With generous sponsorship from SPIE and OSA (Optical Society of America) Student Chapter, CUSPIE Student Chapter hosted a Student- Alumni Networking event on the 9th of June, 2017. With a panel of six successful University of Cambridge alumni coming back to inspire and motivate the next generation of scientists, it was yet another evening leaving a mark in the STEM student community.
Our alumni guests included Dr. Michael Butler (Mike), R&D Director at Unilever; Dr. Nicola Humphry-Baker (Nicki), Project Content Creator at Isaac Physics; Dr. Julia Attwood, Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finances; Dr. Hannah Stern, who will be starting as Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College soon; Dr. Rhiannon Mulherin working in the Business Development with Shell and Dr. George Gordon, Henslow Research Fellow at St. Edmund’s College.
Left to Right: Arfa Karani, Chapter Vice-President and Chair; Dr. Michael Butler (Mike), R&D Director at Unilever; Dr. Hannah Stern, Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College; Dr. George Gordon, Henslow Research Fellow at St. Edmund’s College; Dr. Julia Attwood, Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finances; Dr. Rhiannon Mulherin working in the Business Development with Shell and Dr. Nicola Humphry-Baker (Nicki), Project Content Creator at Isaac Physics.
The event was intended to give the student members an idea of various options available to STEM students after finishing their PhDs. Each of the speakers shared an inspirational story from their professional journey so far.
With an ensemble of speakers, all from different career stages, we received a beautiful variety of advice. While Hannah thought it helped her to go out of her way to learn new programming languages in her spare time during her PhD, Mike had a completely different opinion. According to Mike, each job or upcoming opportunity requires you to learn a new set of skills particular to that job, so meanwhile, enjoying your PhD is the key! However, they both agreed that for each person the journey will be completely different and taking breaks when you need them, taking a step back and thinking about your options, is a must!
It was inspiring to hear Rhiannon talk about her path to Shell and in the off shore wind energy sector in the heart of a well-established oil giant! Julia spoke beautifully about her time as an overseas student (from Canada) in Cambridge. She described her struggle as she relied on the careers service at the University to secure jobs in the UK after completing her PhD, a struggle many will be familiar with.
Many STEM students are passionate about outreach and Nicki, who obtained her PhD found an incredible way of converting this passion for outreach into a career! Her story about how she juggled her personal and professional life whilst finding a way to turn her passion into a career was truly motivating!
George gave us some extremely critical advice on how important ‘networking’ was towards his career and how he fought through all the rejections to accomplish what he really wanted. Having switched fields completely from telecommunications to biomedical optics, George had a lot of inspiring stories to share with the students over some wine afterwards!
A couple of general themes that stood out from all the talks were: everyone’s journey through their careers is going to be entirely different and that rejections are a part of all application processes. With this in mind, we need to be sure of what we want and persevere; un-swayed by the rejections we are all sure to face!
And another important lesson, perhaps unexpected to some, was to enjoy PhD life, and not whittle it away with worry. Research while you have the opportunity to do so and fulfil your curious souls. The evening ended with an elaborate canape and wine reception where the students got a chance to dig a bit deeper into the wealth of knowledge very kindly offered by our alumni guests.
We would like to thank everyone who attended this event and once gain extend a massive thank you to our generous speakers for giving up their time and wealth of experience for our student chapter community. Thank you!
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