From vascular physiology to student recruitment
As part of our Thinking Careers section, we explore the non-academic career options taken by those who have completed their PhDs. In this entry, Fiona Lynch discusses how she went from researching vascular physiology to working in student recruitment at the University of Manchester.
My name is Fiona Lynch and my current role is Student Recruitment and Widening Participation Coordinator in the University of Manchester. I have always been interested in science and studied Biochemistry in University College Galway, Ireland. Following this I moved to Dublin and did a PhD in vascular physiology in University College Dublin. After this I moved to the UK to start my first academic job or post-doctoral job in the University of Manchester. Originally I was supposed to stay for a three year contract but fast forward 14 years and I am still happily in Manchester, married with three young children.
I work in the Directorate for Student Experience in the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation Team. My job involves organising presentations and tours for schools who wish to visit the campus and get a taste for University life, organising the university open day and supporting the widening participation and other recruitment activities. The job has a lot of variety and I am constantly learning new skills and drawing on transferrable skills I used when I was a researcher.
My first taste of serious research was during my PhD in Dublin where is studied how our pulmonary arteries behave to changes in carbon dioxide and pH levels as they would if challenged by various pulmonary disease. This interest in vascular physiology and a drive to broaden my horizons led me to the University of Manchester to start a three year post-doctoral research position to try and understand the behaviour of the body’s smallest arteries, the resistance arteries, to changes in blood pressure. I studied human coronary arteries using pressure myography. This allowed me to replicate very closely the environment these arteries would be exposed to in the human heart. I was fortunate to be offered further contracts to continue my research and eventually settled into a project studying how the fat which surrounds our blood vessels affects their behaviour. One of the highlights of this for me was being allowed to witness open heart surgery. Others included trips to international conferences and the opportunity to convey my research and findings to peers, not to mention the chance to see parts of the world I wouldn’t normally go to. Low points included experiments not working after endless hours in the lab (although this is par for the course for a researcher!) and grants being rejected (another normal occurrence in academic research).
So how do you go from the lab to my present job? The key message I would give is to develop your transferrable skills. Crunching stats in Excel and creating presentations for conferences and writing papers are all excellent skills which can be used in many non-academic roles. While I was a PhD student and Post doc I undertook lots of public engagement activities. Some just involved going into schools talking about my work and career path, others involved working closely with teachers to develop academic enrichment activities and workshops. I won funding from The Physiology Society and ran two big outreach events in the Museum of Science and Industry and I became a Widening Participation Fellow. I also took advantage of all the staff/student development courses on offer and obtained a diploma in management. When the time came for a career change I knew I wanted to work with schools in some way and continue with outreach work so all of the above helped me secure my current role, which I enjoy immensely.
To find out more about research and heart disease, click here.
For more information about the world of Physiology, click here.
You can find more information about public engagement activities in the University of Manchester here.
The YPU's previous entry in the Thinking Careers section can be found here.