Amanda Perry

Dr Amanda Perry

What did you do after graduation?

I walked 500 miles across the Pyrenees (Haute Route Pyrenees) and then started a training post to become a Clinical Biochemist.

What is your current position?

Trainee Clinical Biochemist, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.

What does your current role involve?

Currently, I am training, so am learning about all things clinical. 
Ultimately, I hope to be a fully qualified clinical biochemist and my main job roles will include:

  • Understanding biochemistry diagnostic tests (mostly in blood but also in other body fluids)
  • Understanding unusual biochemistry results and liaising with clinicians about what the results may mean for the patient
  • Being an advice line for clinicians who request diagnostic tests for help with which tests may be appropriate in different clinical scenarios and what the results may mean
  • Authorisation of results before they are reported – this is a screen and some results may require a telephone conversation with the requesting clinician to point out an unusual finding
  • Ensuring that the laboratory is producing results which are consistent with the rest of the country in terms of accuracy and precision

How do you use the knowledge you gained from your studies in your job?

For my undergraduate degree I did a project in synthetic chemistry and my PhD was interdisciplinary with aspects of synthetic chemistry, molecular biology and enzymology. Therefore, during my studies I did not gain any clinical knowledge, so it has been pretty intense getting up to speed in this area. 
My degrees did give me the opportunity to develop clear scientific thought processes, and use these ideas to design experiments which may answer a question: this approach has proved very useful to me in the clinical setting.  Application of scientific principals is useful and highly important in clinical science. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

In terms of scientific impact, I have shown that a newly-developed, commercially available immunoassay for analysis of Vitamin D, had extremely poor correlation with the gold-standard mass spectrometry method. This data, when presented to the company in question, led to the immunoassay being withdrawn from the marketplace. Ultimately, this led to the prevention of poor-quality patient results.

How do you think that chemistry graduates would benefit from following your chosen career?

A career in clinical biochemistry is brilliant if you are interested in the chemistry of the body and methods used to reliably and correctly measure analytes in body fluids.

Why did you choose to study chemistry?

I did not know what to study at university, but knew I wanted to do science.  I chose chemistry as I considered it to be the most “central” of the sciences and from this starting point, I would be able to move in almost any scientific direction.

Why did you choose Leeds?

Leeds struck me as just the right distance away from home - I’m originally from the Bristol area so visiting home would be easy for a weekend but not so easy for a week night!
The campus is also nicely “enclosed” without being isolated from the city.
I am a country girl, and I didn’t find Leeds as big and intimidating as other cities like Birmingham and Manchester.
I love the outdoors and there is excellent countryside within accessible distance of the city.

What are your favourite memories of studying at Leeds?

In my undergraduate degree:
Going out dancing on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night with my house mates in undergraduate 2nd year; playing the French horn with the University Union orchestra (including touring in Venice); going running on a Saturday morning on Ilkley Moor and then lunch at the Cow and Calf as a reward; barbeques in Hyde Park whilst trying to revise.

In my PhD:
A pint or two followed by top-class curry with lab mates on a Friday; giving research presentation to my peers; organising trips away with the lab to stay in the University “hut” in the Lake District; Learning to rock climb; playing the French Horn in a Community Orchestra (which was less intense, and also of a lower playing quality, than the University Union Orchestra!)

What do you think appeals most to students studying at Leeds’ School of Chemistry?

The city and University are brilliant and the strength and depth in all areas of chemistry within the School is amongst the best in the country. There are also very strong links with other departments which makes way for brilliant collaborative projects.

What would you say to other students thinking of studying a PhD?

A snapshot of a PhD in science is an undergraduate research project - if you enjoyed doing this then a PhD may be for you.  I would recommend a PhD only if you are excited about the whole process, rather than just wanting the title of “Dr” at the end of it all. You have to be genuinely interested in your project – everyone will get a little tired of their subjects towards the end, but you must have sufficient motivation about the scientific question to get you over the emotional hurdles which are almost inevitable.

Consider which options are open to you as a graduate and as a post-graduate – I found that some doors close if you have a doctorate as you are considered to be “over qualified”. Thankfully, clinical science is not one of those doors. 

What benefits did you gain from the PhD?

Studying for a PhD gave me real independence and made me think differently about science – to strive to answer a question for which no-one knows the answer requires a very different approach to doing well in exams. 
For me, a PhD was a personal challenge of logical thought, problem-solving, motivation, positive thinking and stamina.  Although this challenge was huge, the satisfaction of getting over each hurdle was far larger.  I worked with fantastic people in very supportive departments who made celebrating small achievements, in-depth scientific discussion and even consoling over frustrations lots of fun.  My PhD represents the most brilliant years of my life to date.