Careers in Life Sciences

Akira O. Williamson

Life Sciences graduate Akira Williamson, standing outside wearing a pink t-shirt and dark blue baseball cap. He is smiling at the camera, with some cliffs and a road visible in the background.

"Be curious and don’t be afraid to ask or to try new things."

Akira O. Williamson, BSc Biomedical Science (with Placement Year) graduate, now Specialist Scientific Lead - Dissection and Sampling at University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire.

I wanted to do a biomedical science degree with an NHS placement year as I wasn't sure what career path to follow at the time. But I knew I could work as a Biomedical Scientist until I worked out what I wanted.

What attracted me to the University of Essex was the cultural diversity and its reputation for having the No. 1 Students' Union (SU) at that time. I came to the university straight from the Caribbean, and I felt that the diversity of its students and culture would help me to make an easier transition into living in the UK.

My favourite part of university was all the social activities. The SU was thriving, and I was really involved with different societies. I have many, many fond memories of various activities I was a part of, and I've made life-long friends there. I also enjoyed that there was plenty of green space around campus to enjoy and relax in. I would go in my spare time or with friends and just sit by the lakes or on the grass. This is a very underrated feature of Essex and was something I really missed when I studied at my next institution.

In the School I found that the lecturers were friendly, and it was easy to pop by for an opinion or chit-chat, so asking advice or seeking help was easy. It was also easy to talk to advanced students (MSc, PhD) in the labs or at the SU.

My degree gave me the opportunity to work within teams and communicate effectively, both through my assignments and through the SU's social societies and sports clubs. This has helped me considerably post-graduation. The Careers centre was helpful, and I got a lot of support and advice from various lecturers and students.

The NHS placement year that I opted for helped prepare me for my current role. It showed me what to expect while working within an NHS laboratory. It not only gave me technical skills and theoretical knowledge, but also ideas for leadership and team management.

After graduating as a registered Biomedical Scientist, I applied for the Scientific Training Programme (STP) run by the National School of Healthcare Science, a three-year course which includes a full-time work placement while doing a Master of Science (MSc) part-time. I specialised in Histopathology and trained at University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW).

I graduated as a Registered Clinical Scientist then spent a year as a bank (temporary) staff member with UHCW before gaining a permanent role as a Specialist Scientific Lead Dissection and Sampling.

My advice to students is to have fun, meet new people, and study hard. Be curious and don’t be afraid to ask or to try new things. Look for opportunities and take them when they come as they can be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. All of these can help you find a career that is suited to you.