The latest of our career stories from former doctoral students and research staff
Ricardo Diaz de Leon Ortega, DMPK Senior Scientist 1 at Sygnature Discovery, Alderley Park
What do you do day-to-day in your current role?
I work in the Drug Metabolism Pharmacokinetics (DMPK) Department where clients from Pharmaceutical companies send their compounds to be evaluated in test tube experiments (in vitro) so they can have an idea of its in vivo behaviour when it is administered to laboratory animals or humans (in vivo).
My main work is to analyse compound concentration-time from laboratory animals based on their physicochemical properties, in order to provide an explanation of the behaviour of the compound. I can then predict new and different scenarios so the client could take decisions for future studies, saving them money and reducing the animal experimentation.
I help at the laboratory by processing samples to quantify the compound concentration.
The rest of my time, I have meetings with clients (to present results to them) and train staff in data analysis or in the laboratory procedures.
Give a brief overview of your career history to date, and any steps you feel were important to you
My degree was in Pharmacy and my MSc in Chemistry (both of them in Mexico) and my PhD in Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Bath with Dr Nikoletta Fotaki.
There were 3 important moments in my career:
1) Learning statistics and design of experiments during my MSc, it is a very useful knowledge in pharmaceutical research.
2) Studying the PhD in the UK. I had the opportunity to learn the newest trends in Pharmacy research and to meet many field experts.
3) Attending a workshop in Switzerland about pharmacokinetics modelling (the University granted me a travelship). There I learnt an advanced way of data analysis and that helped me out in my industry career.
How do you use the skills from your doctoral/postdoctoral experience in your current role?
Apart from the technical skills, like knowing pharmacokinetics data analysis and the skills I learnt in the laboratory, there are two important skills: writing reports and presenting results.
Anytime you have the opportunity to present your research, you should take it; it helps to gain confidence and talk to an audience. Another useful thing was to be a demonstrator, it helped me to develop the way I transmit ideas to people with different levels of knowledge and to reinforce my knowledge on those topics.
Employers are aware that you might not know everything, but they expect that you are able to look for solutions; critical thinking and problem solving skills is something that you should be developing throughout the PhD/Postdoc.
There are many Doctoral Skills courses about this and I would recommend attending them.
P.S. I learnt the advanced analysis at a Conference's workshop, so if there is a chance to attend a conference, take it!
How you went about finding your current job, what advice you would give to researchers interested in working in similar roles and suggestions on where they could look for vacancies
I found this job in LinkedIn, my friends recommended me to invest time in creating a good LinkedIn profile and taking a good photo, and they were right! Then I set search alerts worldwide for the keywords related to a job position of the things that I know but focused on what I wanted to do.
I have heard that Glassdoor and Indeed are good options too. Another option is, if you know a company that you are interested in working for, go directly to their websites and in the "Careers" or "Jobs" sections, you can find a suitable offer for you.
I would suggest going to the Careers Service to have your CV checked. At the beginning I started my job search following internet CV templates, but I was unsuccessful in my search. Then I went to the Careers Service, I received very good advice and in about two weeks I got an email for an interview. The Careers Service also have templates for cover letters.