Career case studies

Are you are unsure whether to study pharmacology? Would you like to know what you can do with a degree in pharmacology?  Thinking of a career in Pharmacology? Our diverse career case studies will answer your questions.

Clinical Careers
Careers in Clinical Pharmacology by Professors Nick Bateman and Simon Maxwell
Further information on careers in Clinical Pharmacology by Professor Simon Maxwell

Clinical pharmacologists
Professor Nigel Baber, Professor Albert Ferro and Dr Yoon Loke offer career vignettes describing their varied roles within clinical pharmacology.

Careers for Clinical Pharmacologists in regulatory medicine and the pharmaceutical industry
A day in the life of an academic Clinical Pharmacologist
A week in the life of an academic clinical pharmacologist

Industry placements
Undergraduate students who have completed a year's industrial placement in a pharmaceutical company -ABPI website

Lisa, industrial placement pharmacologist

Cameron, industrial placement pharmacologist, respiratory

Young Pharmacologists

Louis Dron (undergraduate)
I'm a current second year undergraduate student studying Medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester. I am currently undertaking a summer project looking into the Masp2-Cub2 domain.

Unlike some of the other committee members I did not decide to go directly into a pharmacology degree. During my first year there were a few modules which briefly touched upon pharmacological topics which I found fascinating. I have chosen since to undertake modules with significant pharmacological content and chose to go on an 'in vivo' course held in joint part from the physiology and pharmacology societies. Part of my reasoning behind taking these modules and going on this course is to open up my career prospects. There are a wide variety of areas in which these skills would be useful and having a number of opportunities for work is important to me.

At school I had a broad interest in my studies between music and science. I eventually decided that in sixth form I would focus on my science and started to look at university courses before I looked at careers. I figured that I would see which course suited me and then from there see what possible careers I could attain from that. The ucas website was very helpful in giving overviews of what certain types of degrees are like but that it was important to look at individual University websites to see the details of what they can provide on the course. I chose my course as it focused on areas that I had found interesting at a level and avoided certain areas that I had found less enjoyable.

Daniel Reed (PhD)
Whilst studying for my A-levels in 2006, I developed a keen interest in both chemistry and biology. With little understanding of what particular scientific discipline these two subjects would over lap, a logical step seemed to be to consider medicine. After considering this carefully I decided that while I was very interested in clinic sciences I wanted to benefit from pre-clinical, scientific research at the same time. Following a series of visits to Universities around the UK it became obvious that Pharmacology seemed to pervade science right from the bench to the bedside. This gives rise to the concept of ‘translational medicine’ of course and was very appealing to me.

In 2009 I graduated from the University of Liverpool with a first class honours degree in Pharmacology and was awarded the Syngenta Prize for outstanding achievement in undergraduate pharmacology. During my course, and still unsure where in the area of pharmacology I wanted to place myself, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust summer scholarship to work at the University under Prof. Kevin Park. Shortly after this I awarded a bursary from the BPS to present some of this work at the undergraduate session of the BPS Winter Meeting 2008 in Brighton. This is where things began to fall in to place for me in terms of my young pharmacology career.
At this meeting, I met Professor Jane Mitchell, now my primary supervisor at Imperial College London. In fact, Prof. Mitchell also appeared on the interview panel for my MRC studentship within the Faculty of Medicine. I now feel an established member of the group and have made a number of presentations as part of this group. Most notably, I recently presented at the WorldPharma 2010 conference in Copenhagen for which I received a Bain Memorial bursary. My most recent work focuses on human embryonic stem cell-derived endothelial cells (hESC-ECs), which are being considered as both pharmacological tools and as source for tissue transplant engineering. This will be very important in the understanding and treatment of cardiovascular disease in which endothelial cells (cells that line the inner part of blood vessels) are damaged. In particular, my research project is considering the ability of these cells to ‘sense’ pathogens via an important family of receptors, called pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Our most recent findings may have a place in the therapeutic use of stem cells. This is very exciting area to work in and is a great fusion of a highly topical area, classical pharmacology and cutting edge techniques.

I continue to work hard and feel privileged to be part of Professor Mitchells group in the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. I am now looking forward to taking up my new position on the BPS Young Pharmacologists Committee.

Nikolas Dietis (PhD)
I believe I first revealed my flair towards biological sciences at the age of 13, where I chose to write about cancer as my first “free-topic” essay at school. Later in highschool, my A-levels included Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Physics. At the age of 19, I completed a Biochemistry course at Vakalis Foundation – Thessaloniki, Greece – which allowed me entrance to a Pharmacy course (MPharm) in the UK, at the University of Portsmouth, in 1999.
During my second year on the course, I came to realize I was far more interested in learning about how drugs work in the molecular level rather than focusing on drug formulation and dispensing. Thus, I was allowed to switch to a Pharmacology course instead and later graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a BSc in Pharmacology, in 2001.

The mandatory Army National Service in Greece forced me to move back to Greece after my graduation. Although my desire was to further continue my studies on Pharmacology, my financial status at the time could not allow me to do so. As the field of Pharmaceutical R&D in Greece was virtually inexistent, I worked for four years as a Pharmaceutical Representative for two companies in Greece (Janssen-Cilag and Lavipharm Hellas), with the aim to save money for my future studies. Nevertheless, my degree in Pharmacology allowed me to communicate effectively with health professionals and academics about drug action, an ability which reflected positively on my record in pharmaceutical sales over these four years.

In 2006, I returned to the UK in order to continue my studies in Pharmacology. However, after all these years away from the academia, I felt the need to freshen-up my knowledge on current topics of Pharmacology. Thus, I entered the third-year of a BSc course in Pharmacology & Neuroscience at Nottingham Trent University, where I graduated successfully in 2007, earning my second BSc.

Continuing my studies at Nottingham Trent University, I graduated in 2008 with an MRes in Applied Biosciences (Neuropharmacology), under the wise supervision and guidance of Professor Mark Darlison, a world leading scientist in the field which introduce me to the essence of scientific thought.

My enthusiasm and commitment to Pharmacology paid-off eventually, with a Ph.D. studentship at the University of Leicester, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, in October 2008. I joined a highly experienced group on opioid pharmacology, led by Professor Dave Lambert, in order to carry out research on the pharmacological characterization of novel bifunctional opioid ligands as a future therapeutic strategy for cancer pain. This study, which is currently on-going, is funded by the local charity HOPE Against Cancer and the principal investigators are Professors D Lambert and D Rowbotham. I am expected to complete this project in October 2011.

My plans for the future, upon successful completion of the Ph.D., include a deeper involvement in the pharmacology research field through a Postdoctoral position. My background on neuropharmacology and the experience which I am gaining currently at Leicester on opioid pharmacology, hold a great portion of my scientific plans for the future. My long-term ambitions are generally outlined by a pharmacology career in the academia.

Correspondence: Nikolas Dietis, Dep of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Anaesthesia, RKCSB Building, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester, LE1 5WW nd85@le.ac.uk

Sarah Robertson (PhD)

Thinking about doing a PhD or already doing one?
What is a PhD? PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy. During this time you are challenged to experiment and take risks with innovative ideas in a particular area of research. And at the end, you share your findings with a wider intellectual community in the form of a thesis. You may also find it useful to look at obtaining a PhD as a series of steps:

1. Get accepted to a PhD program of your area of particular interest
2. Come up with some novel ideas
3. Develop these ideas and come up with creative approaches to test them
4. Interpret and present your results
5. Receive a PhD

To complete these steps you will, however, need courage, determination, will-power and the support offered by a good research group and supervisor that you can get along with. It is such a great feeling when an experiment has worked! You meet people at meetings that are truly interested in your research and can’t wait to hear about your future plans. And words can’t describe the feeling seeing your name printed in black ink on a scientific journal.

However, realistically it is never that straightforward, you will be unusual if you don’t run into speed bumps along the way. Sometimes experiments don’t work, the finding raises more questions than answers, or things simply take longer than anticipated. You might also face personal challenges along the way such as health or family issues. The only certainty about a PhD is that you will have ups and downs. When you have downs there are a wide range of support services available to you if you need them. Rooney can not win the premiership alone, and you don’t need to tackle problems alone. You should have a thesis committee who can help you to refocus your experiments. Talking to a friend or colleague can be helpful, everyone in the lab will have experienced the highs and lows of science. If you want more professional advice the university will have a variety of support networks. Many societies such as the BPS provide online-discussion forums that help students to communicate.

Whatever your situation or preference take advantage of the services on offer. A team of players are needed to win a premiership. Build a team around you to share the good times and face any challenges head on. Only you know what is best for you and what your career goals are. But most will agree a PhD is well worth it. You get to make your passion your work, become part of a scientific family and learn lots about yourself and what you can achieve. Perhaps along the way to achieving your goal you might just get the opportunity to visit some exotic places, meet some interesting people and share this passion!

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