Science - student stories
Melissa Dickinson, Laboratory Technician with Public Health England
I completed the BSc. Molecular Science September 2014. I enjoyed the sciences at school and chose Molecular Science because I felt the chemistry language and scale to be common to both physics and biology, so saw it as an opportunity to become more fluent in a language that could be applied to other areas. I chose the OU because of its flexibility. Like most mature students, I also had to work and have life responsibilities, so the OU’s self-management, home study style and modular structure suited me.
Why did you apply for the GSK Residential Training Experience?
To experience working life in a laboratory (to determine if it would suit me). For two years, I had eyed the Qualification Managers’ GSK annual email with more than a passing interest but didn’t apply as I was concerned it would clash with exams and ECAs. In my final year of studying, I realised that it was my last chance to apply for this opportunity and therefore couldn’t pass it up. With careful study planning (were I successful), it might just be possible.
How did the residential experience impact on your studies and your career development?
After the residential course I had about three days to complete my final project course, so it did not impact directly upon my studies (but for helping me realise that I can work continuously for three days without sleep!!!). I did experience the use of some laboratory equipment that featured in experiments studies for my dissertation, so it brought a little reality to the project. I successfully applied the CV writing skills during employment applications. Having already had an idea of the area that I was interested in working in, the working laboratory experience helped me to realise that I would be suited to that working environment (which is what I do now).
In what ways did OU study impact on your ambitions?
Molecular science courses with the OU covered a vast range of areas, and they opened my eyes to some of the possibilities for employment. The information from these courses helped me focus on what I felt to be important; and studying/ obtaining this qualification did help me to change my career.
Having spoken to many people over a number of years about studying for an OU Bachelors degree, the impression I was left with is that having an OU degree is employable in itself – because of the qualities that it requires (self-discipline/time management/commitment etc.).
From the start of studies, there was a strong focus on communicating science clearly and concisely; and now working in a place of science I see that this is an essential requirement.
What advice would you offer to current OU Science students/recent graduates about getting into your career field?
The only advice that I would choose to offer is: when searching for jobs (unfortunately it’s all by internet nowadays!), go direct to companies’ /organisations’ websites. Personally in my experience, I felt that agencies had less respect for clients and this is bad for morale. If you want to work in laboratories, try and get that experience beforehand.
Are there any things that you feel make an application from an OU student/graduate stand out to an employer?
The majority of feedback I received from people about having an OU degree has been extremely positive & respectful. It seems to be widely understood that studying this way is demanding and takes commitment. I completed my degree in 5 years, and throughout the first four years, there was rarely a week that I had without at least one course running.