Sociology at Leicester


LaurieDegree: BA Sociology
Year of Graduation 2005

The friendly atmosphere and ethos of both the University and the city really appealed to me and put me at ease.

What is your current job title and what does your position involve?

I am currently a third year PhD student at the University of Liverpool, studying Palliative Care. Studying for a PhD involves in-depth research and careful analysis of specific area of interest. My degree provided an excellent grounding in Sociology; in particular, my dissertation supervisor sparked my interest in medical sociology. The modules I studied during my undergraduate degree, as well as my dissertation, were the main influences on my career path and research interests.

How did you obtain this role?

After completing my MRes, I gained a position as a Research Assistant at the University of Liverpool, where I was involved in both qualitative and quantitative research studies. During my time in this role, a PhD opportunity arose within the team and I was successful in my application.

What other roles have you held since graduating from the University of Leicester?

I was interested in pursuing a career in research and had considered undertaking a Masters degree following my undergraduate degree, however I decided to look for a job in research first in order to gain some practical experience before committing to a Masters degree. After graduating I did some temping for a few months whilst job hunting for suitable research positions. I was successful in my application for a Research Assistant, at a large housing association in the North West, where I went on to work for the next three years.  During my time in this role I was able to build on my research skills and gain experience in areas such as data entry, survey design, statistical analysis and writing reports.

This experience confirmed my ambitions to pursue a career in academic research, however many research assistant roles in universities required a Masters degree. Following this, I was fortunate in being awarded a funded MRes in Health Science at Liverpool John Moores University. This programme provided an excellent grounding in research methods in health.

During this time I also took part in an overseas fundraising trek for my local Marie Curie hospice. Through this experience I gained an insight into palliative care and the valuable support that hospices provide to patients and their families. After completing my MRes I was successful in gaining a position as a Research Assistant in the Academic Palliative and Supportive Care Studies Group at the University of Liverpool. I worked in this post for a year before embarking on a PhD in the same team.

What were your motivations for enrolling on a course at the University of Leicester?

I was initially attracted to the University because of the course content. I also attended an open day which hugely contributed to my decision to come to Leicester. As an undergraduate, the thought of moving away from home was quite daunting; however the friendly atmosphere and ethos of both the University and the city really appealed to me and put me at ease. Leicester has a beautiful campus and is also within walking distance of the city centre, which were both contributing factors in my final decision. During the open day I took the opportunity to speak to staff and lecturers who were very welcoming and encouraging. This personalised and supportive approach was consistent throughout my degree, both academically and personally.

How has your Sociology degree aided your personal and professional development?

My Undergraduate degree sparked a particular interest in research methods and medical sociology. The degree helped me to realise what I enjoyed, and inspired me to pursue a career in research. My Undergraduate dissertation gave me my first insight into the research process. With support from my supervisor, Professor Ellen Annandale, I approached a cosmetic surgery practice and liaised with senior managers and surgeons to gain access to research in this environment. Approval for the study was granted following the submission a research protocol and gaining ethical approval. I was then able to conduct my research which focussed on experiences of cosmetic surgery. This experience was the deciding factor in pursuing a career in Medical Sociology and research. The experience overall provided me with the some amazing experiences, wonderful friends and it is also where I met my fiancée!

What ambitions do you have for the future in your career?

At the moment my main goal is to complete my PhD and viva. I then hope to gain a post-doctoral position and pursue a career in academic research.

Do you have any advice for anyone reading this who would like to enter a similar work role to you?

I can strongly recommend a career in social research, and have found it both stimulating and rewarding. I would advise those looking to pursue a similar work role to also consider working in the public or private sector. My experience of working as a research assistant in a housing association was valuable, as I gained a range of transferable skills, as well as an appreciation of working in a different sector.

Studying for an MRes in Health Science gave me an excellent grounding in research methods. I have found the skills and knowledge gained from my Masters degree to be very useful in my role as a Research Assistant as well as throughout my PhD. I would therefore advise considering a Masters degree before embarking on a PhD (although it is possible apply for a PhD after completing an undergraduate degree). The University of Leicester offers an MSc in Social Research which would be beneficial in gaining an in-depth knowledge of social research methods. Lastly, I would recommend that when applying for a PhD to read widely around the subject, identify a specific area of interest and also ensure that your proposal is realistically achievable within the three/four year period.

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