Charlotte Watson is a PhD student in the School of Chemistry, University of Bristol. Here Charlotte, who is about to becoming Dr Watson, tells us about how her big brother got her hooked on chemistry at the age of 8. Come & hear Charlotte speak on her Soapbox in Bristol on 14th June, where she will be talking about ‘Escape from Flatland; Adventures in Asymmetric Synthesis’. You can also follow Charlotte on twitter: @lottie_g_watson
SS: Hi Charlotte, thanks for coming to chat to Soapbox Science about your passion for science and how you got into doing a PhD. Can you tell us what made you decide to follow this route?
CW: Actually I initially wanted to study physics at university, but I was worried that my maths skills wouldn’t be up to the job, so I changed my mind last minute and decided to study chemistry, and I’ve never looked back! I moved out to Switzerland in the final year of my chemistry degree and loved working in the lab so much I decided to start a PhD, and here I am about to graduate.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to pursue a science PhD?
CW: My brother started his chemistry degree when I was 8, and he’s always been so enthusiastic about the subject I think that’s where my interest started.
SS: A family of chemists! That’s awesome! What is it about your PhD work that you think is most fascinating?
CW: It’s the concept of being able to create complex molecules from simple building blocks, going step by step carefully building up complexity and controlling reactions so they give you the products you want. But of course, since things almost never go to plan every day brings new challenges so I’m never bored! I love the thought that with enough time and brainwork, you could make any molecule in the world and the possibilities are endless.
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
CW: If I could change one thing in academia it would be attitudes to working hours, it’s still the culture that you should work long hours as a postdoc or research officer and that makes life difficult for anyone who wants to start a family. I think it puts a lot of women off and prevents them getting started in academic careers that they could be brilliant at.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
CW: I’m pretty sure academia is a very competitive place to work, especially when you are starting out on your career, so I would say you need to be confident and positive. It also comes with the opportunity to teach, and as a female academic that gives you the chance to be a great role model and inspire undergraduates or PhD students who may not have considered entering academia.
SS: You’re just emerging from the incredible task of finishing your PhD thesis. What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
CW: It’s not like anything I’ve done before, and it’s such a great concept. It highlights a serious issue, but it’s also fun, entertaining and informative. That’s quite unique.
SS: We can’t wait to hear you chat about synthesising molecules on the streets of Bristol! Can you tell us how you’re feeling about your upcoming Soapbox debut?
CW: A combination of fear and excitement, but I’m really up for the challenge!