Think a career in science is only for middle-aged men in lab coats? Think again. It's an increasingly young, dynamic and diverse industry that's attracting some of the brightest and best graduates from UK universities and beyond. And it's constantly looking for an array of talent from all backgrounds to fill its many and varied roles.

Here, Krishna Mistry and Katie Oxley, two graduates on rotation schemes at Johnson Matthey, a global leader in science that enables a cleaner and healthier world, share insights about what it's like to work at the sharp end of the industry. Kerry Beer, the company's graduate programme manager, reveals the qualities that university-leavers need in order to join — and then flourish in — the science sector.

 

 

 

 

Krishna Mistry, Science Graduate Trainee, Johnson Matthey

 

How did you decide on a career in science?

I have always had a passion for science through school with an ever-growing interest in Chemistry. I studied medicinal chemistry for my undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester and I've just finished my PhD in organometallic chemical synthesis at the University of Bristol. I joined the company in September as a science graduate on a trainee programme. It lasts for two years and includes three eight-month placements within different areas of the business.

 

                                                          What do you enjoy most about science?


"In the world of science, it's impossible to know everything but that only means you'll always be learning something new."

I love learning about how the world works. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find everything relates to chemistry. My current role is heavily research based, so I’m planning projects and analysing data in the office and then carrying out experiments in the lab. It’s an exciting and important time to be a scientist. Science is playing a huge role in creating solutions for a sustainable future and I like how JM adopts sustainability in both its chemistry and overall business framework.

 

What would your advice be to anyone following in your footsteps?

Every day is different, so don't be afraid of the unknown. You'll get to do things in this industry that you've never done before. It's exciting to explore in detail how and why something works. In the world of science, it's impossible to know everything but that only means you'll always be learning something new."

 

 

 

 

Katie Oxley, Process Safety Graduate, Johnson Matthey

 

What are you enjoying most about your career so far?

"Use your uniqueness and the fact that you do stand out to make sure your voice is heard."

I've just got back from spending 12 months in the Netherlands at one of the company's manufacturing sites. It was great to work internationally so early in my career. Currently, I'm involved in the development and implementation of the company's process safety strategy and every day is different. I could be presenting to senior management, or in a technical meeting, or putting my safety boots on and heading out onto the shop floor to chat to process operators.

 

Is it a challenge to be a woman in a scientific field?

While there were a lot of women on my chemical engineering course at the University of Sheffield, at work I’m usually very much in the minority on the shop floor. I would say to any woman: don't treat that lack of representation as a thorn in your side. Use your uniqueness and the fact that you do stand out to make sure your voice is heard. And if you're good at what you do — which is why you've been hired, remember — that always shines through.

 

Would you recommend a career in science?

Absolutely. It's so varied. I'd like to do more travel in the next five to ten years — which is one of the great things about working for a global company. I can see plenty of opportunity ahead of me.

 

 

 

 

Kerry Beer, Graduate Programme Manager, Johnson Matthey

 

What personal qualities are useful for anyone thinking of a science career?

You need to be motivated, ambitious and keyed in to the ethos of the company you want to join. You need to be a team player with a good academic record and analytical skills; but you also need emotional resilience. Politically and economically it's a volatile time for most industries, so you have to be able to roll with the changes, manage ambiguity and find different strategies to drive your career forward.

 

How important is getting a breadth of experience?

"If you're going to be the leaders of tomorrow, you can't be a specialist in just one area."

Very. That's why moving people across the business is a way to ensure they don't get entrenched in siloed thinking — plus it gives them a chance to explore what they're passionate about. If you're going to be the leaders of tomorrow, you can't be a specialist in just one area.

 

What's your advice to graduates thinking of applying to a company in the science sector?

I'm always impressed by the calibre of applicants we receive from people within science and engineering degree disciplines. The people that stand out are those that have relevant work experience. That doesn't have to be a gap year. It could be a summer internship or two weeks of work experience — anything that shows they have an understanding of the industry.