I heard you want to science

You are on your way to getting a science degree, but what do you do with it? Anthony McGarry interviews Dr Andrew Currin to show you one possible route.

4th May 2016

Sometimes, people have a clear set mind of everything they want to do in life. They know exactly when they’re going to get married, exactly when they’ll have their first child, and annoyingly, exactly what they want to do and how they’ll do it. However, for the vast majority of us, that’s simply not the case, and the dreaded question of ‘what do you want to do after graduation?’ is often very, very unwelcome. Doing a science degree can mean amazing perspectives and give you tonnes of different skills, but, unfortunately, sometimes it leads to a big fat ‘so what can I do with this now?’. We will try and give a bit more of an insight into one possible place where your degree can take you. This week, we’re taking to Dr Andrew Currin, from the SYNBIOCHEM centre at Manchester University.

What is your current job title?

Experimental officer in SYNBIOCHEM (the centre for synthetic biology of fine and speciality chemicals) at the University of Manchester.

How long have you been at the job for?

I began in this current role in June 2015. Before that I was a postdoctoral research associate.

Did you do a degree to get the job you now have? If so, what degree did you do, and was it integral to your current profession?

Yes, I have a degree in Biomedical science from the University of Birmingham and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Manchester. These were definitely required for my current job, a PhD and post doc experience was a prerequisite.

What are the best bits about your current job?

Being able to work on things that you find interesting. I enjoy the challenge of research and attempting to discover something or do something that hasn’t been done before. There’s a lot of problem solving and I enjoy that.

“I enjoy the challenge of research and attempting to discover something or do something that hasn’t been done before.”

And what are the worst?

When experiments don’t work (which is most of the time!) it is frustrating. Sometimes you make a mistake which wastes days or weeks of work, other times an experiment just doesn’t work for no apparent reason and you need to work out what the problem is. It’s difficult to keep your motivation up when nothing’s working. That being said, when you solve a problem it is very satisfying!

Has this job always been what you wanted to do?

I’ve never really had a specific job in mind that I really wanted to do. When I was at 6th form looking at university choices I decided that I wanted to do something that I found personally interesting and challenging, also something that was helpful or useful for other people was important too. In that sense I guess working in scientific research fits that description pretty well.

In your view, what type of person does it take to do the job you do?

You need to be interested in the area of science that you are working in, because that is what will motivate you to work hard and try your best. It can be emotionally a hard job to do at times, particularly when things don’t seem to be working and you’re under pressure, so you need that keen interest to keep to motivated to keep going.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m a dad to a 9 month old baby, so my time out of work is at home with him! Outside of that I like to play guitars and watch rugby.

And finally... What advice would you give to a student who is looking to pursue a similar career path to yours?

If science is your thing then find a bit of it that interests you most and try to look for research groups working in that area. I’d also say it’s good to keep an open mind, you might find opportunities in places you wouldn’t expect. Personally, I’m now working in an area I hadn’t even heard of 5 years ago but it’s a job I really enjoy.

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