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Topic: University Blues  (Read 7537 times)

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Offline Guitarmaniac86

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University Blues
« on: September 18, 2008, 06:31:52 PM »
I am suffering a crisis and it is getting to me to the extent that it may start to affect my studies.

I attend the University of Surrey and I study chemistry. The department is good department. It is in the top 10 or 15 (depending on your sources) in the university league tables. The lecturers come from far and wide. One organic lecturer graduated from Oxford, one of the Analytical lecturers is world renowned and a huge inspiration to me but I feel like I have made a mistake coming to this university.

I am actually worried about what a degree from the institute actually means. I gained 70% as my average over 12 modules and gained 80% in organic chemistry and mid 70's in physical and inorganic chemistry in my first year. I am worried however that even if I get a first by the end of my 4 years, that a degree from the institution would be meaningless in the sense that if I apply for a job, someone with a first from a better institution will get the job ahead of me. Since I am only in my second year (and currently looking for an industrial placement for my third year), its a bit late to try and transfer.

I love the subject but I screwed up my A Levels and lost out on a place at UCL. To this day it haunts me that I could have been at a better institute than the one I currently attend. Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill here? I do intend to do a PhD at the end of my studies and I intend to stay in the field of chemistry whether it be an organic chemist or an analytical chemist. Can someone offer advice on this please? I would greatly appreciate it.

Offline azmanam

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Re: University Blues
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2008, 06:56:39 PM »
I don't know all the specifics of how things work on your side of the pond, but if they resemble the US at all then where you get your bachelors degree, or I guess a first in your case, is of relatively little importance compared to where (and with whom) you get your PhD.  The bachelors degree is important for where you get accepted for your PhD, but if you are planning to get your PhD, then your PhD school and adviser will be far more important when you start applying for jobs. 

Look at it this way: 20 years from now, when people ask you where you went to school, or where you got your degree, you'll tell them your PhD school.  When people introduce you when you give lectures of your own, they'll mention your bachelors institution, but will focus on your PhD school and your work there.

So my advice to you is not to worry.  Focus on learning a good, solid foundation in chemistry.  Get as much lab experience as you can.  Grab one of those big names you were talking about and get on a first name basis with them - especially if you can work in their lab (they'll write you better letters of recommendation for your PhD school of choice).  And focus on getting in to the best PhD school you can.  In my opinion, that will set you up better for your job prospects after school than your bachelors institution will.
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Offline Dan

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Re: University Blues
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2008, 07:18:27 PM »
Guitarmanic86, don't worry azmanam is absolutely right. If you're getting a PhD then the Uni you did your undergrad in is not very important. In any case you attend a good institution at the moment anyway, on top of that an industrial placement is great experience that will boost your employability. Your average is high, and you seem to be on track for a 1st.

Being a graduate from a top Uni does not necessarily make you more employable at all, I have specifically heard from some employers in industry and academics that, in their experience, Oxford grads are not always the best by any means, and have heard them described as a "waste of time" - I can tell you from personal experience that there are plenty of bad chemists with Oxford stamps. It's just a name and employers/academics know it. You will be considered for a position on equal ground with anyone else. If it worries you then do a PhD at an institution you feel is better, which you will certainly be able to if you get a 1st - but it shouldn't worry you. Anyway, most of the Oxford chemistry grads I know went into finance and other please-shoot-me-now desk jobs, so there's probably not as much competition as you think. Each to their own eh...
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Offline Guitarmaniac86

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Re: University Blues
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2008, 08:26:41 AM »
To azmaman and Dan, thank you for those reassuring words of advice :)

Offline rizzi

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Re: University Blues
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2009, 03:15:06 PM »

I do intend to do a PhD at the end of my studies and I intend to stay in the field of chemistry whether it be an organic chemist or an analytical chemist. Can someone offer advice on this please? I would greatly appreciate it.

Where are you planning to do the PhD?

Offline JGK

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Re: University Blues
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2009, 03:51:47 PM »
I realise this is way late and by now you will be doing your employment year (or have dropped out, but I'm hoping not. As a former graduate of Surrey University (Biochemistry (Toxicology)) it has a very good reputation out in the world. Also, being one of the few universities which get you out in the world of work as part of the course, it can only help you.

Being at the top school is not a guarantee of future success, based on the current rankings for chemistry it may come in at No. 18 overall but it's No.1 in the "Career Prospects" category.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/table/2009/may/12/university-guide-chemistry
Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

Offline Guitarmaniac86

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Re: University Blues
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2010, 09:36:21 AM »
I realise this is way late and by now you will be doing your employment year (or have dropped out, but I'm hoping not. As a former graduate of Surrey University (Biochemistry (Toxicology)) it has a very good reputation out in the world. Also, being one of the few universities which get you out in the world of work as part of the course, it can only help you.

Being at the top school is not a guarantee of future success, based on the current rankings for chemistry it may come in at No. 18 overall but it's No.1 in the "Career Prospects" category.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/table/2009/may/12/university-guide-chemistry

Hello JGK. Thank you for you post. Im still at Surrey University. Im in my final year as a BSc chemistry student. I didnt get a placement. Well, I did get a placement with Huntingdon Life Sciences, however due to the recession, they did not take me on.

Your post has re assured me of my future. Im thinking of doing an MSc in Synthetic and Natural Drug Design. Though currently, I am on a 2:2 which means I wont be doing a PhD (I've had a very bad past 18 months). I know nothing of the world of PhD's but would not having one make it harder to find a job in this current economic downturn?

Thank you to everyone who has posted.

Offline JGK

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Re: University Blues
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2010, 11:52:26 AM »
Well it's a small world indeed, I'm sorry that you didn't get taken on by Huntingdon Life Sciences, I spent 16 years working there there before I relocated to Canada!!

TBH I'm not a PhD, the MSc (studied part itme while at HLS) was as far as I got in academia (for the BSc I got a third from UofS). However, as a Manager,  I've noticed a lot more PhD's applying for "regular jobs" rather than going the Post doc route (short term contracts and no real job security). However, I honestly think that if you are entusiastic about what you want to do it can say mor than a paper qualification.

I think you've made a good choice if you can get on the MSc course. Synthetic/medicinal chemists seem in demand at the present. Also If you find that this type of work is for you, look at trying for employment with a contract manufacturing organisation (CMO). The work is quite high pressure but you'll get more variety in the work and gain experience at a much faster rate.
Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

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