Academic research

Some of the most important discoveries about medicines and the way drugs work on the body  were made by academic pharmacology researchers. An example is Martha Vogt's work at the University of Edinburgh, which proposed the chemical transmission of impulses between brain cells. Modern treatment of mental illness, including depression, is based on the presence and activity of these transmitters.   

As an academic pharmacologist, your research could leave a lasting legacy to medicine and improve health and quality of life worldwide. ​

As an academic researcher, you will seek to answer scientific questions through exploratory research and can generally take your research in any direction you choose. Academic researchers often collaborate with other scientists from across the world. There are plenty of opportunities to attend conferences, seminars and meetings about subjects you are interested in. You can continue to work in an area you enjoy or start to explore other avenues that interest you. ​

Many biomedical research laboratories are based either at universities, hospitals or both. This means that you can combine research with other activities such as teaching or working alongside clinicians and patients. ​

After a PhD, you are most likely to join an established academic laboratory. You can apply for a Post-Doctoral Fellowship, which usually provides funding for your research for three years. Or you may decide to take a permanent role within the lab such as a Senior Technician, or a Staff Scientist. Which route is best for you will depend on your career aspirations, the reasons why you enjoy research, and how much job security is important to you. ​

Post-doctoral fellows will need to keep applying for research funding every 3-5 years through a competitive process. There are many sources of Fellowship funding available for everyone - from newly qualified PhDs to more senior postdoctoral fellows who may wish to establish their own independent lab. ​You can find out more about this in our finding funding pages.

As part of an academic career, you can also get involved in lecturing and training the next generation of pharmacologists.


Professor Patrick Sexton​

Patrick-Sexton.jpgProfessor Patrick Sexton, is Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Pharmacology at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), Australia NHMRC. ​

​“In my current role, I am effectively a research manager, with my background principally in biochemical and molecular pharmacology. I collaboratively oversee a research group of 50 people. 12 of these work on commercial projects partnered with the pharmaceutical industry, and the rest are engaged in a broad spectrum of academic projects.” ​

​“In a typical week I have 8-10 hours of scheduled meetings and 2-5 hours of ad hoc meetings. The rest of my time is split across reviewing data, reviewing budgets and expenditure, writing papers, writing grants, reviewing papers and grants, administration for the establishment and operation of the new ARC Centre, and attending seminars. Things I like about my job include the excitement in “seeing” something for the first time, seeing young, bright early career researchers blossom into independent scientists and talking with people that are excited by their science.”​

Read more about Patrick’s career path.

Dr Aisah Aubdool​

Dr-Aisah-Aubdool.pngDr Aisah Aubdool is a postdoctoral researcher at the William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London. 

"I do not have a typical week but I spend most of my time at the bench side, with a mixture of in vitro and in vivo experiments.

I like the flexibility of being an academic postdoc. I am determined to establish myself as an independent scientist but I am just at the start of my journey. I am looking forward to using my acquired skills to explore all sorts of avenues that are intellectually stimulating in an academic career.

I hope that one day the research I have done or contributed to will improve people’s lives."

Read more about Aisah's career path