“Research Assistant positions give valuable experience and allow the PhD skills to be solidified and improved.”
Anonymous, Research Scientist
Where would we be without Research Scientists. Probably trying to position the TV aerials so that we can see a clearer picture! Research Scientists use their expertise to support research projects, interpreting, analysing and undertaking information based on their investigations. Other than the engineering industry, you can find Research Scientists working within Medicine and other science related industries.
Depending whether you work is within academics or employed in industry, responsibilities can vary. However, a typical day could look like:
- Building and conducting research proposals
- Introducing and developing new concepts and theories from researched data
- Innovating and creating existing and new products and processes
- Experimenting and trialing products for effectiveness
- Analysing and reporting on data from experiments and research
- Writing research papers for publication in journals and conferences
- Collaborating with colleagues and other professionals from different disciplines
Key Skills & Characteristics
A Research Scientist should:
- Have imagination and experimentation in research
- Be patient and show perseverance
- Possess excellent time-management and organisation skills
- Have strong written and verbal skills for writing papers as well as collaborating with others
- Have an analytical mind-set and attention to detail
- Possess problem-solving skills with the knack to create and innovate
To potentially outline improvements to existing products or processes and write publications, you have to know your stuff for whatever field you choose. Meaning achieving a good honours degree is probably the minimum. So if you’re looking to be a Research Scientist in Engineering, it would be wise to do a degree in the type of Engineering subject you’re passionate about. For instance, if you enjoy the idea of aircrafts and spacecrafts, Aerospace Engineering would probably be your cup of tea.
You are more likely to progress higher in your Research Scientist career if you complete a Masters or a PhD. PhDs are a good learning experience of how to do research.
Anonymous successfully completed a Masters degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering. The individual decided to specialise by doing a PhD in Antennas. Amongst Anonymous’ PhD, this person highlights their experience working as a Research Assistant which helped to manage research projects.
Senior Research Scientist
Advice From Our Experts
“PhDs are about learning how to do research. Post-docs (research assistant positions) give valuable experience and allow the PhD skills to be solidified and improved. They take a great deal of time and effort, so you must be willing to do that. Academic positions are the natural progression from post-docs, but the step up is difficult. Managing research can be an alternative, or an intermediate step; in either case, it can both provide a valuable learning experience relevant to academic and non-academic career paths and give insight to other aspects of academic careers. On the other hand, it can reduce the opportunities to establish your own research "brand", which can be an issue when trying to move into a lecturer role.”
- Anonymous, Research Scientist, on the benefits of different routes for a future Research Scientist.
- Ever-learning - You're always learning something new, either from the project team or wider community
- Impact - Seeing the potential for significant impact is exciting to be a part of
- New People - Interaction with other researchers on the project, across the different disciplines and universities
- Paperwork - At times you can be overwhelmed with paperwork, which can be dull
- Administration Duties - It's easy to be busy with administration and not have enough time for research
- Conflict of Interests - Individuals will have different intentions for researching and can cause disputes