The new Thinking Careers section will explore non-academic career options pursued by PhD students. The first case study
will be on Emily Robinson, who completed an undergraduate degree and a PhD in
Neuroscience at the University of Manchester. Emily now works as a Secondary
and Post-16 Co-ordinator for the Sciences at the Manchester Museum.
When I was in sixth form, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I liked
both biology and geography, but wasn't sure if I wanted to spend
years of my life studying either. Then one day, in a very small section of
books termed 'Careers Library' in the corner of our study room, I found a book
about Neuroscience – the study of the brain and the nervous system. With every
page I turned, I realised that I had found what I wanted to study. My mum was
shocked that evening when I announced over my spaghetti bolognese, “I'm
applying for Neuroscience”. Her first reaction was to ask, “What is
Neuroscience?” But as she heard me enthuse about this intriguing subject and
how interesting studying the brain would be, she realised that she was going to
have to trust me.
Flash forward ten years and I am now working at Manchester Museum
coordinating their secondary and post-16 science programme. Therefore, I get to
share my passion for science by creating engaging science workshops using
Manchester Museum's stunning collection. But how did I get from Neuroscience to
museum? Well, I did end up studying Neuroscience for my degree at the
University of Manchester and I liked it so much I stayed and did a four year
research PhD in Neuroscience.
The focus of my PhD research was on trying to block the immune system's
damaging reaction to brain injury. It might seem odd to try to stop our immune
system – which normally protects us from dangerous injections. However, when a
brain injury occurs, such as a stroke, our immune system can overreact and as
the brain is such a sensitive organ, it can easily be inadvertently damaged, making the situation
worse. The research group I was working with are currently trialling an
anti-inflammatory treatment which will hopefully reduce the potential damage
caused by a stroke if it is given within a few hours of it occurring. Alongside
my lab work, I also enjoyed communicating the research to the public.
Therefore, I was involved in creating a lot of family and school activities to
try and get people interested in Neuroscience and to highlight the important
research we were doing. So my current job is an extension of that in the wider
context of science; as I get to simplify complex scientific concepts and get to
show students the real life application and importance of the science you are
taught in school.
Although my current job does not directly use my Neuroscience knowledge,
my PhD has been invaluable and helped me to get my current job. Conducting
research, no matter what subject, develops your analytical skills as well as
your specific subject knowledge. So whether I mean to or not, I now think like
a scientist! Along the way you also gain many useful transferable skills such
as communication and project management skills. Don’t get me wrong, doing a PhD
isn’t all rosy; there were tough times when things got me down and I had a few
wobbles with my confidence – but the challenge was all definitely worth it. I
loved being part of a large laboratory group, seeing how everyone’s separate
research linked together in the hope of making a big difference to people’s
lives in the future. On top of that, I have made some lifelong friends along
the way. Looking back, I can't say that I had the last ten years mapped out
since sixth form. I could never have guessed I would end up becoming a doctor
and working in a museum. But I’m always glad I chose to study a subject that I
found so interesting.
To find out about studying Neuroscience at the University of Manchester,
go to the Faculty of Life Science's webpage and
the Neuroscience Research Institute.
The book which inspired my interest
For up-to-date news about Neuroscience, go to Neuroscience News.
The Guardian has excellent articles about
For more ideas about what you can do with a Neuroscience degree, visit
the British Neuroscience Association’s website.
To find about more about non-academic career options for PhD students, visit
the Prospects website.
becoming an audiologist?
Not sure what an
audiologist is? Well, if you like interacting with people, want to improve
somebody’s quality of life and want a career that is people focused but also
has elements of science and technology, then a degree in audiology could be
just for you.
What is audiology?
Audiology is the branch of
science that studies hearing, hearing related disorders, and balance. Audiologists
work with people who have hearing and balance conditions, so you will get to
work with people of all ages, from new-born babies to adults. Audiologists are
also responsible for the patient’s management, which may include counselling
and fitting of hearing aids. As the world gets more crowded, and ‘louder’, and
people get older, more and more people will need help from audiologists. Just
check out the figures: there are more than 10 million people in the UK with
some form of hearing loss. That’s one in six of the population. There are more
than 45,000 deaf children in the UK and, on average, it takes around ten years
for people to seek help about hearing problems. By 2031, it is estimated that
there will be 14.5 million people with hearing loss in the UK. Hearing problems
are only going to get more common and that means the world needs more
There are lots of different
training and education options if you want a career in audiology. You could
work alongside an audiologist as an assistant, or work as a Hearing Aid
Dispenser in which you would need to do a foundation degree (see http://www.bshaa.com
). If you are not really sure
where you want to work, but would like to see patients then you may want to study
an audiology degree. Here at The University of Manchester we offer both
undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, which combine the practical, theoretical
and clinical aspects of audiology. These courses are part of the Audiology and
Deafness Group at Manchester, which is the oldest audiology department in the
UK, dating back to 1919. In addition we have strong links with the NHS, where
some of our courses provide placements in NHS clinics. Click here
to find out the many different
courses we offer. Also why not find out what one of our first years has to say
about the course….here
Completing either an
undergraduate or postgraduate degree at The University of Manchester prepares you
for a career in the NHS or the independent sector. Audiologists are part of a
big team and work with: speech and language therapists; teachers of the deaf;
ear, nose and throat specialists; and social services. But if working in the
NHS doesn’t appeal to you, there are loads more options. Graduates from our
courses have found work with companies that create and dispense hearing aids or
have become lecturers at universities, undertaking their own research. Others
now work for hearing charities or at schools that specialise in teaching
children with hearing problems. The career opportunities as an audiologist are
very good and, with an ageing population, the demand for audiologists will only
One example of a
research project being carried out at The University of Manchester is
investigating the changes in brain activity after wearing an earplug in one ear
for a short period of time. Our brains are able to compensate for a change in
hearing. If you have a hearing loss, the brain will increase its activity to
compensate for less sound reaching the brain. However, in some people, the
brain activity will increase too much and this can lead to tinnitus, a
condition where the person hears a high-pitched ringing noise (this is why the
condition is also known as ‘ringing in the ears’). Little is known about what
causes the brain to overcompensate and where and when these changes occur. We
hope to understand more about the changes in brain activity and how it can lead
to tinnitus by simulating hearing loss, which involves wearing an earplug and
measuring the changes in brain activity. If we can understand more about the
changes in brain activity, this could lead to a better understanding of tinnitus.
If you would like to know more about our other research projects, visit our website.
Find out more about audiology
Have a look at our website for more information about Audiology
at The University of Manchester.
For up-to-date news about what we
do in our department and school, check out our blog.
Check out our very own Professor Chris
Plack, explaining how the ear works using only the thousand most used words in
the English Language.
The British Society of
Audiology supports audiology across the UK and you can find out about the
latest news and events from their website.
Check out The British
Academy of Audiology (BAA) that supports Audiologists and provides advice on
careers in Audiology.
Digging Up the Past
Have you ever wanted to discover ancient remains in a distant land? Do
you feel excitement when watching a team of archaeologists on TV reveal human
bones, bronze tools, gold jewellery and pottery? Are you riveted by the details
of how a Roman bathhouse worked or how an Iron Age roundhouse was built? If
your answer is yes, then archaeology might just be the thing for you.
What is archaeology?
Archaeology is the scientific study and interpretation of past peoples
and their lives through studying the material remains they left behind.
Archaeologists look at a wide range of artefacts from large buildings and
colourfully painted graves down to small clay pots, paintings, stone
arrowheads, bone fragments and even pollen and seeds.
The most common way to find past artefacts is by excavating, or by doing
a field survery where you collect remains that are visible on the surface. As
these activities destroy the precise locations and context of the artefacts,
archaeologists record, draw and photograph all information accurately for
future generations. All finds are then washed, analysed and interpreted.
Finally, the artefacts need to be preserved, possibly reconstructed and stored
– frequently in a nearby local museum. All of this work is rarely done by
archaeologists alone, but requires a team of specialists, such as geologists,
botanists, osteologists, computer specialists, and conservators. Once the
analysis has been completed, the findings are published in articles, books or
In order to get expertise in archaeology, an undergraduate degree is the
best way to go. Here at Manchester, we offer both single honours and joint
honours degrees (with Ancient History, Anthropology or History of Art). With
our teaching stretching from the Neanderthals through to modern day and our
research areas ranging from Europe, the Near East, Africa through to Australia,
the UK and the Pacific, we offer a truly global introduction to the discipline.
Our main focus at Manchester is on exploring the social dimension of the past
human experience. We offer a unique combination of theoretical enquiry, a
concern with the contemporary social context, and a commitment to practical
field work (You can watch a video of Manchester's archaeologists here
). In addition, we have strong links
to the archaeological sciences at the university and to the Manchester Museum
whose collections we are able to make use of in our teaching and whose staff
members regularly contribute specialist lectures.
Archaeology is one of the most varied careers as it draws on the
sciences, social sciences and arts. It is also one of the most diverse subjects
as it combines activity out in the field with intellectual study and scientific
analysis in the laboratory. Archaeologists can be found in the private, public
and academic sectors: You could find yourself working at the shovel’s edge in
charge of uncovering new sites and finds. Alternatively, you might be working
in a museum, designing exhibitions, talking to the public and looking after the
collections. Maybe you are employed by the council in charge of providing
guidance to developers. Or possibly you are working as a lecturer at university
and are undertaking your own research projects throughout the year. Depending on
your interests, you might find yourself working at home in Britain, on a hot
island in the Mediterranean, on a lone mountain in South America or the cold
expanses of Siberia. One thing is for sure: it’s a hugely rewarding career that
combines painstaking discovery with stimulating interpretations about past
Even if you don’t see yourself pursuing archaeology as a career, it is
an excellent foundation for your future that will serve you well in a wide
variety of interesting careers: studying archaeology alerts you to the great
diversity between people and social practices; it provides a rigorous training
in evaluating evidence and ideas; it encourages the development of creative and
critical thinking, verbal and written communication, and a wealth of practical
and team working skills that are sought after by employers. As a subject it is
challenging, intriguing, satisfying and hugely enjoyable.
The Archaeology of beer!
One recent project carried out by archaeologists
(with the help of archaeology students) at Manchester has been the excavation
of a Bronze Age beer production installation on Cyprus. A two by two metre
domed mud-plaster structure (shown in the picture) was used as a kiln to
dry malt for the production of beer three-and-a half-thousand years ago. The
beers were brewed from malted barley, and fermented with yeasts produced from
fruits such as grape or fig. All the ingredients have been found as carbonised
seeds at the site, along with stone tools for grinding the grains and pots for
heating the mixture.
Additional clues on beer production on Cyprus come
from large decorated pottery bowls like the one shown in the image. You can see
people grinding grain and a couple sitting relaxing drinking beer from bowls!
Find out more about archaeology…
To check out Archaeology at Manchester, go to the department's webpage.
The Council for British Archaeology supports archaeology across the UK and you can find out about the latest
finds, excavations and the Young Archaeologists’ Club from their website.
For up-to-date news about archaeology as well as articles about
different topics, go to: http://archaeology.about.com
A recent BBC series uses planes to detect archaeology. Find out more
with the ‘flying archaeologist’ blog.
BBC History has excellent website about archaeology (and some