Jessica Devonport

Gender

Female

Age

22 - 30

Status

In training or education

Broad training/education area

Biology

Route to training or education

I took a very unusual route into my current area. I went through college studying arts and humanities (Fine Art, Textiles, English and Psychology at A Level). Following this I decided that a career in science was for me. I found it a little hard finding a place at university, especially as many admissions tutors considered me over-qualified for a foundation year but not qualified in the correct subjects for entry into 1st year of a Biology degree. Somehow I managed to get a place studying Cell and Molecular Biology and graduated with a first class degree with honours. From the very start of my degree I had decided that I wanted a career in academia and research science. I began applying for PhD positions in my final year. I found that the majority of projects available had a Masters year attached, making it a 4 year programme. I feel this an excellent route to take as it allows you to test the waters of you chosen project and, if you decide it isn't quite right, there is the option to graduate with a Master of Research degree after the first year.

Your training/education

BSc Hons in Cell and Molecular Biology. MRes & PhD in Mitochondrial gene expression. Genes are not just found in the cell nucleus but also in the mitochondria, the organelles responsible for producing the energy for the cell. Not much is known about how these mitochondrial genes are turned into proteins as they don't always follow the same rules as genes in the nucleus. I am researching how the mitochondria make sure the proteins produced are good enough to work properly within the cell, this is called quality control.

Was the route to your training or education typical, unusual or a bit of both?

Bit of both

Day in life

My typical day is spent between the lab and the office. A lot of things I am currently doing seem quite routine: there is a lot of preparatory work to do before an experiment can be set up. The nature of the proteins that I study means they can't be observed directly, which means we have to think of interesting new ways of looking at them. A lot of my research involved manipulating live cells and observing how they grow when I remove certain proteins, I then take these cells and run more detailed assays on them. There is also a lot of background reading to be done, as well as making sure I am up to date with current research in my field. Keeping accurate notes of everything I do in the lab is also essential.

Happiness

7 - Awfully happy

Life outside work

Outside of work I enjoy a lot of outdoor pursuits: I go rock climbing, hiking and camping. I also haven't lost my interest in art: Newcastle has lots of wonderful art galleries and I have discovered a love of photography. I love writing my blog, it helps me keep up to date with all the latest news in science and makes me think of new ways of explaining scientific facts an ideas.

What attracted you to your education or training?

I had always been good at both art and science at school. In the end I decided not to pursue art as I felt science could offer a more stable career. I am incredibly curious about how life works: what happens in cells and what makes them function properly? As a result of this I decided I wanted to be involved in researching my interests and making important discoveries.

Starting salary

16K - 20K

Potential salary

41K - 45K

Employer website

https://ncl.ac.uk

What type of scientist are you

Explorer

Investigator

Communicator

Advice

Choose your A Levels wisely! Even if you think you may not end up in a science based career do not underestimate the value of studying maths or science. Be prepared to work hard. Science is not a subject that allows you to coast along, but it is also incredibly rewarding! Question everything. A scientist's greatest asset is curiosity. Make sure you love your subject. Working long unsociable hours as a research student is very hard if you are not passionate about your work.