7 Questions with Lara – A Career in Science

Guest BloggerAdvice, Final Year, First Year, Graduates, On Placement, Postgraduate, Second Year

Welcome to the second installment of 7 Questions With! If you missed the first one, you can catch up on our interview with Darcy, who works in marketing, here.

Today we’re chatting to Lara. Lara graduated from Aston in 2019 with a degree in Microbiology and Immunology, and now works in science. If, after reading this, you feel inspired to pursue a career in STEM, don’t miss our virtual STEM Fair on Thursday 22nd October, 10am-4pm. Get the details here.

Enjoy our interview with Lara!

What do you currently do for a living?
I currently work as a Field Clinical Specialist for a medical device company called Abbott in the Heart Failure division. I support implants for left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) and a hemodynamic pressure monitoring system and also support NHS staff and patients through analysis of data from the devices, troubleshooting and training.

What motivated you to work in science?
From a very young age I was always fascinated by the body. I was obsessed with ‘Horrible Science’ books and ‘How Your Body Works’ magazines! I always wanted to be a doctor and the motivation was a mixture of being able to help people and being completely and utterly fascinated by the wonders of the human body. I’m genuinely still as fascinated today listening to science podcasts and reading new literature as frequently as I can.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Honestly, there is no ‘typical’ day and that’s what I love about my job. One day I could be standing in theatre for hours watching an open heart surgery…the next I’m in a morgue teaching physicians how the LVAD works whilst they implant it in a cadaver. I travel a lot, around the UK and around Europe – to different hospitals, to conferences and training courses.

What do you enjoy about the work that you do?
I enjoy the varied days and the freedom I have in regard to where I go and what projects I partake in. If I have an idea that could benefit the team or even benefit a patient or hospital team, my manager lets me run with it. My absolute favourite thing about the job is having the chance to meet patients. Some of these people have been through hell and back yet stay so positive and continue fighting. I’m fascinated by each individual story – it makes what I do feel significant and worthwhile. It also makes you appreciate life and how fragile it can be.

Can you describe the journey you went on to get to this point in your career?
I studied Biological Sciences and then specialised in Microbiology and Immunology. My placement year was the single most important year of my life…I would have no clue that this role existed if it wasn’t for that year. I picked Aston because of the placement year and I am SO thankful for that! I managed to get a placement at Abbott working as an intern in electrophysiology gaining clinical, commercial and marketing experience. I networked the best I could, and it’s landed me the coolest job I could ask for. My placement year really motivated me to 1) Do a final year project that would make me stand out when applying to work back at Abbott (cardiology focused) and 2) Get a first!

Do you have any advice for students considering a career in science?
Do not be disheartened or put down by high grade expectations or previous grades that didn’t meet criteria. I didn’t do as well in my A-Levels as I wanted to and I always put myself down because of that. Now I have a first-class degree and two years’ experience working for one of the best medical device companies in the world. I don’t need to look at those A-Level results ever again! There is a stigma that to be successful in a science career you have to be a top of the class and academic to the T. I think, if you are passionate about science and driven by the impact you could make by pursuing a science career you will be successful!

What’s your ultimate career ambition?
I’m not sure what my ultimate career ambition is just yet, but I do know that I want to progress my knowledge in this area to ‘expert’. I love learning and I know I’m not finished with higher education either – in the future I’d love to study a Masters’ and eventually a PhD whilst continuing work.

Interview with Lara Merry