The STEM Hub Canterbury Christ Church University
The STEM Hub





Research Scientist and PhD student in Virology

The Pirbright Institute & University of Liverpool


  • Video »
  • Case Study »
    • Sofia is a research scientist in the field of Virology. She is at the early stages of her career as she is a PhD student. A PhD is a postgraduate degree, a degree you do after your 3 or 4 year undergraduate degree, where you focus on particular area of novel research. Sofia is currently researching a virus that infects pigs, investigating how the virus interacts with pigs to try and improve vaccines.
    • The main responsibilities or jobs of a scientist are: performing experiments, presenting data and writing papers.
    • Sofia’s daily job involves performing experiments. These experiments will involve investigating new ideas, optimising methods or trying to confirm previous results. For Sofia, this involves identifying new protein-protein interactions and what the consequences of these interactions are. She then writes up her experiments, saying exactly what she did, what the results were and what they mean, so they can be published later in a paper or included in a presentation at a meeting or conference.
    • Sofia’s work is quite independent as she performs experiments by herself, but she still talks to other members of her lab group regularly to discuss results, get advice and plan experiments.
    • To become research scientist, Sofia did biology, chemistry, physics and maths at both GCSE and A level. Sofia then completed a 3 year degree in Natural Sciences at Queens’ College Cambridge, with a focus on virology and immunology, and undertook a virology laboratory project. 
    • During her school years and university years, Sofia completed work experience and shadowing at multiple laboratories at various institutes including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool. She is now in the fourth year of PhD in virology at The Pirbright Institute and University of Liverpool.

  • Did you know? »
    • Virology is the study of viruses, which are microscopic particles that infect cells and cause disease.
    • Research increases our understanding of how viruses cause disease, how they inhibit our immune responses and how they spread, information which can be used to help control outbreaks and improve vaccines.
  • Routes »
    • A relevant undergraduate degree (microbiology, virology, biology or natural sciences specialising in microbiology etc)
    • Alternatively, you can complete a degree apprenticeship (working and gaining experience while you earn your degree)
    • You can also do a masters course, a 1 year postgraduate degree, to get more research experience (this is optional but could make your PhD/job applications stronger)
    • A PhD in a relevant field

  • Entry Requirements »
    • 3 A levels with one in biology; chemistry and maths are also useful.
    • Grades required will vary depending on university.
    • Work experience or shadowing in a laboratory is also useful.

  • Skills and Knowledge »
    • Organised
    • Motivated
    • Innovative
    • Resilient
    • Good communicator
    • Problem-solving skills
    • Good knowledge of your research field
    • Ability to plan and design experiments
    • Good understanding of methods used
    • Ability to perform a range of practical techniques and operate various machines

  • 10 reasons why »
    1. Discover new things
    2. Opportunities to travel the world for conferences and collaborations
    3. Investigate an area that interests you (viruses and how they cause disease)
    4. Potential to collaborate and work with many different people
    5. Opportunities to teach/lecture at a University
    6. Good balance of independent and group work
    7. Outreach opportunities – working in schools, at science shows
    8. Lots of different techniques to learn
    9. Very practical job – lots of experiments to do not just computer work
    10. Want to make a difference

  • Other roles that may interest you »
    • Microbiologist
    • Biomedical scientist
    • Doctor
    • Pharmacist
    • Science Teacher
    • Laboratory Technician

  • Useful Links »

« Ambassador Profiles

To work in science, you have to prepare yourself for failure in experiments and be ready to try again.