From meeting her life partner to setting up a fulfilling career in medical research and education, Helga Ögmundsdóttir, president of the Iceland alumni group, describes the impact her PhD studies have had on her life.
|PhD in Immunology
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
I arrived in Edinburgh on 1st of October 1975 and called in immediately at the Department of Bacteriology, where I was going to study and work for my PhD in immunology. Coming straight from a job as a junior hospital doctor (the other sort of doctor), my first question was when I should start the following morning. When I was ready, was the answer. This was academic freedom! And I did enjoy it in the best sense, because freedom means opportunity to do what you really want to do, i.e. given the right circumstances. Coming from Iceland a whole new world opened up for me, the library, the lab, the lively and intelligent conversation at morning coffee time.
I had six wonderful years in Edinburgh, first as a student and then as a lecturer. By now this is less than ten percent of my years of life, but much more than that in reality. I met my partner for life in Edinburgh. He was also doing his PhD at the "Department", we met at coffee a few days after I arrived.
Our eldest was born in Edinburgh before we moved (back) to Iceland. Edinburgh will always be home; for many years now we have been going back for one week in August to enjoy the festival.
I had six wonderful years in Edinburgh, first as a student and then as a lecturer. By now this is less than ten percent of my years of life, but much more than that in reality.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
Back in Iceland I worked first in a diagnostic laboratory and also started some teaching at the University of Iceland. Then my opportunity came along. The Icelandic Cancer Society wanted to establish a research laboratory and I was asked to apply and was appointed as director.
The job was from the beginning linked to a teaching post at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Iceland. At this time there were no post-graduate courses at the University of Iceland, but intercalated research years had just been introduced for medical students.
We had research students in the lab from the beginning, first honours bachelor students and then master's and doctoral students as these programmes were started. Again I was asked to take on a new role, managing master's and doctoral studies at the Faculty of Medicine. This is the job that I shall retire from at the end of this year, when I turn seventy, looking back on a fulfilling professional life that had its beginnings at the University of Edinburgh.
Enjoy your PhD. Yes, you will get the blues, but this is a price worth paying for the final sense of fulfilment and achievement, and the experience that will last you through your professional life, of course not the methods themselves, they will be superseded by new ones, but the ability to embrace new developments.