Zoë Ayres – Part 1 – A Path From Chemistry to Industry

Do you ever wish you could try your hand at an industry job without putting your academic career on halt? In this week’s episode, you’ll hear about Zoë Ayres and about how she managed to do exactly that by choosing to do take on industry-backed projects for her master’s, her PhD, and her postdoc in the chemistry domain.

Zoe Ayres

Zoë is an analytical scientist by background. She did her undergraduate in forensic science, before pursuing analytical chemistry, and going on to do her PhD research on the development of electrochemical sensors at the University of Warwick in the UK. She is now an R&D scientist in the water industry, having made the transition from academia to industry just over two years ago. Zoë is also an active mental health advocator, raising awareness around mental health in graduate school and beyond.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How an industry-led MSc, PhD, or postdoc can give you a perspective on non-academic research
  • Industry-backed funding in the UK
  • The importance of having a positive mindset and of not taking rejection personally when applying and interviewing for different positions 
  • Why your grades and your publications don’t matter for non-academic employers
  • The importance of looking for help on campus or around you when you feel you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or any other mental health issues
  • Zoë’s mental health in graduate school poster series

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“I’ve started to look at CVs, now and I’m not just looking to see how many papers people have published. Quite frankly, I don’t really care. I care more about skills like team work and the ability to adapt. Papers matter so much for academia and yet, for industry, unless I’m looking at the papers and saying, ‘ok, this person clearly can collaborate very well because they’re on a paper with seven people’, in reality it doesn’t count and the weight is not as high. And I thinkj that’s something graduate students worry about a lot.”

“[In my industry-sponsored research] I got to work  on things like patents, for example, and they are absolutely still applicable to my day job going forward. So there are skillsets there that I developed that actually I could go and hit the ground running when I moved into my industrial position, because I already had that experience.”

“For me, I think, first and foremost, it would be to tell myself that science doesn’t always work and that we also make mistakes al lot of the time, and that’s completely fine. And it’s easy for me to say now – I’ve got a lot of experience with making a lot of mistakes. And some of the mistakes I’ve made in my scientific career up to this point have actually led to thing that have been really good. And I mean, I’ve produced papers on mistakes.”

“Reaching out and speaking to people is so important. It took me about six months to open up to my colleagues and say “I’m not actually doing ok”. And I think that was six months that I could have been getting   better.”

Zoë’s links: LinkedIn.com/in/ZJAyres; Twitter – @ZJAyres; www.ZJAyres.com.

You might also like the following episodes:

Dana Murchison – Science Outreach: PapaPhD.com/1

Jonathan Weitzman – Professorship and Industry: PapaPhD.com/46

Liliana Vitorino – Biomedical Industry: PapaPhD.com/31

Simon Moore – Postdoc to Industry: PapaPhD.com/18

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