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      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics


    I love this job, I think I’ve got the best job in the world.

    Dr David Carter is a Reader in Biomedical Science at Oxford Brookes University. He runs a Research Group at Oxford Brookes and his areas of expertise are cancer research and sickle cell disease. Dave joined Oxford Brookes in 2010.

  • Whilst Dave recalls that: “as long as I can remember I was interested in Science. Since I was 10, 11, I wanted to be a scientist”, he didn’t actually know what such a career would look like. His father was a kitchen salesman and his mother worked in care homes so it was only when he went to university that he got a real sense of what academia looked like.

    There was a moment during my undergraduate when I realised you could do a PhD and that was quite a revelation because I didn’t realise you could do a PhD.

    Dave’s passion for research and confidence in his own ability to carry out research developed when he took a year out in industry. He spent this year working on the Human Genome Project at the Sanger Institute and this turned out to be a pivotal year in his life. Even being accepted to the project in the first place was a huge achievement; he recalls the interviewer being so impressed that he had managed to read and understand the paper on the project that this led to him being offered the placement.

    Once there, he not only fell in love with research but also met his wife whom he married three years later while they were doing their PhDs at Cambridge. He appreciates being able to share his passion for science with her:


    The fact that we are both scientists is really nice. It means we can chat about work and I can tell her about results and tell her about ideas and things like that.

    After his PhD, Dave moved from Cambridge to the University of Oxford, taking a postdoctoral post before being awarded a Lectureship at Cranfield University, where he stayed for a couple of years before joining Oxford Brookes about seven years ago. Reflecting on his current role, he says:

    I couldn’t have envisaged myself being a lecturer… I used to hate public speaking… but I still get nervous now. Before every lecture I get nervous.

    His strategy for coping with nerves is to remind himself that lecturing is really just sharing his love of science.

    Dave is clearly motivated by his sincere passion for science. He says that even when he goes on holiday, he brings a stack of scientific papers with him because it’s his hobby as well.

    I love this job, I think I’ve got the best job in the world. And I want to work really hard because I want to succeed at this job…The fact that I get to do lots of science… the fact that I get to talk to people about science… the fact that I can be creative and have intellectual freedom to come up with my own ideas and test them… I can plot my own course and I can do what I want to do. And I like the flexibility. Here that’s great because you just get the freedom to work flexibly. And I also really like teaching. I love my interactions with the students.

    Being able to discover something new is what really drives him.

    The best thing is when you are doing a project, and you get the result - you make the graph and you can see the correlation. You’re the first person in the world that discovers that, the Eureka moment. That feeling- there’s no other high that I’ve experienced like it.

    Dave’s highlights are linked to his research successes:

    My PhD paper was probably one of my proudest. It was published in quite a high-ranking journal and that was the first one… I didn’t realise it at the time but it was actually in a really, really good journal; to me it was a journal but now looking back I think - that was pretty good.

    He’s also extremely proud of the first paper he published as a group leader and his most recent highly impressive funding grant “which means I’ve now got the resource to not just think about ideas but actually to execute them”. Hence, for Dave, success is made up of research success - grants and papers which, he admits, he “craves the most” and teaching:

    I take pride in my courses and my modules. So, the other thing I would define as success is when the students enjoy the module.

    Dave and his wife have two children, of whom he is extremely proud. His commitment to his family, like his commitment to science, is wholescale:

    I always want to get home at 6 to make sure I have dinner with my wife and the children. So that’s my goal, to make sure I get home at 6.

    He says that his mother is a huge help, often taking the children to school.

    You just have to work really, really hard, there are no shortcuts. And find a research niche.