Postgraduate profile: PhD microbiology

Postgraduate profile PhD microbiology
Stefanie Gehrig studied a PhD in microbiology and a diploma in science communication. Her further study helped her get into academic science publishing.

After I finished my masters in molecular biology and biochemistry in Switzerland, I knew I wanted to come to England to do a PhD. I read about different universities and laboratories on the internet to see what kind of research they were carrying out and how I would fit in with that, before making visits in person. I chose to study in Oxford because the laboratory facilities, research project offered and city all fitted what I was looking for. There was also the opportunity to apply for funding to support my research and maintenance expenses.

My PhD research

My PhD project involved looking at how particular bacteria adapt to specific environments – the goal was to identify genes underlying the mechanisms of this adaptation and to further our understanding of the process of evolution. I really enjoyed working on my own project and seeing the results come together, as well as being in an academic environment with like-minded, enthusiastic colleagues. It was definitely challenging at times though – staying motivated when things went wrong was hard, as was writing up.

From postgraduate student to academic publishing

After I handed in my thesis I went travelling for three months. During that time I applied for a number of postdoc positions and received several offers. I decided not to take up any of these, however ­– it wasn't the right time for me to relocate. Instead I applied for a job with Oxford University Press as an assistant commissioning editor for biology. After a year-and-a-half there I was offered a job as commissioning editor for environmental science, microbiology and parasitology at CABI.

The PhD definitely helped me to get both my publishing jobs because of the in-depth subject knowledge and network of academic contacts I'd developed. I was also well acquainted with the academic environment and how academic publishing works. All in all I was in a strong position to analyse the market and identify what kind of textbooks were needed.

Undertaking postgraduate research, even for a year, is really beneficial – you gain a deeper understanding of your field and, rather than simply regurgitating the textbooks, you're responsible for your own research.

Stefanie studied her PhD in microbiology at the University of Oxford and her diploma in science communication at the University of London.