• Deep-sea ecologist Dr Bhavani Narayanaswamy looks at cold-water corals with PostDoc Dr Natalia Serpetti.
    Bhavani started as a PhD student at SAMS...
    now she is Senior Lecturer in Deep-Sea Ecology
    and responsible for our graduate school
  • Two models wearing scarves from marine science design company Crubag, whose founder is one of our BSc graduates
    Entrepreneur translates science into fashion
    Jessica's fashion design company uses marine research images
  • Teaching, science communication
    Inspiring the next generation
    Jordan enthuses US high school kids about science
  • Dr Lyndsey Dodds works to protect our marine environment.
    Speaking up for the marine environment
    Lyndsey is Head of UK and EU marine policy at WWF
    PhD graduate 2007

Careers, alumni and friends

We live on a blue planet, so jobs that need or benefit from an education in marine science are diverse and global. Graduates can pursue careers in disciplines including aquaculture, fisheries, marine conservation, marine energy, surveying, environmental management, biotechnology / pharmaceuticals, diving, education, research, educatioal and eco tourism and science communication to name a few.

Check out some of the career stories of graduates from our programmes below...

Anyone who has ever studied or worked at SAMS will have experienced that 'family' feeling. This is not an anonymous institution but one where people are friends, support and inspire one another and where one feels one belongs to.

Graduation means for most graduants though that they will leave this 'family' and cohort disperse across the globe. But just like with your blood families, we hope that you will visit, that you will continue to engage and that you will remain part of the SAMS community.

With social media it is so much easier to keep in touch. Join us on Twitter, Instagram, FacebookYouTube and LinkedIn to find out what is going on 'back home at SAMS'. Let us - and the students who come after you - hear about your experiences - your experiences could guide other SAMS students who have never yet met you.

Come back and visit us. Give a talk to the staff or students. Mentor other SAMS graduates. Involve us or other SAMS graduates in future projects. Tell others about us. And don't hesitate to ask the community for help - for information, for tips or for networks.

Graduation is not so much the end of your time at SAMS but the beginning of a new relationship with the world-wide SAMS family.

SAMS is a learned society with a history spanning more than 130 years. Membership is open to all who have an enduring interest in marine science and the marine environment. We currently have around 300 members from all over the world. 

Learned society activities

As a learned society SAMS is involved with science in society initiatives, organises scientific meetings, hosts conferences, administers a marine research bursary scheme, produces a magazine, an annual report and occasionally other publications, supports a network of honorary research fellows and contributes to public consultations and discussions about improving the stewardship of the marine environment. It also organises a regular seminar programme. Some of our conference events are live streamed.

Public engagement, outreach and ocean literacy

Since its beginnings in the late 19th century the Association has been strongly committed to public and academic education and public discussions. We thus continue in a long tradition when we share our knowledge and enthusiasm with primary and secondary school pupils, coordinate a regular 'Festival of the Sea' and operate an innovative outreach and exhibition centre in our Ocean Explorer Centre

Please consider joining SAMS as a member...

Membership is very reasonable (£12 p.a.) and provides you with several benefits. More...

As a charitable organisation and learned society we are committed to growing our knowledge about the marine environment and through research and education work for a mutually beneficial relationship between people and the oceans.

To do this, we need help from across the world, from people who share our passion and care. from people who can share their skills, connections, resources or financial means with us, our students and researchers. 

We are only starting to explore what philanthropy can do for us. 

  • >Will you support some worthy but underpriviledged student from the highlands and islands to study at SAMS? We are launching a bursary campaign...
  • >Or can you help us source a new research vessel that is fit for 21st century marine research and teaching? (Our research vessels since 1882)

Please contact our director directly if you would like to partner up with us: nick.owens@sams.ac.uk

Stories from SAMS graduates...

Career paths of graduates from our Marine Science BSc (Hons) / Marine Science with Arctic Studies BSc (Hons) programmes

A picture of alumni Paul Rhodes who now works in the oil and gas industry as an exploration geologistPaul graduated in 2013 with a BSc (Hons) Marine Science with Arctic Studies

Why did you choose to come to SAMS and UHI for your degree?

SAMS, a world-renowned marine science research institute, offered a degree with both field and classroom training, had more academic staff than students (pretty unique) and of course enjoys one of the most spectacular settings on the western Scottish coastline. What more could a budding marine scientist wish for?

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

SAMS does not just provide you with a good education delivered through a well thought out four year programme; it offers the possibility to live and study in the Arctic (which I would highly recommend), the chance to join research cruises, numerous opportunities to gain valuable experience assisting with research projects and at the end of it all a real sense of what it would mean to pursue a career in a research institution.

My lasting impression of SAMS is that the opportunities available to widen your exposure to marine sciences are limited only by your own ability to put yourself forward and in your creativity for seeking out and spotting an opportunity! Don’t hold back and you won’t be disappointed.

And the fish and chips in Oban are GREAT by-the-way!

What have you been doing since graduating?

Since graduating, I followed my interests in geology and followed my heart back to Norway (having spent my third year on Svalbard) for a two year MSc in Petroleum Geoscience Engineering at the University of Stavanger. I completed an internship with Statoil Petroleum during the Masters and was thankfully invited back upon graduation.

I currently work as an Exploration Geologist where my principal task is to explore for hydrocarbons in the Norwegian and UK North Sea.

Outside of work I enjoy all that the Norwegian outdoors has to offer, be that on my bike, on foot, by boat or more recently on a pair of skis (working progress)!

Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped or hindered you in your career?

University for many, myself included, provides the first opportunity to break ties with home and to learn to become an independent individual – responsible for eeking out a typically meager student loan (beer vs. food) and for other such things necessary for sustaining oneself. Studying at SAMS, however, also immediately provides you with professional skills. Skills in communication, network building and indeed in enhancing your own professional self-confidence all stay with you beyond graduation and no doubt give a SAMS graduate an edge over some of those coming from larger, conventional and often more impersonal institutions.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

For those seeking employment or further education in the form of an MSc or otherwise: be bold! At times, having a slightly broader degree may feel like a disadvantage when applying for a specific discipline (like I did), however be confident with the experience and education you have received and frame it to the opportunity you are applying for. From personal experience, a broader understanding of a given subject area can be advantageous and attractive to an employer, as is the range of experiences (be that lab, or in the field) that you have likely acquired at SAMS.

Any other comments?

Well, seen as you asked, I will repeat what was said before – utilize the opportunities available to you at SAMS. Get stuck in with field work, keep a look out for research cruises, get to know the academic staff and offer your assistance with their projects. Heck, why not live in the Arctic for a year? When applying for work or further education, each one of your competitors will have a degree to speak of. For employers, the distinction between candidates ultimately comes down to the 'extras' – so fill ye’ boots!

Photo of SAMS graduate Dr Tracy White who works as a microbiologistTracy graduated in 2006 with a BSc (Hons) Marine Science

Why did you choose to come to SAMS and UHI for your degree?

I had looked at a number of universities that offered a marine related degree course. I noticed that Stirling University students were given the opportunity to carryout work at SAMS in their final year. I later found out that SAMS had just recently started to host a BSc Marine Science course for the UHI, therefore I thought it would be much better to do the whole degree course at SAMS rather than just a part of the final year. This course also looked at the marine environment as a whole rather than just focusing on biology, and is taught by scientists that are in active research.


What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

Everyone is very friendly and it’s a close community at SAMS. Everyone is willing to provide advice or support if they can. There are a number of outdoors recreational activities on the west coast of Scotland, and I would be surprised if you didn’t find someone in SAMS, or in the wider community of Oban, that didn’t welcome you to join them or their group in whichever sport or hobby it is you are interested in.


What have you been doing since graduating?

I have had a winding path through industry and academia as a microbiologist. I have been very fortunate to have had some interesting science roles from evaluating the pesticides in farmed fish for food consumption to discovering antibacterial compounds from marine micro-organisms. I have completed my PhD at Queen’s University Belfast, where I investigated the potential virulence of marine bacteria through to have caused infection in hospitalised patients. I have also been involved in the development of a blood identification system, focusing on disease screening of blood donations. I am currently employed as a research associate in academia and utilise light technology as a method for bacterial decontamination and sterilisation.

I have, where possible, tried to hang on to the marine scientist in me!


Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped or hindered you in your career?

The benefit of studying at SAMS means that students have much more hands-on experience than other universities, with smaller class sizes. They are often involved in projects that have research value and are encouraged to work both as a team and build confidence to work as an individual. These are important attributes that companies look for when recruiting.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

I have had a number of different roles, some of which, at the time I felt were irrelevant and not where I wanted to be. However these have often been opportunities in disguise, and have acted as a stepping stone to the next stage. I would suggest that you take advantages of the opportunities given, but also be reflective in thinking of your long term goals and ensuring you are setting out to achieve them.


Any other comments?

Studying at SAMS opens up a whole world of new friends and acquaintances that will be with you to some extent throughout your career, and are always willing to help promote you and your development in science.

Picture of 2012 alumni Sarah Sigerson who is now a biology teacher

Sarah graduated in 2012 with a BSc (Hons) Marine Science

Why did you choose to come to SAMS and UHI for your degree?

I was looking for something to stretch my brain but keep me close to Oban where I had settled for the foreseeable future. Realising a world-leading institute was right on my doorstep was a pretty inspiring find!

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

I loved it, it was incredibly hard work at times and my time management skills were certainly put to the test, but I was surrounded by like-minded people (staff and students alike) who were always willing to help/listen and up for a laugh too!

What have you been doing since you graduated?

Building for the future!! I did my teacher training (Glasgow) and probation (Falkirk), then worked on local supply lists and as a receptionist until I secured a permanent teaching post just up the road at Kinlochleven High School. Alongside this, buying a house, getting married and now expecting a baby, it's been a busy few years!

Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped or hindered you in your career?

Studying at SAMS has given me valuable experience and contacts as a teacher, who I know I can always come back to if I need advice or want a visiting expert for my pupils. Also, having a degree in an applied science like this means that I have real world context to back up the theory that I teach everyday which really enriches my students’ experience in school. I had lots of opportunities whilst at SAMS to do outreach work and develop links as a STEM ambassador in the local community and this has been a great addition to my teaching experience when applying for jobs and training opportunities.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

Enjoy being a student while you can! Most importantly, make the most of the opportunities you have whilst studying at SAMS, there is nowhere else you would be able to get involved in the "real" science as it is happening and work alongside the people making those cutting –edge discoveries on daily basis. The lecturers and other staff at SAMS are the best in terms of making themselves available to you, as long as you graft in return and make it worthwhile them passing on their knowledge and skills. Taking on voluntary work and internships in your holidays may seem like a big commitment, but it all stacks up in terms of skills and experience which no-one else will have and you will learn so much, not to mention making friends and contact networks that you will carry through into your professional career. Even if you realise that life as a research scientist is not for you, there are so many different avenues which open up in front of you by spending time at SAMS, and there are people working there with such varied backgrounds, you are sure to find something to spark your interest!

Any other comment?

I was worried about going to university, having been out of formal education for a while and still also not classing as a "mature" student. The first year was tough, getting back into that academic frame of mind and my third year was completely on the blink because my dad was suffering from cancer, but the support of other students and the staff got me through it and I achieved so much better than I ever thought I would. Although I have done a lot of different things since leaving school, the people and memories that have really stuck are those I met and made at SAMS, from foraging and barbequing on the beach of an evening to taking CTD samples in the lashing rain on the boats and spending hours in front of the computer transcribing interviews for my dissertation. These are things I will carry with me forever, and on my wedding day it was close friends from SAMS who accompanied me down the aisle as bridesmaids/man. Every time I head down to Dunstaffnage for a walk or to take pupils to an open day, my heart leaps and its so exciting to catch up with old friends and see the new intakes of students. As a teacher it is amazing to have these experiences to share with pupils, whether they are interested in marine science or university or simply looking for some adventure – the perfect way to inspire the next generation of scientists!

2010 graduate Karl Attard from Malta is now a research scientist in DenmarkKarl graduated in 2010 with a BSc (Hons) Marine Biology.

Why did you choose to come from your native Malta to SAMS and UHI for your degree?

At the time of my applying (2006) SAMS was one of the very few institutions in the UK that offered a degree in marine sciences that was truly multidisciplinary. The broad curriculum appealed to me. Other reasons include the class sizes, location, research facilities and fieldwork, individual mentoring, and the possibility to pursue courses in scientific diving and boat handling.

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

I've always had an interest in all things marine but my time at SAMS really transformed my perception of the ocean. For the first time I could envision a career in marine science. As undergrads we got to hang out with PhD students and Postdocs and even on occasion lecturers and scientists. Apart from the content of the course itself - which was excellent - we also learned about what doing postgraduate research might be like and what qualities and levels of dedication and persistence might be required to be a successful young scientist.

The mentoring program was an important feature that I am really grateful to have experienced. Whilst some students seem to transition seamlessly into university life and achieve high grades from the get-go, others may require more time to get into gear. I was part of the latter group. My mentor really helped me turn things around; he was an excellent scientist and outstanding lecturer whom I looked up to with admiration. Studying at SAMS felt more tailored to my interests and capabilities in ways that I hadn't previously experienced in education. 

On the social side of things I really enjoyed living in Oban. Yes, connections to major cities were not brilliant and, yes, I did on occasion go on holiday to remind myself of what a warm sunny climate feels like - but I also made sure to take in much of the amazingness that the west coast has to offer. It takes only a few like-minded people to come together and have a good time, whether it's having a BBQ outside whilst watching an incredible sunset, walking up a hill or snorkelling around the peninsula. SAMS seems to attract the outdoorsy types which sits very well with me. My peers always were up for doing the sort of stuff that I wanted to do and these experiences broadened skills and interests and forged strong relationships among many of us. 

What have you been doing since graduating?

After graduating from SAMS in 2010 I moved to Denmark to pursue a combined M.Sc./Ph.D. in biogeochemistry, an interest I had developed during my last years at SAMS. This was a good move for me: the research group in Denmark was well known and well-funded, and I found within my supervisor a new mentor who was keen to see me develop and progress scientifically and personally. The four years that followed were challenging yet fulfilling and full of adventure. I lived and worked in Greenland, joined a scientific expedition on an icebreaker to the North Pole, and deployed instruments using a remotely operated vehicle to study biogeochemical processes on cold-water coral reefs at several hundred metres water depth. After graduation in 2015 I stayed on as a Postdoctoral researcher within the same group, conducting further research into biogeochemical functioning around Greenland, the UK, and in the Mediterranean Sea. Much of this work focused on quantifying fluxes of oxygen to investigate seafloor primary productivity and carbon cycling. In recent years there has been an emerging field in marine science that seeks to link biodiversity to biogeochemical cycles. Armed with the right tools and experience to investigate biogeochemical functioning in many different habitat types, I partnered up with biodiversity experts in Finland and I submitted a proposal to a private foundation to pursue some of these questions. The project was granted funding and I have since February 2016 been employed as a Postdoctoral researcher between universities in Denmark and Finland.

Currently my ambitions are to stay within science and to set up my own research group within the next five years.

Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped or hindered you in your career?

SAMS provided a platform for a broad education in marine sciences and a variety of opportunities for interacting with staff and students and for experiencing research first-hand. The degree went beyond academia. Skills and certifications that I obtained during this time such as scientific diving and boat handling form an integral part of my ongoing research projects.

Some may find the generic nature of the programme unappealing: by the end of the four years one could argue that you are neither a physicist nor a biologist, chemist or geologist, but rather some ambiguous combination of all four. I disagree with this sentiment on the basis that students can and should if possible pursue extracurricular summer projects to gain work experience in a laboratory. It is especially useful within a research career objective to attract funding for conducting independent projects already at this stage. Attaining competitive-based undergraduate bursaries such as those offered by the Nuffield Foundation and the British Ecological Society shows determination and interest and is likely to be a key factor distinguishing you from others when applying for postgraduate studies.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

Perhaps the most important decision as an undergrad is selecting a research group in which to conduct your thesis project. When making this decision I would recommend placing more weight on the supervisor and the group itself, rather than the specifics of the proposed project. If the first project goes well, chances are you will be entrusted with larger and more ambitious projects (think MSc or PhD). The foundation of a successful relationship with a supervisor is trust and dependability. Working with pride on whatever is in front of you will make you a valuable member of the team.

When picking a supervisor, select someone who is an excellent scientist but also one who is dedicated to their students’ needs, willing to provide guidance and advice and one who makes time for their students. A good supervisor should be capable of attracting research funding and publishing research on a regular and consistent basis, especially with their own students.

Photo of SAMS graduate Jessica Gianotti, who is now an entrepreneur fashion designerrJessica graduated in 2013 with a BSc (Hons) Marine Science

Why did  you choose to come to SAMS and UHI for your degree?

I came to SAMS as a mature student to fulfil a childhood dream after two successful careers spanning over 15 years in Venezuela, Spain and Germany working with sport horses and at the market research department of a management consulting company in Berlin.

My true love as a child was the sea and the natural environment. The Caribbean Sea in Venezuela is majestic, as a child I used to be fascinated by crabs and other marine life especially those living in the mangroves and rocky shores. When I was five years old, my grandparents gave me a gift that changed my life forever: a collection of books by Jacques Cousteau. From then on I just wanted to be a zoologist or a marine biologist.

After thinking for a while about happiness and the meaning of life, I decided to go back to university and pursue those childhood dreams. I couldn’t find anything close enough to what I wanted in Berlin. Then love happened. I met my future husband and moved to Scotland to the Isle of Skye in February 2005. After finding out about UHI through him, I thought it could be a perfect new start. We stayed at the student accommodation at UHI-Sabhal Mòr Ostaig where he was doing a degree in Gaelic and Culture Studies. My first impression of UHI was great. I felt welcomed and at home immediately. The sense of community and kindness, their unique culture and the interesting life students had was all very inspiring. The love and curiosity for the oceans resurfaced and was stronger than ever. Skye has a stunning coastline, always changing. 

Looking at the UHI brochure at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, I saw marine science as an option. I felt a stone in my stomach - I couldn't believe it! For the first time in a long while, I felt a sparkle of hope inside. Then I noticed that it was not like the other courses, I would have to move to Argyll. This course required you to be present, and it was not possible to do it via distance learning (of course not, now I understand why). Since I had just arrived, I didn't want to leave my husband so soon. We decided to go for Environment and Heritage Studies via distance learning instead at Inverness College UHI. I enjoyed the course the first year - it was fascinating and covered a broad range of subjects from soil science to the Highland clearances. There was a lot about environmentalism and archaeology. It gave me a good foundation, a sense of place and the opportunity to practise my English and study in a foreign language. Something inside me though missed doing more science and work with the oceans. After the first year, I spoke with Andreas about my dream to study marine science. 

We decided to go for it. I called SAMS and had a phone interview with Dr John Howe (geologist and course leader). Later I was offered an interview in person, so I went to SAMS and immediately fell in love with the place. It was amazing: modern state-of-the-art premises close to beautiful beaches and an estuary with a marina. There was even a castle in the back yard! I felt like I was in a movie or dreaming. People were friendly and enthusiastic, and I could sense all possibilities. I remember doing the tour inside the lab with all different departments and laboratories for studying various areas of the marine environment and its systems. I found my 'tribe'; I wanted to be there and be part of that family and learn as much as possible about the oceans. It was one of the most exciting days in my life. I had an interview with Professor Keith Davidson. I was so nervous, details are all in a blur, but the outcome was good. I was offered a place! I went back to Skye and couldn't sleep properly for three days. I was so happy planning my new future. 

I chose the BSc (Hons) Marine Science at SAMS-UHI for the following reason: the interdisciplinary nature of the course. This was very exciting for me and made this course stand out from other courses that would focus mainly on one area of research such as marine biology, oceanography and so on. This holistic approach was more interesting, more current and offered more career possibilities as well as a deeper understanding of the oceans as interconnected systems. 

The course structure was ideal starting with a strong initial foundation in the basic sciences needed, followed by modules that covered all the main research themes and the elective modules and final dissertation with a more complex content derived from current and innovative research concepts. This course offered an intimate atmosphere with relatively small class numbers and direct access to world-class researchers and very friendly staff. 

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

My time as a student at SAMS marked a new start, a change of career closer to my dreams but I also found a new home here in Argyll and new friends for life.

SAMS gives you everything you need to succeed, but you are also expected to put hard work and dedication in to make the most of it. You are assigned a dedicated student advisor throughout the years to help you and guide you with your modules choices, personal issues or anything that is brought to their attention. This relationship was very important and helped me stay on track.

SAMS is a nurturing place where everyone is compassionate and keen for you to succeed. Sadly I struggled with illness throughout my studies at SAMS. It took me longer to graduate, and it was extremely hard at times. Everyone supported me, went the extra mile and helped me through this difficult time. It was a transforming experience, I graduated and will always be very grateful to my student advisor, all teaching staff, and friends for their kindness. It was an incredible effort, and I wasn't alone. SAMS professionalism and dedication to its students allowed me to complete my studies. SAMS staff were very helpful and accommodating without compromising their expectations of high-quality work and fairness to all students.

The course covered all key subjects in marine science, and it was challenging, intense and very rewarding. The calibre of the course content, teaching staff and premises are world-class, and I would argue among the best in the world. It was such a privilege to have had this opportunity. Studying at SAMS formed me and added complexity and values to my life, expanded my horizons. We had incredible opportunities to do field-work in unique marine environments considered natural laboratories such as Loch Etive and Loch Creran. Field work also took us to the rocky shores and we had the opportunity to go on cruises and work with researchers. Some students even went to the Arctic! Classes were small and therefore the learning environment was intimate, and you mattered as an individual.

Living and studying near Oban is just great. So much so that I stayed and my husband is here with me. As a mature student I was in a minority but despite that, I had a great time and made lots of friends for life. Oban is an ideal place to come to study: the stunning and varied natural environment is at your doorstep. You can go hillwalking, sailing, diving, kayaking, wildlife watching, skiing, kite surfing and so much more! I enjoyed diving, hillwalking, horse riding and practicing wildlife photography among others. Sailing is my next dream...

Oban is also the gate to the beautiful islands and the rest of the west coast. The town is small but vibrant and has all amenities needed for a good life. Here you will be able to enjoy good pubs, an emerging local music scene, arts and culture including a fascinating history and Scottish Gaelic. The bonus is that people will always visit you as Oban is a desired tourist destination, ideal for part-time jobs during the season.

What have you been doing since graduating? 

After graduating, I set up my own company, Crubag, to communicate marine science through textiles.

At Crubag, we create designs and patterns inspired by marine research and the oceans and print them into textiles.

We use a combination of drawings, research pictures such as images taken through microscopes or by remotely operated vehicles, also scientific research data and patterns from the oceans. 

The idea is to make beautiful items that convey how beautiful and amazing our oceans are while keeping the integrity of the research presented. Crùbag believes marine science is beautiful. By using the evocative power of design, Crùbag creates luxury scarves and stunning textiles that are inspired by the beauty and hidden secrets of the oceans. Each piece tells a story about the oceans, cutting-edge research, and current environmental issues. Our work is based on collaborations with marine scientists and institutions. We tell the story behind the designs through exciting marine science outreach content. At Crùbag, it is our mission to show the tiny windows of wonder that scientists are opening, and share the passion and love we have for the sea.

I created my own job! All is possible. Find out more at crubag.co.uk or follow us on twitter @crubag.

And it all started while I was a student at SAMS. A few years ago I was sitting in Oban having something to drink with a friend. In just a moment we saw at least five people wearing scarves with butterflies. I like butterflies but also wondered, what about all the beautiful, amazing and interesting things that are hidden in our oceans? Why do we rarely see these in fashion? Then it hit me! We tend to love and care about the things we know and see. I realised that as a marine science student l had the rare privilege to see specimens, images, and data and learn first hand about cutting-edge research. The information and imagery produced by research were so interesting and beautiful; images taken with the microscope at the lab or the deep-sea floor were all so inspiring! My imagination was overwhelmed, I started seeing images, designs and colours everywhere in my mind during lab work or at the beach. Even at night...

The desire to share this unique world with people was growing stronger each day to the point that I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. It became my mission to show some of these secret tiny windows of wonders that scientists open. I had the desire to communicate this passion and love for marine research and canalise the constant stream of inspiration by using textiles as a medium. I chose textiles since I felt it was something that connects us to our senses and emotions, and I always loved textiles.  

Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped or hindered you in your career?

The benefits of studying at SAMS were already showing when I was a student. During my third year and final year, I had a part-time job in the aquaculture industry as a husbandry worker at a salmon farm nearby. Having basic knowledge of fish biology and health as well as estuarine systems helped me secure the job. A powerboat II certificate from SAMS gave an additional advantage and was used as the entry point to get further certifications for the job.

My current career path is built upon the skills and knowledge I gained at SAMS. I decided to communicate marine science as a textile designer after graduating. I am just starting out and still learning every day, but SAMS gave me a good foundation. The interdisciplinary nature of the course was crucial. I was always a generalist regarding the marine environment which fits me now very well. From SAMS I gained a general knowledge about the marine environment across disciplines which I use now to do my work properly. I need to identify potential projects, unique opportunities and be informed about what is happening in the world of ocean sciences. I establish collaborations with scientists; I need to understand their language, read their scientific papers and understand their research. I also have to interpret research projects into design and science outreach content. I have to feel comfortable in this world. SAMS prepared me exactly for that. 

The interdisciplinary structure of the course at SAMS also taught me not to be afraid of the unknown and to transfer skills laterally; to connect the dots and see patterns at the interception between disciplines, right there within the “connective tissue.” The course gave me the confidence to pursue an idea further and explore what is possible. This course taught me to embrace the interconnection of the oceans and made it easier to for me to work at the interface. I took interdisciplinary work to a whole new level! This so far has resulted in innovation and an immense potential for growth at the interface of science, fashion, and design.  

I had no idea about fashion, textiles or textile design and printing so I spent several months and still do immersing myself in the industry, finding and working with mentors, doing courses, learning, visiting museums and institutions and testing some ideas. It’s like doing a second degree on you own time. I was selected to do a course in entrepreneurship at Stirling University with two great professors from MIT and Harvard, and now I am doing a distance learning course on managing luxury brands with Bocconi University.

Doing marine science at SAMS gave me key skills I use now to learn new subjects and advance my professional development in a new industry that I was not familiar with. Once you learn how to learn you can apply this over and over in your life. The course at SAMS teaches you how to think creatively and how to learn. It is up to us to apply this knowledge.

Having a network is very important too. I met many researchers and got to know various institutions during my time as a student and started building a network from the beginning. This is now very helpful for my work, it helped establish fruitful collaborations, and it is very satisfying too since many of these contacts are now my friends and mentors.  

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

Marine science can offer you many career possibilities in various sectors such as academic and research, education, industry, communication and even in the creative industries. Each path may need a tailored approach and further education such as a PhD, a Master or further training.

Identify your strengths, your skills, and your gaps in knowledge and start mapping your path. Be alert, flexible and open minded to adapt and to see opportunities that you were not expecting. Whatever you chose just do it, go for it and be prepared to continue learning all the time. Also, stay current and immerse yourself in the subjects and the world of the career you are pursuing. Visit trade events, conferences and find out who are the leaders and innovators and stay informed about institutions and research on your relevant subjects. 

Find good mentors and be grateful to them. It is a special privilege to have a mentor. The most exciting summer projects I had happened because I made some phone calls. The worst that can happen is a no. If you are interested in a job, a project or want to create your own path, do some research and make some phone calls. Don't hold back and be constant and tenacious. Stay in touch and keep a good record of your contacts.

Experiences gained from working in research projects at SAMS and/or other institutions and/or countries during your studies can help you shape your career or at least give you invaluable insight into potential areas of interest.

Any other comments?

The best place to study marine science is SAMS. It will give you skills and knowledge and will shape you as a person. Here you matter as an individual. I chose modules that gave me a wide range of skills and deeper knowledge about the marine environment. 

After SAMS you will be well prepared, you will have accumulated unique experiences, will have new friends and you will be ready for your next step. You will have a differentiating advantage that could help you build a rewarding professional life. 

Photo of 2012 graduate Lewis Miller who has since become a medical doctorLewis graduated in 2011 with a BSc (Hons) Marine Science

Why did you choose to come to SAMS and UHI for your degree?

I chose SAMS for a couple of reasons: I have always been an outoorsy person, amongst my interest in natural sciences. I was first made aware of the course when I was grabbed by Linda Robb (the then course leader) at a careers fair in Glenrothes. The small class size (in my year we were only seven people) and good amount of outdoors practical work and the unique setting was what sold it for me. 

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

The opportunities I got at SAMS were brilliant: I got a Nuffield Bursary to do a research project and I was able to go on a research cruise on RSS Discovery. The ability to work closely with the research staff and form really good working relationships was key to me getting such a good experience from it. 

Lasting impression of Oban? Markie Dans, live music and amazing sunsets. The times we had at SAMS will stay with me forever. Some of the best nights of my life.

What have you been doing since graduating? 

Despite the great time and my enduring interest in marine science I changed my career path and went on to study medicine at the University of Glasgow, using my first class honours from SAMS as my entrance qualification. I spent five years studying there and graduated in June 2016 to take up a foundation year job in Edinburgh and Fife. My current rotation is at The Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh in Paediatric Surgery. The decision to change careers was one of the best I've ever made and I wouldn't look back.

Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped or hindered you in your career?

It taught me to work well with professionals as part of my student life and hence I feel I had a headstart on many other students who didn't get that exposure. I also feel that the superior quality of research, and the teaching given on research and presenting has been invaluable. The emphasis on communication skills at SAMS very much gave me a headstart in medicine and the skills learnt are applicable to many aspects of life.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

Take every opportunity you can, and don't panic if you don't know what it is you want to do because there is always time to change your mind ... and change it again. Just so long as when you decide, that you work hard and push yourself to achieve. If you don't know what it is you want to do, that's ok... but apply yourself to opportunities that give you transferable skills. It doesn't matter so much what you do as how you justify it to improve your employability.

Photo showing a smiling Dr Jordan Grigor wearing a hard hatJordan graduated in 2010 with a BSc (Hons) Marine Science with Arctic Studies

Why did you choose to come to SAMS and UHI for your degree?

I wanted to do Marine Science and couldn’t think of a better place to do it. SAMS is right on the edge of Loch Etive, giving students access to some of the most beautiful landscapes and coolest ecosystems on their doorstep.

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

Being a student at SAMS was a lifechanging experience for me. The course taught me an endless number of skills in every field of marine science. I especially enjoyed learning how to sail a powerboat, go diving, and analyse animals in the lab. I really liked Oban too, meeting many interesting people through SAMS, and through my part time job at the COOP...

SAMS gave me the opportunity to go to Svalbard and study at UNIS during my third year of my bachelor, and I have been an Arctic scientist ever since.

What have you been doing since you graduated?

A lot! From 2010-2011, I did my MSc. In Climate Change: Impacts and Mitigation at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. It was a taught master in everything you ever wanted to know about climate change, with a project component in the summer. For the project, I returned to Svalbard to work on copepod life history strategies with my BSc. supervisor. I went on another two cruises sampling pelagic animals, before moving to Quebec City, Canada to do my PhD on the Arctic ecology of another type of zooplankton, the arrow worms. From February 2012 to March 2017, I worked very hard on my PhD topic, made trips to Alaska and the Canadian Arctic, and got the chance to present at international and national conferences. I have published two papers on the ecology of Arctic chaetognaths, and another two are being prepared for publication.

Since September 2016, I have been living and working in Nashville, USA. I am an instructor at Vanderbilt University, teaching science programs to talented high school students. I really enjoy this job as we get to do really cool projects with 100 students. Some of the projects I have running include a stream invertebrate phenology project (see pic) and another to develop a phone app for identifying zooplankton. On Saturday, I will be on a panel talking about climate change in Tennessee. None of this would be possible without the education provided by SAMS.

Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped or hindered you in your career?

The impact has been clear. Without the opportunity to study in Svalbard, I probably wouldn’t be working in Arctic science now. In addition, thanks to SAMS, I entered into my master and PhD studies with a range of lab and field skills, and that helped me to become autonomous in grad school.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

Work hard, and don’t miss great opportunities when they arise. I required funding to go to Svalbard, but received a couple of bursaries and that helped a lot.

Any other comment?

Another great thing about SAMS is the small class sizes. My year started with about 12 students, and graduated with 3!! Incidentally, all three of us have lived and worked in the Arctic. The small class sizes meant that the teachers could give each student more support than I imagine they might receive at a larger university.

Ander during his graduation in 2007 with his parentsAnder graduated in 2007 with a BSc (Hons) Marine Science

Why did you choose to come to SAMS and UHI for your degree?

I had been living in Scotland for about 6 months prior to applying to study at SAMS/UHI. My main reason for coming to Scotland was to learn English, but as my fondness for Edinburgh and Scotland grew I enrolled to study a HNC in computing. Cutting a long story short, this gave me enough time to decide to enroll at a university in Scotland to further my education.

When I started to look for degrees that interested me, I came across the UHI degrees and two in particular caught my attention: BSc Forestry Science (or I think that was the name back then) at Inverness College and BSc Marine Science at SAMS. My love of the sea and the natural beauty of the setting where SAMS was set, quickly tipped the balance towards wanting to study the Marine Science degree. My interest for this degree grew even more after my interview and meetings – with the very enthusiastic lecturers at SAMS (Anuschka, Axel and John), who gave me a tour of the facilities, with which I was impressed (even though the new building was nowhere near completion at that stage or the new lecturing facilities). Once I was offered the placement it took me seconds to decide that I was going to study Marine Science at SAMS. In addition, I had heard of Oban before, my father lived there for a while for work reasons, and I always wanted visit that place to check out all the stories that he used to tell me.

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

I loved it. Despite having studied further after SAMS, the memories I gathered there are among my favourites from my student years. The SAMS community was great! You could be in the pub and end up chatting to some of your lecturers. In addition you could get to know the students from every year thanks to the small numbers per class. This is great as you get to hear the experiences from the more advanced students. You can also see first-hand what a research institution is all about and get hands on experience if you are willing to help the many PhD students with their field work, which is something you don’t get at a lot of universities.

Regarding the lecturing material: well I must say that after having studied further, I think that the quality of what was taught in undergraduate was impressive, and I believe that it really prepared me for and helped me in my future endeavours. In addition, the enthusiasm of the lecturers was contagious, and one didn’t know if s/he wanted to specialise in biology, geology, chemistry or physics in the 3rd and 4th years of the degree.  The field trips were great as well, including being out in the research vessels. The facilities are really top notch.

In addition, Oban and its surroundings are beautiful, and yes, you won’t be getting a large university/large city experience, but you will get many things that many people at larger universities wish they could get.

What have you been doing since graduating? 

Lots of things! After SAMS I moved to Edinburgh to do a MSc at Heriot-Watt University and from there I moved to South Africa to do a Ph.D. with a former lecturer from SAMS. In total I spent 8 years in South Africa, in that time I completed my Ph.D., I lived in Durban and Cape Town, lectured part time at two universities in the Western Cape, did two post-docs and some consultancy work and got married to a South African. Got to go out to sea and dive a lot as well. I also managed a fair amount of travelling during this time for work (conferences etc.) and leisure.

More recently, I moved to France for work, however, this was a very short spell (8 months) as my wife and I are now in the process of moving to the Seychelles were we have both been offered Senior Lecturer positions at their new university (University of Seychelles). And once again to show how many opportunities SAMS can provide, I am hoping to do collaborative research with people from SAMS once settled in the Seychelles.

Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped or hindered you in your career?

I think that SAMS prepared us to an excellent level, in particular with regards to the extensive curricula we were presented with.

For instance, most of my experience has been focused on biologically related work. However, back then, and probably even more now, SAMS education was so multidisciplinary that it allowed me to gain knowledge in many scientific disciplines related to the marine environment, which I have then been able to use years later. For instance, during my Ph.D. I did apply some of the knowledge gained during my geology lectures to the work I was doing. This reached its pinnacle when after my Ph.D. I did a 2.5 year post-doc in marine geochemistry, all thanks to the things I learned at SAMS. I believe that people that have not been exposed to such a multidisciplinary approach would have struggled quite a bit to make this transition. However, I am now back doing biological research, and more specifically aquaculture, where I hope that all that I learnt with Maeve Kelly (SAMS) will help me to find my bearings at the beginning.

The other big benefit I found from SAMS was hands-on practical training from researchers in a variety of disciplines. A lot of universities only offer smaller practical components. SAMS, while maintaining excellent academic standards for theory work, also provides the opportunity because of its facilities, staffing and location to give a lot of hands-on experience which is valuable in everything from research and consulting to being a field technician.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

Do not despair, things are a bit tougher now than they were before the 2008 crisis, but with perseverance, determination and hard work you will manage to make it through. The best advice I can offer is try to find something that sets your CV apart and focus on strengthening this, while at the same time maintaining diversity of skills and projects. Applied fields leave you with more career options than just research so don’t lose sight of that.

I think that if you choose SAMS and Oban to get you through your first degree, you will not be disappointed of the choice you have taken.

Selected career paths of our postgraduate research students

Image of SAMS PhD graduate and now senior lecturer at SAMSBhavani graduated in 2001 with a PhD in deep-sea ecology

Why did you choose to come to SAMS for your PhD?

I wanted to do a PhD on the deep sea and this one came up at the right time. I was probably one of the first students at SAMS to be industry funded. I was extremely fortunate to study with two of the greatest deep-sea ecologists of their time, Professors John Gage (SAMS) and Paul Tyler (University of Southampton). 

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

Fantastic place to study and to live...

What have you been doing since graduating? 

Initially I worked for a company called SEAS Ltd. looking at samples from around fish farms. Then I undertook a post-doc investigating the fauna from the Faroe-Shetland Channel.

This was followed by a PEET - Fellowship at the University of Massachusetts in conjunction with colleagues at ENSR based in Woods Hole.

I then became the project coordinator for the European Census of Marine Life Programme which was linked to the international decade long programme, the Census of Marine Life. A fantastic experience working with researchers from across Europe/the world and in many different disciplines.

I am now a senior lecturer in deep-sea ecosystems as well as the Head of the SAMS Graduate School.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

Be prepared to take risks and be willing to follow different paths in your career. Your end career goal may not be reached in a traditional manner, but you can still achieve your objectives. 

Any other comments?

For postgraduate students thinking about coming to SAMS – do so. It is a fantastic place to undertake your PhD being surrounded by colleagues and students who are interested in what you are doing. Remember to work hard and play hard! 

PhD graduate 1999 now director of business development for SAICJason graduated in 1999 with a PhD in geochemistry.

Why did you choose to come to SAMS for your PhD?

The honest truth is that my PhD supervisor (Graham Shimmield) relocated from Edinburgh to take up the SAMS directorship and what's a guy supposed to do?!!! 

However, having left the big city lights, it was clearly evident to me that SAMS was undergoing a huge transformation, from a respected learned institution to a major international player in the marine sciences, with activities building upon a core of academic excellence and extending into both training and education and onwards into the commercial domain.

What is your lasting impression of studying at SAMS and in Oban?

Very happy memories of my time at SAMS, great friends, great location and a first class opportunity.  World class facilities in a unique location with staff who are passionate about what they do.

What have you been doing since graduating? 

Great question…. Life's rich tapestry, with a meandering path of opportunity. After a spell working at SAMS in Knowledge Transfer and developing the commercial side of SRSL and the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology, I joined Aquapharm BioDiscovery as business development and operations director in what essentially was a marine bioprospecting company searching for new classes of antibiotics and nutri/cosmeceuticals from the marine environment. I then moved to Canada and led the bioscience file (health from the land and sea) on behalf of the Province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) and then joined Novartis Animal Health and oversaw their manufacturing and R&D activities on PEI (Global aquaculture vaccine facility) with 125 staff across four facilities.  In 2015 I returned to Scotland and now have the role of business development and operations director at the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre.

Comparing yourself to others in the job market, how has what you have learnt at SAMS helped you or hindered you in your career?

Considering that I had a mid-way PhD crisis and almost left for a role at BP-Norge, I am now thankful for the advice received at the time which suggested that "whilst it might be painful now, your PhD will come into its own in 10 years time" - no truer word has been said. Having the PhD, combined with an MBA, has opened several doors and opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.

Do you have a message for students preparing to enter professional life?

There's a myriad of opportunities out there. Explore beyond the traditional and chase down those that really engage your mind and align with your passion.  Then you never have to 'work' a day in your life... Employers want to see candidates with enthusiasm and drive, so use your networks and go find that next big opportunity.

Let's Be Friends...

Get all our latest news via our social media channels