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What did we learn from our “Biology and Business” panel? | Careers in the Life Science Industry

uczjsdd17 March 2020

Do you want to use your scientific knowledge and interest in business to help commercialise new discoveries? Well, you really should have come to our Biology and Business event on Monday night, shouldn’t you? Don’t worry though, if you couldn’t make it along, we’ve collected together the key take-home points below.

Who were the speakers?

Matt Aldridge, a trainee patent attorney at Kilburn & Strode LLP, where he works at the interface between science and law. Matt has a biochemistry degree from UCL, and an MSc in cellular therapy from bench to market from KCL. Matt spent a year working in a lab-based role before moving into patent law.

John Cassidy, an investment associate at Arix Bioscience, a Biotech-focused venture capital group based in London and New York. John has a neuroscience PhD from UCL, and experience in life science consulting.

Mikhaila Chowdhury, a brand manager at GSK consumer healthcare, where she focuses on digital marketing across oral care and wellness products. Mikhaila has a clinical background in dentistry, completing vocational training at UCL’s Eastman dental institute. After leaving dentistry, she studied a masters in international health management at Imperial, then went through the Future Leaders Program at GSK.

Ismael Gauci, a senior consultant at Deloitte, where he helps clients solve problems across R&D and clinical operations. Ismael has a PhD in cardiovascular science, and before joining Deloitte, he worked at Deallus, a smaller life-science-focused consultancy.

Rachel Greig, a medical science liaison at Incyte, a biotech company, where she focuses on the clinical development of treatments in haematology and oncology. Rachel has a PhD in immunology, and experience in policy work in the charity sector, and in public affairs at the pharmaceutical company Lilly.

And Ella Nuttall, a manager in KPMG’s healthcare and life sciences division. Ella took up an internship at the Wellcome Trust during her Psychology undergraduate, then after completing her MSc in health psychology at UCL, she worked as a health psychology specialist for Lucid, a medical communications agency, before joining KPMG.

What do people like about combining life science with business?

The panel all agreed that the best things include working at the cutting-edge of science, and having access to people who are leaders in their field. For instance, Ella mentioned recent trips she’d taken across the world – notably to Japan – to speak with scientific experts to inform her consultancy.

Some pros were particular to certain sectors. Matt enjoys playing with language and arguing a point, and his role in trying to prove a new invention is original allows him to do that. Mikhaila enjoys the creativity involved in her marketing role. Rachel enjoys the variety that her role brings, as she finds herself visiting different hospitals and interacting with different experts each day. And Ismael and Ella both enjoy the problem solving aspect of consultancy.

Panellists also spoke about the added dimension of having to think commercially, not only scientifically, as appealing to them. Mikhaila and Rachel see the movement between roles and divisions that is possible within large pharmaceutical companies as a benefit – once you get in, you can try new things.

What are the downsides?

The downsides varied depending on the role. The working hours were mentioned as a potential downside of consultancy by Ismael and Ella, and John also commented on this from his past consultancy experience. Ella emphasised that considering what work-life balance means to you is important, but she and Ismael both enjoy the exciting projects they work on, which keep them engaged during potentially long hours.

Something John misses from consultancy is the teamwork and the structured development. Venture capital involves a lot more independence and lone working, and individuals must take more responsibility for their own development, which can be a challenge.

As a Medical Science Liaison, Rachel enjoys her frequent travel to different hospitals, however, she is London based, and so her travel is often simply a normal London commute. She noted that colleagues based outside of London who cover wide territories may spend hours in the car to visit hospital sites, which suits some people, but not everyone.

Matt is early in his training as patent lawyer, but he mentioned encountering more resistance to patent applications than he expected. When you’ve argued a case and it gets rejected, that’s a low point of the role.

Will my PhD help me get in?

Three of our speakers had a PhD, and one speaker was a qualified dentist. So if you have a PhD or MD in the life science industry, clearly you won’t be the odd one out.

The general consensus from the panel was it’s not worth doing a PhD just to get into the Life Science industry. But if you already have one, PhDs were mentioned as advantageous in patent law and biotech venture capital especially, to the point where some organisations may demand them. John certainly thought that many employers who understand what a PhD involves will appreciate the transferable skills PhD graduates bring to roles.

Should I get a business qualification?

The panel agreed that if you want to take a business qualification for your own benefit – so you can decide if you enjoy business, or so you can feel more confident in interviews – then go for it. Matt enjoyed his science and business MSc, which he applied for through genuine interest. However, the panel all felt that most employers think it’s easier to teach a scientist the principles of business than the other way around, and so your science knowledge and experience is likely to be more valuable than a business qualification.

So what can I do to enhance my chances of getting in?

  • Accept that confusion and rejection are normal, and keep trying. Every speaker shared stories of being confused about what direction to take, and then of being rejected once they’d decided on a direction. These are completely normal parts of everyone’s careers, and the panel encouraged everyone to keep ploughing onwards. 
  • Sometimes you need to take a job you don’t want to get to the job you do want. Sometimes rejection indicates there’s a gap in your experience that needs to be filled. So just as Matt worked for a year in a lab to gain hands-on science experience so he could get into patent law, and just as Rachel worked in public affairs to gain pharma experience so she could transition into a medical science liaison role, sometimes you may have to take a role you don’t particularly want in the short term, so that you can achieve your longer term goals. John too mentioned that it wouldn’t generally be possible to enter venture capital directly from science, as some prior business experience – perhaps in consultancy – would also be expected. And Ella mentioned that if you find it hard to get into larger consultancies, or if you don’t want to enter at the graduate level, gaining other work experience first – like her experience in a medical communications company, and Ismael’s experience at a smaller consultancy – will help.
  • Get networking! Our speakers provided examples of just how crucial networking can be, as Ella found her first post-MSc job through speaking to an academic, and Rachel found her way into pharma through a contact she met at a conference. So attend relevant events, chat to people, and reach out to professionals on LinkedIn.

Check out the other events forming part of Careers in the Life Science Industry Week here.

Welcome to Careers in the Public Sector!

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Public Sector Month

Including: Government, HE, Policy and Professional bodies

Interested in a career within government? Want to utilise your research skills to support policy or create industry change? This month is a great opportunity for you to use your skills to make real change and support the development of research strategy in your interest areas. If you’re interested in facilitating research, creating policy change or working in Government, this month of events is for you!

Thinking about attending but not sure if it’s for you?

Come along if you want to learn more about the roles suited to researchers in government, or just hear from speakers with research and PhD backgrounds who have transitioned out of academia. Want to make a difference in national communities and support change in policy? or maybe you want to facilitate research and support researchers in getting funding, This month has tonnes of amazing opportunities for you to meet organisations and learn more about roles in the public sector.

If you want to transition out of academia but still support research, come along to our sessions and hear how this is possible with these careers. 

Here’s what’s coming up…
Check out the events coming up this month and learn more about this industry.


Careers in HE Funding & Professional Bodies Panel
Weds 18 March, 5.30-7.30pm

Want to stay in the academic environment but in a non-academic role?

How about supporting researchers with funding, or working within a professional body, overseeing research excellence. If you are considering a career outside of academia but still want to work with research, this may be the panel for you. Find out more about what a career in HE, Funding or within a professional body encompasses, the wide range of industries and specialisms this covers and gain tips on how to find a researcher role. 

Event postponed until further notice


Skills Beyond Academia – Leadership of Projects & People
Tues 24 March, 12.30-2pm

Want to learn more about leadership in a non-academic context and find out what skills it takes to be a great team or project leader?

This skills beyond academia session will allow you to practice a skill which is vital to the non-academic world. Come along and learn more about how to master leadership within a practical environment. This is a practical opportunity to gain experience of this skill with tips and guidance from an expert in people management. Improve your understanding of the management of projects and people whilst networking with an organisation which hires researchers.

Event postponed until further notice


Careers in Government & Policy Panel
Tues 31 March, 5.30-7.30pm

Interested in a career within government? Want to utilise your research skills to support policy making?

This forum will give you the opportunity to get an insight into the Government & Policy sector from PhD level speakers who have paved a career for themselves in this industry. Find out more about what a career in the government encompasses, the wide range of industries and specialisms this covers and gain tips on how to find a researcher role. This is a key opportunity to gain an insight into a career you may not have previously considered.

Event postponed until further notice


* Rescheduled from Communication & Research Month!

Careers in Social & Market Research Panel
Weds 1st April, 5.30-7.30pm

Want to carry on in research for a non-academic organisation? 

If you’re interested in staying in a research role which supports organisations to understand their audiences better or to be involved in producing social statistics which effect governmental change, this panel is for you! This forum will give you the opportunity to get an insight into the non-academic research sector from PhD level speakers who have paved a career for themselves in this industry. Find out more about what a career in social and market research encompasses, the wide range of industries and specialisms this covers and gain tips on how to find a researcher role.

Speakers include:
Piotrek Gierszewski: Senior Researcher – Nesta Challenges

Piotrek is a Senior Researcher passionate about the application of foresight and horizon scanning; exploring possible visions for the future, anticipating obstacles and enabling the desirable opportunities to happen. He currently works at Nesta, an independent innovation foundation, and has over ten years’ experience in research within academia, private and non-profit sectors.
Piotrek is responsible for researching social and environmental problems and identifying opportunities to tackle them as part of the Nesta Challenges team. They specialise in developing challenge-driven, open-innovation competitions that support communities of solvers and incentivise solutions to these problems. Since 2017, Piotrek has worked on topics ranging from emerging innovations in whale conservation and legal technologies, to scaling up access to nutrition and surgical services in low resource settings.

Event postponed until further notice


What else can you do to get career ready?

Alongside this, we have a team of careers consultants with research backgrounds who work closely with UCL’s researcher community and can provide support regardless of whether you’re looking to continue in academia or explore other options. Our “Researcher appointments” can be booked at any time through your myUCLCareers account and can be used to cover a range of queries from exploring options to getting support with applications/interview preparation. The careers consultants also run separate workshops covering a range of topics on academic and non-academic career routes for researchers.

Details of the full events summer programme can be found here

How Careers in the Life Science Industry Week 2020 can help researchers

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9th-12th March 2020

From the 9th March we’re hosting a week of daytime and evening events to help you explore careers in the Life Sciences. Here’s a rundown of the week and how it can help you.

What is the Life Science Industry?

The Life Science Industry encompasses anything that aligns with Life Sciences. So a huge range of opportunities fall under this umbrella, including roles in drug development, patenting, marketing, and selling new therapies, or communicating the latest developments in bioscience to policymakers, clinicians, and the public. We’ll kick off the week with a session at 12.30pm on Monday 9th March from CK Science, a science-focused recruitment agency, who will provide an overview of the Life Science Sector, and share the kinds of roles they help companies recruit for, including roles for undergraduates, masters grads, and PhD-holders.

Can I stay in the lab?

Yep! If you’ve enjoyed your laboratory experiences so far, come along to our “Roles in the lab” event at 6-8pm on Tuesday 10th March to hear from a panel of speakers who’ve built careers in labs within commercial companies and the public/university sector. In all of our panel events, speakers will describe their roles, share their career journeys so far, and offer top tips for progressing in similar careers. There will also be an opportunity to ask your own questions of the panel too.

Can I work with data?

Certainly! If it’s the increasingly large datasets emerging from the lab that interest you, join us at 6.30-8.00pm on Thursday 12th March for our “Data Science Careers” panel, where speakers from private, government, and university settings will talk about their roles, and offer tips on how to enter the field.

Can I work in the Life Science Sector, but leave the “doing science” bit to someone else?

You sure can! And we have four – yes, four! – events to show you possible ways to do it.

At 6-8pm on Monday 9th March we have our “Biology and Business” panel, where speakers will share how they use their scientific knowledge in a commercial context. You’ll hear from professionals working across life science consultancy, patent law, biotech investments, and on the business side of big pharmaceutical companies.

At 3-5pm on Wednesday 11th March we’re hosting a Strategy Consultancy Experiential Case Study Session, where Cambridge Healthcare Research will give you the chance to try out a consulting case study that reflects their daily work, and will be similar to the type of case you’ll face in the consulting application process.

At 6-8pm on Wednesday 11th March we’re running a “Life Science Communication and Policy Careers” panel, where you can hear from professionals communicating new scientific developments to a range of audiences, including policy makers and the public.

And at 12pm on Thursday 12th March a representative from the European Medical Writing Association will run an interactive workshop, providing a taste of life as a Medical Writer, and offering tips for improving your writing.

For another look at the full week’s schedule, visit the Careers in the Life Science Industry Week page.