Fourth year PhD student Claire Condon joined the RSC for its networking opportunities but has found her membership has far more benefits and now believes that the careers advice and support she has received from the RSC is invaluable as she looks to further her career.
Currently studying at Trinity College, Dublin, Claire is specialising in inorganic chemistry and her PhD focusses on the development of transition metal complexes for applications as photosensitisers in photodynamic therapy, a non-invasive cancer treatment.
“I’m a quiet person and not very good at putting myself out there, so the chance to present a poster at the Dalton young members event in Cardiff in September 2019 was perfect. I have to do a 15-minute presentation as part of my course, and I thought the Dalton 2020 conference in Warwick would help me with the University presentation. But they’ve both been postponed due to Covid-19 so I have to wait to see if the Dalton conference will be rescheduled.”
The Dalton young members event is specifically designed to support PhD students and post-doctoral researchers within the inorganic community, providing presentation and networking opportunities for early career researchers.
Claire was encouraged to join the RSC by her university supervisor and her first encounter with the society was a Dalton young members event where she listened to Dr Robert Bowles, a careers advisor with the society, who she admits scared her a bit.
My PhD was my focus and submitting that was an end goal and I hadn’t been thinking past that really or what I wanted to do. The talk from Dr Bowles was eye-opening when he mentioned how few opportunities there are in academia the further you progress up the career ladder.
“I think this focussed me on the need to learn how to promote myself and I’ve done a few Chem Careers webinars which have helped.”
As Claire’s PhD has progressed, she has enjoyed it more and more. In her first year she questioned whether she had done the right thing. “A friend told me that the vast majority of process chemists in industry have a PhD and it was the right thing to do, regardless of whether I stay in academia or transition to industry. Initially, my project was based on platinum complexes for uses in optical devices, but then six months into my PhD I came across my present project and it has really captured my imagination, and this has been more enjoyable.”
Looking to the future Claire is sure the RSC can really help her as she looks to make her next career move. “I would never have come across what continuous professional development (CPD) is without the RSC and that was a good introduction into the careers side of things. As I come closer to the end of my PhD, I need to learn how to promote myself better, especially to industry and I will certainly be using the careers support in the RSC more, especially for things such as interview skills and tailoring my CV."
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And as for other students considering joining the RSC, Claire would certainly advise them to do so. “It’s the careers advice and conferences that I most value. The specific chemistry advice around careers is so much better than any general advice you would get from your university. Whether I go into industry or not, I will keep my membership up as I would want to keep up to date with research and that is another benefit of the RSC. Most of my department are members and a lot of our papers would go to the RSC journals so there is a lot of value and varied opportunities in RSC membership.”
As to the future, Claire is looking to make the right impression at a re-scheduled Dalton conference and continue to learn how to maximise the opportunities open to her, with help from her RSC membership.