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Bipolar & ME: Part 3. Treatment

First off: apologies for the gap between postings. I’ve been a combination of on holiday, depressed, hypomanic (not “full” manic though, yay), stressed, ill, and fatigued/exhausted. I will try and be better. Anyway, onto the blog post!


Well, where to start. Like any mental illness, most kinds of treatment can be broadly split into two:

  • Talking therapies, including
    1. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
    2. CAT (Cognitive Analytical Therapy)
    3. Psychoeducation Groups
  • Medication, including
    1. Antidepressants
    2. Mood stabilisers
    3. Antipsychotics
  • “Other”

By no means is this list exhaustive, but I’m just going to cover the ones mentioned because not only are they the most common, they’re also things I have either knowledge or direct experience of.

NOTE: I think I’ve made the point in earlier posts that mental illness can present in varying ways. We are all individuals, even if we have the same illness. THE FOLLOWING INFO IS JUST MY KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE ONLY. SPEAK TO YOUR PSYCHIATRIST/PSYCHOLOGIST/DOCTOR ETC. BEFORE CHANGING MEDICATIONS OR TREATMENT.

  • Talking therapies

So I admit here and now, I have not had the best experience of talking therapies so far. I tried counselling, was referred to CBT (that went terribly, though partly because I don’t think my therapist and I “gelled”, I might not have been ready for it, or whatever…but I had three sessions and was just sent back to my GP), tried ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) which was a group trialled at my university. It went better than CBT, and a lot of the ideas behind it made sense, but I’m not sure I managed to take enough of it on-board seeing as it was during my final year of university and I was basically one huge ball of stress/fatigue/badness.

I don’t know if it’s relevant, but I tried all of these methods before my eventual diagnosis of bipolar. Since diagnosis, I have been to a Psychoeducation group, and am on the LONG waiting list for CBT (and eventually CAT) with a clinical psychologist, as opposed to a wellbeing practitioner or therapist. I’ll update the blog after I have the treatment with my feelings on how it went, but I don’t expect it to be soon unfortunately). Since I have not had a full course of CBT or any CAT, I’m just going to provide some links so you can read about it from people with more knowledge on them:



The Psychoeducation group is pretty much what it sounds like; a group that helps educate you on your psychiatric/psychological condition. There was a group of us, maybe 9 or 10, who had all been diagnosed with bipolar (mix of I, II, cyclothymia), of varying lengths of diagnosis, treatment, experience and severity. This was particularly useful as I’d only been diagnosed for around a month or so, so learning what things I had been experiencing were actually due to this illness was eye-opening. You might expect this kind of thing to be incredibly depressing but surprisingly, I didn’t find it so. Yes, there were topics that were covered that weren’t exactly pleasant but we were given so many resources and a variety of methods to try and help us cope. No, they didn’t all work, and the paperwork we were given was a little overwhelming but I appreciated the variety because many of the things have really helped me. I know that for many people however, much of this course was too basic, as they’d lived with it so long that they knew all the symptoms and had tried most of the things we were recommended. I hope they didn’t think it was a complete waste of time, because their knowledge and experience was incredibly valuable to me. According to a talk given to the group I attend run by Bipolar UK, Psychoeducation groups have been shown to be one of the most helpful and beneficial groups for bipolar patients, in terms of helping them stay better for longer (I won’t go into the full details of that talk, though it was very good…maybe in another post).

  • Medication

Ah. If there’s anything that causes more controversy, stigma, and newspaper articles than psych medications…well, OK, there are a lot of things that cause that, but you catch my drift. There’s a lot of misinformation, scaremongering, and stigma about medications for mental illness, and I can’t deny that there’s probably a whole lot of over prescription going on. (The reasons for that last thing are many, but generally underfunding of the mental health sector and understaffing of specialised doctors and therapists are two big ones). Medications are not the be all and end all, and god knows they don’t solve everything. However, for some people, medication can/will save their life. And for me, they allow me to live relatively safely and ‘normally’, hold down a job, etc. There are still life stressors that affect me and I have to watch out for them, but even when I do get ill, it’s significantly less severe than when I was not on medication.

Also, some medication carries more stigma than others, so don’t be put off if medication that helps you has a bad reputation from people that don’t understand, or have had bad experiences on it. For example, as well as a couple other medications for other ailments, I take Lithium and an antidepressant, Venlafaxine. Now Lithium is very well known, and it’s been around for a long time. It’s also very cheap, and has been shown to be incredibly beneficial at treating bipolar, and also significantly reducing suicidal behaviour. It also has a number of side effects, and can cause serious damage if not monitored closely (kidney and thyroid damage or even failure). Now I admit, I was scared off lithium initially. I was offered it a few years ago and I was pretty much of the mindset that I would try anything but that. This was, in part, due to the stigma, and to the research project I had done at university on it. (I do wonder what might have been different if I had tried lithium when I was first offered the chance, but there’s nothing that can be gained from wondering “what if?”). So whilst I heartily recommend researching medications before you decide to take them, don’t be so informed that you scare yourself away from something that could potentially really help you.

I think a good rule of thumb is if the side effects make you feel worse than the illness itself, they’re probably not for you. However, it is often very difficult for the ill person to notice if they are feeling better, as we (ill people) have a tendency to see and focus on the bad far more than the good. I had someone tell me they could tell exactly when my medication was changed to my current ones because I was so much better. I hadn’t realised it was such a big difference so their perspective was really helpful.

  • “Other”

Please notice I’ve put this in little “air quotes” as these are not prescribed treatments, but anecdotally, there’s sometimes things we can do for ourselves to encourage longer times in remission.

While many people with bipolar and other mental health illnesses self-medicate using alcohol, illicit drugs etc., I can’t say I can recommend either of these things. What I can say is that it’s completely understandable why people go down this route. But I’m going to try and focus on some other ways I/people/you can use to try and ease the struggle of mental ill-health.

It helps to have things that you can throw yourself into when you start feeling the first signs of depression or (hypo)mania. Depending on your personality, these things will differ hugely, and I have different activities to help with different directions of mood. Colouring helps with creeping manic symptoms, as it gives me something to completely focus on, and I can jump to any number of different books, colour schemes, pages, but it often helps my head slow down eventually. When I’m feeling the beginnings of a downward mood, I try and go skating/go to derby practice (if physical health allows), or go for a walk, or go throw my phone folder of silly pictures I’ve saved and send them to close friends to strike up a conversation. Basically, anything to stay out of my head/bad thoughts, something to stop the downward spiral before it fully starts. If I’m veering towards the manic side however, these actions would be things to avoid, as sport/exercise is actually a big thing I’ve noticed sends me into hypomania (mania, before my medication).


I’m sure a lot of people will see the things I’ve listed and think it’s twee or useless things they’ve been told before, but all I can say is that they’ve helped me. I think roller derby has been helpful for me as the continuity of practice and knowing my attendance is monitored helps me regularly go out and mix with people, and skate/do physical activity when possible. Structure is hugely important to me, so a hobby with classes or regular practices was a big bonus and ones of the reasons I stick with the hobby even when it seems “crazy” for someone like me to do.


Obviously nothing in this section is actually ‘treatment’ per se, but I think living with mental illness means learning how to treat you. You have probably heard of self-care recently, but no one really says what it is. And that’s often because it varies person to person. So think, what makes you calm, what do you need when everything is getting on top of you? Think about this, and try and stick to this self-care plan, paying particular attention to it when life throws a curveball at you.


There is just one of these blog posts left in this series, but I have another one I’ve been working on to post before I finish the last of my bipolar posts.


Let me know in the comments if you think I’ve missed something from my treatment ideas, or if you have another PoV on the topic. Always love to hear from you!

Bipolar & Me: Part 2. Symptoms


So onto the main bit of these posts: bipolar, what it is and almost as important, what it isn’t.

Let’s start with some definitions, cause who doesn’t love those:

“Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another. If you have bipolar disorder, you will have periods or episodes of:

  • Depression – where you feel very low and lethargic.
  • Mania – where you feel very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania).”

This is taken directly from the NHS page so you’d expect it to be pretty accurate.

And yes, you do have to display episodes of depression and mania to a psychiatrist in order to be formally diagnosed (which is part of the reason diagnosis takes so long; you very rarely go to your appointments when you’re manic because hell, you’re not sick, you’re better than fine, you’re amazing, the most healthy person! Only sick people go to psychiatrists etc etc). So often your psych will only see the depressed or possibly mixed states (I’ll explain that last part later). Which means you just get antidepressants and gosh, just giving antidepressants to bipolar people gets an interesting reaction, as it often send them straight to manic. Not good but it’s often the fastest way to be diagnosed, aside from having an extreme episode of mania where you end up in hospital. For full disclosure, I went the former route. My psych saw me in depression, then in mania, then a long period of mixed state.

I’m using these terms, depression, mania, mixed…but what do they mean, really? Read on, dear readers, read on.

Biggest misconception about depression: it is just sadness. How many times have you heard (as a depressed person) things like: “everyone gets sad, deal with it, cheer up, focus on the good things, it could be worse, what do you have to be so sad about?” etc. I won’t even go into how much I hate the phrase “man up”, as that’s a whole different blog post waiting to happen.


The “Black Dog”, as coined by Winston Churchill (and taken by Ruby Wax to create the Black Dog Tribe online) is very different to sadness. Much has been said recently about depression and there’s a lot of writing out there that is superior to my own. It is not just sadness, it is so many things and yet nothing at all. When my depression is at its worst, there is nothing, there is an empty void where thoughts should be. That void seems to suck my energy, my interests in everything, my love for my loved ones. I feel nothing, I am nothing. This is actually when I have done the most harm to myself. Sometimes just trying to feel something, sometimes just because if I am nothing then why not hurt myself, damage things around me? Nothing matters. When that emptiness starts to ebb, that’s when sadness, anger, hatred, paranoia, all those fun things happen. It hurts. It’s like something has cracked deep inside and you can’t fix it and you can barely move because everything hurts and you know you deserve this because you are an awful person. Then there’s the searing guilt that you shouldn’t be feeling this way, so many people have it worse than you, what do you even have to be depressed about, which you take as proof of how weak and awful you are. That’s when self-harm as punishment, as release of the pain you’re feeling can come in. I also feel intensely hopeless about everything, and I can’t rid my head of suicidal ideations/plans. You feel so damn tired, but it’s hard to sleep when you need to and even harder to get up when you need to, like there’s a weight pressing down making it so much harder just to move, get out of bed, wash, eat, work, anything. Again, this is my experience, I know some people overeat in their depression which is a way of seeking comfort (as many comfort foods, like chocolate for example, release hormones like oxytocin, making you feel a little better, for a short while. Until you feel bad that you used food as a crutch again, and that feeds the depression, and you feed yourself, and it’s a near endless awful cycle. I’ll talk about coping mechanisms more in part 3). I was like that when I was younger; I swung the other way in my teens when I struggled to eat anything due to feeling so low.


So you know, not a barrel of laughs. You lose interest in most things, you (try to) isolate yourself; you have little-to-no concentration so finding comfort in books, even TV and video games is difficult. This is just a short look into depression, and no two depressed people will experience it alike. So this won’t apply or ring true to everyone, but it’s how it has been for me.

On to the flip side!


Mania (and hypomania)


Hypomania is the “light” or lesser version of mania. This doesn’t mean that it’s easy to deal with by any means but people don’t get to the extreme end of symptoms when experience hypomania, and often, it doesn’t last as long as full manic episodes. Hypomania can be the only type of mania a bipolar patient gets (for example if they have Bipolar II, or if they have rapid cycling bipolar) or it could be the stage before a person reaches mania, so sometimes with the right intervention, full mania can be avoided.


Symptoms of hypomania are similar to those of mania. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Excess energy.
  • Little need for sleep.
  • Unusual exhilaration.
  • Excessive irritability, excitement or aggression.
  • Increased confidence/self-esteem.
  • Very fast speech and thoughts that others find hard (sometimes impossible to follow).
  • Unable to concentrate on one thing, easily distracted by their latest idea (an example: I once had made several drinks, in different parts of my flat, had half done dish washing, university work “done”, new art projects started, and new guitar tab music up on my laptop to do. All at the same time).
  • Abnormal hypersexuality.
  • Increased outlandish and uncharacterised risk taking.

For it to count as a hypomanic episode, there must be a sustained period of these symptoms during the entire episode. The emotions experienced are often unconnected to anything going on in the person’s life, though a person can be tipped into an episode by life events/stressors.

The main difference between mania and hypomania is the person does not experience psychosis or related symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, severe paranoia etc.

Mania, as I mentioned is similar. You again experience the excessive energy, along with things like extravagant and impulsive behaviour, excess/uncontrolled/impulsive spending, hallucinations (auditory/visual). To class as mania it must last at least a week and have a sustained abnormally elevated/expansive/irritable mood. It normally causes problems in the person’s social and work life, and can often (especially if they are not taking their medication) will lead to hospitalisation.

I guess what I would like to emphasise about mania is the common misconception that these periods are “fun”. I have myself sometimes felt so desperately low that I have stopped taking my medication in the hopes of eliciting a high episode, because surely it has to be better than depression right? Not necessarily (shockingly, depressed Kathy is not great at thinking rationally about this).

For me personally, mania is terrifying. I get paranoid, I have hallucinations. I don’t enjoy the excess creativity that is often spoken about bipolar sufferers. Admittedly, sometimes I *think* I’m a creative genius who can be working on three different creative projects at once and they are all breathtaking but that is rare and, in my case, definitely not true. I used to think mania was fun, at the beginning, but the effects are what truly get to me, and are why I hate it so much. My ex would tell me that it scared her when I was like it, I’m quick to anger frequently because everyone else is moving too slow, can’t know what I’m thinking, doesn’t understand my ideas and “brilliance” (usually because it’s unintelligible garbage). I’ve come close to cheating, because my energy just fuels all the awful impulses and urges in my head. I’m lucky in that so far, I’ve managed to catch myself before anything happens, but from reading other experiences I know that it does sadly happen (especially when you are untreated).


Mixed State

It sort of is what it sounds like, state that is a mix of manic and depressive symptoms. So you could have the energy and racing thoughts, but the depressive thoughts, suicidal ideation etc. It is an intensely uncomfortable state to be in, to be excitable and energetic yet at the same time, apathetic and closed off and alone. I spend more time than I’d like to admit in this state I think, especially since my current medication mostly staves off the full-blown manic episodes (though life sometimes happens and pushes me there, but it’s a work in progress to try and reduce this). I also get incredibly anxious in this state, heart racing, indecisive, racing thoughts, but all about the negative potential possibilities. Makes it incredibly difficult to concentrate or sleep. The latter is important to try and get as many people with bipolar are hugely sensitive to sleep change (an almost sure fire way for me to go high is lack of sleep for a night or two).

There’s more I wanted to go into but this post is already longer than I’d planned. I hope this has provided a more rounded idea of what people with bipolar go through, it’s not like what I’d seen in the movies anyway.

As I will keep repeating, this is just my experience of the illness. If you disagree or experience episodes differently, I am not trying to dismiss you! We all experience the illness differently; feel free to comment on if you agree/disagree/think I’ve missed out something in the comments 🙂

Molecules at an Exhibition: The Science of Everyday Life by John Emsley

So I promised to do a popular science book review and it’s been in the pipeline for long enough have also started working on my next post, which requires a lot more research but I’m hoping to have it up by the weekend. It is something that is close to my heart so I want to do it to the best of my ability.

Also, as it is Mental Health Awareness Week, I’d just like to point out Time to Change, a UK charity that is aiming to end the stigma surrounding mental health and make the services easier to understand and access. This is especially important as the rates of suicide have been rising year on year, dramatically so in men. So any male readers, please know you aren’t alone and that it doesn’t make you any ‘less of a man’ to have this illness. Just get help if you need it, please.

Back to the topic at hand!

The book I’ve reviewed, Molecules at an Exhibition, first came to my attention almost 4 years ago now. A group of friends and I went on holiday and of course we never bring enough books so we got around to swapping. It is only a small book, at 240 pages and it is split into 8 ‘Galleries’, where the author has grouped certain molecules together depending on their actions and descriptions.

The book begins with a light introduction outlining the why’s of the book (he is particularly interested in these molecules) and a quick guide to some chemical terms and measurements so all readers are at a level pegging.

The galleries are:

  •  Nearly as Nature Intended: food and drink
  • Testing Your Metal: essential metals for the body
  • Starting Lives, Saving Lives, Screwing Up Lives: helping and harming the young
  • Home Sweet Home: detergents, dangers, delights and delusions
  • Material Progress and Immaterial Observations: molecules that make life a little easier
  • Environmental Cons, Concerns and Comments: molecules that stalk the world
  • We’re on the Road to Nowhere: molecules that transport us
  • Elements From Hell: mainly malevolent molecules

The food and drink section was probably my favourite purely because of the two sections on garlic and caffeine, which I think was a brilliant start to the book as it sets the tone of the book and eases the reader in easily. It is not a serious, sluggish read, the author writes with an irreverent tone throughout. For example, when talking about garlic:

“Uncooked garlic in salads can be enjoyable to the eater but not to those they come into contact with afterwards”
“Some people [who] eat it regularly…protects them against illness because it keeps others at a distance”

There is a hint of Ben Goldacre about his style although a lot more subdued in how he disagrees with certain lifestyle choices and supplements; he holds something back but makes it very clear what he thinks on the matters.

As well as being an informal guide through some common molecules, it is also full of factual gobbets you can casually throw into conversation (eg. Smoking cigarettes reduces the time that caffeine has a stimulatory effect by two hours! And we need 14 different metal elements to function properly).

Add to this, the historical and cultural context of the discoveries of the molecules themselves and it makes for an absorbing read. Due to the fact that it is split up into Galleries means that the book is great as a pick up and go read, say on the commute to work or train to town.

However, nothing is ever perfect is it? Despite this book calling itself an exhibition, I feel that it would have benefitted from some pictures, even some diagrams throughout the book. I think it would be a nice start to the chapter and an interesting way to split up the text. This may sound a little childish but I think if you’re going to call it an exhibition of molecules, he may as well have gone the whole way!

Despite this, I think this is a good quality book, for readers wanting to get back into science, for students…for anyone really, who has an interest in the unseen world around them.

News and the Future!

So, my exams are finally over, and as if that wasn’t good enough news, the day after my final exam I got a call offering me my dream job!

As you may have gathered, my two big interests are reading, science and reviewing and my job is a publishing editor for the royal society of chemistry. I elk get to read the latest of research coming through, organise peer reviews and proof read/edit it…I can’t believe it.

Now, my start date isn’t for a while as I need to actually graduate, relocate, get a car etc. Which means I will finally be able to finish off and write some more blog posts, cause I’ve had so many topics and books to write about but obviously revision and exams had to come first.

I’m considering reviewing some topics I’ve seen in the recent science literature too, so watch this space! Especially medical news stuff, me and my friends all seem to have such interesting illnesses.

You should see the pile of books that now await my eager eyes! I’ve been getting them all to treat myself with after exams and now it’s here =)

Are you any of you coming to the end of exams at the moment? Got things lined up for after uni?
Or want to tell me what books are on your reading to-do lists? Please do comment below.

Looking forward to writing for this blog more, hope you are up for reading it!


It’s been some time since my last post, is a busy, scary time right now!
Finals start on 30th, and God the modules are bigger in you’re final year!

It’s made it very clear where my interests lie, although my thoughts on my future career remain very much up in the air right now, but will maybe use another post to talk about that…

My modules this year have been Mechanisms of Toxicity & Disease, cellular Neurobiology, Human Reproduction & Development and Cellular & molecular Immunobiology.

Bizarrely, my two favourite modules ended up being mechanisms and human reproduction- this bring odd as they were the ones I was umming and ahh-ing about whether to choose or not.
Suffice it to say I’m glad I did, as I have not enjoyed the other two as much add us expected.

Guess it’s something to bear in mind, your interests develop and change as you learn more and you try more areas of biology. I’ve enjoyed the debated that have been sparked from doing reproduction as obviously we learnt about IVF and assistive conception techniques. I think I thought I knew where I stood but again, there are rarely any simple answers, it’s hard to choose what’s ‘right’…I do not envy the HEFA at all!

Anyway, this is really all I’ve got time for- would like to start discussions here so will give it a go: what have been your favourite modules at uni and why? 

Science and Creativity


I have never really understood the idea that people are either creative or logical, artsy or sciencey.
I remember being told this and of course, yes, some people do follow this trend. However, during my time at university I have discovered that I am not alone in enjoying and taking part in both.
Take my a levels- I did biology chemistry maths and classical civilisations. It was a struggle having it at that as at school drama and music had been huge parts of my life and I have always loved the reading and writing of fiction (though I sadly do little of the latter anymore, can never seem to start them or get my ideas going).

I then watched a documentary yesterday from BBC, unsurprisingly from the Horizon team looking at the creativity mind or the neuroscience of insight. This is what inspired this post really, it was fascinating stuff but it did also fall into looking at the differences and not the similarities.

If you think about it, all scientists have to have that creative spark inside of them to think of the experiments and hypotheses that have led us to where we are now. And it’s beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong, human biology has its share of ick factors and there’s some pretty grim stuff I get to learn about. But if you really think about it, the way the ideas flow into each other, the processes of the body (and yes even plants) is pretty astounding.
And it takes an incredibly creative mind to look at life and think…there’s more to this. And you know, then there’s the people that looked at fish and thought, you know what they need?

Before this becomes a ramble about the beauty of life, there’s also the fact that biology and science in general can lead to some pretty creative outlets. There’s science journalism, science photography, colour manipulation of scanning electron microscopy (SEM)…in fact I’m just going to show you some incredible examples of these SEM images. You’d be amazed at how pretty the common cold can look…


Look at how cool the common cold is! Then the other pic is pretty-in-purple chromosome.


And finally, who knew a tangled hair could look this pretty?!

Graduation: Where do we go from here?

Apologies for the delay in my blog- it has been one hell of a time recently and not in a woohoo! way. Reports, being poorly and the second half of my dissertation module…it’s a busy busy time.

It is a shame I started this blog in my final year as I keep thinking of things I want to write about but I just have so much to do! I have only just come to realise that I have just under 3 weeks of my undergraduate degree left. I now feel slightly nauseated, especially as I still have coursework deadlines and revision season looming…

Add to that the ever-present knowledge that I have to keep filling in applications for PhDs, for graduate schemes, for funding, for jobs. I know that this summer, I will be unemployed most likely (though my fingers are firmly crossed for the applications I’ve sent off/interviews I’ve done).

That’s the climate we’re in now and whereas the other summers I’ve known uni will be there in September. God knows, I wish I could be applying for an MRes or MSc but I just don’t have the money, so I need to follow different routes to hopefully get to the place I want to get to.

As a graduating biologist, there are many routes I could go down and that’s going to be the main body of this post or it’ll just end up in me talking about being in something of a blind panic and if you wanted to read an incoherent mess of babble then you’d be back on Facebook.


NB. The pros and cons are what I have heard of others opinions. I don’t want to insult anyone’s jobs/future career choices!


This is a large area of recruitment for science graduates and that makes sense. There are a variety of different areas for all interests, from pharmaceutical research to agricultural.

There are large numbers of graduate schemes to ease you into this new environment from university because let me assure you, it is a very different experience. I have some industrial experience at a cell line manufacturing company and the volume information you needed to take in and the hours you needed to put in were astounding. If you are working with cells, you work around the cells, so you work when they dictate you work, which meant that there were staff coming in on weekends, on evenings, on weekend evenings! But this is not the case at other companies, but going from your university hours to 37.5+ hour weeks, every week is a lot more exhausting than you will expect.

There are pros and cons to his area of work. The pay is good and the opportunity for career progression is immense. You will get to work with a variety of companies so there is the opportunity for a lot of networking as well as carrying out work and research.

The con is mainly that you are not in control of what you research and there is the potential for some to feel restricted in the area of work you’ll be doing.



So the big draws of industry I just mentioned? Don’t be banking on those straight into your career of research scientist and academic. A lot of PhDs are funded to some extent at least, though that often only applies if you’re interested in the ‘right’ area of biosciences. There are large funding bodies like the BBSRC and the MRC who fund a lot of the medically beneficial research but that is absolutely not saying that there aren’t studentships for animal biology, plant sciences and all other realms but I’ve been told there aren’t as many (please correct me if I am wrong!). The benefits obviously include you getting to choose the area of research you go into, you direct it and follow it from the beginning to the end. The pay is different depending on the studentship but I very much doubt that is why anyone goes into undertaking a PhD. You need to have the passion and the drive for it. You have to motivate yourself; it’s your project after all, your results at the end of it.
Also, having a PhD put you in excellent stead if you eventually want to leave academia for, say, scientific publishing or editing.


In the UK, the NHS offers the NHS Scientist Training Pathway that is highly competitive and a tough 3 year course. If lucky enough to get on it, there are a whole number of specialisms for you to choose from (though you can only apply for two) from microbiology to genetics to reproductive sciences, there’s something to interest everyone. Some roles are very much lab based but others, like Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Sleep and Reproductive have large patient contact aspects as well. Over the 3 years, you work throughout your department, learning a variety of laboratory skills which you will be assessed on. You will also be working on an MSc degree at a university that the NHS has accredited. At the end of the course then, you have 3 years full time work in a hospital/clinical setting and a masters funded by the NHS.

I can imagine you can see why it is so competitive.


Obviously, many science graduates don’t go into either of these options, as a science degree sets you up well for many areas of life! There are graduate schemes in all areas that respect the work ethic and knowledge from a strong degree, there’s obviously teaching which is especially important for sciences at the moment, even though biology is seen as one of the more popularly subscribed sciences, there is still a huge demand for teachers.

There’s going into health and safety work for councils, helping with policies…in fact, let’s face it, you could do anything! Not everyone who enjoys and has an interest in science wants to do it as a career. Fortunately, at university there are graduate talks from all sectors and careers fairs and the Cv clinic to make sure you have the best chance at getting into your graduate career of your choice.

If you can think of something I’ve missed out, please comment!

What do you plan on doing once you’ve left the status of student?

Science and Stereotypes


I strongly advise you all to read this small but perfectly formed blog post on the topic of gender stereotypes in sciences. An article was published in the Guardian online (there’s a link to it in the post above) that was just awful; claimed that it was trying to come up with methods about getting more girls into physics and engineering by giving them science in the form of recipes, jigsaws and saying that “well, maths is supposed to be hard”.

Yes, really.

The Guardian piece also failed to address the lack of boys in biology, psychology, veterinary and general medical sciences, which is efinitely something to be looked into. The fact that the two former subjects are seen as ‘softer’ sciences won’t help, similarly to the myth that veterinary science is all about cute and cuddly animals (which obviously boys can’t like *sarcasm*).

The seems to be a rising trend in the belief that men and women just are fundamentally different (which I have little problem saying as even some medicines has differing levels of efficacy in each sex)- Scientific American Mind did an excellent issue last year on the similarities and differences between the male and female brain and mind.
However, what I hate is that these thoughts are being twisted into the idea that “girls brains just aren’t suited to maths/physics/engineering” (and according to this link http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/whats-the-biggest-problem-with-women-artists-none-of-them-can-actually-paint-says-georg-baselitz-8484019.html us girls can’t paint/draw/compose music/come up with original ideas/write incredible literature, so maybe we should just give up now. Really people!?!?)

I’d like to think most people would acknowledge that male and female brains are capable of the same potential but from the toys we are given to play with and up through to the education system, these things guide our minds to be better at learning in different ways.
There’s also the obvious social expectations (girls are more empathetic so they just ‘make better’ teachers/nurses etc and these careers are seen as care giving roles which aren’t masculine. Which is rubbish. There are many other careers/roles where this happens again and again, but that would take a long time to list so I will leave it there).

I also don’t want this to veer into the realm of becoming a post about sexism in the past and present world as that is a subject unto itself, but they obviously play a significant part.

So please, before spouting putrid and frankly, out of date ideas, have a thought about how damaging generalisations really are and how our children should have the chance to follow whatever career path they want, regardless of their sex/gender.


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