Spotlight Series: Science Beyond Academia Nora McFadden – Science Procurement Manager, The Crick Institute

Nora’s career in science started with her undergraduate degree in medical microbiology at Warwick which she followed by jumping straight to a PhD at Imperial College.

After working as a post-doc she realised that she didn’t want to be a PI and couldn’t see a future for herself in lab-based academic research.

She moved initially to lab management at CRUK as the Crick was being developed and it was made clear to her that progression within her role would be possible. She became involved in procurement for the Institute as it was being built and works there currently, managing the purchasing of supplies and equipment for a large and complex institution.

Nora emphasises that science background is essential as she needs to understand the scientific context in order to effectively provide equipment and supplies as well as communicate effectively with researchers.

Her work is varied and requires very close attention to detail with lots of opportunity for project management. The skills of a researcher in managing, communicating and understanding data, problem solving, analysis, time management and being flexible and adaptable all come frequently into play. There are frequent opportunities to interact with the research the researchers and this kind of role can be great for those who don’t want to lose touch with science but do want to try a different profession.

The environment is often more formal than academic research. There are regular office hours and the culture is often more like that of a business than a university.

For those interested in applying for professional support roles within science, Nora recommends that you try to get some experience of and contact with people working in these roles and show your interest and willingness to get involved.

CVs and applications should be skills focussed and much less detailed than academic CVs as well as thoroughly tailored towards the role and institution you are applying for.

Professional Futures: Industry v. Academia – Comparing Research Opportunities, 9th November 2016

Our speaker was Dr Terry Parlett – Head of IP & Commercial Research at Guy’s and St. Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust. Terry’s PhD is in Immunology.

Terry completed his studies at King’s in 2004 and has since held professional roles in molecular biology, health innovation and delivering medical technology.

At present, he leads the development and commercialisation of NHS intellectual property assets to create new products and services for patients.

This involves both protecting the intellectual property generated by research in the NHS and setting up new ventures to exploit it commercially for the benefit of the Service.

Terry’s career has been varied. He decided that although he enjoyed academic science research he wanted more control over his professional life and wondered if he was likely to make a full career in this field. This helped him to decide to move outside academic research.

He began his current career while still writing his PhD, taking a job in media sales which led to working for a King’s College London spin-off company. The progression from there to his current role has been a series of natural developments, using his research and commercial skills.

Terry identifies several differences between academic research and his current role:

  • Team dynamics are different, being less collegiate and more shaply business focussed
  • He’s often asked to work outside your comfort zone and expected to respond professionally. Terry commented that he has come to enjoy this aspect of his work.
  • Terry says there are no typical days (which is an advantage) although his work now benefits from well worked out processes and systems which he has developed.

For this kind of career, Terry recommends gaining some experience through internships or work shadowing. It can be a real benefit if you have patents from your research already and a science background is essential to the job. Terry also emphasised the necessity of growing and maintaining a useful professional network.

Terry recommends:

  • You need to be resilient and flexible
  • Learn how to manage upwards with senior colleagues
  • Thoroughly understand the role and accept what comes along
  • Seek coaching and mentoring as soon as you can
  • Be confident in your skills and knowledge – Terry rejected several career possibilities before settling on his current path

 

Top tips for science careers from the Randall Division annual retreat

A guest post by Duvaraka Kulaveerasingam, PhD student, Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics.

For the first time, the Randall Division annual retreat at Royal Holloway featured an additional Careers Day exclusively for its postdoctorate, PhD and research staff.  It was a huge success.

Randall Division researchers at Royal Holloway

Randall Division researchers at Royal Holloway

The breadth of experience amongst our speakers was phenomenal and it was interesting to see the different paths they had taken to reach where they were today. It was encouraging to hear how they had overcome obstacles such as funding crises and relocations to achieve their goals. Here is some of the advice they gave:

 

 

  • All of our speakers stressed that you have to be able to sell yourself in any career
  • Network wherever you go – your contacts may one day find you a job as Roy Edward (Biostatus) found out when he was being made redundant
  • Make sure you are visible – whether it’s on LinkedIn or at a conference. Alison Care (Kilburn&Strode) let us know that she checks future employee’s Facebook pages too.
  • Pete Etchells (Guardian) told us to be patient with blogging; tweet, email and ask renowned bloggers to share or give feedback on your work, and practice writing all the time!
  • Never assume you aren’t right for the job – tell the employers what skills you are willing to learn. Arianne Heinrichs (Nature) described what she had to learn as a non-native english speaker during her career.
  • Turning down brilliant opportunities for personal reasons doesn’t mean the end, as Chas Bountra (SGC) and Peter O’Toole (University of York) found. They both ended up in their current positions thanks to these turning points.
  • Contact prospective employers and find out not only if you are right for the job, but if the company or the lab is right for you.
  • Keep your eyes open for internships opportunities. Aaron Goater (Westminster) stressed that some government departments have small teams with few roles so you need to check websites regularly.

If you are looking to organise a careers event don’t hesitate to contact our team to find out how we did it!

Photo courtesy Roksana Nikoopour

5 jobs you never knew existed: why working in publishing doesn’t mean you have to be an editor

This is the second of three posts from Future Science Group, helping you think about careers in publishing.

There are many jobs within scientific publishing, and while most exist within each individual publishing house, they often differ depending upon the publisher, with larger publishers having a wider variety of more niche roles. Here’s a snapshot of how a few of them work at my company, Future Science Group, but bear in mind that these roles will be slightly different elsewhere.

The Commissioning Editor: The Commissioning Editor is responsible for the content of the journal; they both actively commission content and handle unsolicited manuscripts, running all the content through peer review and ensuring it is of a sufficient quality to be accepted for publication. In this way they have a hands-on role in the direction of the journal, deciding on the focus of the content, special focus issues, etc. They are often the ‘face’ of the journal to outside contacts, especially authors and the Editorial Board. As such, excellent organization and networking skills are highly prized.

The Production Editor: The Production Editor takes the accepted manuscript from the Commissioning Editor, proofreads it, puts it into ‘house style’ (the format of the journal), and works with the author to sign-off its final published form. They also spend time taking authors’ Figures and turning them into works of art. The production department combines language, creative and scientific skills in order to do this.

The Digital Editor: With our increasing use of technology and new media, many publishing houses are investing in digital products. With us, it is community websites – websites focussing on a particular field such as oncology, which allow authors to network, discuss topics of interest, read journal content, etc. The Digital Editor’s main responsibility is to grow the numbers of site users, through quality of content and networking, which often involves conference attendance.

Marketing: The marketing department’s role is to develop innovative campaigns to communicate with all the customers of a publishing house, be they authors, potential advertisers, librarians, and so on. This commonly includes calls for papers sent to previous authors, email blasts updating our contacts of news, press releases concerning newsworthy content, etc.

Graphics & Design: Our graphics department is responsible for all the non-author-submitted graphics we release. This includes journal and book covers, logos, brochures, marketing email lay out – you name it! The team is also responsible for researching how figures should look, so scientific knowledge and a creative mind are essential.

These aren’t the only career tracks available. Here are a few links:

http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/publishing.htm

http://projectscientists.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/so-you-want-career-in-publishing.html

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2012/January/TheScienceOfPublishing.asp

Written by Francesca Lake, Future Science Group

Final Career Spotlight: Working in Science Industries

The final career spotlight of 2015 is next Wednesday, 29th April, 5.30-6.30pm, FWB1.71

It features three KCL alumni who work in different parts of scientific industries:

Rahul Dhorajiwala: Rahul studied a MSc in Pharmaceutical Technology at KCL.  He spent an early part of his career at GlaxoSmithkline working in the Inhalation Formulation Development department.  After a few years he made the transition into Project Management at IVAX (now Teva) and being responsible for the delivery of new project launches.  After working in a number of Project Management roles he is currently at Amdipharm Mercury as Head of Strategic Projects working in the Business Development department.

Lea-Rebecca Lahnstein: Lea has a PhD from KCL which researched the practices and governance of storing and sharing biological samples and data for the purpose of biomedical research. Through various internships in the UK and Germany, Lea worked for a biobank and now for GE Healthcare in Technology and Medical Solutions.   She has learnt not to be intimidated by changes in direction, discrepancies in knowledge and experience or institutional boundaries, because all of these are already intrinsic to the practices of the biosciences.

Hilary Sandig: Hilary is an immunologist with a PhD from Imperial College. Having worked as a postdoc at KCL on two occasions, at UCSD and at Manchester University she now works for the biologics company, Medimmune, in Cambridge. Medimmune is owned by AstraZeneca and Hilary has been working there for two years as a researcher in the Respiratory, Autoimmunity and Inflammation group.

Please come along to find out more about the transition into industry.