Question: Who helped you to decide what path you wanted to go down?
Joseph Hegarty answered on 11 May 2020:
It was a large combination of my teachers and my family. My parents always encouraged me with whatever learning I was doing and tried to help where they could. I was really lucky to have great teachers throughout school who always inspired me, whether in science or other subjects such as English, maths or even history.
I had a lot of conversations with my teachers at school about the paths I could go down, eventually this made me want to do a mix of sciences and maths, so I looked into chemical engineering!
Danica Pinto answered on 11 May 2020:
My parents and teachers inspired and encouraged me in some way or the other. When I left school I only knew that one day i would love to be a scientist and I just loved everything in science. This still did not help me decide what would I like to specialize in. Should I take physics? biology? chemistry? or mathematics? So to be on a safer side I took them all in GCSE equivalent course in India. By the time I completed this I was confused if I should take should specialize in chemistry or physics. I then spoke to a scientist friend and he suggested I take up both and hence I took up physics, chemistry and mathematics during my Bachelors and that’s when I realized I loved physical chemistry 🙂 and I proceeded onto pursuing a Masters degree in Chemistry. And my love for science led me to pursue a PhD too 🙂 Apart from this, I always took part in extra-curricular activities like sports, competitions and science fests, became an active member of science clubs while at school and college that have helped me develop various skills. All these experiences have helped me reach to this point in my life.
Andrew Stonor answered on 11 May 2020:
My Dad was a great inspiration to me as he was also very interested in science, especially Chemistry & a good teacher. I was also inspired by the astronauts and scientists of NASA & ESA as I think human space travel is amazing! Later in life I also really liked the teachings of Prof. Martyn Poliakoff, he makes Chemistry fun and more accessible. His Periodic Videos on Youtube are also a great watch if you want some bonus stuff on Chemistry!
Fiona Coomer answered on 11 May 2020:
I’ve always decided to do what I really enjoy doing, and that’s meant that I’ve ended up where I am. I’ve had a few breaks in my career along the way, which have allowed me to think about what it is that I’ve particularly enjoyed (or not!) about subjects that I’ve studied or jobs that I’ve had. Talking to people around you (friends, teachers, colleagues, family…) can be really helpful in working out what you’re good at and what opportunities there are out there. Never be afraid to give something a go or take a risk – there’s no set way of getting to any particular point.
Sebastian Cosgrove answered on 11 May 2020:
Good question! Lots of people helped me get to the point where I am today. Teachers were helpful when I was at school trying to decide what career I wanted to do, and when I realised how much I enjoyed science my chemistry teacher was really useful explaining all of the different things you could do with a chemistry degree. I think it is always important to ask questions to as many people as possible, because you don’t know what you don’t know! Since I got my PhD I have changed my area of research twice (in only 3 years), and I am looking to change again in the next couple of years. All of this is through speaking to other scientists and colleagues, and learning what they do and how that could be useful or interesting for me.
I think Fiona’s point about taking risks is really important, not just in science, but careers and life in general.
Stephen Wainwright answered on 11 May 2020:
I didn’t know what path to follow for a long time. At school I picked the subjects I enjoyed and was supported by parents and teachers. Along the same path, I picked Chemistry at university because I enjoyed it most. I figured it’d be a useful course regardless of which career I ended up with.
By the end of my degree I thought I knew what I wanted to do – follow academia and teach – so worked towards my PhD. By the end of my PhD I’d completely changed plan!
I didn’t really have a plan and haven’t followed a straight path, but it’s worked out well for me in the end. I guess, don’t worry too much if you don’t know yet, but don’t give up!
Paul Machin answered on 11 May 2020:
My parents had a big influence on my education and career choices. My mum was a Science teacher and dad a biochemist, so I followed in similar footsteps. I then took a gap year before going to university and worked for 4 months in Uganda This opened my eyes to a bigger world and simply chasing a career for success or money was not what I wanted. So my career choice was made because I wanted to apply my learnings and also work with a variety of people, which manufacturing gives you,
Carin Seechurn answered on 11 May 2020:
My teachers and my parents. But most of all, I really listened to my own “inner voice” and feelings, and chose what I wanted based on what I myself really enjoyed doing. Sometimes you just need somebody to bounce ideas off to fully realise what you yourself want to do.
Maurits van Tol answered on 11 May 2020:
I had two very tough but very good chemistry teachers at age 13-18. This was very helpful, it helped me make a choice as they could explain chemistry and how to apply it, and very well so. Also the chemistry books/material we used was of a good quality, and that helps as well I believe. A student needs to see the applicability of what she/he is learning, that is stimulating, you know why you have to study the subject and what you can do with it later in life. At age 16 I knew that I wanted to continue to study chemistry at university. So: good and stimulating teachers, and solid material, are key.
Megan Greaves answered on 11 May 2020: last edited 11 May 2020 12:05 pm
Great question Elsa! The truth is, I still don’t know what career I want to pursue. I had no idea what I wanted to do at school, I just knew I was most interested in science and maths, they also happened to be the subjects I excelled in. It wasn’t until my A levels that I found my passion for chemistry. I loved the problem solving nature of chemistry rather than remembering facts that is crucial for other subjects. After my A levels, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do at university. Then it came to me, I love chemistry and I’m good at it – so why not study it at university? I completed my masters degree and am now studying for a PhD. I’ve specialised in catalysts used in drug discovery. I still have 18 months left of my PhD and don’t have any idea what I’d like to do. A job in chemistry is certain but there’s so many avenues to go down, it’s a tricky decision. I just know that I want a career where I never stop learning! My advice is to follow your heart and do something you love. We all work for the majority of our lives, so should at least be something you enjoy.
With regards to who helped me… I had a brilliant A level chemistry teacher who helped ignite my passion for chemistry. My family have always been supportive and I’m sure will continue to support me no matter what career I choice. At the end of the day, families just want us to be happy!
Zoe Ingold answered on 11 May 2020:
When I was younger my parents encouraged me to be interested in science and I watched a lot of space documentaries and read loads of sci-fi. However, it was only when I reached the end of my GCSE’s and started my A-levels that a really inspirational teacher helped me see how chemistry was the key to everything. I decided that I wanted to study chemistry at university because I thought it gave me the best base to be able to go into any area that I wanted but I was still very interested in biology so I took those option classes too. That, and a love of plants, helped me to decide that I wanted to work on the chemistry of plant enzymes!
Anna Vicini answered on 11 May 2020: last edited 11 May 2020 12:09 pm
My family first. They keep the curiosity alive since I was a child. For instance, my dad used to point out all the flowers and insects he saw during our hikes, while my mum used to bring and my sister to science exhibitions.
Later on, it was important to have good connection with people that were already doing what I wanted to study. Exactly what you are doing now! For instance, after high school I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study physics or chemistry. I chose the latter after having visited a chemistry lab and spoke with a PhD who was really passionate about his job. And I am happy of my choice.
But first and foremost, keep looking around and reading and you will find what makes you wonder!
Piers Townsend answered on 11 May 2020:
For me, it was a combination of my school teachers and my family. I remember when I was in school, the type of teacher would really make a difference to how much I enjoyed a subject. My science teachers were really friendly, and they always happily let me ask them questions about science. Their friendliness and enthusiasm for science really made me interested in finding out more about studying science!
Fred Mosselmans answered on 11 May 2020:
Well in terms of my A-levels they were the subjects I was best at / found easiest at school. They sort of dictated which degree I applied for, my curiosity was unsatisfied. I chose my university partly because my dad had been there, so it was a sort of tribute to him I guess. Then I stayed in science with advice from my University lecturers who saw some potential I assume and advised me that to do a science career do a a PhD was pretty much essential. From there the jobs i got were once that i was successful applying for and appealed as much as anything. So as a career it was partly that i failed to get a few other jobs at the end of my first degree, probably because my heart was not in it. I had never really considered a career in science until i started my PhD and then found the challenge of research and technology very enjoyable so was lucky enough to get a job and become an X-ray scientist. The job i have has frustrations but the good days far outnumber the bad, and when you realise how long you spend at work in a year that’s a huge plus.
Hamish Cavaye answered on 11 May 2020:
Hey Elsa. Thanks for the great question.
I think it was definitely a combination of things and not any one specific person or event. At school I found science and maths interested me the most out of my subjects – I really liked understanding how things worked. I also found my science teachers in particular were (mostly) great fun people and very supportive. Nobody ever advised me to “go into science” but I realised during school that going to university was going to be vital if I wanted to work in science in the future, and so that’s what I worked towards. After university my dad gave me just one piece of advice, and he suggested not to stay in one place for too long when you’re still young. I took that advice, did my PhD in Australia, and then had 3 different jobs back in England before I found something I was happy with to stick for a while.
I think the most important thing I learned there was that not every job you go for has to be your dream job. It’s important to try lots of things at first so you can really see what you enjoy.
Paul Bowdler answered on 11 May 2020:
I actually decided to go down the science route myself, although I do have very supportive parents and some pretty great teachers. I never really knew what I wanted to be growing up and I loved art, played musical instruments an and enjoyed maths as well as chemistry. In the end I chose chemistry as it was the subject that most fascinated me, rather than it being the one that came most naturally for me. As it happens, I still get to do some maths in my job, and I still enjoy art and music as hobbies. It just goes to show, you don’t actually have to choose one thing and ignore the rest 🙂
Nathan March answered on 11 May 2020: last edited 14 May 2020 7:14 am
There were lots of things that helped, and the path I have gone down has shifted a little with each job. It was always helpful to read newspapers, listen to the radio, and watch TV shows about science and scientists.
It’s really fun to hear about what other people are doing, and those people can be your inspiration.
When I was doing my A-levels, I read about some of the things that were being done in chemistry: nanotechnology, mini-computers, strange materials that made you invisible. This was mostly in the New Scientist magazine. I wanted to do things like that!
So I did a chemistry degree, because I wanted to see how the universe worked, and I wanted to be able to see the impact. Colour-changes in the lab, chemicals never-before discovered… I thought it was fascinating.
Before A-levels, I was just learning what I enjoyed; I don’t think it’s important to know if you’re young. I think it’s more important to experiment, try things out, push your boundaries, and find what really interests you.
Since graduating, I’ve moved from chemistry research, to making textbook apps, building websites, and doing everything possible to do with making educational videos. I like teaching chemistry as much as studying it; when someone is learning with me, I learn how to explain things better, and I become a better scientist.
Along the way, it was helpful to have people to talk to: mentors, teachers, friends, family. They helped me decide what was good or bad for me.
Katherine Haxton answered on 11 May 2020:
That’s a really hard question! It was a combination of many people, actual people and fictional characters. I loved science fiction as a child and that lead naturally to an interest in science. There were some brilliant teachers at my school across all subjects( maths, english, chemistry, physics, art, music, and german) who taught me that it was best to work hard no matter what the subject and there would be more options available. So that’s pretty much what I did, and still do.
Rachael Hallam answered on 11 May 2020:
I had a fantastic biology teacher, Mrs Sumner, when I was at secondary school who was incredibly enthusiastic about biology. She inspired me not just to take an interest in biology, but also in thinking about “the scientific method” which is how scientists plan and carry out experiments. I loved maths and physics also, but decided that I was best at biology.
Spyridon Varlas answered on 11 May 2020:
In my case, both my family and school teachers inspired to become a scientist. My mother is a chemical engineer and, as you can imagine, I had a lot of exposure to science from a very young age (periodic tables, scientific books, cool posters, etc). Also, I had amazing teachers throughout my school life, so I learned not to be “afraid” of maths, physics, chemistry, biology, etc.
In Greece, the process that determines in which Uni/School you will eventually go is quite different compared to the UK and is primarily based on how good your grades are during the last year of high school. I personally had quite good grades in all of these science-related subjects and was between chemistry and chemical engineering. I ended up getting into Chemistry for my undergrad studies and quickly fell in love with Polymer Science! I then proceeded onto pursuing a Masters degree in Polymer Science and I’m now completing my PhD studies in Polymer Chemistry at the University of Birmingham. I guess I was lucky to know that science is something I want to follow for my future career, but if you are unsure at the moment don’t worry too much – all you have to do is give it a go with different things that you find interesting (short-term placements can be ideal for that, so you see yourself how it really is to work as a scientist).
Caragh Whitehead answered on 12 May 2020:
Hi Elsa, this is a good question. I have never had one single person but everyone along the way have guided me. Initially my parents helped me find what I enjoyed and then showed me some possible careers. My science teacher at school, Mrs Grobbler, showed me that women could do science too and it was a career that women could be successful in. At University I had some amazing lecturers that introduced me to so many different areas of science. However, in the end it was up to me to decide on which path to take. I have gone down various paths. I was first interested in human genetics and this was my main focus of study but then about 10 years ago I switched to plant science. Once you have the science skills there is nothing stopping you from travelling many different paths.
Claire Armstrong answered on 13 May 2020:
Hi Elsa, I did not know for a very long time which pathway I wanted to follow. I wanted to be a vet for a very long time but I did not make it into vet school! Instead I ended up studying chemistry, because my GCSE chemistry teacher made the subject really fun and I enjoyed it!
Katharine Stokes answered on 18 May 2020:
There was many changes throughout my education. A teacher finally encouraged me to try further education rather than training to become a beautician in year 11. Year 12 I choose things that interested me and refused to look round university until I had my AS scores back (I know this is a little different now as all exams ate in year 13). A heartbreak in year 13 showed me that my career was very important to me as I had been neglecting my studies and mock exam results dwarfed my heartbreak; so in a funny way that shaped my choice.
I just picked subjects and a degree I enjoyed and my goal was to get as far as I could. I had very supportive parents who were happy with any career path so I would say it was more experiences I had and following my interests and a couple of teachers who helped with my confidence than anyone helping me decide 🙂 Hope that helps and good luck with whatever you want to do with your career!
Heather Walton answered on 21 May 2020:
At school I was inspired by my great science teachers and some people who worked for science companies that I met through work experience and science club, as all these people showed me that I could do science as a job!
At uni I was inspired by the lecturers and phd students I met who do research in labs, and also by people who have graduated and gone on to work for companies. Some of these these people are scientists in industry, doing a whole range of work, and some do completely different things using their science skills, like marketing and advertising chemicals, working on patents or regulations, or even managing people or finance work.
Overall, I’m inspired to do chemistry because I think it opens up many roads in the future!
Ruth Patchett answered on 23 May 2020:
That’s a great question. For me I haven’t always followed a direct path. I have been really lucky that whenever I take another “step” I always have lots of options which is part of the reason why I studied science. I think I have just followed what I enjoy and take opportunities that come up.
I chose to study chemistry at University simply because I couldn’t imagine not knowing more, it seemed so fundamental to everything. I did a year in industry where I worked for a company that makes artificial smells and decided I loved research in industry which made me to a PhD. During my PhD I found I LOVED talking to different people about science which made me decide to go into a career in outreach and education. When my current job got advertised I remember looking at the advert and just feeling like this job was designed just for me. Some days I think I have the best day in the world!
I think having a plan is great but just remember it is fine for plans to change, in fact it keeps things exciting!