Update: The Outstanding Award process closed after the 2020/21 academic year. Current students who have made an outstanding contribution to their PLUS Award activity may consider engaging with the Outstanding PLUS Award, which launched in the 2021/22 academic year.
The Bristol PLUS Award deadline is approaching on June 14. If you are close to completing the Award or are one of the hundreds who have completed in the past few years, you may want to reflect on how you could progress to the Outstanding Award. Adam Jellett, a Biochemistry (PhD) student explains how completing both awards supported his career planning.
How did you come to achieve the Outstanding Award?
PhD students can get tunnel vision of only considering an academic career, and there is even some stigma around considering other options. This is ridiculous – what will suit one person will not necessarily suit others! Part of the problem is that the main mentors available for PhD students are academics, who may not have experiences outside of a University setting. I have genuinely enjoyed my Biochemistry PhD and have no regrets but have come to realise that I personally would be better off pursuing a different path. Even if you do think academia is for you, there is no harm (and likely a lot of good) in considering and preparing for wider options.
For my Outstanding Award, I identified a gap in the training that PGRs receive, not only in Bristol, but throughout GW4 universities. This involved how to create, with integrity, high quality figures from data collected in the biological sciences. I applied for money from the GW4 Doctoral Student Training Scheme to organise a workshop providing hands-on instruction in order to address this skills deficit, and I received £1000 of funding. My role included: writing the successful funding application; hiring the trainer to deliver the workshop; advertising to, choosing, and looking after the attendees; and organising the facilities and catering. The workshop provided training for sixteen PGRs and received very positive feedback.
How did you benefit from achieving the Outstanding Award?
Engaging with the Careers Service is a great way to gain a wider perspective and consider your options. This is something I did not do during my undergraduate degree, leaving me feeling underprepared and a bit daunted by the process of job hunting. Undertaking the Outstanding Award (and the PLUS Award) has given me the opportunity to reflect on what I enjoy, my strengths and my weaknesses, as well as developing new skills. I’ve also gained practical experience in articulating my skills in an interview setting, with critical feedback, which was especially useful.
What is next for you?
After completing the Outstanding Award last year, I undertook a science policy internship at the Academy of Medical Sciences in London. This particular internship, which I thoroughly recommend, is available for MRC and Wellcome Trust funded PhD students. Once I finish my PhD thesis, I plan to move into a science policy career, where I feel I can take my love of science outside of academia.
If you want to chat to someone about the Bristol Outstanding Award, policy internships, or careers, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn.