Dr Emily Gwyer Findlay
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
How many years have you been working in this sector?
I did a 4 year PhD at Imperial College, then 5.5 years of postdoc positions at LSHTM and Edinburgh, minus maternity leaves. I have been working as a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, setting up my own lab, for three months now.
What do you like the most about your job?
I love the freedom to investigate anything that looks interesting, particularly now I am beginning a five-year fellowship. I have just had some really intriguing data and I’m really excited to spend a while looking at and developing that.
I also work part-time, and that has worked well for me. I work two long and three short days per week, meaning I can keep cells and experiments ticking over every day but still pick my children up from school three afternoons a week. I feel very lucky to be able to do this.
What led you into your current role or career?
My undergraduate degree was in biochemistry but I really enjoyed all of the immunology modules, in particular all the T cell lectures by Professor Tracy Hussell. I enjoyed them so much I emailed her asking if she had a PhD space available, and she did! I loved my PhD and have worked on T cells in inflammation ever since.
What are the career progression options in this role?
Now that I have my fellowship, I have five years to establish my own independent research and apply for more funding while I build up my lab. I have a lot of support both from the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Society aimed at establishing me as a PI.
What are the most important skills and experiences that have got where you are today?
Being self-motivated to get in the lab and to read papers every day when you are working by yourself on a project is very important. Tenacity and organisational skills get you through a PhD! I was also lucky to do my PhD and post-docs in supportive labs with supervisors who helped with my career development as well as with the science.
Any tips or advice you would give to someone thinking of going into this type of career?
Think carefully about the lab you choose for your PhD – don’t base your decision only on the science that the lab produces, but also try to talk to lab members about what the environment is like.