Ex-York Biologists - what are they doing now?

Overview

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On this page your intrepid reporter Hilary goes undercover to find out where York biology graduates are now, and what they're doing.

Click on the tabs to find out more.

Chisholm

James Chisholm

James Chisholm

Molecular Biologist, FERA

What was your degree and when did you do it?

I did my degree in biology at the University of York from 1994-1997.

What's your job title, and what's your job all about?

I am now a molecular biologist at FERA - The Food and Environment Research Agency. I work in the Crops and Food security group, developing and applying DNA based methods for species identification in the area of food labelling and authenticity.

What do you love and hate about it?

A vast range of work is done at the agency, so in my time here I have also had the chance to work on projects that relate to bee health, GM, food allergens and nanoparticles, amongst many other subjects. So I would say that the variety of project work that I have experienced and that is going on around me, is one of the most enjoyable aspects.

Like any laboratory based job there will be aspects of work which will require a degree of 'handle turning' and repetition - but then good science more often than not relies on this, for data of worth.

What tips would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Make sure that you enjoy your area of work and will find reward in the job itself. You are unlikely to become fabulously wealthy following a path into a career in science.

Molloy

Justin Molloy

Justin Molloy

Head of Division, Physical Biochemistry, National Institute of Medical Research

What was your degree and when did you do it?

After I left school in 1979 I spent a gap year during which I dug holes and then bicycled across Canada and down the west coast of the States with a school friend. I came to York to study Biology in 1980 and graduated in 1983 with a degree in "Physiology of Organisms". York was (and still is) a wonderful place to study Biology. The city, the campus and the academic environment at York just cannot be beaten!

I did a third-year undergraduate research project with Prof John Currey measuring the piezoelectric potentials that are produced by mollusc shells and his enthusiasm inspired me to pursue a career as an experimental scientist. What's more he beat me hollow in the Millport biology field-trip bicycle race! Two other, equally inspiring, academics at York, David White and John Sparrow recruited me back to do a PhD, but, not until I had spent another year digging holes, this time in Australia. I returned in 1984 to do a PhD investigating the mechanics and biochemistry of insect flight muscles. Following two years' Post Doctoral work, as a NATO fellow, in Vermont I returned again (in 1990) to build an laser-based device called "optical tweezers" in order to measure the forces produced by single molecules (by now I had a wife and two kids in tow). David White and I spent three years, with support from BBSRC, building this machine and our work together enabled me to go on and build my own career as a Royal Society University Research Fellow. Since then I have focused on making measurements from single biological molecules.

What's your job title, and what's your job all about?

I now work at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mill Hill North London where I am Head of the Division of Physical Biochemistry. My interest is still in understanding the mechanical properties of molecules and together with my team of co-workers we are trying to figure out how molecules move around inside cells and how cells move around inside tissues. The work is medically important because it helps us understand how cells are put together, how they function in a normal healthy body and what happens when things go wrong in disease or infection.

What do you love and hate about it?

I work with wonderful people who all share my enthusiasm for basic biomedical research. Every day brings new challenges and work is fun (sounds crass but true!). The only things I hate are kidney and self-loathing.

What tips would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

I think Biology is the most challenging and interesting science because it is a complex mixture of physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering. There is a huge amount that we simply do not understand so if you enjoy problem solving and trying to figure out how things work - then biology is for you. Try to ask simple questions and then just keep digging; when you have reached the bottom, stop digging.

Chinnian

Christina Chinnian

Christina Chinnian

Capital Efficiency Manager, Yorkshire Water

What was your degree and when did you do it?

I graduated with a 2:1 Biology BSc Hons from the University of York in 2003.

What's your job title, and what's your job all about?

I joined Yorkshire Water in 2003 as a Waste Water Graduate Trainee and have since undertaken a number of roles in areas such as Risk, Asset Planning and Investment Planning.

I am currently Capital Efficiency Manager at Yorkshire Water and work in the Investment Strategy department. In a nutshell my team liaises with stakeholders from the business and the water industry regulator OFWAT to identify and claim efficiencies against YW's five year business plan.

What do you love and hate about it?

I have the opportunity to work with so many people across and outside of YW and really enjoy the variety the role offers. I also work closely with the Research and Development team and am fascinated by the innovative processes and technologies that are being trialled and implemented. Who'd have thought the world of water production and distribution and waste water collection and treatment could be so interesting! Finally I work with a great bunch of people and we always have fun, whether its the daily grind or climbing mountains for charity!

I hate the M62 between Leeds and Bradford on a Monday morning! Enough said!

What tips would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Really do your homework when applying to companies and preparing for interviews. They can tell who has and hasn't read their website! When you get that job try to meet as many people as you can and get a variety of experience and finally... make sure you like the company you work for, and do something you enjoy and are interested in. Good luck!

Turley

Nicky Turley

Nicky Turley

Horticultural Technician, University of York

What was your degree and when did you do it?

My degree was in biochemistry,from 1994-1997.

What's your job title, and what's your job all about?

My current job title is horticultural technician in the CNAP group in the Department of Biology at York university.  I work on the Artemisia project which aims to increase the yield of an anti malaria compound from the plant Artemisia annua. My role involves the maintenance of stock plants, plant propagation, seed cleaning and any other horticultural task required by the team.

What do you love and hate about it?

I have only been in this role for one month, previously I was an orthopaedic cell biologist in industry. I love that I am now working with plants, and I also enjoy the more relaxed, less competitive atmosphere at the university. I don't hate anything about the job yet, but give it time?!

What tips would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

With regard to working in science in general: get as wide a range of experience as you can because jobs are not falling out of trees.

In industry be prepared to blow your own trumpet all the time in order to get anywhere, in academia be prepared for short term contracts.

When things are repetitive, or project requirements change unexpectedly just remember that are a lot of worse jobs you could be doing!!!!

Cheung

Kenneth Cheung

Kenneth Cheung

Managing Director, BEEcycle

What was your degree and when did you do it?

I did undergraduate biochemistry. Started in 2003 and finished in 2006.

What's your job title, and what's your job all about?

I am the founder and managing director of my own company, BEEcycle Ltd. We focus on providing products and services for food waste recycling. We have created a tool to teach children about recycling, and consult businesses on how they can reduce their disposal cost by recycling in-house.

What do you love and hate about it?

I love the creativity and challenge of it. No two days are the same, and the successful completion of a business is very rewarding. The downside is the long hours, but it's my own business after all!

What tips would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

If you would like to start off your own business, provided that you have the passion, you should go for it and give it a try! York careers centre is great in that it has a lot of support and help for entrepreneurship, that will be a good first step to go to. Although my science degree is not directly relevant to want I am doing, I had made many contacts and honed many skills which I found useful for my business, such as reading scientific papers about microbiology on composting!