Aamer – Postdoctoral scientist working for the NHS

If you are interested in working for the NHS, would like to learn more about the structure and function of the heart, and are looking for a job that involves patient contact then read on – Aamer’s career could be just what you are looking for.

What attracted you to this job?

I was attracted to this job as it allowed me to study the causes of heart disease in patients with inflammatory arthritis by undertaking interesting and exciting new projects. The job also gives me the opportunity to develop my technical skills in vascular imaging, as well as to publish studies in medical journals and present my work at medical and biology conferences all over the world. This will help me become a much more knowledgeable person in my subject area and will benefit me greatly in the future when applying for science-related jobs.

What does your typical day involve?

Each day differs, because when you conduct research, the project and its data are changing and evolving all the time and you have to adjust your schedule accordingly. However, a typical day can be as follows:

8:00am: Arrive at the hospital laboratory and setup all of the equipment that I will be using to examine the patient’s blood vessels. I must also prepare blood collecting equipment and any forms the patients will have to fill in as part of the study.
9:00am: The patient usually arrives at this time. I brief them on the tests that they will undergo, and then we start with the test. One patient assessment lasts approximately 2 hours and involves measurement of their height, weight, body fat, blood pressure, small blood vessel function, large blood vessel function, stiffness of the arteries and a blood sample from which I measure factors related to their general health.
11:00am: Once the patient leaves, I then need to analyse all of the results and enter the information into a central database. I also need to collect information on patient’s medical history and medication use from their notes. These tasks can take around 1 hour.
12:00pm: One hour for lunch. This is my time to eat, catch up with e-mails and relax!
13:00pm: The afternoon is spent doing a multitude of different tasks which depends on the day. It is important to recruit patients into the study. Therefore, I must attend clinics and give the patient information about the study before arranging an assessment time if they agree to participate. I also spend a couple of hours working on medical papers which I then submit to be published in medical journals. This allows other scientists and healthcare professionals to keep informed on the latest developments and progress that we are making in our subject area. I also supervise a doctor of philosophy ( PhD) student and meet to discuss issues a few days per week. I am usually ready to go home at around 6:30pm, but can leave earlier if I get my tasks done sooner!

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

It gives me immense satisfaction and pride to know that my studies will directly contribute to improving the health of patients at risk of heart disease.

What do your friends and family think about your job?

My mother and father are very proud, and my friends also hold me in high respect. I am assumed to be intelligent, but this is far from the case! Like everybody else, I am learning all the time and this never really stops.

Tell us more about your environment in terms of work-life balance

Working as a post-doctoral researcher offers you a good degree of flexibility. You are in control of your destiny; if you work hard then you will benefit from this in the future, but there are times where you can leave early, relax and come back refreshed to work harder the next day. You don’t have to do shift work, and because you are usually working independently you can be flexible with your working hours allowing you to have a good work-life balance.

How did you get to where you are today?

I completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport and Exercise Science, followed by a Master of Science degree in Cardiac Rehabilitation. I then completed a Doctor of Philosophy in Cardiovascular Physiology.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of following your path?

The most important advice is to work hard during A-Levels, and apply for a university degree in a science-related subject. Try to get as much work experience when at university – the best and easiest way to do this is to ask university lecturers on your course if you can help them with projects that they are running. I guarantee that you will reap the benefits of this for many years to come.

How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for someone in your field, and how much can this be expected to rise?

The job is very well paid. The starting salary is around £28,000 and can increase up to £40,000 when teaching is included in your contract. If you progress further and become a senior lecturer or reader then let’s just says you can afford to have a couple of annual holidays abroad and a nice car on the drive! Be warned though, research positions are very competitive and funding is sometimes limited, so only candidates who can demonstrate that they can manage projects effectively are favored for the best positions.

Out of ‘office hours’, what lights your fire?/ What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

Hmmm, well I love to ride my motorbike up to Wales or the Lake District. I also do a lot of hiking and I like travelling. Other than that it’s the usual things like playing football, going to the gym and catching the odd movie now and again. I like to go and watch Formula One and Moto GP live when I get a chance too.

Have there been any embarrassing moments?

The most embarrassing moment came when I was doing my PhD. I was walking along the hospital when I tripped. As I was falling I put my hand into the fire alarm ‘break glass’ button on the wall. All the fire alarms went off, 3 fire engines came, and I was the butt of all jokes for the next 6 months!