• Question: have you struggled to get to the position your in now as a scientist?

    Asked by Will N on 26 Jan 2021.
    • Photo: Michael Nolan

      Michael Nolan answered on 26 Jan 2021:


      I have to honestly answer and yes for a few reasons
      – I have been dealing with depression for many, many years since school and this makes things like exams, competing for research funding, competing for positions difficult
      – The system has many more people than positions, so there is always a fight for these positions
      – Not being successful is part of the game (it could be a paper was not accepted, a presentation was not accepted, a research grant was not awarded…), but it can be a struggle to get back up
      However, we are working hard to try and deal with this perception that it needs to be a struggle. Science should be enjoyable and fulfilling and there are many paths to take to achieve this.

    • Photo: Polly Osborne

      Polly Osborne answered on 26 Jan 2021:


      It took me a while to find the right path – I had no idea what an engineer was when I was at school which is the job I now do (in a nutshell, engineers apply science to solve real-world problems through design and construction).

      But now that I’ve made the decision it isn’t a struggle at all. The energy system is changing really rapidly to adapt to low-carbon energy sources so there are lots of jobs available as it takes a lot of people to make those changes. I work hard, but I enjoy my work so it’s easy to work hard 🙂

    • Photo: Graham Shields

      Graham Shields answered on 27 Jan 2021:


      What a great question. I have never doubted what I wanted to do, which is to become a scientist, but looking back it was not always easy to make ends meet. Quite often I would run out of money long before the month’s end, not being entirely sure whether there would be a continuation of my position as a junior researcher. It was not till I was over 30 years of age that I had any regular salary or job security, and I think that’s fairly typical of career academics. I have no regrets as I would not want to do anything else but you have to really want to stick with science as a career.

    • Photo: Amy Stockwell

      Amy Stockwell answered on 27 Jan 2021:


      I was lucky that I applied and was offered my job before I finished my final year of university. I always knew I wanted to be a scientist and studied hard at school and university.

      I’ve worked at the same company for 16 years. Some times I got projects which went really well and I was recognised and promoted. Other times I got projects which went really badly. Sometimes this was because we did or did not understand the science. Sometimes it was because of the people.
      Like doing group work at school, if you are working with a group that get on well then projects are much easier.

    • Photo: Liam Taylor

      Liam Taylor answered on 29 Jan 2021:


      I think the people above me have done a great job of answering this, so I’ll just add a more personal touch. I’m from a family who never went to University and I’m an LGBTQ+ scientist, so throughout my time in University and as a junior scientist I felt like I didn’t “fit in” if that makes sense? That can take its toll sometimes. But, there is so much outstanding work now being done to ensure that science is as inclusive as possible, and I am lucky to have the support of a brilliant supervisor.

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