Dr Helen Shiells
PhD Physics, 2017
From Aberdeen to Fighting Alzheimer's
Your Time at Aberdeen
Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
I chose to study in Aberdeen because of its excellent academic credentials, the extremely picturesque Old Aberdeen campus, and fond memories of childhood holidays on the Moray Firth.
Why did you choose your particular course?
When I first arrived at the University of Aberdeen it was to study for a degree in mathematics. Being free to take a combination of courses in my first and second year allowed me to study additional subjects, one of which was physics. Whilst I was enjoying my maths degree, I ultimately found the applications of maths to physical systems and statistical data analysis the most interesting. So, I chose to switch to a physics degree and later continued into a PhD to learn more about data science and pursue an interesting project in this area.
What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I have been lucky enough to make many long-lasting friendships while studying for both my BSc and PhD in Aberdeen. My BSc course was small, so it allowed us to foster good connections. During my PhD I studied alongside students from all over the world - and even met my now-husband! Additionally, I travelled a lot during my PhD, to conferences and study opportunities, in North America, Europe and Asia. These provided opportunities to discuss with other researchers and travel to places I may never have seen otherwise.
If while at Aberdeen you took part in a foreign exchange, e.g. Erasmus or Study Abroad, where did you go and what did you do?
I spent the second year of my BSc at the University of Calgary in Canada. This was an experience that I really enjoyed and benefited from, both academically and personally. Plus, Calgary was very close to some amazing skiing; a big bonus for me!
Did you hold any student leadership roles, e.g. Class Rep, Club Treasurer, Social Convenor?
I was a tutor for a variety of undergraduate courses in the final year of my BSc and throughout my PhD. This allowed me to enhance my teaching and scientific communication.
If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
I would encourage them to make the most of the opportunities which interest them. Talk to your lecturers and tutors and try to really indulge in the areas that captivate you, be open in your approach to your study.
Your Time After Aberdeen
What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Biostatistician at TauRx Therapeutics.
What did your first role involve?
In my role as a Biostatistician I assisted in the design of clinical trials in Alzheimer's Disease and the analysis of data from these trials.
What is your current job title?
Senior Biostatistician at TauRx Therapeutics, and Product Lead at GT Diagnostic Centres.
What is your current role?
In my role with TauRx Therapeutics I assist in the design of clinical trials and the analysis of data from these trials. TauRx is currently conducting a phase 3 clinical trial to assess safety and efficacy of a drug to treat Alzheimer's Disease.
In my role with GT Diagnostic Centres I am leading a project to develop a computer adaptive test using novel statistical analysis methods. This project was started during my PhD with the aim to aid in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.
Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
Absolutely. I met my PhD supervisor whilst studying for my BSc at Aberdeen, and through him I received sponsorship for my PhD from TauRx, the company I now work for. At Aberdeen I was able to learn skills which I rely on every day in my working life as a data scientist.
One Top Tip
Try to develop a routine which works for you and your studies, and don't forget to break it every once in a while.