in at The University of Manchester in Roscoe Building (number 53 on the campus map), from 11 – 3 and is open to final year PhDs and post-doctoral researchers at the University of Manchester and the 12 other HEIs in the North West of England, through support from the North West Hub of the UK GRAD programme.

However, you do need to register in advance to gain admittance.

Full details including registration are on Peter’s MedComms Networking website.