Scientists are the people who help us to understand the world around us. They ask questions, generate theories, conduct experiments, make observations and discover things about life and the universe that no one has ever known before.
Are you interested in becoming a scientist? We asked our researchers to give you their top tips for starting a career in science.
There’s more to science than dementia research of course. People with a scientific training can go into a range of industries and professions. Doctors, vets, engineers, economists, geologists, pilots, computer programmers and psychologists all usually have a background in science and maths.
Even if you’re not sure you want to become a scientist, having a background in science can show employers that you’re able to problem-solve and understand complex ideas, and it keeps your options open for a range of careers.
The journey to becoming a scientist starts at school. Taking science and maths at GCSE and A Level is often the best way to embark on a career in science.
At university there are lots of different degrees in scientific subjects to choose from and research scientists usually go on to do postgraduate qualifications such as a PhD. A PhD is a three or four-year programme of research, working as part of an established research team. As part of a PhD, you decide on an important scientific question you want to investigate and develop the techniques and expertise to answer the question during the course of your project.
The national careers service provides information about a career as a research scientist as well as other scientific careers and the futuremorph website also has career advice and case studies about a range of science careers. Take a look and find out more!
I get to see (and sometimes understand) things no one has seen or understood before. Even after 30 years of being a neurophysiologist, I’m still fascinated that I can look at a computer screen and see the brain working in real time before my eyes. It’s hypnotic!
Prof Andy Randall, Exeter
I did biochemistry at the University of Southampton, then a veterinary degree at the University of London. I’d wanted to be a vet since I was little, but when I finished training I realised I was really interested in answering questions, so I went straight into a PhD.
Prof Clare Bryant, Cambridge
I was always interested in science. I went to the University of Nottingham and did my undergraduate study in neuroscience – that covered a range of disciplines, including neurogenetics which had a large focus on Alzheimer’s disease.
Chris, researcher in Nottingham
I did an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences but then went into science media. I worked in an independent television production company, then moved onto the Discovery Channel and then to the BBC, at Tomorrow’s World. I enjoyed the work there but really missed getting into the problems and being the one that was solving them. I strongly felt that I wanted to be the one doing the science.
Jo, researcher in London
I had awesome Chemistry and Biology teachers in school; that coupled with my home chemistry set “experiments” meant I always knew I wanted to be a researcher. During my Biochemistry degree at the University of Leeds, I obtained lots of research experience, including a year in Paris working in a microbiology lab.
Jo, researcher in Leicester