Reflections of a Research Assistant

Screen shot 2015-07-01 at 14.19.21It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. For six years the University of Sussex has been my home, but now I must leave and start a new chapter in my life. This bittersweet new beginning would not be possible without my time as a research assistant in Jenny Rusted’s lab.

I first met Jenny as a third year undergraduate; a student in her Psychobiology of Ageing and Dementia course. She was instantly approachable and friendly. Throughout this year and my masters degree she was very supportive and encouraging with my aspirations for a career in research. When I finished my masters and I failed to get accepted onto a PhD, Jenny offered me a position as an RA within her lab to help boost my CV and give me experience I desperately needed.

The year and a half I spent in the lab was the best work experience of my life. Not only did it develop my skills as a researcher, but helped me grow as a person. I remember my first lab meeting, being introduced to everyone who would one day become my friends. Their names and area of research were forgotten the moment I heard them. I thought I had no place there. I thought a mere RA has no valuable input in a room of PhD students and postdocs. As the weeks went by however, I learned I did in fact have something worthwhile to add. My courage grew and I would occasionally contribute an astute point.

My time in this lab prepared me for PhD life in ways I didn’t know I needed preparation. From talking to and overserving my colleagues I got a better idea of what PhD life was like. I had my dissertations and some previous research experience under my belt, but the average undergraduate experience does prepare anyone for everything else that comes with the academic lifestyle. One of the most exciting aspects of the RA position was the weekly meetings. It prevented my wits from dulling. Listening to the scintillating discussion of a variety of topics kept my critical analysing skills in use during my time out of education.

Unfortunately now my time in the lab and at the university has come to an end. It is time to say “Goodbye Sussex” and “Hello Southampton” as I start my own PhD studentship in a couple of months. Everyone in the lab (and a lot of people at Sussex in general) has either directly or indirectly played a small or large part in getting me into my position today. The experience and skills I acquired as a RA has been instrumental in getting onto my own studentship. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their involvement.

As Aeneas left his beloved Ilium after it was sacked by the Achaeans only to go on and be the catalyst for the foundations of Rome, I too am leaving my beloved Sussex for greater and better things.


By Carl Buckfield

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