Nathalie Mather-L'Huillier's PhD from Edinburgh has influenced every aspect of her life, and she has now been appointed as the regional alumni contact in the Caribbean.
PhD, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
|Year of Graduation||2007|
Your time at the University
Originally from France, I studied for my undergraduate degree in Edinburgh at a different institution. After gaining my Master of Philosophy in toxicology and cell biology at the University of Nottingham, I wanted to get my PhD and what better place to do it than in the country I fell in love with, Scotland.
I was introduced to the researcher who later became my supervisor and we found a common research topic which interested us both – cardiovascular physiology. We applied for a Wellcome Trust Prize PhD Studentship, and so my doctoral journey started.
I was so happy, I was returning to my beloved Edinburgh! I was originally based in the tiny Wilkie Building, which is situated behind the beautiful Reid Concert Hall, and I remember thinking myself so lucky to walk under the arch in the Medical School quad in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, James Young Simpson and Joseph Lister.
About half-way through my PhD, our research group was moved to the new Royal Infirmary in brand new facilities, although I remember having to wear a hard hat to go to the freezer room as the building work was still ongoing. During my PhD, I also had the opportunity to get a Marie Curie Fellowship to conduct part of my research at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. It suited my love of traveling and living abroad and I learned to do microsurgery and echocardiography procedures which was amazing. During my PhD, I also taught a couple of conversation classes at the French Institute in Edinburgh, something I have almost always done as a hobby. As a result, I started a certificate in translation a few years back and I am working towards my certification.
Despite the detours and the kinks in the road, there is nothing I learned during my PhD at the University of Edinburgh that I don’t use every day. It has shaped my working life to date.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
My first job after obtaining my PhD was an obvious step: a postdoctoral fellowship which I did at another Scottish university. I loved being in the lab and contributing to new knowledge in my field. However, it became clear early on that my strength was in enabling others to do research, and not to do the research myself. Of course, I missed the research environment at first, but I found myself in another Scottish university, working in policy for their research office. I had to translate the skills and experience gained during my PhD and I learned so much about the workings of research. I even had the chance to work on grant applications with researchers, one of them being the first EU grant that the institution ever received as a coordinating partner.
After this enriching experience which unfortunately came with a lot of commuting, I came back to my alma mater, the University of Edinburgh, as an employee, working as the Research Postgraduate Recruitment and Admissions Manager. I was there for six years in total and I loved being part of the team at Student Recruitment and Admissions which I still visit regularly. Towards the end of my time there, I was fortunate enough to go on a nine-month secondment opportunity working as International Policy Officer at Universities Scotland. It was my first time managing a colleague and I loved it. This was another eye opener and a further opportunity to enhance my experience as a higher education professional.
After 17 years in the UK (15 of those in Scotland), it was time for my husband (himself from Scotland) and our young daughter to seek a new challenge and when the opportunity to work in higher education in the Caribbean arose, we took it. It was another rung on the career ladder for me, especially as the school of veterinary medicine I work for – Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine – is in the private sector. It has given me a different perspective of higher education, even if the goals are the same: enabling our students and researchers to reach their potential and contribute to the veterinary profession.
I have held two posts since joining Ross University. My current role is as Director of Scholarships and International Affairs and I am also the main administrator for accreditation. This great job also comes with a bonus: I live in the beautiful twin island federation of St Kitts and Nevis with my husband and our two lovely children. Despite the detours and the kinks in the road, there is nothing I learned during my PhD at the University of Edinburgh that I don’t use every day. It has shaped my working life to date, even if I didn’t know it back in 2007 when I walked across the stage in McEwan Hall to receive it. And a few weeks ago, I was delighted to be asked to become the alumni regional contact for the Caribbean. Could I say no? Of course not!
Whatever you studied, think about how the skills and knowledge you acquire can be applied to other fields. Career paths are not always linear and the most important thing is to recognise the branches in the road, even if they don’t seem obvious at first. When I graduated with my PhD in molecular biology, did I ever think I would be where I am now? Of course not, but my passion and my evolving skillset have carried me all the way here.