Damien McGrouther

Dr Damian McGrouther, Kelvin Nanocharacterisation Centre facility manager at Glasgow University

As my job title above suggests, my role has two main activities. One, is the performance of management duties associated with the day-to-day running of a multi-million pound research facility that houses a number of highly advanced electron/ion microscope instruments. The other aspect of my role is to seek funding for and perform novel research, in collaboration with others, exploiting the capabilities of these powerful microscopes. Within this university and perhaps many others, such a permanent research position is a rarity. The pervading model for a permanent position is that of a lecturer who has both research and teaching responsibilities. In this role, my teaching commitment is kept small because of my management function.

The major appeals of this position are not just the permanent position but also being able to drive your own research and work with a wide variety of people in other academic departments, and from across a breadth of industry sectors. The latter means that you help solve a wide range of problems.

Being still involved in academic research, the most challenging aspect of the transition was the move from solely concentrating on research as a postdoc to gaining other responsibilities associated with generating financial income, including from grants, industrial work and also managing expenditure for the running of the microscopes.

Management duties are such a major part of my role I don’t have anywhere near the same amount of time for experimental research. So, I've had to learn to give up performing some of the research and instead leading and supervising it. Trying to find the best balance with this is something I still find a bit tricky.

My advice to researchers is not to focus solely on doing the research tasks you are good at and enjoy during your PhD and postdoc work. Attempt to work in areas in which you are weaker. Also, as a PhD/postdoc you don't worry much about the budget. But, try and gain an understanding of the different costs incurred by you performing your research on daily basis. It really helps to get an understanding of the economics if you want to make that next step on the academic career ladder or head to industry.

last edited: October 01, 2012