Alastair Grainger


Subject Biosciences
Course MSc Toxicology
Country United Kingdom
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What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

In an ever-increasingly competitive job market, I wanted something a little extra that would (hopefully) separate me from the crowd. In fact, if you desire a career in academia or research, study beyond undergraduate is essential. I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate study and felt I wasn’t quite ready to part with the experience of studying another exciting topic in depth, whilst also preparing me for a future research career.

Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?

I chose to study at the University of Birmingham for a number of reasons. Firstly, I reside just outside of Birmingham so I know the city and I know the transport systems. The university itself has a fantastic research and teaching reputation and is consistently highly ranked in the Times’ university league tables. The campus is beautiful and the facilities and student services are very good. Finally, the reputation of the MSc Toxicology course here at Birmingham is excellent and very well-established.

What, for you, were the best things about the course?

The course was very enjoyable, albeit hard work. It is broken down into taught components and then finally a 12-week dissertation component which takes place over the summer. The course is not specific to one area of toxicology, rather it covers forensic, ecotoxicology, medical toxicology, pathology, metabolism and pharmacology, so you get a complete understanding of all of the applications and the sheer importance of toxicology as a science. This is excellent for steering you in a particular direction and guarantees that there will be an area you consider of particular relevance to your own personal interests.

Where are you now, having graduated from the MSc Toxicology course?

Upon completion of the MSc I was fortunate to obtain a funded PhD within the field of neurotoxicology. I am adamant that the skills learned on and reputation of this course were essential to me being successful with the application and provided me with the enthusiasm and diligence necessary to study at the next level.

How did your degree prepare you for what you want to do afterwards?

The course develops all aspects of your skills as a scientist, through different communication tasks, workshops and laboratory experiences.  The skills I learned during my MSc have been vital to starting a PhD and continuing to develop as a scientist. It gives you experience and tests your ability in all areas that a successful scientist (and many other roles) should do well. You will give seminar talks, present a poster, write literature reviews and essays and a dissertation and constantly have the opportunity to network and make connections with professional industrial toxicologists along the way.