Hayley Russell

MChem Chemistry with Environmental and Sustainable Chemistry with Industrial Experience 2019

Your Time at the University

When finishing school, I knew I wanted to study a chemistry degree and I was really drawn to the variety that the chemistry degrees at Edinburgh has to offer, as well as the opportunity to study abroad or do an industrial placement. Edinburgh as a city itself is amazing, and I have so many great memories of exploring the city with my classmates/friends. I think most of us would move back in a heartbeat!

In the summer of 2018, I did a summer placement with Dr Stephen Thomas’s lab funded by a Carnegie Vacation Scholarship. This was a fantastic opportunity to strengthen my skills as a researcher before starting my final year project. I would really recommend undergraduate students look into funding opportunities to do a summer research placement as it is invaluable experience and you can get paid for it!

Hayley Russel

My final year project was with Dr Michael Cowley’s research group – working on air sensitive main group chemistry. This was really different to anything I’d done thus far, I really enjoyed learning how to do reactions under an inert atmosphere and the novelty of using a glovebox has never quite worn off.

During my time at university, I wrote for the Kirsop Labs blog which was a really good way to develop my writing and science communication skills. This was really helpful and a great talking point at job interviews.

Your Experiences Since Leaving the University

After leaving Edinburgh, I started working as a publishing editor at the Royal Society of Chemistry in Cambridge on the journals Dalton Transactions, CrystEngComm and New Journal of Chemistry. The role was really varied and I had lots of different responsibilities including managing the peer review of articles, production of issues, commissioning journal covers, writing for Chemistry World and working with academic editors. I absolutely loved the role and felt like I was really flourishing. It taught me so much about how publishing works and really improved my self-confidence.

Whilst in Cambridge, I started attending a coding course hosted by Code First Girls, where I learnt to code in html and python. I really enjoyed coding and realised that it was a skill I’d like to develop further, and it got me thinking about how it could be combined with chemistry research.

I still felt like I had more to give in terms of doing research myself, so when I saw a PhD advertised that combined synthetic chemistry with machine learning, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to combine my new love of coding with my passion for chemistry. I applied for it, for accepted and now am studying for my PhD at the University of Strathclyde in collaboration with GSK under the supervision of Dr David Nelson, Dr David Palmer and Dr Marc Reid.

Starting a PhD during a pandemic has been interesting to say the least, but my skills developed at Edinburgh and since have helped me to hit the ground running.

Alumni Wisdom

Just because something is a good opportunity, that doesn’t mean it’s the right opportunity for you. It’s easy to get swept up into the notion that we have to say yes to everything, to apply to every job but ultimately the things that have helped me the most professionally have been the things that have felt right. Don’t be afraid to be picky and to hold out for something that excites you. Follow your gut instinct and try to have as much fun as you can along the way.

Further information