Hi I’m Jason and I’m the senior director of chip research at Oxford Nanopore Technologies.
How were you inspired to work in chemistry?
My first chemistry set as a child was the main inspiration — even as a small boy I was fascinated by chemistry and chemical reactions. At GCSE age, I chose all the sciences, and ended up doing better in physics than chemistry, but enjoyed the more practical aspect of chemistry.
I decided to study chemistry at university and had my eye on teaching. When I graduated, I decided that making a difference through research was more fulfilling for my needs and pursued a career as a research chemist. I still enjoy the teaching aspect, even now as I pass on knowledge and information in my current role. The endless pursuit of knowledge and learning keeps me going. Every day we learn something new, we solve problems, and we pass the knowledge along. That cycle is my driver.
Minimum qualifications: for entry-level/junior role as a scientist in the research department typically requires A-levels (or equivalent) in relevant subjects such as chemistry, biology, physics or maths. Enthusiasm and willingness to learn and grow are also key qualities. Training is provided to support career development and progression. Joining as a scientist with a MSc or PhD, or from another experienced role, would usually mean entering at a higher-level role.
Starting salary range: as a graduate scientist with some experience, an average market rate salary would be around £27,000. Research scientists, either with MSc, PhD, or relevant experience, can earn upwards of £34,500. Senior Scientists could expect salaries of more than £45,000, with Principal Scientist salaries of above £60,000. Please note all salaries are dependent on experience, qualifications and location.
How did your qualification help you get your job?
My role is multidisciplinary in nature, so the years of picking up skills in different areas of chemistry as I worked as a postdoctoral researcher allowed me to have all the skills required. I have a doctorate in electrochemistry, an understanding of modelling and fluidics, flow cell and reactor design and polymer chemistry. My analytical chemistry and problem solving skills also helped. I have worked on large European and industrially sponsored projects, so was familiar with the way projects are handled.
What is your typical day like?
There are days when I have a lot of project meetings to catch up with other group’s results relevant to my projects, or for the technical planning of short-term work packets. I will also spend time guiding the direction of experiments, remotely managing labs in our offices abroad, and reporting group results to management.
There are days when I have time to delve a little deeper into analysis and help to facilitate the day-to-day technical output of the group.
What do you love about your job?
Every day brings new challenges. I love solving problems and making things work, and I thoroughly enjoy working with great people. I am proud to have a little part of me in every product that we make and love that scientists around the world use the technology to make life-changing discoveries and decisions. The demanding work and challenges we overcame to enable the existence of this technology are immensely rewarding to me. The work I am doing now will make further advancements and I love that I know something great will come out of it.
Key skills: all roles in an industrial setting require effective communication of direction, ideas, and results both positive and negative. Problem solving and results/data analysis drives decisions daily, so I rely on these heavily. Teamwork is of course essential and managing people and projects across a multidisciplinary scientific company means that projects need to be focused and well resourced. In summary, a broad range of transferable skills combined with scientific knowledge will stand you in good stead.
What tips or advice would you have for someone considering a career in chemistry, or interested in a role like yours?
Chemistry as a career choice offers many routes and options. As the discipline is formally cut into the four major categories — organic, inorganic, physical, and analytical — finding the area you have a passion for is useful. Many enjoy the challenge of creating compounds through synthetic routes, whilst others are motivated by the challenge of inorganic chemistry. I found that physical and analytical chemistry was where my interests lay and chose to pursue these routes in my career. I have never regretted following my heart over my head with regards to the decisions that lead me to where I am today.
Want to find out more about how to get involved?
You can find out more about careers at Oxford Nanopore Technologies on their website: https://nanoporetech.com/careers. They also offer internships for school-leavers, provide work experience for undergraduate students, and can host students as part of their gap year or industrial placements.
First published 2021