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September 29, 2022, by Leah Sharpe

Combining a PhD With My Job

By Fabio Albanese, PhD student

Are you thinking about studying for a PhD? Fabio chatted to us about his PhD and how he manages to balance studies alongside work. 

1. Tell us about your educational background and qualifications gained?

I have a BSc degree in biological science and a MSc degree in molecular diagnostics, both awarded by the University of Naples “Federico II” in Italy.

2. What work experience do you have and what did you need for your current job?

During the laboratory experiences carried out in Naples both at University and at CNR (National Research Council) laboratories as part of my degrees, I gained experiences in molecular biology and immunology techniques. Soon after my MSc graduation I moved to the UK, between Brighton (University of Sussex) and Liverpool (Royal Liverpool University Hospital) and gained experience in different roles as research technician. I learnt about aseptic techniques and how to use several technologies to study characteristics of immune cell populations.

3. Tell us about your current role?

I am now a research scientist in immunology at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute in Leicestershire. Waltham is the science hub for Mars Petcare, and is owned by Mars Incorporated – the company that makes PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS® and ROYAL CANIN® as well as other brands such as BEN’S ORIGINAL™, M&M’S®, SNICKERS® and more! I am responsible for one of the laboratories (cell biology) we have on site, and part of my role is to ensure the health and safety and high-quality compliance of all the work generated in the lab. Moreover, I work on the validation of assays to study the immune system in cats and dogs. These are utilised to identify the ability of micro- and macro-nutrients to improve immunity in our pets for example, contributing to Mars Petcare’s purpose: A Better World For Pets.

4. How did you find the opportunity to study for a PhD?

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to do a PhD alongside my current role. Mars is a great place to work and a company where the development of its associates (employees) is top priority. Whilst employed, I felt a PhD was the right thing to do to become a better scientist, I was fully supported by my managers.

5. How are you balancing studying and working?

Good planning, efficiency and prioritisation skills have helped me in the last three years in making sure my PhD work as well as my business objectives of my job as a research scientist were successfully fulfilled. Recognising the increased workload of trying to do both, some of my responsibilities were passed onto my colleagues. This actually proved beneficial to them as it enabled them to gain skills and learn new skills that they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

6. What are your plans for the future?

At the end of my PhD I really want to utilise all the extra skills I gained and those I have improved during this incredible journey. I can’t wait to start collaborating with some of the people I connected with in the last three years, to further explore some of the interesting findings I found as part of my PhD, and to continue contributing to helping Mars deliver on our purpose.

7. Any advice for students who want to work in industry?

– During your academic studies you will have the opportunity to collaborate with multiple experts in several disciplines, make the most of this! Start creating your own professional network, one day it will come in handy when you will work in industry, and it will drive both yourself and your business to success.

– Participate in employer networking events to learn more about the work that industries do and what the opportunities are out there for you. Don’t be shy! Ask about job vacancies (check out Waltham’s here) or experiences needed to join the industry you would like to work for in the future, this could help you to focus on skills you need to improve.

– Make sure you invest some time in creating an appealing CV, you need to make a good first impression if you want to shine amongst all the candidates that will apply for the same job role. Good luck!

If you’re not sure whether a PhD is the right step for you, take a look at our website for some advice on further study.

Already studying a PhD? Explore the dedicated Careers webpages for postgraduate researchers. 

Posted in PhD StudentsWork experience