Careers PAN!C

by PAN!C committee

PAN!C committee

Last Tuesday marked the biggest PAN!C event to date: the Careers PAN!C Postgraduate Symposium. Like many postgraduate research students, it’s likely you’ve been subjected to those pesky lab bench shackles, leaving you little time to give a second thought for what may lay beyond the dreaded viva! There are so many career paths that lay open to you, but it’s difficult to make a start with career planning when it seems like such a distant and sometimes scarily unattainable goal. Can you keep up with the endless pressure of lab confinement with the small chance of attaining an academic professorship (since only 0.45% of PhDs become professors)? After such specific research training is it all a massive waste to move to a different field or change careers? And how the heck can a family life fit in with career success?

After being awarded the Innovation Funding in June, which was an important milestone for PAN!C, the committee were able to organise a half day symposium to showcase the vast array of career options available to PhD students and make the haze of career planning a little clearer.

The symposium hosted 12 insightful career development talks with speakers giving their account of a career path in a range of professions including academia, industry, recruitment, teaching, journalism and patent law. There were also useful stalls from Bionow, SRG and the NHS as well as information from Covance and the Careers Service providing.

The common theme from the speakers was about having passion and enthusiasm for science and research, a notion we can all relate to in our PhDs. This motivation is sure to carry us in good stead to be able choose pretty much any science-related career out there. In short, we chose a good starting point!

Another useful point from the day is that it’s important for postgraduate students to identify and reflect upon their transferable skills and not only to recognise careers where they are likely to succeed but also to fully demonstrate their ability to a potential new employer. Honing this skill will facilitate the diversification to other fields by acknowledging the valuable skill set we gain over our postgraduate studies.

An important take home message from many of the speakers is that determination and drive are so important whatever career you choose. As Ed Yong mentioned, play the long game with your career, it takes much time and effort to build but ultimately it’s worth it. You’ll need to push yourself hard, especially early on, to aid your career progression and rise to a position of responsibility. Often those with successful careers attribute this in part to ‘being in the right place at the right time’ but it’s also about creating opportunities for yourself and being prepared for those make or break situations when they come around. Professor Judith Howard mentioned that it is important to find your inspiration, whether it be a figure or an experience that motivates you or even just a field you really enjoy. Be sure of what you want to do then get out there and just do it. Success doesn’t come easy, but it’s certainly within reach.

PAN!C would like to thank the Postgraduate Innovation Fund for financial backing of the symposium and future academic events, and ICaMB for continued support of PAN!Cs endeavours. Of course, the rapidly growing numbers of postgraduate students getting involved with our events also deserve a massive thank you. Over 60 attended the symposium and the day was a huge success, with 100% of feedback stating it was good or excellent! Such enthusiasm and input from students over the last year has really helped PAN!C become established and have an impact both within ICaMB and recently other institutes across FMS, so much so that we see this as only the beginning of the PAN!C community!

The day ended with refreshments and wine for all and a well-deserved stint in the pub for the committee!


If you are interested in joining the PAN!C committee and furthering your organisational and networking skills, please get in touch. We’re always keen for new members and new ideas, the more the merrier!





ICaMB Postgraduate Research Symposium – students’ views


Once a year the final year PhD students in ICaMB have a one day symposium to present their data.  Here we ask some of these students to tell us how they found the occasion and discuss the projects they found particularly interesting.

 By Thomas Kinsman, Alexander Egan, Emma Button and Nichola Conlon

The ICaMB PGR Symposium was held on 25 March 2013. This annual symposium provides not only an excellent opportunity for final year PhD students to present their work to a mixed scientific audience of fellow students, research technicians, post docs and more senior researchers, but is also an excellent demonstration of the diversity of top quality research that is going on in ICaMB labs. The symposium and lunch were generously sponsored by GT Vision.

Session 1 – Reported by Thomas Kinsman (Lewis Lab)

The first session was centred on the study of DNA, yet talks ranged from the molecular biology of DNA polymerase processivity to the role of extracellular DNA in dental plaque biofilms. In addition to enabling me to gain a greater appreciation of the work that goes on in other labs within ICaMB, it was interesting that one of the speakers made a point of saying that preparing their talk had been very useful because it had made them realise they had enough results to write-up their PhD – I had not fully appreciated that this was another value of these talks!

Session 2 – Reported by Alex Egan (Vollmer Lab)

The second session of the symposium featured the work of students who look at various aspects of bacterial cell biology including; cell wall synthesis and cell division, bacterial cell motility, copper transport and storage and DNA replication. What immediately stands out from that list is the vast range of biological problems we work on here in ICaMB, and that’s just a small representation of the bacterial labs here. A positive impact of this vast range is that it creates an excellent centre for diverse knowledge, not just in gross terms, but in the myriad of different cellular and molecular techniques. With use of relatively simple yet elegant microscopy to study biological problems on cellular levels to the use of biochemical approaches to characterise the molecular basis of bacterial processes, it highlights that there’ll always be someone with experience who can provide advice and insight into almost any approach to biology. Having been on both the giving and receiving end of this, I believe it’s one of the great strengths of the symposium.

Session 3 – Reported by Emma Button (Veal Lab)

Session three was an exciting session in which talks ranged from the important interactions between the host and gut microbiota to mathematical equations used to refine a statistical modelling process that identifies subtle interactions involved telomere maintenance. Highlights of the session included a talk on the diverse roles of a peroxiredoxin (PRDX-6) in stress resistance and ageing, and a description of the importance of a DNA licensing protein (Cdt-1) and how it controlled DNA replication during embryo development in the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis.

Session 4 – Reported by Nichola Conlon (Thwaites Lab)

The final session had talks that were all related to the gut, yet ranged from studies at a molecular level to in vivo human clinical trials. The first talk demonstrated how understanding the structure of mammalian amino acid transporter proteins in the plasma membrane is vital in understanding the pathology of gastrointestinal diseases and in improving drug specificity and targeting. An interesting insight followed into the mystery surrounding the mechanisms by which enteropathogenic E.coli (EPEC) disrupts the intestinal epithelium to cause diarrhoeal disease. The talk described the ways in which EPEC targets host cell proteins and pathways and highlighted the complexity in understanding such a common disease. Focus then shifted to the gut in its entirety with an intriguing description of an in vitro ‘model gut’, which is used to study the effects of various compounds on digestion. This model has proved effective in identifying alginate as a novel lipase inhibitor that can inhibit fat digestion similar to a current commercially available drug that is plagued by unwanted side effects. In vitro then moved to in vivo with the final talk which described a human clinical study in which ileostomy patients were used to assess the ability of alginate-enriched bread to inhibit fat digestion in vivo. Preliminary results revealed that, as observed in the model gut, alginate can also inhibit fat digestion in vivo when added as a supplement to food. The idea is that alginate could be incorporated into everyday foods, such as a loaf of bread, to try and combat obesity in a ‘health by stealth’ manner.

Personally, I found the symposium a complete success: everybody in attendance, students and staff alike, seemed to benefit in different ways from the experience. As a first year student in my lab said to me, they are looking forward to their turn in two years time.