After doing my masters degree I was working for Horsham District Council as a research officer, but was finding it limiting compared to the challenge of academic work. I wanted to go back to university and was looking for a funded PhD. I stumbled across The Open University by luck. I came for an interview and was struck by the degree of professionalism. It seemed a very dynamic place – half way between a university and an office environment, and I really liked that.
My PhD was in how the former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe adopted GM (Genetically Modified) crops. Directly after I finished it, I got my first post-doc position, at Dalhousie University in Canada. I was looking at vaccine technologies, in particular the H1NI vaccine for pandemic flu, or “bird flu” as it’s known. I had been extremely well prepared at the OU and I settled into the job really easily. I was there for two years, and then came back to the OU, to work in a similar research unit called Innogen (a genomics research centre based jointly at the OU and Edinburgh University).
For my second post-doc I’m working across many of the projects in Innogen, helping to ramp them up by writing new funding grants and developing specific papers. Work-wise I have a foot in different camps: there is some administration, there is data analysis, and there is networking and dissemination of outputs.
It’s a change of pace, dynamic yet relaxed, and I’m working with a lot of interesting people. The OU seems to be a hub of research in my field. The facilities are generally excellent. The library is fantastic, easily equal to any other library in the UK. The campus is very pleasant and the office environment is well equipped.
Some people may see it as a disadvantage that there are no students on the campus to teach. However, there are opportunities to be an associate lecturer [tutor] for the OU. The OU is a very good professional research environment to work in, which may suit people better if they want to concentrate on research rather than teaching.
I’ve had a really positive experience here and it’s given me the opportunity of working elsewhere in the world.
Dr Farah Huzair, UK. PhD: Social Aspects of the life Sciences