Meet Dr Gemma Ford, Programme Director for MSc Reproduction and Development in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Tell us about your journey into academia…
I have always been interested in science and biology and initially considered a career in forensic science. However, I found that the more practical-based approach that was employed at my college to study Biology steered me towards a degree with opportunities for exploration and discovery. So, I went on to study an honours degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology which included a year-long research placement within industry.
It was during my undergraduate studies that I found myself being strongly drawn to the field of endocrinology. After my degree, I was lucky to be awarded a Needham Cooper CASE Scholarship which enabled me to study for a PhD in Neuroendocrinology at Bristol and GlaxoSmithKline, looking at the effects of stress and metabolism on hypothalamic neuropeptides. I then moved to Galway, Ireland for my postdoctoral research, maintaining my interest in stress and neuroendocrinology, but also extending my interests into pain medicine. I then became a lecturer in the Neuropharmacology department in Galway.
I really enjoyed training and teaching undergraduate, master’s and PhD students from a variety of different disciplines in Galway, but I saw an opportunity to move back to Bristol and the UK, so took up the post of Lecturer in the Bristol Medical School and I now lead on the master’s in Reproduction and Development.
What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol?
I really enjoy getting to know my students and providing them with tailored support throughout their postgraduate journey. We are lucky that the flexible nature of our programme provides opportunities for our students to continue to work or perform caring responsibilities whilst still being able to study with us for a master’s at the same time. Our unique, blended learning MSc programme attracts a fantastic community of learners (Scientists, Nurses, Midwives, and Clinicians), that come from different countries, medical settings, backgrounds and cultures, and this diversity really enriches our curriculum and provides a multidimensional learning experience for both students and staff.
What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduate students?
Research the programme and make sure it’s right for you. Talk to the staff, alumni and current students and ask lots of questions before you apply. Does it offer flexible study options? Will it enable you to reach your career goals and aspirations? What jobs or training positions have the alumni gone on to pursue? What types of teaching and learning will be used? What individual support is available to you during your studies?