Paul Bird (Mentor) - mentoring case study


Hi, my name is Paul and I’m a Clinical Scientist specialising in clinical microbiology at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. Prior to my career as a scientist I served in the British Army as an engineer.

Upon retiring from the military in 2011, I undertook a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science, graduating with 1st class honours in 2015 and progressed onto a Masters of Research (MRes) in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Birmingham.

During my MRes I successfully applied for the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) which started in 2016 and qualified as a Clinical Scientist in 2019. Since qualifying I played a role in NHS response to COVID-19, ensuring the Leicester Hospitals screening capabilities were rapidly improved and continued to conduct research in several research groups at De Montfort University and the University of Leicester.

Mentoring experience

In November 2021 I began mentoring two undergraduate students, Silvia and Hamzah. Silvia was studying chemical engineering with an interest in drug development, while Hamzah was studying biomedical science with the aspiration of becoming a physiotherapist.

I meet with both virtually due to living/working in Leicester, but I soon built a rapport with both and understood their strength and weaknesses and how I could help them with their career aspirations.

For Silvia, we discussed avenues into drug develop and I was able to put her in contact with a Principal Investigator (PI) at the University of Birmingham to enquire about laboratory experience over the summer. Although he wasn’t able to accommodate Silvia, he put us in contact with another PI that had space for a summer intern in his laboratory. At this time we were also looking at internships at drug companies.

I helped Silvia to update her CV and write cover letters and she applied for several internships and had a couple of interviews but was unsuccessful. The last internship she applied to was with Pfizer for their Regulatory Quality and Process Management Undergraduate Programme.

After advising on her application and some interview prep, Silvia was selected for the programme and will be taking a year out between second and third year to complete the internship. I believe this will be a fantastic experience and be an excellent addition to her CV when looking for employment following graduation.

For Hamzah, we discussed the process of becoming a physiotherapist. We both did our own independent research into the day-to-day role of a physiotherapist and the route to qualifying so we could compare notes at our monthly meetings. During our fellowship I encouraged Hamzah to get involved in more societies and volunteer work. He listened to my advice and joined the Biomedical Society as a Social Rep and began volunteering at a local GP practice to get more clinical exposure. To gain a better understanding of the role of a physiotherapist I made contact with a hospital physiotherapist that Hamzah met with virtually to discuss their role and offer advice on his application.

By the end of the scheme Hamzah had progressed greatly and is preparing his application to multiple universities to study an MSc in physiotherapy. I believe he has gained many skills that will serve him well following graduation.

 In March 2022, the Career Network approached me about taking on a third mentee called Myah who was a graduate of Birmingham and currently working within the School of Biosciences. I agreed and during our first meeting I found she had aspirations of completing a PhD or applying to the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) for the Clinical Immunology stream.

As a Clinical Scientist that completed the STP I was able to give detailed advice on the application process and how to improve her CV and application. We agree that she needed to meet with a Clinical Immunologist, which I was able to arrange at my hospital. The visit was beneficial to her application and we were able to meet in person. Myah is now preparing applications for PhD positions and for the latest round of STP positions.

In all, I believe all my mentees have made great strides in their personal development, with clearer pathways to their future careers. I have thoroughly enjoyed mentoring each of them and I’m more than happy to continue to support them if they need advice in the future.

How can you support students and graduates through the mentoring scheme?

Having worked professionally for nearly 20 years in a variety of roles I believe I have a lot of life experience to pass onto students and graduates.

With my 3 mentees I’ve improved their CV and cover letter writing skills, offered practical advice on activities they should engage in that employees are looking for, put several in contact with professionals in the career pathways they are interested in, and offered support at all stages of their applications.


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