Returning to science

Published: 25 November 2021

Following a long career break, Tanya Mathie thought that her chemistry days were over when she realised how tough it was to compete against younger PhD students. After a change in career direction into teaching, an opportunity arose at BioAscent.

Tanya developed a love of science from an early age and carried out her undergraduate studies at the University of Glasgow, where she obtained a 1st class honours degree in Chemistry. She then embarked upon her PhD at the University of Glasgow, completing it at the University of Leeds following the decision to move with her supervisor.

In 2003, Tanya moved to London to complete her postdoctoral research at Imperial College. After which, Tanya took up a role working at Syngenta, an agrochemical company based in Bracknell, before moving to Eli Lilly & Co in 2006 where she held the position of Medicinal Chemistry Researcher and worked on method development to solve medicinal chemistry problems and synthesis of more challenging targets.

Tanya left Eli Lilly in 2009 when she was expecting her first child and made the decision to take a break from her career to raise her family.

After an eight-year career break, Tanya was keen to return to work and focus on her career again, but the job market was challenging with very few opportunities to apply for, and the competition was high.

"When you are a stay-at-home mum, you don't have time to sit and read the latest journals, and it felt like I had a lot to prove when competing against fresh PhD students. I found it hard to even secure an interview and have the chance to demonstrate my knowledge and expertise," says Tanya.

Realising that getting back into a chemistry role again might be harder than she had anticipated, Tanya drew on her love of science and decided to go into teaching.

"I wanted to be part of science again, and if I couldn't get back into research, the next best option was to work with children to help encourage them down the science route," recalls Tanya.

Tanya returned to the University of Glasgow to study for her PGDE Teaching with Chemistry, and in 2019 began her teacher training, teaching general science and then chemistry to secondary school children. As the pandemic hit, the local council put a freeze on recruitment, so securing a permanent teaching position proved difficult.

"If I had secured a teaching job at that stage, I am pretty sure I would have stayed in teaching. But I knew I had to start applying for different roles as I wanted to be out there contributing."

Tanya's luck changed when she was offered an interview at BioAscent with Angus Morrison, Director of Chemistry. She was then invited back for technical interviews and interviews with the management team and offered an initial six-month fixed-term contract.

"I think BioAscent wanted to be sure I wasn't looking back at my earlier career through rose-tinted glasses and using this as an opportunity to reclaim my youth!" Tanya remarks.

After just six weeks in the role, Tanya's position was made permanent.

Tanya recalls, "I couldn't believe how quickly things came back to me, and I was delighted to be back in the research environment - I felt like I was back home. When I started, the team understood the position I was in. I never felt silly asking questions. I had to be refreshed on how to use some of the equipment, and the team has been nothing but supportive giving me the time to catch myself back up on things. The fact they were willing to give me a chance was amazing."

"When I left my career to start my family, the industry was on a downturn and the atmosphere was full of uncertainty. To come and join a fast-moving and growing CRO like BioAscent is a fantastic feeling and I am delighted to be a part of this. I feel lucky to have been able to take the break to raise a family, and then to return to my career at BioAscent - it feels like I have been able to have my cake and eat it!"

Tanya Mathie joined BioAscent in August 2021 as a Scientist in the Medicinal Chemistry team and lives in Lanarkshire with her family.

BioAscent offers a happy, supportive, and rewarding working environment. To find out more about what it is like to work at BioAscent, click here, and visit our careers page for details of current vacancies

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