Dr Paul Beales

Many of the biggest questions in modern science require a multidisciplinary approach that straddles the boundaries of traditional scientific disciplines. Similarly, major current and future societal challenges needing scientific solutions cannot be resolved with ideas from a single discipline. More than ever scientists are having to work in teams where they need to communicate effectively with scientists trained in different disciplines and applying concepts from these different traditional perspectives. The boundaries between scientific disciplines are softening and the worth of scientists with multidisciplinary training is greater than it has ever been. Therefore studying a combination of scientific subjects to a high level allows you to better appreciate interdisciplinary scientific challenges and tackle them head on with confidence. A degree in Natural Sciences or Chemistry and Mathematics is ideal preparation for a career in scientific research but also provides broad training in transferable skills, analytical thinking and problem solving broadly coveted by professional industries.

My enthusiasm for these programmes is driven by the multidisciplinary nature of my own research career. With a first degree in physics, I studied for a PhD in soft matter and biological physics. This is an inherently multidisciplinary field investigating matter that is highly structured on intermediate length scales between the size of molecules and that of the bulk material itself. This results in materials that do not conform to the properties of classical states of matter and are often called complex fluids or soft solids: examples include biological matter, food and many consumer and cosmetic products such as moisturising creams, laundry detergents and paints, making this field highly relevant to wide-ranging areas of science and industry. Having spent some of my early career working in chemical engineering departments in the US, I am now based in the School of Chemistry but collaborate widely for my research with scientists across four faculties (maths and physical sciences, biological sciences, engineering and medicine) using physical sciences tools to tackle fundamental questions in understanding biological systems and applications in the treatment of diseases. The value and opportunities of multidisciplinary scientific training could not be more evident and Natural Sciences would be my degree of choice if I could go back and start over again.