Collaborative PhDs at Kent: Not Just About Laboratory Skills

A spotlight on life as a current Biosciences PhD student, Natalie Talbot

During my PhD I have worked in partnership with the University of Kent and Medimmune(AstraZeneca), to investigate the impact of bioprocessing on the stability of therapeutics. The diverse nature of my project has given me the opportunity to work across all aspects of bioprocessing in state-of-the-art facilities with world-class equipment; from culturing 10 L bioreactors and conducting stability studies, to using cloning and imaging techniques. I could elaborate further on the lab skills I have gained, but it’s fair to say that developing lab skills in a bioscience PhD is a bit of a given! Instead, it is the range of ‘soft skills’ I have improved throughout my collaborative work which I have found most valuable, and which are most widely applicable to any profession.

I have quickly learned to be adaptable and flexible throughout every aspect of my PhD – from working and communicating with 3 supervisors (who often had very different ideas about the focus of my work), to last minute trips away to work with new teams and equipment. Although at times challenging, these aspects of my PhD created the perfect environment for me to grow in confidence as a scientist and as a leader; and to enhance my skills in problem solving, organisation, team work, communication, multi-tasking and project management.

A PhD is also an opportunity for personal development, and If you’ve ever spoken to a graduate student about their experiences then the phrase ‘character building’ would almost certainly feature – and I can guarantee you that any PhD will do just that. Over the past 3 and a half years I have developed new levels of resilience, motivation and drive to push myself further, and to seek out opportunities such as presenting at international conferences, working with the University outreach team and, most recently, participating in a BBSRC PIPS placement scheme to work in science communication.

It is important to understand the level of commitment and dedication required to do a PhD, and to prepare yourself mentally for the challenges that you will face. It is also essential to realise that acquiring these skills is not instant, and that some things take more time to perfect than others.
Undertaking a collaborative PhD in particular, therefore, isn’t for the faint hearted, however there is a lot to be gained from industrial partnerships both in and out of the lab.