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What is your background?

I’m from a small coastal town in the Aberdeenshire called Banff. After finishing high school in 2012, I was accepted to the University of Glasgow to study Anatomy. In the late stages of 2nd year, after thoroughly enjoying a course ‘Drugs and Disease’ and thinking more about career plans, I made the switch to Pharmacology. I am now in 4th year, graduating next summer. 

Why did you apply to the CV Competition 2015?

With only 4th year left, I really wanted to get some experience in the Life Sciences industry to have more of an idea about future careers. The CV competition is the only scientific programme which considers only your CV and, if successful, an interview. This allowed me (with little industry experience but other experiences) to apply confidently. The CV competition was advertised both in my lectures and at the GLE Life Science Masterclasses at Caledonian University. At the masterclasses, a previous winner spoke about their experience which encouraged me to apply.

What appealed to you about your placement?

My placement at Sistemic Scotland was non-laboratory based. I was really keen to explore this aspect of Life Sciences as it is not especially advertised in academia. I also liked the fact it was a smaller company so I would get the opportunity to observe everyone, from the CEO to the senior scientists. 

What projects were you involved in and what did you learn?

My placement was as a Business Development Associate. My main role was to develop a few business models for a potential new ventures. This involved analysing the company’s current business model, carrying out market research and developing new business plans for future possibilities. Throughout the process, I presented my findings to both my supervisor and the CEO. I developed my presentation skills even further, having to present in front of the CEO and sometimes the whole team - it really forces you out of your comfort zone. Although not a lab based project, the team really encouraged me to understand the key concepts behind the science of their projects and any other researched projects. This definitely help me prepare for 4th year, learning how to evaluate journal papers. 

Would you recommend the programme to other students, and if so, what would you say are the key benefits? 

I would definitely recommend the programme to other students. I think the key benefits include the interview experience of a scientific company. Personally I had interviewed before but for part-time non-related jobs. I think having a real contribution to a bigger project also gave me a sense of purpose and achievement. In addition, the support from ScotGrad and my supervisor was immense. 

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to current students?

For this programme, the best advice I would give is, if possible, visit ScotGrad at any university fair and get chatting, everyone is so nice and want to help you succeed. General advice to students is definitely to push yourself outside your comfort zone and get involved! With over 800 applications and only 20 places, employers consider things outside academia.

What are your future career plans?

I definitely want to stay within Life Sciences, especially the West of Scotland ‘bio-corridor’ for at least some part of my career. I didn’t know how much opportunity we have in our very own back garden.

I think the placement has encouraged me to work even harder to achieve my goals. I may return to University to complete a masters before looking to start a career, allowing me to find my real passion within science.