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Research careers in the Life Sciences (Career Exploration Month)

This panel discussion will highlight some research career options for postdocs and PhDs outside of academia, focusing on roles in the public sector, start-up companies and big pharma.

Past Event

June 14, 2022
11:00 - 12:30


It is well known that the majority of postdocs and PhDs eventually build a successful career beyond academia and university research. Which sectors and roles they go into can however be difficult to grasp. The panel discussions of Career Exploration Month (see list of events below) aim at showcasing some of the possible career options for individuals with a research background, by hearing directly from former postdocs and PhD about their own careers.

This panel will feature Dr Deborah Cox, Managing Director at Lagan Valley Scientific, Dr Billy Hunter, Senior Marine Chemist at Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute (AFBI) Northern Ireland, and Dr Suha Dadou, Senior Scientist in the Analytical R&D at Pfizer UK.

The panellists will notably talk about their current role, how they managed the transition from academia, which skills and expertise they use from their research background, the advantages and challenges of their position, as well as advice for current postdocs and PhDs interested in similar roles.

The panel will be chaired by Dr Lisa Douglas, postdoctoral researcher in the School of Pharmacy at Queen's.


ALL WELCOME! This event isn't limited to postdocs and is open to anyone who is interested in attending, including those external to Queen's University Belfast.

This event will be a panel discussion. The Chair will ask prepared questions but also relate questions shared by the audience in the event’s chat.

This event won’t use slides and thus will be suitable for people using audio only (e.g. listening while having a walk etc.). Auto generated captions will be enabled for accessibility.

Our Guests

Dr Deborah Cox

Managing Director at Lagan Valley Scientific (See Deborah's LinkedIn profile)

Deborah Cox began her career in molecular biology almost 20 years ago in Dundee, Scotland, graduating in forensic science. She gained experience in a lab during her undergraduate degree at (what was then) the Scottish Police Service Authority and Scottish Water before joining LGC Forensics as a DNA analyst in Teddington in 2009. She then completed a PhD at Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2015 where she studied the genetics behind osmotic stress response in plants. She then joined Prof Caroline Dean's lab the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England, before returning to Belfast to work on molecular interactions between plants & plant parasitic nematodes (firstly at Queens University Belfast, and then at the Agri Food & Biosciences Institute). She was the pest & pathogen diagnostics lab manager during her time at the Agri Food & Biosciences Institute, which used molecular biology techniques to confirm quarantine organisms and support early detection of pests that require management plans. She is now the principal investigator & Managing Director in Lagan Valley Scientific's Turf Clinic which aims to support the amenity industry in identifying and managing turf pests & diseases.

Dr Billy Hunter

Senior Marine Chemist at Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute (AFBI) Northern Ireland 

Billy is the Senior Marine Chemist at the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute Norther Ireland, where his role is to act as principal investigator and project lead for projects focussing on the chemistry of the marine environment and how this impacts fisheries and environmental standards. Billy’s job combines a heavy research focus to meet specific evidence needs for DAERA, including mapping the seabed carbon stocks in Northern Irish Seas to support the region’s Blue Carbon Action Plan, assessments of novel emerging contaminants (such as pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs) in Northern Ireland’s inland waters, and assessment of the potential options for recycling waste from shellfish aquaculture and fishing. He is also responsible for the region’s physical and chemical oceanography monitoring, assessing the state of our seas and reporting to both DAERA in Northern Ireland and DEFRA at the UK level. As such, he is responsible for a cruise programme of eight research cruises per year and manage a core team of four scientific staff members, supported by a team of up to twelve from across AFBI’s Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems Branch. Billy’s role combines research with providing scientific advice to policy makers, including work within a number of working groups to develop the Northern Ireland Blue Carbon Action Plan, The programme of measures for the UK Marine Strategy (which replaced the EU Water Framework Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive after Brexit) and the UK Clean and Safe Seas Evidence Group. Prior to joining AFBI, Billy was a lecturer in Environmental Science at Ulster University and held Marie Sklodowska Curie and Leverhulme Trust Postdoctoral Fellowships at the University of Vienna and Queen’s University Belfast. He also briefly worked in a university professional support role, as the Research Data Manager and Research Policy Officer at Queen’s University Belfast, where his role included the development of a strategy to support externally funded postdoctoral fellowship holders.

Dr Suha Dadou

Senior Scientist in the Analytical R&D at Pfizer UK

Suha is a pharmacist with a solid research background in pharmaceutical technology, drug design and delivery systems. Her main interest is on applying holistic and systematic approaches for the development and optimisation of drug formulations and manufacturing processes by realising the full potential of digital twin, predictive tools, and continuous manufacturing platforms. This will improve the quality and efficiency of drug development and, subsequently, the health outcome. In her current role, Suha uses Process Analytical Technology (PAT) to support Pfizer's portfolio in the transition to continuous manufacturing for oral solid dosage forms.

Other events

This event is part of ‘Career Exploration Month’ in June 2023, during which the PDC will provide weekly online interviews or panel discussion exploring the careers of PhD researchers and postdocs beyond academia. These events are open to all interested individuals, including from outside Queen’s University Belfast.

Full list of events:

Event type
Postdoctoral Development Centre
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Careers Research
Event Organiser Details
Name Postdoctoral Development Centre