Tell us a bit about yourself – what was your PhD about and where did you study?I am from the island of Dominica. I did my PhD in chemistry at the University of Cambridge. My PhD was funded by the Gates Cambridge Trust. For my research, I developed computational models to study protein folding. Specifically, my PhD work focused on modelling large-scale structural changes in proteins and studying intrinsically disordered proteins.
What do you do now? What did you decide to do next after gaining your PhD?After my PhD, I took some time off to rest and decide what I wanted to do next. This involved returning to the Caribbean (Dominica and Barbados). I then moved back to the UK for post-doc work. I am now a postdoctoral research associate in physics at the University of Cambridge. I develop multiscale approaches to study how cells organise their contents into membraneless compartments via liquid-liquid phase separation.
Has having a PhD helped in developing your career? If yes, what has been the biggest impact? If no, why do you think that is?The PhD has been an invaluable part of my career development. The PhD is really a journey and you grow so much during the process. Besides completing your project, you become a more independent thinker, make invaluable professional connections, and acquire numerous transferrable skills.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer prospective students considering a PhD?Don’t do a PhD unless it’s something you really want and that you have given a lot of thought to. A PhD is very self-driven—you have to motivate yourself a lot throughout the journey.
Do carefully choose your research supervisor/principal investigator (this may involve speaking to current or past PhD students of prospective supervisors/PIs).
And what one thing would you suggest that new PhD graduates should do next?Take time-off! The final year of your PhD can be especially exhausting (writing up, defending etc). You owe it to yourself to take a break before starting something new.
Lastly, what’s your favourite memory from your time as a PhD student?I helped plan a gala for 300 people and it came out fantastic! Balancing that with my research was definitely a challenge but I loved it and it really forced me to optimise my time management and allowed me to be creative in another way.
Want to learn more about Jerelle?
Follow her on Twitter and check out the Instagram and Web links for the mentoring programme CariScholar which Jerelle runs for Caribbean students: