Isabelle Drummond

Year of graduation: 2016

Current employer: Public Health England

Current job title: Biomedical Scientist

Current location: Southampton

“Coming to Plymouth University was the best choice I ever made; I’ve had a great time and learnt so much, massively improving my career prospects… Everyone in my year secured a job well before finishing university, which really took the stress out of graduating!”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I started working in a microbiology laboratory shortly after I finished university, as a biomedical scientist. My role is to identify bacterial causes of infection and provide antibiotic sensitivity results, which help doctors to treat their patients more effectively. I hope to begin a masters degree next year via distance learning and also to complete a specialism in microbiology.  

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

My degree was key to establishing myself on my chosen career path, as I obtained HCPC/IBMS registration as a biomedical scientist in just three years. Finding employment after university as a trainee BMS can be really difficult so I was really lucky to get onto a course with built-in training and registration. Initially, I was drawn towards the blood science pathway (e.g. haematology), but after spending some time in microbiology I realised that this area appealed to me most.

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

Moving away from home (Devon) for work was a challenge, but I embraced the change and I now see Southampton as my new home. I think it was an important step which helped me to progress from the role of student to healthcare professional.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I genuinely find my day-to-day work fun! Microbiology can be like solving a puzzle, trying to identify the bacteria and work out whether it is causing an infection. In terms of university, we had a really interesting day-trip to PHE Porton Down (a specialist lab) in our third year and learnt about their role in identifying rare microbes such as Ebola and Lyme disease.

If you were just about to graduate again, what would you do differently?

I’d have probably started work a little later and had a bit of a break after my third year – I started my new job two weeks after finishing university!

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

Definitely look at healthcare science because it is ideal for people who know they want to work in a diagnostic laboratory in one of the three main disciplines (blood, infection, or cell pathology). By taking healthcare science you can enter your chosen career a whole year earlier than by taking similar courses such as biomedical science.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Plymouth University has fantastic facilities which help consolidate theoretical learning; for example, we were able to use an electron microscope and a flow cytometer, both very specialist pieces of equipment. The lecturers at Plymouth are great and really supportive, allowing you to develop and challenge yourself.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

I learnt a lot about scientific writing and how to source appropriate information such as journal articles, instead of only using textbooks for essays. I also developed research and practical skills which I am still using in my current job.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

Yes, a total of 50 weeks at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. I started off with a couple of weeks in each lab before I decided to specialise in microbiology, where I spent the rest of my placement. My placement was fundamental as it meant I could become registered, as I mentioned before.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

There are so many! Pretending to be an invading bacterial cell in a very interactive immunology lecture with Dr Foey? Revising biochemistry in the sun on the Hoe? Watching a lecturer freeze a rose in liquid nitrogen and smash it into a thousand pieces? Trying on the specialist gear that scientists in Sierra Leone wore for fighting Ebola? And obviously meeting my amazing course-mates!

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Definitely. Coming to Plymouth University was the best choice I ever made; I’ve had a great time and learnt so much, massively improving my career prospects! Plymouth University is really good at encouraging employment, both during and after university, whichever course you take. Everyone in my year secured a job well before finishing university, which really took the stress out of graduating!

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

Just really embrace university life, you will definitely miss it when you’re done (I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true!). Volunteer for extra roles such as student ambassador work and acting as a course representative, as they look good on your CV, build extra skills, and are pretty fun!