EPSRC wants to know - Where do all the postdocs go?

November 9, 2006

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is on a mission to find out where the postdoctoral students it funds end up, according to Dame Julia Higgins, the chair of the council.

The EPSRC is keen to show that its funded postdocs go on to important jobs with clear economic benefits. "We fund myriad postdocs and postgrads.

Universities often know what they have gone on to do, but it is difficult for us," she said.

To get the research council started in its quest, The Times Higher tracked down one former EPSRC postdoc whose career was in the ascendant.

Charles Wiles has worked for Toshiba in Japan, Cannons in Guildford, a start-up company, set up his own business and completed a masters in business administration since finishing his PhD in computer vision at Oxford University in 1995.

Now he is a product manager with Google, a job that involves managing different teams - engineers, marketing, sales and legal - involved in launching a new product.

"My passion has always been creating technology and products that make a difference. I loved hard-core research, but the challenge is getting things out into the real world," he said. "I decided when I was finishing my undergraduate studies that to succeed you had to understand the core technology and be a great researcher."

Dr Wiles always planned to leave academe, but he still loves research. "One of the key skills of a product manager is being able to work with incredibly bright engineers, and I would find that much harder without my background," he said.

"Giving people such as me a background in the sciences is incredibly valuable. All of us from this background love research and are keen and interested in being deeply involved with the academic community, whether through funding research or driving it to market."

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