Matt Rossall, 27, graduated from the University of Salford in 2012 with a first class degree in Biomedial Science. During his degree, he completed a placement year at the Medicines Evaluation Unit, which conducts trials for the pharmaceutical industry. Bosses were so impressed with the quality of Matt’s work and his commitment to his field, they sponsored him to complete an MPhil in Medicine.
Now, Matt works in a senior role in clinical trial studies with the Medicines Evaluation Unit, and manages a team of clinicians, physicians and graduates. He explains how a series of unexpected events led to his thriving career.
“I wanted to go into medicine but it was very competitive so I decided to do a degree in Biomedical Science first and then onto medical school,” says Matt. “I applied to medical school during my placement year, and spent a long time preparing for my interview – I even took a week off work to revise for the entrance exams.
“Now, I’m a very organised person and I’ve never missed an appointment or meeting in my entire life. Or at least I hadn’t, until my interview. I got the date wrong. I don’t believe in fate, but at that point I thought it must have happened for a reason, and I decided not to pursue medicine.”
With a new focus, Matt returned to complete the final year of his degree, despite pleas from his boss to stay on in the lab full time.
“We compromised, and instead I agreed to complete my dissertation at the Medical Evaluation Unit,” says Matt. “I attended lectures during the week, and spent my weekends in the lab, getting paid to complete my dissertation project.”
With his studies complete, Matt had his sights set on a year of travel, but his boss had other ideas.
“He called me into his office and said you’ve finished your dissertation, but we still don’t want you to leave. Will you stay and manage the team? I said no, I want to travel, and he said OK then how about I give you a scholarship? It was pretty difficult to say no to that.”
The scholarship funded an MPhil in Medicine, which Matt did alongside his lab work. He successfully completed that in 2013, and now works as a clinical research leader.
“I manage approximately 10 people including clinicians, physicians, scientists and recruiters,” he says. “I co-ordinate studies, make sure patients are recruited in the right capacity, make sure it’s all within contract, co-ordinate with sponsors and ensure that they’re happy with the running of the studies. There’s a huge amount involved in a trial. I also manage the graduate scheme, as well as running a couple of my own studies.”
Matt is clearly highly employable, and his boss isn’t about to let him go any time soon. What’s the secret of his success? “I think probably because I’m very organised, very loyal, have good time management skills and I don’t shy away from hard work,” he says. “I’m eager to learn, I’m enthusiastic, and I think it’s as simple as that. I think the success of my dissertation, which was published in a peer-reviewed journal, showed my boss that I can co-ordinate studies independently 100% on my own and come out with good scientific data, so that was definitely a key aspect.
“But there’s also a case of being in the right place at the right time – I came along when somebody else was moving on, and my boss had me earmarked to take over from the beginning, so it worked out very well.”
As well as hard work and being in the right place at the time – or not, in the case of his interview for medical school – Matt cites his Salford education as standing him in good stead for his future career.
“The lectures at university were very similar to the work that I was doing in the lab,” he says. “It wasn’t just a case of sitting there writing down notes, it was all relevant. Also, the placement opportunities are fantastic, and there really needs to be a balance between theory and practical skills. You can’t do one without the other.
“The best piece of advice I can give is to do a placement. No matter what it is, take those opportunities that the university is offering. A placement will open up your eyes, you’ll see the real world and then go back to your final year with a completely different attitude. It’s one thing doing a practical element, and another knowing how it relates to real life. Those life skills brings it all to life and neatly ties it all together.”
Now he’s firmly entrenched in a successful career, has Matt given up on his dream of travel? “Maybe I’ll retire early!” he laughs. “I’ve got to the point where I think it’d be too hard to walk away for a year, although if I was hit by a bus tomorrow I’d be happy that I’ve made my mark. I’ve authored papers and I’ve had a lot of success. But the good thing about this type of work is you do have to do a lot of travelling anyway, so I might be flying off to Australia or America anyway, only I’ll be getting paid for it.”