Alumni career profile - Sean McMitchell

  • PhD Electronic Engineering  
  • Senior Research Fellow, University of Liverpool

Video Transcript  

Duration – 3:36  

I’m Sean McMitchell, I graduated in 2008 from a PhD in Electronic Engineering, and I’ve done 3 postdoc’s now, sort of trying to get a lectureship. At the moment I’m in a position where I have a team of researchers, although I’m not the principal investigator, so I’m just getting to the point where I’m applying for my own fellowships and lectureships. 

Q1 – How did your time at the University shape and influence you?  

A1 – It shaped me in more ways than I can imagine. I mean, I was here for 8 years, so right from when I was 18, so I really grew up here. It’s an amazing University and it’s really sort of turned me into the person I wanted to be really. It’s a great University. It still feels like home.  

Q2 – Why do a PhD at Birmingham?  

A2 – Well I always wanted to be a scientist ever since my first science lesson when I was 8, so I’ve always known that I wanted, and needed to get a PhD to do that. So once I’d done my degree here, then it seemed like the next logical step. My lecturers from my degree sort of guided me into a PhD here, but it was something I always wanted to do anyway.  

Q3 – How has having a PhD helped your career?  

A3 – I’m quite a lucky person because the area of research I did in Birmingham made me the only expert in the county with my skills, so actually it’s helped me amazingly. I’ve been offered four positions since I’ve been away from Birmingham, by Professors approaching me, asking me to apply for their jobs. It’s really helped. I think it’s a unique perspective I suppose. But my supervisor was brilliant in my PhD; he guided me through and turned me into a really good researcher. He was an amazing advisor throughout. The usual PhD skills sort of include; analytical skills, ways of approaching a problem, and problem solving; that working out why something is happening, and generally just basic skills of being a good scientist. But more specifically, the area of research that I’m in is a very specific area, which is in thin film technology, in electronic engineering. That has helped me enormously because we were the only university that had that expertise back then.  

Q4 – What would you say to a student who is thinking of doing a PhD?  

A4 – Do it, especially at this University. I loved my experience as a PhD student here, it was amazing. It was so much fun, and I learnt more than I could ever imagine. And I think if you’re interested in the subject and you’re passionate about it, and you have that drive and that interest, then you should definitely do a PhD. You will learn a lot, and it will develop you as a person in ways that you can’t even imagine.  

Aston Webb


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