Claudia Román-Montañana currently works as a Research Laboratory Associate at Birmingham Women's Hospital (NHS) and completed a PhD in 2020.
What has your career path been since graduating from the University of Birmingham?
During my write-up period I started working as a research assistant at Warwick University studying the process of decidualization in the endometrium. This allowed me to learn different techniques in molecular and cell biology and to expand my knowledge in the fertility and reproduction field. Once graduated and until now I have been working in the NHS as a research associate in the R&D department in the Birmingham Women's Hospital. Currently, I am studying the effects of antioxidant dietary supplementation in sperm DNA damage.
How did your course help prepare you for your career?
Doing a PhD is very intense and you learn many different techniques. In my case the main techniques I learnt were microscopy, slide preparation and sperm DNA damage assays such as Acridine Orange (AO), TUNEL, and CMA3. I also learnt method development and validation, statistics and data analysis. Most importantly you learn how to do research and to be independent in the lab alongside with study and talk preparation which are very transferable skills in science.
Why did you originally apply to do your chosen course at Birmingham?
I came to study at Birmingham as UoB is considered a globally high-ranking university and has been key in science and research throughout time. I had the honour to do my PhD with one of the most important groups in reproduction. The UoB also offers a very diverse and active community of students with many events on-campus. Also, the city of Birmingham is a cultural and diverse city with a very lively social scene.
What inspired you most during your time at Birmingham? For example, guest speakers, lecturers, research, friendships, extra-curricular activities:
I was inspired by other students and scientists like me who created the Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (SRUK) society in which I became director afterwards. Listening to people with a similar background as me, not only doing science but also adapting themselves to a new country and culture was very inspiring and helped me a lot during my PhD. The PhD was a real challenge and inspiring in itself. As time passes, you see all you have learnt and all you can be in the future.
What advice would you give to current students studying on the course?
I would recommend to people who want to study a PhD to get ready for long working days and many failed experiments. To keep working hard and believe in themselves, everything pays off in the end. I would also advise them to get involved in as many societies as possible. Scientific societies are a great place to learn science outside work, network and socialise with people with common interests. Finally, I would recommend them to try to find their work-life balance and to do some sport/hobby to disconnect from work.
How would you advise people to make the most of their time on their course?
In order to make the most of their PhD, I would highly advise to enjoy their free time by discovering the city of Birmingham, meeting new people and finding new hobbies. When you look back you realise that no matter how much work you did in a day you always had more work to do the next day. Hence, it is important to find a good work-life balance and to make the most of your time whilst you are a student. You will miss those days later!
And finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
I would like to thank my supervisor, mentor, family and partner who always encouraged me to carry on with my project.