The latest of our researcher alumni case studies from Joanna Watt, a Senior Portfolio Manager at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
I am currently a Senior Portfolio Manager in the Energy and Decarbonisation team at EPSRC. I look after Negative Emissions Technologies, which includes our Carbon Capture and Storage research area and investments, and the Supergen High Level Group. My role involves developing our strategy in these areas and managing the peer review process.
EPSRC is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK and is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
I joined EPSRC in 2020, during the pandemic, after 10 years as a post-doctoral research associate in the Pharmacy and Pharmacology department at the University of Bath. Before moving to Bath I did my undergraduate and PhD at Imperial College London in Chemistry.
My first role at EPSRC was as the Portfolio Manager for Ground and Structural Engineering in the Engineering team. I applied to work at EPSRC as I wanted to remain close to world leading research but knew that an academic career wasn't right for me. I loved the lab work associated with my research role, so the idea of starting a 'desk job' was initially rather unappealing - particularly from my kitchen table in lock down! However, I was surprised by the variety of the portfolio manager role and since joining EPSRC, no two weeks have been the same. I still feel close to science and enjoy interacting with a wide range of stakeholders - academics, businesses, colleagues across the other research councils and within EPSRC.
As an organisation, I found EPSRC very welcoming and supportive and I enjoy working as part of a team. Roles at EPSRC are hugely varied and you can take on additional responsibilities to fit your interests and career aspirations. There is a strong focus on people and well-being within the organisation and I'm currently working 3 days a week (0.6 FTE) which fits with my personal life.
The skills I gained during my postdoctoral research have been invaluable in helping me to prioritise a very busy and varied workload, to research and assimilate large amounts of scientific data and present it in a clear and concise manner, and to advise academics and researchers based on my lived experiences of the academic world.