Karen Middlemiss

Country: New Zealand
Sector: Research
Job title: Research Associate
Subject of study: Biological Sciences
Year of graduation: 2014
Type/Level of study: Post graduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Cawthron Institute

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I returned to New Zealand after completing my MSc and in 2017 graduated with a PhD in biological sciences from the University of Canterbury. Shortly after that I took up a research position investigating physiology of New Zealand scampi (Metanephrops challengeri) with the Cawthron Institute in Nelson, New Zealand.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I arrived in the UK from New Zealand in 2013 to begin my MSc by research in biological sciences at Exeter University and was privileged to do so under the tutelage of Professor Rod Wilson. He instilled exacting standards into my research practices and gave me invaluable lab experience in a number of physiology techniques related to studying the biology of European lobster (Homarus gammarus). My time with Rod, and his then post doc Mauricio Urbina, combined with practical experience gained within an aquaculture facility at the National Lobster Hatchery in Cornwall, proved invaluable to my career progression and current employment continuing on the theme of crustacean physiology. Those experiences, and the networks established, have helped me greatly in my post doc career. My time at Exeter University ignited a passion for crustacean physiology and a fascination for these little creatures of the sea which will continue for a lifetime.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

The friendly and helpful staff in the biological sciences department, my supervisors lab group activities, state of the art facilities and the amazing campus with it’s beautiful grounds and communal areas.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

I was interested in studying abroad and in completing a research based masters degree, as opposed to a taught degree, and was lucky enough to convince Professor Rod Wilson to take me on as an international student. Having a supervisor with such a high international standing as a researcher was very valuable to me as a student.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Networking is key. Get to know people and build relationships. Take opportunities in the laboratory to extend your knowledge with as many techniques as you can, while you can. Not all labs are equal and Exeter University students have the benefit of modern and high tech equipment.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Very few PhD students will find employment in academia or independent research organisations as a post doc. That is the sad reality. What will stand you apart from others is the networks you create, getting to know people, and them you, and developing a strong work ethic that others will remember you for. In this way, you will give yourself the best chance to progress your career. Also, you need to decide on a research theme and carry that on through your degrees and into life post study. Building on your previous research findings is both valuable to employers and to you as you develop your skill base.

What are your plans for the future?

The next step for me as a researcher involves the funding process. I am hoping to apply for a research grant and lead a project as the principal investigator.


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