Martyn Rittman, Post-doctoral research assistant

Job Title: Post-doctoral research assistant

Organisation: University of Reading

Qualifications: MPhys (maths and physics), MSc (mathematical biology and biophysical chemistry), PhD (linear dichroism spectroscopy of DNA)

Briefly describe the organisation you work for:
I work in the chemistry department at Reading university carrying out research. The university has a total of around 15,000 students and the chemistry department contains 24 permanent academics as well as post-doctoral staff and PhD students.

Explain what you do on an average day at work:
I have a lot of freedom to determine what I do. Most days I run experiments in the lab, which I plan with the guidance of my supervisor. I also assist in supervising PhD and MChem. Other activities include running labs for undergraduates and there are often seminars where people present their recent research.

What do you like most about your job?
That I can discover something that no-one else ever has!

What stimulated your interest in maths, and when?
I have always been quite good at maths. I didn’t think about it as a career until during my A levels when my maths teacher suggested that I should study it at university. I was also interested in physics and wasn’t sure what sort of job a maths degree would lead to, which is why I chose a joint honours course. I now realise that there are many destinations for mathematicians and the use of logic and reason is applicable just about anywhere.

What influenced your career choice?
My interest in science and my dislike of financial-type jobs. The idea of being able to carry out original research was a big driving factor.

Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
Self-organisation and motivation are key.  Also, a curiosity for finding out new things and the ability to process new information, work out what is important and critically analyse it. When things go wrong, you need to be able to find out how to make it work rather than panic!

Any advice you may have for other individuals considering your career path.
Research, particularly biochemistry, is becoming much more interdisciplinary so there is a need for mathematicians. Don’t let a lack of lab know-how or scientific knowledge hinder you. Concentrate on your strengths and show a willingness to learn new things.

Your future career plans.
I’m not sure yet. I would like to work abroad, and there are lots of academic posts available across the globe.