Amelia Dearman, graduate trainee
Find out more about her career
Amelia is at the beginning of her career. She is on Wellcome’s graduate scheme, working in the Innovations department. Innovations is a division at Wellcome that aims to transform great ideas and discoveries into new preventions, treatments and cures for disease.
What did you study at A level?
I did biology, chemistry and history, and I did French at AS level.
What did you study at university?
Biochemistry and microbiology. I did a two-month research placement in the summer of my second year and I decided based on that that I didn’t want to work in a lab. So then in my third year, instead of doing a lab-based project, I did a science policy project, which was really interesting.
It’s nice to know that even if you start on a certain path at university, you can change your focus throughout. By doing extra non-science modules alongside your main degree you can gain so much extra experience.
What did you do after you graduated?
Straight after I graduated I had nothing sorted; I applied to a few graduate schemes but was unsuccessful, so I didn’t actually have a job when I left uni. Later that year I got an internship at Cancer Research UK working in communications. This involved looking after social media, going to conferences and working with the science and research community. After that I stayed there for three months as a grants officer. That wasn’t for me.
So I then went and did an internship at the Royal Society, which was in science policy, a different field. They placed me in the machine learning team, looking at regulation and policy surrounding the development of artificial intelligence systems. It was great to get experience of science policy and work for such an eminent organisation.
What made you decide to join the Wellcome graduate scheme?
I applied once when I graduated and was unsuccessful, then once later after I had some more experience and was selected. That was a really important process for me, to learn about perseverance and to not be put off applying again just because I had been rejected once before. If you fail at something but still really want to do it, don’t let that stop you trying again.
I found out about it through talking to my tutor at university, by asking about careers involving science that aren’t lab-based; they mentioned Wellcome and I started googling and thought it was amazing. I love how broad the Wellcome graduate scheme is; the opportunity to try something completely new is great. I really appreciate the opportunity to be exposed not only to such a broad range of activities but also such a variety of people working across the organisation.
How does the Wellcome graduate scheme work?
The programme lasts two years, during which you do four rotations, each for six months. If you’re on the general programme, you can choose to work in any area of Wellcome. You can change your mind at any point and the idea is that you go through and develop your skills to become a well-rounded individual, rather than being prepared for one area of work.
You’re not guaranteed a job at the end as they just can’t guarantee there will be enough openings in the organisation, but you’re very well-qualified to go and work elsewhere. There is a separate stream for Investments, for people interested in going into the financial world; this year, both the people on the Investments stream did biochemistry at university, so that’s also definitely a career open to biology students.
What are the best and most challenging things about your job?
The best thing is probably interacting with the research community. I really enjoy going to meet with researchers and hearing about their ideas. I think the exciting thing about Innovations – the division I’m currently working in – is that you’re working on cutting-edge breakthroughs in science and working out how they can reach patients on the clinical side.
I find the most challenging thing is breaking the news to researchers when they’re not going to receive funding – that’s really difficult to communicate in the right way.
A levels: biology, chemistry and history (2012).
BSc, biochemistry and microbiology, University of Sheffield (2012–15).
Intern, Cancer Research UK (2015).
Grants officer, Cancer Research UK (2015–16).
Policy intern, Royal Society (2016).
Graduate trainee, Wellcome (2016–).
Getting onto a graduate scheme
Graduate training schemes are a great way to begin your career. They usually last one to two years, and allow you to have extensive training while working. They often give you the opportunity to try a few roles within the organisation, although every scheme will be different. Once you’ve completed the scheme, some organisations will guarantee you a job, while others will not. However, you will generally be well-qualified to then take on a number of roles, potentially at a managerial level.
You will need to have a degree, often at a 2.1 or higher, to access graduate schemes. For many, there is a time window between when you graduate and when you are still eligible to apply, usually two to five years. Find out more about graduate schemes.