Why do a Masters in your 30s?

Tito Akindele is highly qualified. So why has he come back for more?

Open the door of a lecture theatre or laboratory full of students beginning a taught Masters course this month, and you might expect to find it predominantly populated by twentysomethings eager to build on the knowledge and experience gained from their first degree.

While that may still be true in the majority of cases, there are some striking exceptions to this stereotype. None more so than Tito Akindele, 38, who's among the 35 or so students a few weeks into their course leading to an MSc in cancer cell and molecular biology at the University of Leicester. The merest squint at Akindele's CV will show evidence of a PhD from Imperial University, four years' post-doctoral work in the field of organic chemistry in Japan, and a couple of spells working as an industrial chemist, for both Fuji and Pfizer, in the UK.

Part of the clue as to why this accomplished academic has chosen to take what appears to be several steps down the academic ladder lies in the fact that this course is, although described as a taught Masters, heavily weighted towards research.

"I quickly want to learn the basics of molecular biology and then apply it to research in a new field [cancer]," he explains. But, with his impressive academic and research track record, does he really need to go back to the classroom? The answer is yes, because there's very little overlap between the scientific areas he's inhabited for nearly two decades and the (more biological) areas where cancer research is based. He sees both an opening and a need for more academically-trained chemists to enter this field.

"At the moment in the UK, there aren't enough cancer scientists who have a chemistry background," he explains. "Most come from the life sciences rather than, like me, the physical sciences."

So, despite his experience, in these first few weeks he is regularly being taken out of his comfort zone. "It's challenging and stretching, but that's the point of doing it," he says. "I didn't want to take on something where I could have just read a book. Also, the lectures are more like seminars, delivered by professors going to the frontiers of their fields. They're all designed to gear you up to doing your own research and getting published in the cancer field."

There are five taught modules, covering the genetics, pathology and toxicology related to the development of cancer, plus sessions on research methods, and data analysis. Assess-ment is by written assignments and end-of-term exams.

"At the end of December we'll all be assigned to a research group or institute at the university," he explains. "From that point on, it will all get very research intensive."

Most of Akindele's fellow students on the course are a lot younger then than him, with about two thirds of them having done undergraduate degrees in the UK, and the rest coming from abroad. But he's not in the least bit uncomfortable sharing lecture rooms with students who are far less advanced on their education journeys. "I don't have a problem sitting down with people half my age, because they'll learn from me and I'll learn from them. Taking more exams doesn't bother me at all either, because the aim of exams is not to pass them and get a high mark – the aim is gaining knowledge." And as a former Leicester University student (Akindele graduated in chemistry in 2000), he gets a 10 per cent discount on the Masters fees of just under £5,000.

"To be honest though, if it was twice the price I would still do it," he laughs. "Because it's what I want to do."

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Teacher Required We are curr...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution