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Life outside the lab

Kirsty RossAug 23, 2019 Placement highlights
Amelia Hallas-Potts is currently on placement in London.

Exploring something new

Like many OPTIMA students I decided to use my 3-month placement to get out of the lab and see what jobs are available to PhD students outside of academia. I am doing my placement at a medical charity in London, my role is within the opportunity assessment group who assess research proposals for their scientific validity, commercial prospect and patient benefit.

Person writing at a desk CC-BY-SA Free-Photos (

From running around a lab to...not so much

This is a very desk-based role and I quickly realised how much running around I do in my PhD – I rarely spend a whole day sat at my desk unless I have a paper or report that urgently needs writing and even then, I can probably find a reason to nip into the lab. The work I am doing is really interesting and I have had exposure to exciting research projects but sitting at a desk has been a big change and it has taken quite a lot of getting used to. Even after 3 months I still don’t have lunch at my desk like many other employees and get up every hour or so to get a drink and generally wander around the office. Whereas I normally leave the lab feeling tired and ready to sit down, I’ve found I leave my placement with a lot of energy, this has meant I can spend the evenings socialising or attending exercise classes to try and burn off some energy. Desk-based work has allowed me to really focus on the projects I’m working on and I have had exposure to a wider variety of opportunities than would be possible if I was in the lab for 3 months.

Life-work balance

The main benefit of life outside the lab has been the work life balance. I really enjoy working normal hours and being able to forget about work as soon as I leave the office. Although I’ve had some tight deadlines and work hasn’t been without its challenges, unlike with my PhD, I don’t leave work worried about whether I have planned tomorrows experiment properly, will the overnight incubation work or if I left the incubator door open.

Mix of desk work and client interaction = potential post-PhD career

Although this specific role is probably too desk based for me, I have had the opportunity to shadow business development managers and technology transfer officers within the company who spend a lot more time in meetings, visiting universities, attending conferences etc. which breaks up the desk work. This mix of desk work and client interaction is something I will be looking for if I apply for jobs outside of academia after my PhD.