Dr Graham Coates, Reader, School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, Durham University
Moving to academia has given me the opportunity to develop my own research interests, secure significant funding to pursue this research, and build a small team of researchers to undertake the research with me.
Dr Graham Coates first put aside thoughts of becoming a lecturer to take up a career in industry with British Aerospace. A mid-career reassessment took him back into academia, when he took a position as a Research Associate at Newcastle University. He is now a Reader in the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences at Durham University.
Following a sandwich degree, which allowed him to study mathematics and carry out a one year ‘geo-technical’ engineering placement with British Gas, Graham joined the Aerospace industry, which led to him becoming a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Mathematician.
After a successful career in industry, Graham then moved into academia and completed a PhD in Computational Engineering Design at the University of Newcastle. Graham became a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in 2002, and in 2003 he moved from Newcastle to the University of Durham to take up a lectureship.
Reflecting on his move back to academia, Graham explains: “I did find my time in industry both interesting and challenging. However, I now find being able to research and study a single topic in detail, with the academic freedom to investigate and develop original solutions to significant problems, the most enjoyable, rewarding and greatest experience of my career.”
Still at Durham, Graham is now a Reader in the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences. When asked what skills he found valuable when transitioning from industry into academia, Graham says: “The skills I have found to be particularly useful are an open-mind, flexibility, patience, perseverance.”
While his own experience transitioning between sectors has been highly rewarding and positive, Graham does advise careful consideration before making such a career move. He explains: “My advice to others would be to talk to several individuals who have made the move between industry and academia, from different disciplines if possible”.