• Question: How did you become a scientist?

    Asked by view360ear to Valerio, Sreejita, Sam, Kate, Anastasia, Adam on 9 Nov 2019. This question was also asked by time360ear, pass360ear, join360ear, quiz360ear, city360ear, draw360ear, cake360ear, buzz360ear, Harry the irish leader, JCAT.
    • Photo: Sreejita Ghosh

      Sreejita Ghosh answered on 9 Nov 2019: last edited 11 Nov 2019 1:09 pm

      As a kid I used to be curious. And it was curiosity at every step that eventually led me to become a PhD student in machine learning research.
      During my school days I had phases when I felt that I had to try out some of the experiments of Physics at home in order to ‘trust’ the Science books. When we started with Computer applications I was thrilled to be able to make patterns, make tasks easier, just with few lines of code. I knew by then that I would like to be in something where I can do coding, and apply it to real life problems. Simultaneously I was interested in helping doctors find a disease faster or help doctors with treatment planning, but I did not want to become a doctor myself. So I studied Biomedical Engineering. In this stream of engineering I learned how I can help healthcare, by making programs to find the onset of an epilepsy or checking the vitals of a hospitalized patient and finding patterns in that to know whether the patients will survive or be readmitted, or not survive. However I wanted to know more about the codes, to make better codes. That’s when Maths stepped in to help make coding better.
      I did my Masters in Biomedical Engineering with specialization in the medical imaging devices such as CT scanner, MRI, and X-ray machines. Then I found an internship to use computer programs to find different types of diseases in the brain, from the brain images. I really liked the project but I wasn’t sure how the computer program was doing what it was doing. This curiosity led to a more intensive internship at Philips Healthcare where I learned how Physics and Maths are behind the computer codes I used then to find the severity of heart failure. By then I was in love with this type of data-driven computer programs (which are called machine learning). I wanted to know more about machine learning and to make one such computer program myself to solve something which is yet to be solve- a new challenge. I started applying for PhD positions in machine learning and I was especially interested in machine learning being used in healthcare related problems. Finally I got this current PhD position where my love for computing science (Maths using Computer Science) and my desire to help the doctors, came together.
      I don’t know at which point I recognised myself as a scientist. Maybe when I started teaching Bachelors and Masters students in my university, or probably when I joined this program to get to discuss Science with you. My scientific journey wasn’t planned in this way from the beginning. I had not decided on becoming a scientist when I was in school. I had been driven by my curiosity at every step. I can say that follow those scientific interests of yours which do not intrude upon others’ privacy, and try to find something new to learn at every step (because there always is). And if you already know that you want to become a scientist then yayyyy!! You are a much better planner than I was, and you have a chance for a more structured pathway into the world of STEM research.
      Does this answer your question? 🙂

    • Photo: Kate Winfield

      Kate Winfield answered on 11 Nov 2019: last edited 11 Nov 2019 10:24 am

      When I was at secondary school I was captivated by my first every science and geography lessons. Especially by volcanoes, hurricanes, coasts, climate change and space. Since then I knew I wanted to go into science. But was very unsure on how to get there and what exactly I wanted to do. I then picked my GCSE’s based on subjects that I was interested in and wanted to learn more about. After GCSE’s I continued with my education and decided to do A-levels. I ended up picking my favourite subjects Geography and Chemistry. I also took Maths although I actually wanted to ICT instead but that clashed with Chemistry. Geography, became my firm favourite choice and got really interested in the weather (meteorology), so decided to continue with Geography at university.

      I didn’t do that well in my A-levels and I knew the only way to get into meteorology was to do a degree with a year in industry. This is when I decided to go to Coventry University. During my degree I attended work experience at the Weather Channel in Birmingham. To get my year in industry I ended up writing to lots of letters to different meteorology organisations. Including STFC where I am working now! I really enjoyed my time at work during my degree and this is when I knew I wanted to be a scientist in the atmospheric science area. So I went back to finish my degree where I was awarded a 1st Class degree. After my degree I had quite a difficult decision in the end. When I got offered the job back at STFC I also was awarded with a fully paid scholarship to complete a Masters at the University of Leeds in atmospheric science research. I had always known I wanted to work in the weather sector, not forecasting the weather but behind the scenes in the research. The main difference between the offers were that one was paid and the other was not. In the end I picked working at CEDA, I knew it would offer me more opportunities and a guaranteed job after the graduate scheme. Sorry for the long story, but this is how I became a Scientist 🙂 You don’t have to have A*’s to be a scientist, just have determination!

    • Photo: Adam Wootton

      Adam Wootton answered on 11 Nov 2019:

      Honestly, I was just very lucky. I had always got very good grades and exam results, but had no idea what I wanted to do. It was only during my second year at university that I realised that I really enjoyed being part of a university and wanted to stay on for longer. I found a supervisor to supervise my PhD (basically a fancy qualification that allows you to have the title ‘Dr’ instead of ‘Mr’ or ‘Miss’) and everything followed from there. Even then, my PhD started as a Physics project and finished as a Computer Science project!

    • Photo: Anastasia Aliferi

      Anastasia Aliferi answered on 12 Nov 2019:

      I always enjoyed science and biology, it was so nice to understand how things work (and I found homework much easier to finish, leaving me plenty of time for other things, like painting). I also always liked my biology teachers, they were fun, enthusiastic and relaxed (some might say they were also slightly mad, but in a fun way)! It was one of those teachers that during my final year in high school pushed me to take part in the National Biology Olympiad, even though I was really busy with exams. Turns out I did really well at that competition and I ended up in the team of 4 students that represented my country in the International Biology Olympiad in Japan that year. That was such an amazing experience, I got to see an amazing country different to anything I’ve seen before and I also got to visit universities and run cool experiments – one including massive caterpillars! After that I knew I wanted the rest of my life to be just as exciting, so I decided study biology for my bachelors (even though my dad really wanted me to be a medical doctor). At university I fell in love with biology even more, I learned about all the different things you can study, plants, animals, molecules, bacteria or even viruses and by the end of my degree I was pretty certain that I wanted to study genetics. At that point though I also wanted to see a different angle of science and decided to do a slightly unconventional Master’s degree in forensic science. This degree combined the biology and genetics that I really loved, with chemistry (which was definitely not easy for me!) and crime scene analysis which I though was super interesting. Towards the end of my degree I learned about a project on human genetics that was about using biology and genetics to calculate someone’s age from a drop of blood. I was sold! I started that project as a Mater’s student and continued on the same project in my doctorate which I’m about to finish (less than a year left!). So, that’s my science story and even though I never planned to end up where I am today, I don’t think I would change anything about it! Every step I’ve taken in science so far totally felt like it was meant to be and I hope my next step will feel the same way 🙂