Olivia Durkin – BSc (Hons) Marine Biology graduate

“A lecturer once said: look around you as these people will be your colleagues and peers in the future. Although it was hard to imagine at the time, he wasn’t wrong as I often work with or see ex-course students at conferences and meetings.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation:

After leaving Plymouth, I gained a job as a Science Officer for Coral Cay Conservation in Tobago. Upon returning from the Caribbean, I moved back to Plymouth for a last minute job offer at the Marine Biological Association, where I worked within MarLIN on various short term contracts. I then took up the opportunity to further my undergraduate thesis research with one of my supervisors at a university in Thailand. After completing several months of research and survey work around Thailand, I returned to Plymouth to work in the Fish Group at the Marine Biological Association. Then, after a short period of unemployment, I secured a short term contract with Westcountry Rivers Trust, which led to a permanent contract.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

The nature of the jobs I had following graduating from university were either short term contracts or unpaid work abroad. It came to a point where I needed to decide whether to proceed in a career in academia, i.e. a PhD, or leave research type jobs for more applied science work.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

Be more comfortable in my career choices, and know that there is no right or wrong career path. I struggled flitting from job to job, with an unstable income for a few years, before deciding to call one place home again. I wouldn’t change the path I have followed, I would just let the past me know it will all be ok.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Although I may have not followed the typical path of a marine biology graduate, I have always remained flexible in the available job opportunities and therefore gained a very varied skill set, enabling me to adapt to different roles and projects. Do what you enjoy and it’s ok if you don’t end up being the dolphin trainer you thought you might be. 

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

I met some fantastic friends and peers, many of which are long lasting friends. I also met some world class scientists who inspired me. A lecturer once said: look around you as these people will be your colleagues and peers in the future. Although it was hard to imagine at the time, he wasn’t wrong as I often work with or see ex-course students at conferences and meetings.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

Yes, I still see my supervisor (and tutor) from time to time for coffee or Christmas carols. He was and still is a great mentor and often helped me to find my way in the big bad working world. As part of my current job, I work regularly with Plymouth University academics and students through our research projects and student placements. It makes me quite proud to revisit the University for meetings, but now as a working scientist.