Graduate diaries: NHS Scientist Training Programme

A Q&A with Dr Corsten Douglas, who shares her experiences from the NHS Scientist Training Programme

Tell us a bit about yourself. What did you study and what have you been doing since you left Cambridge?

I studied for a PhD in biological sciences at the MRC mitochondrial biology unit. My thesis was ‘The assembly pathway of human ATP synthase’. Since I left the university, I started freelance private tutoring (without an agency), tutoring KS1-4 biology, chemistry and physics, A level biology and chemistry and 11+. After a year of tutoring, I started a full-time job at Cambridge Science Centre as a science communicator. I applied for the NHS Scientist Training Programme just before I got the CSC job.

How did you first hear of the NHS STP programme and what did you learn through Open Days?

I heard about the STP via a friend who was working in the NHS. I learned from going to the open day that my idea to study Ahmed’s Clinical Biochemistry – Frontiers of biomedical science textbook was the correct thing to do, and that getting some experience, even one day, in a clinical biochemistry laboratory would be advantageous.

Which specialism(s) did you apply to, and why? 

I prepared for the psychometric tests by revisiting my KS3 maths revision guide that I use for tutoring. I did this because when trying the Talent-Q practice tests, it looked a lot like KS3 maths. In fact, the real test was full of even some simple KS3 maths, such as how to interpret bus timetables. For the logic tests, I printed out the Talent-Q practice tests by doing a screen print of each one, and just looking at them until I found a pattern, taking as long as I needed. I thought it would be best to make a check list of which patterns were found, and then wait a few weeks before taking the Talent-Q practice test again to make sure that I couldn’t just remember the answers and that it was just logic that I was using the answer them. This strategy was probably a good one, as I felt that I got all of the logic questions correct in the real thing.

A PhD is not an essential requirement for these roles. What did you see as the advantages/disadvantages of being a PhD graduate during the selection process?

The advantages of having a PhD were that during the general science station at the interview, I used a lot of knowledge gained during my PhD to answer the questions. I didn’t really see a disadvantage, as the introductory chapter of Nessar Ahmed’s Clinical Biochemistry mentions that clinical scientists may have a PhD in a relevant subject such as vitamin analysis. My PhD was not clinical, but is useful if I specialise in ‘in-born errors of metabolism’.

What does it mean to be ‘white-listed’? 

I got a high enough interview score to be employed/accepted, but there weren’t enough spaces/my rank wasn’t high enough initially. If someone drops out, then they use your first choice hospital location to place you. I found out I was successful and got my first choice of locations on 2 August this year, nearly two months after being on the reserve list/white-listed.

Learn more about the NHS Scientist Training Programme at nshcs.hee.nhs.uk/programmes/stp

Practice Talent-Q elements in Job Test Prep, via the Careers Service

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One thought on “Graduate diaries: NHS Scientist Training Programme

  • 12/01/2023 at 10:09 am
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    The NHS typically only accepts applications for its scientific training programme (STP) for one month at the start of each year, and competition may be fierce. For the 200–250 open positions, there are thousands of applications, making the application form the most important element in the recruiting procedure.
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