Nicola Robson

After graduating, Nicola secured the post of Trainee Specialist Biomedical Scientist in the same lab she carried our her clinical placement whilst studying. She's now a fully-fledged Specialist Biomedical Scientist working in the Pathology Department at NHS Tayside.

BSc (Hons) Applied Biomedical Science, 2016

Tell me more about your job and what it involves?

As a Specialist Biomedical Scientist in NHS Tayside's Pathology Department, I handle a wide range of human tissue specimens at all stages of their journey through the lab, with the aim of providing pathologists with high quality material in order for them to make an accurate diagnosis for the patient. This involves careful handling of tissue specimens, chemicals and equipment.

So how did you go about finding a job after graduating?

I was very lucky that a post for a Trainee Specialist Biomedical Scientist in the same lab I carried out my clinical placement was advertised a month before I was due to finish uni. I applied for it and attended the interview 3 days before my final exam. I was offered the job on the understanding that I passed my exams (and therefore obtained my degree). 2 months after that exam, once the results were confirmed and the paperwork was completed, I started my post.

As well as starting full-time employment right after graduation, you had something else to celebrate too, right?

Yes! My honours project, Perceptions of Biomedical Science, was published in the journal, The Biomedical Scientist, just a few months after graduation. This would not have been possible without the help of my supervisor (and programme leader), Kevin Smith. But it is definitely not something I thought I would ever achieve, and it is something I am very proud of.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge since entering the world of work?

I naively thought that I had learned all that needed to be learned at uni, and that I wouldn’t need to study ever again!

Biomedical Science is changing all the time therefore we are still always learning new techniques as science advances. So, it was a bit of a shock at first but now I am used to it and I enjoy it. Learning never stops in this job, and that’s one of the reasons it is so interesting.

Whilst continuously keeping up with changes in the field, you're pushing your knowledge further and studying a Master's degree?!

I am currently half way through my Master’s degree, which I am doing via distance learning. With this qualification I will be eligible to apply for senior roles within my department. This could be either a management role or specimen dissection role – both of which I would consider. At the moment I’m not sure which way Id like to go, but what I do know is there are options to explore, and I find that very exciting.

Abertay has a real family feel to it. I liked that the lecturers knew every student by name and that they genuinely cared about students reaching their potential.
Nicola Robson | Pathology Department, NHS Tayside | Specialist Biomedical Scientist

So, thinking back to your time at Abertay, how did your degree prepare you for what you do now?

The degree is delivered by a combination of academics and healthcare professionals, and because of this you get the best of both worlds. With the academics, you are taught specifics in biology (for example, physiology, cell function and genetics) via lectures and lab practicals. With the healthcare professionals, you are given an insight into their specialty (for example, pathology, haematology, microbiology, etc) whilst also being given real examples and experiences of working in a laboratory. They also advise about the relevant professional and regulatory bodies and legislation etc which is really helpful.

Alongside this, students are given the opportunity to apply for an 18-week clinical placement as part of the BSc (Hons) Applied Biomedical Science route. For these students, this means half of your 3rd year is spent in an NHS diagnostic laboratory, gaining valuable work experience, making connections, and completing a registration portfolio which makes you eligible to apply for NHS Biomedical Science jobs upon graduation.

Someone special accompanied you through your time at Abertay, didn't they?

Indeed! I was pregnant throughout my 1st year at Abertay, and my daughter was born in the summer betwee 1st and 2nd year. I started 2nd year when she was 12 weeks old, and continued with my degree. I was very lucky and had a lot of support, but it was still not east. But if I can do it, anyone can! And I am so glad I stuck with it because now I have a career for life, and am able to provide for my child, whilst hopefully inspiring her to achieve whatever she wants to in the future.

What’s your lasting impression of Abertay?

Abertay has a real family feel to it. It is not the largest uni in the world, and I liked that. I liked that the lecturers knew every student by name and that they genuinely cared about students reaching their potential.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Ask questions!! I love the saying, ‘The only stupid question is the one that goes unasked’. I always felt too nervous to ask questions in lectures in case people thought I was stupid! I loved it when someone else would ask the exact question I was thinking of, but it didn’t happen every time, of course. I realise now how silly I was and that if you are wondering, others will probably be wondering as well! Never be scared to ask questions.

Understanding the concepts and practical aspects of science at the early stages really will help in your future work.

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