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

SophiaDonaldson17 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.

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

SophiaDonaldson2 March 2020

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.

A career in research management

SophiaDonaldson16 January 2020

Dr Robyn Parker has a PhD in Medieval History and now has two job titles! She works at UCL as a Public Policy Manager and as a Centre for Doctoral Training Manager. She took time out from her two jobs to have a word with us about her career.

Tell us what you’re up to now

My time is split between two roles. As Public Policy Manager I’m responsible for a year-long project based within the Bartlett Faculty Office 3 days a week, to create an engagement programme that amplifies and deepens the policy work of Bartlett academics. My other role for 2 days a week, which I was previously working in full-time, is managing a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in heritage science. When I first started the split allocation I tried to demarcate the two roles cleanly into separate days, but that just doesn’t work! Now I split time more flexibly between them over the entire week.

How did you get from your PhD to here?

Very circuitously and unexpectedly. When I was doing my PhD I only wanted to be an academic. My supervisor went on maternity leave in my final year, so I applied to cover her teaching. I’d taught all her courses already so I thought I’d at least get an interview. I didn’t, and I wasn’t sure what I’d done wrong and it really knocked my confidence. Looking back I can see I’d written a pretty rubbish application! At the time I didn’t fully understand the value of networking and publishing, so just concentrated on producing a really brilliant PhD.

After I finished I moved home and was pretty burnt out emotionally and stressed because of money, so money came first over academia. Off the back of teaching and student engagement I’d done during my PhD, I got my first role at Chevening, an international scholarship programme funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Making the move to a non-academic job was hard; I’d had this vision of being an academic and my future seemed tied up with that. I had planned to write post-doc applications and publish on the side but I wasn’t making an effort to do this on top of a full time job…

Six months into the job my mum took her own life and everything came to a head. I really needed a change of environment and since I was still considering academia I moved to UCL Laws doing PhD administration to be in a university setting. It was one of those jobs where you get there and think “What have I done? This isn’t advancing my career at all”. In hindsight it was exactly what I needed – a very supportive environment where I focused on both my own mental health and the mental health support and initiatives for PhD students.

During that time I had this slow rebuilding of who I felt I was, and what makes me happy and I realised academia might not be part of that anymore – it didn’t feel as important. My time outside of work has become super precious to me as has time with family and friends which I probably didn’t prioritise enough when I was doing my PhD, it was very all consuming for me.

After time and bereavement counselling, it’s been easier to think about my career and what it might be outside of academia. I got a secondment at UCL to manage a Centre for Doctoral Training in heritage science which I thought looked interesting and I was made permanent after the secondment finished. It was jumping in at the deep end to some complex financial and project management, and a steep learning curve!

After a couple of years I’d done a lot in the role to make it run smoothly, things were ticking over and I was wanting to do something less admin heavy. I went for the Public Policy Manager role because it was a lot of the project management skills I’d been using and I knew people involved with the project. I’m interested in making the world more just and fair, and that’s what people in the Built Environment are also trying to do. It’s been eye-opening because I didn’t do much knowledge transfer during my PhD so being part of the Built Environment has opened me up to a whole different way of being an academic.

What does a normal day look like?

CDT Manager: mostly it’s fire-fighting and establishing what needs dealing with urgently. Queries can be students asking about money, finance asking about transfers between accounts, contracts asking about signatures, social media posts to schedule etc. There can also be student support questions or dealing with management issues. A lot of balancing spinning plates.

Public Policy Project Manager: this role is all about strategy. Today we’re planning our launch event on tackling inequalities through our policy work. So I’ve been researching government areas of interest in terms of inequality and exploring what academics in the faculty have done regarding inequality, and considering how to bring these together to form event themes. There’s a lot of planning and strategic oversight and meeting the board members for interviews to see how they’re characterising the approach of their departments towards policy.

What are the best bits?

Public Policy: I love talking to people and finding out what they’re doing. I also like jigsaws; being a historian is about taking all the pieces of evidence and slotting them together so they make one picture someone might not have seen before, because of the particular way you’ve put them together. That’s what I’m doing with the public policy role, I’m meeting people individually across the department and the wider university – every little tendril that deals with policy – then combining it into one image of how we can approach this particular issue. I find that very rewarding.

CDT Manager: the best bit is working with students and running events. It’s fantastic to watch events you’ve organised work, and to chat to people and see they appreciate the effort you’ve put in. It’s also nice to know the PhDs think of me as their support contact.

So overall I suppose the best bits for me often seem to involve working with people.

What are the challenges?

Juggling two quite different jobs at once is pretty challenging! But individually:

CDT Manager: financial management. Our centre grant is about £6million, which isn’t the biggest, but it’s a very complex grant. You have to be very detail-oriented, and that’s not my natural orientation, so I have to get myself into a certain mindset in order to work like that. Saying that, my own financial management has vastly improved as a result of this experience.

Public Policy: My role is new and doesn’t really have equivalents across UCL, so I can feel out on limb sometimes and creating something more or less from scratch is really satisfying but can be quite draining.

Is having a PhD useful for your roles?

A PhD isn’t necessary for either of my roles. But a lot of people who work in policy across the university do have PhDs. I think it adds something that you understand the research process. I often use skills I developed in my PhD, such as quickly pulling evidence together to see the whole picture. Also writing skills and narrative creation – which is what I was studying during my PhD – because to engage and persuade policy makers at a higher level you need a compelling narrative.

For the CDT role having a PhD helps me build empathy with the students more quickly and easily than if I didn’t have a PhD. There’s an acknowledgement I know the experience, especially with the mental health work I did in Laws. That’s not to say that you can’t be fantastic at the job without a PhD, and many people are, but I think mine helps me in that way.

Where does one go from here?

I’m not sure to be honest! I’m still exploring what I enjoy. Through my policy work I’ve realised I’m really interested in how the university interacts with those outside of it. I enjoy creating conversations between people so something that combines these – policy, stakeholder management, something like that. Mainly I want to be part of something that makes a difference.

Top tips

First of all learn how to write applications and talk to people! I’ve got jobs because I’ve spoken to the people advertising the roles beforehand. It gives you a better idea of what they want from the job, whether it’s right for you, and you can put that knowledge into making a better application and giving a better interview performance. Nearly everyone is willing to help.

Don’t get too sad when things don’t go the way you want, or you end up in a position you think isn’t right for you, because you can always get something from every situation, and nothing is permanent.

Make the most of your current situation and what you can get involved with now. Some of my most rewarding moments at UCL have involved people I’ve met when I’ve gone and done stuff. Getting involved (while being mindful of your mental capacity for things) makes your work experience more enjoyable, and there needs to be a recognition that networking and relationship building isn’t only this ambitious thing that helps your career, for most people it actually also makes your life more enjoyable!

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A career in researcher development

SophiaDonaldson4 December 2019

Dr Rochelle Rowe-Wiseman has a PhD in Gender and Cultural History and is now Academic Development Lead in UCL HR. Rochelle likes to help you all develop – it’s her job! – so she kindly shared her career story with us.

What are you up to now?

As Academic Development Lead in UCL’s Organisational Development team, I am concerned with identifying and addressing gaps in support structures impacting the development and experiences of researchers, at all levels – from postgraduate research students to senior academic leaders. Like a consultant, I explore the issues that affect the experience of researchers and the environment we create for them, the research culture. I also sometimes get to do academic research again – mostly in my spare time.

Talk us through your career journey

My doctoral research produced a feminist history of beauty in the Caribbean and African diaspora which I eventually published as a monograph. One idea I dabbled in career-wise is museums and I worked for an oral history charity when I first graduated from my BA.  When I didn’t yet know I’d secured PhD funding, I was due to embark on a museum traineeship. Then fortunately I received funding which allowed me to concentrate fully on the PhD. I was keen to keep both avenues open, but it didn’t seem possible, the PhD required my full attention.

Coming up to the end of my PhD I didn’t know whether to stay or leave academia. I’m now far more aware than I was then of some of the barriers women of colour face in higher education, and at that moment there was such a scarcity of role models – especially in the arts and humanities. I don’t know if that influenced my ultimate decision to leave, but I was certainly aware of it. I felt I had a dilemma. I loved elements of academia and I’ve always had a love affair with history and writing, and yet the career of an academic didn’t look appealing.

So my first few steps were more cultural sector jobs. I worked in the cultural department of a local authority organising black history month, and I taught History at undergraduate level. Then I got a learning and development job, organising and running training sessions within a university. I was doing this alongside teaching and I found the L&D job preferable to the heavy weight of teaching I was given, with too much marking and too many seminars. The temporary 6-month L&D job became a permanent job offer, but I turned it down, instead moving to Berlin where I fulfilled a book contract to write up my thesis. It no doubt sounds more glamourous than it was…but it was actually quite lovely. Alongside working on the book I took on freelance work as a proofreader, and I went to German language classes. I’d been quite isolated as a PhD student so it was wonderful to make new friends, speak German and develop an identity in such a special place as Berlin, at the time. On reflection it was something of a career break, although I remained busy with multiple projects.

When I was nearing the two-year-mark in Berlin, I started to think about my career more seriously, and I was starting to miss the part of my identity that was fully capable! I loved speaking German, but I wasn’t able to be my full native-speaking self yet. I’d also had some advice from an ex L&D colleague who advised that after two years the gap on my CV might become harder to explain. So I saw a job in the UK and went for it – Researcher Development at Exeter university. At Exeter I ran lots of workshops and absolutely loved interacting with and collaborating with research students to develop a stronger programme for them. I was there for over eighteen months, and if the social side in the city had been what I was after I would have stayed, but Exeter is pretty quiet for someone who grew up in London. Ha! So I took a slight sideways step into Equality and Diversity work in higher education. Whilst I learned a lot, I found the role slightly limiting, and though I expanded it in some ways, after a year I gave myself permission to look for other roles. That’s when I joined UCL as the Doctoral Skills Development Manager, managing the huge programme of training offered to PhD students, which allowed me to draw on all of my past experience. The role was great, and also from a personal perspective being so centrally located in a large institution suited me more, and made a huge difference to my overall satisfaction levels. I was in that role for two years. Then a new Director proposed a re-shape of the entire Organisational Development team. In the restructure I decided to apply for a promotion to the job I’m currently in – Academic Development Lead, a move away from operational oversight of a large programme and towards finding innovative solutions supporting researchers.

I’ve also, perhaps surprisingly even to me, kept up some research and writing. Since leaving academia I’ve given talks here and there about my research. I have also occasionally been invited to write something. Usually I haven’t had time or it hasn’t been the right project. But recently I was approached to contribute to a really fantastic-sounding book and I felt much more established in my main day job, so I said yes! And it’s been a struggle but really life-affirming. Writing gives me such joy! I certainly want to write more, and to reach new audiences.

What does the new role look like on an average day?

It’s very project led. I’m interested in developing more inclusive research cultures, including in doctoral education, I lead a working group for the UK Council of Graduate Education that aims to improve our understanding of this area, and what’s possible. In that vein, recently I spoke at the Black in Academia lecture series to encourage prospective black research students into research and knowledge-based careers. My talk will be available as a podcast.

I am also working on a project to explore what hinders principal investigators and what development opportunities and support services they need; another to encourage and make provision for early stage researchers to dedicate more of their time to skills development and to track this skills development. Another big project is Postdoc Appreciation Week, an annual festival to celebrate and nurture early stage researchers at UCL: as well as saying a big thank you to them for their contribution to research and discovery, we are creating opportunities for researchers to influence positive change in their environment and focus on their professional development. My aim for next year’s festival is to introduce more co-creation and ensure – as far as possible – no barriers to participation, so for instance providing more help with childcare and encouraging leaders to release their staff from projects so they can participate.

What are the best bits?

I’ve enjoyed staying within the university environment. I love to be surrounding by brilliant thinkers and contributing my piece to solving problems, I’m just doing it in a different way now. UCL is a great place to expand beyond the apparent limits of your role, and become recognised for your expertise, including in professional services areas. I like the creativity inherent in the UCL environment. And I like that I’m still using my research skills: going out and establishing what the problem is, then working collaboratively towards delivering a solution. I like that the projects are contained and defined, so once something is done I can move on to the next thing – again, as would a more conventional consultant. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping and developing people. I also enjoy developing and leading others within a team setting.

The best bits of my day are meeting and collaborating with people across the university, dreaming up and then realising ideas, leading events, inspiring others, giving the occasional talk and polishing things off, reports, papers etc.

And the worst bits?

Working in a really huge airless open plan office isn’t my favourite thing! But we do have flexible working so if we really want to get our heads down and concentrate on something quietly we can work from home or off-site.

Is a PhD essential?

In recent roles it hasn’t been exactly essential, but certainly desirable (on the person specification) and an asset. I have gravitated towards roles where a PhD has been a recognised benefit. And in cases where the job/employer hasn’t required a PhD grad, I nonetheless beat the drum of all the great things they’re getting because I’ve had that doctoral research experience. So it’s been an asset, in terms of ways of seeing, ways of approaching problems, and in this role in terms of building empathy with researchers.

What’s the progression like?

Increasingly I believe Researcher Development is a recognised area of expertise within a plethora of careers for Higher Education Professionals.  Certainly at UCL there are many educators and developers situated around the university with a range of valuable experience and expertise. People in Researcher Development may move into wider Learning and Development roles in literally any organisation, whatever the mission of that organisation. They might also choose to rise through the ranks of Doctoral Training or indeed senior leadership in Higher Education.

Top tips?

It may be an obvious thing for me to say, but nevertheless true: people don’t realise the transferable skills they’re acquiring in academic practice: in research, teaching, admin, project management, leadership, problem solving, public engagement. And after seeing a huge project like a PhD through, the sense of responsibility and commitment you’ll have, which you can bring to everything you do, is invaluable to employers. Really recognise the wealth of diverse skills you’ve likely accrued. For example, if you’ve done a tiny bit of budget management by organising a conference, you need to value and sell that skill. Because that little bit of experience will set you up for any role that requires you to do more of the same, and once you’ve had a taste of something you can scale that experience up. Also PhDs can be excellent at taking calculated risks. Having known nothing at the start of your PhD and just got on with it, you’re likely to throw your hat in the ring for lots of things that might worry others!

Also, I hear a lot about having the awful sensation that you’re breaking up with academia. But it’s important to remember that if you like the university environment, there are great ‘alternative’ careers you can forge within a university. It takes a lot to create a thriving university environment and there are many different roles you can play.

Enhancing university teaching for a living

SophiaDonaldson19 August 2019

Dr Alex Standen has a PhD in Italian Studies, and now works at UCL as Associate Director, Early Career Academic and Research Supervisor Development, in the Arena Centre. Alex helps researchers every day as part of her job, and she kindly agreed to help you even further by telling us her career story.

Tell us about your current role and organisation.  

I work here at UCL in the Arena Centre for Research-Based Education. We work across UCL to support colleagues to enhance their teaching and improve the student experience in their departments. I am one of three Associate Directors and have oversight of all our training and development of PhD students who teach, new Lecturers and Teaching Fellows, Personal Tutors and Research Supervisors.

How did you move from academia to your current role?

During my writing up year I was also employed as a Teaching Fellow in my department, a role that I continued for a year post-PhD. I loved teaching and working closely with students in departmental roles such as Admissions Tutor, Year Abroad/Erasmus Coordinator and Personal Tutor, but it left no time for research. By chance, my partner was offered the opportunity to spend a year in New Zealand and we leapt at the chance: I had been at the same institution since I was an undergraduate and, while I loved my department and role, I needed a change of scenery and to give myself some time and space to focus on my research. Only that wasn’t what happened! I found I had little enthusiasm to re-visit my PhD research and no new projects I wanted to pursue; instead I was gravitating back to roles involving students. Back in the UK I got a job here at UCL as Education Officer in the Faculty of Brain Sciences which gave me so many valuable insights into HE administration, student support and wellbeing, quality assurance and enhancement, and the wider HE landscape. It was also in a Faculty whose research was so far removed from my own that I got an amazing insight into disciplines I had previously known nothing about. Working in the Faculty offered me a chance to get to know lots of the central teams at UCL and as soon as I got to know and understand about the work the Arena Centre was doing I knew that was where I wanted to be!

What does a normal working day look like for you?

It is a complete mix! I am rarely at my desk, and more often to be found delivering sessions, talking to colleagues and departments about their teaching, supporting them to gain professional recognition for their education-related roles, or  liaising with other teams like the Doctoral School and Student Support and Wellbeing. Since becoming Associate Director, I also now manage a small team and am involved in finance and strategic planning conversations which has been a big learning curve!

What are the best things about working in your role?

Meeting so many inspiring colleagues from across the institution and feeling like the work we are doing is actually having an impact on students.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Not everyone is keen to hear from us! Lots of colleagues, understandably, have so many competing pressures that they just don’t have time to think about their teaching role on top of everything else. But when we do manage to convince them to make even a small change it makes it all worthwhile!

Is a PhD essential for your role?

No, but lots of experience of teaching in HE is essential, and so is a broad understanding of the HE environment. My PhD gave me the confidence to present in front of a range of audiences, to consume large amounts of information quickly and critically, to be persuasive, and to manage my time effectively – all of which are absolutely key to my role.

What’s the progression like?

There is an absolute wealth of roles in HE beyond teaching and research and I have been able to progress quickly. Centres like ours exist in all universities so there are also opportunities to move between institutions. But I have no intention of going anywhere anytime soon!

What top tips would you pass on to researchers interested in this type of work?

Treat every job with the seriousness and commitment that you give to your research role, and carry it out to the best of your abilities as you never know where it will lead. When I first came back to the UK after New Zealand I wasn’t getting shortlisted for professional services roles in HE, which I now see is because I was still presenting myself as a teacher-researcher. But at the time my main concern was financial, so I joined a temping agency which specialised in HE roles and the first role I was placed in was here at UCL as an admin assistant in the Faculty of Brain Sciences…

 

Facilitating research – helping bring money to a university

SophiaDonaldson1 August 2019

By Jana Dankovicova

 

Dr Jennifer Hazelton has a PhD in Civil Engineering  from Newcastle University, and now works as a Senior School Research Facilitator in the BEAMS Research Coordination Office at UCL. She is talking in detail about her role, highlights and challenges, as well as giving tips for researchers who would like to follow a similar path.

 

 

  • Tell us about your job.

I really enjoy my job, as I work closely with researchers and feel I can make a real difference to their chances of having successful applications for grant funding. I am Senior Research Facilitator in the Office of the Vice-Provost (Research), covering the BEAMS School (Faculties of Built Environment, Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences). I lead a sub-team within the BEAMS Research Coordination Office with responsibility for providing support for Fellowship applications, Global Challenges Research Fund and Doctoral Training across BEAMS, and the Environment Research Domain across UCL. My job is very varied, often hectic with short deadlines and competing pressures, but I have a lovely team and really enjoy the buzz of helping people with proposals and contributing towards UCL’s targets for research income. I am also co-Chair of the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) Operational Group, where we share best practice and common or specific issues in global research projects, then report and make recommendations to academic and senior leadership committees.

  • How did you move from academia to your current role?

I never intended to join academia, but after a job as a Research Associate led to my PhD and postdoctoral role it looked as though that’s where I might be headed. I hated the uncertainty of short term contracts, however, and realised that I had most enjoyed supporting our funding applications and writing, rather than the research itself. I applied for a Research Coordinator job within a virtual institute newly set up at my previous university, which was a crossover between academia and application support, and offered the permanent contract I needed. I gradually did less and less research, and found that I didn’t miss it, so I knew this was the right career direction for me. When I moved on, it was to a full Professional Services role as a Strategic Research Facilitator at UCL and I moved up to my current role after a spell of maternity leave. I recently observed that I am working at Associate Professor equivalent, and doubt whether I would have made it to this level by now if I had stayed on an academic path.

  • What does a normal working day look like for you?

I do a weekly surgery giving 1:1 support for researchers submitting applications for funding, so have to schedule in time to read those applications. I try to avoid doing them at my desk, so work from home once a week to read or write, and otherwise go through the proposals on the train during my commute. I am responsible for overseeing internal procedures to limit numbers of fellowship bids where schemes have institutional caps, which can take a lot of coordinating – particularly for new schemes. My team are experienced and increasingly manage these processes on their own, but we go through the details and try to assess whether we are working in the most effective way to give the best support to applicants. We provide training for researchers on applying for funding, so I deliver sessions for individual departments, faculties and the careers service. I really enjoy facilitating workshops and delivering training, but we try to target advice for the audience and give bespoke insights, as well as responding to feedback to continually improve our service, so quite a lot of preparation is required. As line manager for my team, I take their professional development very seriously. I meet fortnightly, and I like to be well prepared for those meetings. I meet fortnightly with our Director to report back and plan ahead. On a daily basis we will get requests for help with very short turnaround, whether that might be to draft a letter of support from the Vice-Provost Research, set up a mock interview or give feedback on a response to reviewer comments. We always try to fit these activities in, often pooling resources as a team to find time. I very rarely have two days the same in a week, as I work flexibly to fit around childcare, but that certainly keeps things interesting! There are members of the team who work set hours in the office and don’t take any work home, which they really appreciate, but for me it works better to have less time at my desk and finish my work elsewhere when I need to. As long as we get the work done, working patterns can be flexible, which I really value.

  • What are the best things about working in your role?

The variety of people and subjects I get to work with is fantastic, because of the breadth of the BEAMS School. The RCO team is also varied, but we work together really well and each bring different perspectives and expertise so are always learning from each other. The atmosphere in our office is very collegiate, and we share a lot of our work but also personal experiences which has helped us form a close knit unit. I think personally that the flexibility, visibility and security of the role are valuable. A lot of the researchers we work with are very appreciative of the help we give. As someone who thrives off supporting others, this is a great bonus for me.

  • What are the downsides/challenges?

There are some regular tasks which involve a lot of emailing around academics to request help with mock interviews or reviewing, often at very short notice. Academics are generally extremely busy and it can be very difficult to keep asking them to do extra work when you know how much they already have to do. We also have to be very resilient to failure, because the reality is that only a small percentage of research applications are funded. Most academics will only submit a few applications each year, but we are working on new applications every week. When you have worked extremely hard with someone on an important proposal that they (and you) are strongly committed to, it can be difficult to take the news that it hasn’t been funded. Similarly, but almost harder, when we run internal selection panels we have to tell unsuccessful applicants that their application hasn’t made it through the internal stage, which can be difficult. Finally, we are often working under pressure to tight deadlines, which are not always easy to predict. So this job wouldn’t suit someone who needed a very structured and predictable workload.

  • Is a PhD essential for your role? 

Having a PhD (or equivalent) is an essential criterion for this role, but not because of the subject-specific expertise. We all review grants in all areas, not just our own subjects. Having a PhD helps us to be more credible in the eyes of the academics we support. I don’t actually think it is or should be a necessary requirement for applying to do the job, because the skills I need for my role were not learned doing my PhD, but it is one indicator of academic experience which definitely helps.

  • Where would someone go in their career from here?

Research support is a rapidly expanding field in Professional Services. I think the skills are very transferable to research in other sectors, but the university sector is UK and worldwide so there is a lot of choice. There are currently roles across 4 pay grades in our team, so plenty of scope for progression. UCL has 3 Research Coordination Offices across its 4 Schools, so there are often secondments or jobs available. I am also going to do a secondment at EPSRC, one of our key funders, for 6 months which will give me some insight into how our grants get reviewed and assessed – which I am really looking forward to.

  • What top tips would you give a researcher interested in this type of work?

Do some shadowing – we have set up shadowing opportunities with our team for people interested in research facilitation, and this has proved very helpful. Also, there are often secondment roles across the three RCOs, so keep an eye out for those. Get as much experience as you can reading and reviewing applications from your peers, and contributing to applications to different funders.

Minimising the trauma of leaving academia

SophiaDonaldson1 July 2019

As a careers consultant helping researchers who are considering leaving academia, I gather case studies from people who’ve already ‘made it out’. I ask ex-academics how they weighed up the decision to leave, explored other options, and marketed themselves to employers. It helps me put together practical tips. I think researchers find that stuff useful.

But practical tips only address half the struggle. The process of leaving academia can be an emotional one, and it’s important to recognise this, especially given findings of above average rates of mental health issues within PhD students and academic staff. Crucially for us at UCL Careers, we often see these negative emotions impacting researchers’ ability to get on with the sometimes complex and demanding tasks involved in changing career.

So here are five insights I’ve gained from people who’ve been through these emotions and come out the other end, and from my own experience of leaving academia. Bearing them in mind may help reduce the stress of the move, and help you concentrate on making it a successful one.

1) View your PhD and post-doc years as a job

Many researchers see their time in academia as an insignificant extension of their undergraduate degree, just another qualification. What a depressing way to view years spent developing marketable skills, growing as a person, and setting and achieving complex goals! Maybe it was so long ago that you’ve forgotten, but your PhD and post-doc years are nothing like your undergraduate years. They’ve been a job. Think of them that way. Speak about them that way. It will make you more attractive to employers, and more confident in your own experience and abilities.

2) Your PhD years are gone, and you’re not getting them back!

People hate losing things. Tversky and Kahneman’s Prospect theory tells us they hate losing things more than they like gaining things. This is a problem for career changers. They lend more weight to what may be lost in a transition than to what may be gained. And maybe that’s ok. It’s natural. In fact, researchers tell us it’s an evolutionarily advantageous way to process risk. But it becomes particularly problematic for career changers when they focus on losing the past; when, for instance, researchers don’t want to change field for fear of ‘wasting’ their PhD years. If we’re lucky enough to make it there, we may well all be working until we’re 80+. If you love your subject, by all means try to find work related to it. But if you don’t, don’t let a few already-spent years dictate what you’ll do between now and 80!

3) Be honest with yourself

A huge part of career exploration is researching yourself, your interests, values, and skills. This can be tough, especially if an honest evaluation contradicts your ideal image of yourself, or the image you present to others. Many ex-academics I’ve interviewed struggled with this. There was the PhD who was proud of being seen as ‘the numbers woman’, yet had to face the fact she didn’t really enjoy data analysis. Or the PhD who’d always seen himself as career-driven above everything else, but had to admit he valued work-life balance more than progression. Or the countless ex-academics I’ve met who at some point had to accept they just weren’t as passionate about their chosen subject as they’d initially believed.

Accepting your true motivations, interests, and skills can be hard if it leads you to conclude your current role isn’t right for you. But it’s an essential step in opening up a world of possibilities that are right for you. And what’s more, there’s evidence that having a strong sense of your career identity makes you a happier person overall! Our How Will I Know What I’ll Like? workshop and one-to-one careers appointments can help you with this process, and so can sites like jobmi.

4) Remember a new identity can take time to wear in

Our career identity is more than just our current job description; it can be core to how we perceive ourselves. So a change in career path can represent a threat to our sense of self. If I am not an academic researcher, who am I? Adopting a new identity can be uncomfortable. And this is made even harder when, as is more than likely, the people we regularly socialise with have an identity resembling our old one. Your post-doc friends may find it especially difficult to understand why you’re leaving a life they still enjoy.

But forming a strong narrative around your decision can help. Connect the dots. What attracts you to your new direction? And what are the links – in topic, skills, people – between your academic role and the role you’re moving to? The story will of course still take time to ‘fit’ properly. But that’s ok. Rest assured, once you move into a new position, and gain new colleagues whose story is more similar to yours, eventually it will.

5) Relax: you don’t need a plan…but there’s no such thing as dumb luck

Academia offers an obvious progression: PhD to post-doc to lecturer to professor. If you leave, you may feel anxious to find another clear path. But few paths are as clear. A common theme emerges when I ask ex-academics about their careers: chance. Many didn’t leave academia knowing they would end up where they are today.  They were just “lucky” enough to stumble across something that suited them. But luck is never the only force at play. These PhDs had taken steps that put them in the right place to spot and seize opportunities. In the careers world we call this “planned happenstance”, a career theory that acknowledges the effects of chance occurrences on careers, while asserting that people have some influence over their own luck.

So if you have no definite plan, that’s ok. But don’t leave it all to chance. Identify your interests and follow them. Develop skills you enjoy using. Take an interest in people. Say ‘yes’ to things. In this way, you can ensure you’re always growing and learning, which will improve your confidence. And when an opportunity arises, you’ll be ready to grab it.

If you found this blog useful, you may want to check out our Managing Your Career Change Emotions workshop for researchers (see our website for more details of our programme).

Fellowship application tips from UCL Research Facilitators

SophiaDonaldson10 June 2019

Money is crucial in research, and fellowships are a great mechanism to secure the money to pursue your own research ideas. In May four of UCL’s research facilitators kindly came to UCL Careers to deliver a workshop on “Writing a Successful Fellowship Application”. All three of UCL’s Schools were covered by Dr Jen Hazelton, Jacob Leveridge, Dr Melanie Bradnam, and Pascale Fanning-Tichborne, who also brought in two current fellowship holders, Dr Miranda Sheild Johansson (Leverhulme fellow) and Dr Lluís Masanes (EPSRC Early Career Research fellow). If you missed the event, they plan to run a similar workshop with us once a term – so check out our website for updates. But in the meantime, here are 5 top tips I took away from the session:

1) Know your funders

Perhaps it sounds obvious, but you need be aware of everyone who might be keen to give you money, whether they be Research Councils, charities, trusts, societies, the EU, your home country’s government etc. You should also know how they and their various funding streams differ in their focus, their reviewers, and their approach. Some may require very scientific applications, others may prefer a lay style. If you don’t do your homework, you risk missing opportunities and pitching your project ineffectually.

To help you, UCL subscribes to GrantFinder (https://search.grantfinder.co.uk/education), which you can use to research possible funding sources. And the research facilitation offices offer one-to-one appointments where you can chat through your options (as well as get feedback on your applications – see contacts for your school here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/research/about/contact), and newsletters to which you can sign-up to ensure you don’t miss deadlines.

2) Know the deadlines. ALL the deadlines.

Some funding streams have limits on the number of applications that can be sent per institution. For these, UCL operates an internal triage system where applications are first sent to research facilitation offices who will oversee a process to determine which applications get developed for submission to the funder. The internal deadline is (obviously) before the funder deadline – so if you don’t investigate this and only work to the funder deadline, you may find you’re too late. To avoid disappointment, sign up to research facilitator newsletters, check their websites and ask around your department to see which schemes operate an internal triage system.

3) Seek collaborations, partnerships, and support BEFORE you apply

The majority of funding applications will be rejected, so it can be tempting not to approach potential academic collaborators and industry partners until you know you’ve secured the money. But this is NOT the most sensible plan. Your applications have to seem well researched and doable to convince funders to hand over their cash – if you don’t actually have collaborators on board yet, your project may not happen. And just as importantly, your collaborators may offer valuable insights and advice to strengthen your applications. Rest assured, people understand funding may not come through first time, so aim to convince people that you and your project are worthwhile, and build good working relationships that can last through more than one funding call.

4) Be specific

About everything. We all know research methods and ideas can evolve over the course of a project, but funders want to know exactly how you’re going to be spending your time and their money. It makes you seem like a good bet. Those collaborators and partners you’ve already secured (a la point 3)? What exactly will they offer you? Support? Training? Expertise? Access to equipment? Why do you need it? And why are they the right people to offer it? Which methods will you use exactly, and why? What are your key outputs? And when will they be completed? And if you really don’t know yet, then be clear how you will decide and what will influence your decision. This doesn’t mean being overly technical (unless the funder requires it). It means showing you have a clear plan.

5) Interviews really count

If a funding application process involves an interview, said interview really counts. Applications will likely be given scores/ranked in the first round, but the message from the workshop was that the scores are almost reset for the interview. So everyone is on an equal footing and in with a shot. If reviewers have highlighted weaknesses in your application, be ready to address these in your interview (and always address them in writing too if given the chance). If progress has been made in your research/plan since you first submitted the application (and these processes can take a while, so interviewers might expect progress!), this is your chance to update the panel. And practice! We offer practice interviews, and even more importantly when it comes to funding interviews, so do the research facilitators, and your supervisors/departments may well do too if you ask!

Best of luck with your applications!

Many thanks for the workshop go to:

Dr Jen Hazelton, Senior School Research Facilitator, for The Bartlett, Engineering, and Mathematical & Physical Sciences, Jacob Leveridge, Deputy Director of Research Facilitation for UCL Arts & Humanities, UCL Laws, UCL Social & Historical Sciences, the UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies and the UCL Institute of Education, and Dr Melanie Bradnam and Pascale Fanning-Tichborne, Strategic Research Facilitators for the School of Life and Medical Sciences.

Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference – Breakout Sessions

Isobel EPowell3 June 2019

Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference

Conference Schedule:

9.30 – 10.00 Registration

10.00 – 13.00 Introducing Life & Health Sciences outside of Academia
Welcome by Institute of Child Health and an Introduction to UCL Careers
Keynote – GSK “Research: Bio Tech/Pharma”
Keynote – Medpace “Clinical Trials”
Keynote – Costello Medical “Science Communication”
Keynote – EY Parthenon “Life & Health Sciences Consultancy”
Q&A Session with keynotes

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch Break

14.00 – 15.15 Breakout Session
Option 1: Forum – Careers in UK and Global Health
Option 2: Forum – Careers in Government & Policy
Option 3: Workshop –  The (Career)Path Less Travelled

15.30 – 16.00 Closing Remarks
16.00 – 17.30 Networking Drinks

Last chance to sign up:

Meet your afternoon speakers!

 The breakout sessions are an opportunity to learn more about a specific area of health and life sciences. Choose between three great sessions covering careers in UK & Global Health, Government & Policy and a workshop on Entrepreneurial thinking. Interested in a career in public health, or becoming an advisor? The session on UK and Global Health could be for you. Fancy devising policy or working to support the healthcare system? Then our Government and Policy session could be your fit. Want to become an entrepreneur or learn key business skills? The workshop is an opportunity to hear from a UCL start-up.

Not sure which session to choose?  Find out more below:

2pm – 3.15pm: Breakout Session

  • Option 1: UK and Global Health Forum
  • Option 2: Government and Policy Forum
  • Option 3: The (Career)Path Less Travelled

UK & Global Health Forum

Speakers will be covering areas including research, public protection, global health and public health modelling:

Dr Laura Webber

Dr Laura Webber is co-founder and COO of HealthLumen, a global population health company that uses computer simulation models to build virtual populations to quantify the long-term impact of different policy, screening and treatment interventions.

HealthLumen acquired the modelling unit of the UK Health Forum (UKHF), a policy and advocacy organisation focused on the prevention of chronic diseases. At UKHF Laura was Director of Public Health Modelling, and led a multi-disciplinary team of epidemiologists, mathematicians, analysts, and computer programmers, co-ordinating global, European and national projects. Projects included the European Commission funded project ‘EConDA’ (Economics of Chronic Diseases), the Trust For America’s Health project ‘F as in Fat’, modelling obesity across each US state (http://healthyamericans.org/assets/files/TFAH2012FasInFatFnlRv.pdf), as well as various projects for Public Health England, Cancer Research UK, and the World Bank.

Laura holds an MA (Hons) from Cambridge University and a PhD in childhood obesity from University College London (Cancer Research UK studentship). She is honorary Assistant Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine within the Health Protection Research Unit, and an occasional advisor to the World Health Organization and World Bank. She is lead author and co-author on a number of peer-reviewed publications and major reports. Laura was nominated for the Young Investigator of the year at Europrevent, Amsterdam (2015) and recently won the Open University Future Leader Award (2018), where she is studying for an MBA.

Lukasz Aleksandrowicz

Lukasz is a Portfolio Manager at Wellcome, alongside finishing a part-time PhD at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Wellcome is a major health research funder, and Lukasz works specifically on the Our Planet, Our Health team, which funds research on the connections between global environmental change (like climate change and its impact on food systems) and human health. In his role, Lukasz is responsible for managing a portfolio of research, developing new funding initiatives, and helping define the Wellcome Trusts funding strategy.

Before this, Lukasz worked in a number of research roles across various parts of global health, though the majority of his experience was working at the Centre for Global Health Research in Toronto, Canada. Many deaths in low- and middle-income countries happen outside the health sector and are therefore not registered, leading to a lack of basic data on which disease burdens are most prominent. The centres focus was on tracking this “invisible mortality”. In that role, Lukasz helped develop the tools and surveys that were used in fieldwork, and helped analyse the trends in data.

Lukasz’s PhD is in the area of sustainable diets and uses an interdisciplinary approach (including data on nutrition, environment and economics), to investigate how food consumption in India can be both healthy and environmentally sustainable. Lukasz’s PhD did not start his career in global health, but has rather been on-going in parallel to it. Even in his current non-academic role, the PhD has proved to be valuable training. It has built his expertise in a topic area (food systems and environment), which he now use in his role funding projects on this theme. It has also developed his ability to critically evaluate many aspects of research: how research questions are defined, how projects and teams are built around them, and whether the methods and approaches used are appropriate.

Dr Elizabeth Goodburn MBBCh DRCOG DFSRH MSc PhD FRCGP

Elizabeth is a medical doctor with wide-ranging experience in international health focusing especially on maternal and reproductive health and primary care.  After completing UK GP Training in 1985 she worked for 4 years as a Provincial Medical Officer in the Solomon Islands. Elizabeth’s subsequent international career included both long and short term assignments in Asia and Africa. Elizabeth’s research work, based at LSHTM, included collaborative health studies focusing on MCH and Reproductive Health among low income groups in W Bengal and rural Bangladesh. Elizabeth has worked for a variety of agencies, including DfID and the UN, on policy and strategy development with international partners, including several years as Chief Technical Advisor for UNFPA in Cambodia.

Elizabeth returned to UK General Practice in 2002 and was a GP Partner and Trainer in the James Wigg Practice serving a diverse inner city population in London until 2015. Elizabeth’s international work continued during this period on a consultancy basis.  From 2013 to 2017, she was Medical Director for International Programmes (S& SE Asia) at the RCGP. Since January 2018 Elizabeth has worked as a Senior Technical Advisor for the SoapBox Collaborative as part of a partnership with WaterAid in Myanmar to improve IPC in health facilities.  Elizabeth’s varied career has led to a strong commitment to health services development both in the UK NHS and internationally. Elizabeth’s work ethos is always to share experiences and foster productive partnerships based on mutual learning and respect with the aim of making good quality health care available to all.                                               

Careers in Government & Policy

Our speakers will be covering areas including medical policy, regulation, health governance and policy consultancy from organisations including:

Dr Francisco de Matos Afonso Pereira

Pharmaceutical Assessor at the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

The MHRA is responsible for the regulation of medicines and medical devices used in the UK. This includes the authorisation of clinical trials and the evaluation and granting of Marketing Authorisation (licences) for medicinal products.

A Pharmaceutical assessor carries out the assessment of data provided in marketing authorisation initial and variation applications including those with new, wide-ranging or complex issues making appropriate recommendations and decisions in line with the protection of public health. We also provide scientific and regulatory advice to companies. Participation in international bodies such as the European Medicines Agency is common.

Francisco is a Portuguese and UK registered Pharmacist. Francisco did his undergraduate degree in Portugal and moved to London to pursue a PhD. His PhD thesis is entitled: “Sex, Drugs and Excipients: PEG 400 enhances the bioavailability of BCS class III drugs via P-glycoprotein inhibition”. The research work was conducted at the UCL School of Pharmacy and this was joint PhD with the University of Coimbra in Portugal. In this work he discussed how excipients are capable of changing drug disposition. Their role should not be underestimated. The degree to which excipients modulate drug bioavailability may be modified by sex. It is important that regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical industry take this knowledge into account during the pharmaceutical development stages of pharmaceutical products. This subject, closely related to drug product formulation, provided me with a strong foundation for my work as an assessor at the UK Regulatory Authority.

Dr Sara C Marques

Sara is a Senior Researcher at the Health Policy Partnership (HPP), a consulting company specialised in health policy. HPP works on a range of short-term projects and runs the secretariat for two well-established multidisciplinary networks, All.Can and The Heart Failure Policy Network (HFPN).

Sara’s work at HPP involves researching and writing about healthcare environments, in areas including cardiovascular disease, women’s health and personalised healthcare. Some of the reports Sara writes are external-facing, others for internal use. Sara is the Head of Programme of HFPN, an independent and multidisciplinary platform focused on raising awareness of the challenge heart failure poses to healthcare systems across Europe, and on the presentation of possible solutions to address the challenge.

Sara has a Master of Sciences of Pharmacy from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and a PhD in Molecular Medicine from the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Sara’s PhD focused on response to treatment with doxorubicin in people living with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, specifically on the impact of microRNA and RNA expression on the development of resistance to treatment. Towards the end of her PhD, Sara realised she didn’t want to continue working in Academia, and moved on to the health policy sector. Sara took on a role of Health Research Analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, where she worked in the development of value-based healthcare frameworks and studies of burden of disease in Europe, Canada and Latin America. Sara also wrote critical appraisals of health research for the National Institute for Health Research. This position led Sara to her current role at HPP.

 “Academia researchers often develop a wide range of skills without even realising it – a comprehensive ‘toolbox’ that can be used across sectors. If you’re considering leaving Academia, identify your ‘toolbox’ and focus on your strengths. Put your research skills to use and identify the areas that seem to be a good fit!”

Dr Susannah Cleary

In her current role at NHS England and NHS Improvement Susannah leads or contributes to the development and delivery of strategic projects as a part of the Strategy directorate, drawing on problem-solving, project management and stakeholder engagement skills to plan and deliver work. This includes advising the CEO of the NHS and various NHS executive directors on strategy, tactics and messaging for issues affecting the NHS and its staff. Examples of specific projects Susannah has led include: benchmarking NHS hospitals’ compliance with nationally-defined cyber security standards and assessing the NHS’s cyber vulnerabilities. Susannah is currently part of the team developing the processes and implementation framework that will allow frontline NHS organisations and commissioners to implement the recommendations of the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS’s 10-year strategic vision, which was published in January 2019.

Susannah’s PhD took her to the National Institutes of Health, NIH, the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research, where she conducted the bulk of the primary research for her thesis. After doing a PhD, Susannah returned to the NIH for a postdoctoral fellowship, working on drug development for kidney cancer. During her NIH fellowship she undertook a detail in one of the NIH’s health policy shops, which turned into a year working at the Fogarty International Centre, the NIH’s global health institute. During that year Susannah evaluated the impact of US Government-funded training programmes to demonstrate that Fogarty-funded activity is building research capacity in recipient countries and is effecting change in country-level and international health policy. Susannah also developed and implemented a global health training course to promote awareness of global health amongst NIH staff and students and raised the profile of Fogarty International Centre. Susannah’s experience at the Fogarty International Centre led her to enroll in an MSc in International Public Policy at University College London.

Workshop: The (Career)Path Less Travelled

Entrepreneurial thinking and how it will shape your future

Envisaging your career beyond the academic sphere is not necessarily the hardest part; unravelling how to get there can be far more challenging. Despite being involved in activities that make them core sources of new knowledge and cutting-edge technology, few UCL researchers will take the time to recognise the extent to which their skills and experiences are entrepreneurial by nature. Even fewer will stop to acknowledge that being entrepreneurial is just as much about adopting a certain approach to your thinking and behaviour as it is about creating a new business or venture.

This workshop will focus on both of these elements, helping you to gain an understanding of what it means to be entrepreneurial as a researcher and how you should be capitalising on these traits to self-direct your career management. For those who are interested in creating spin-outs or their own start-ups, the workshop will provide practical advice and insight on how to move an idea forward and how UCL can help you to do so.

Janette Junghaus – Senior Programme Officer for Entrepreneurship, UCL Innovation & Enteprise

Janette coordinates a dynamic entrepreneurship skills programme for UCL’s doctoral and early career researcher communities, and builds relationships across the university to foster the development of entrepreneurial mind sets. Her professional background is rooted in fast-paced environments in the private sector, having worked in professional network management, PR, international architecture and design practices, and private equity. After completing a part-time MSc in Neuroscience, Language & Communication at UCL, she spent two years being part of a multi-disciplinary dementia research and public engagement project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Dr Vassilis Georgiadis – Senior Partnerships Manager (Pharma & Healthcare), UCL Innovation & Enterprise

Vassilis is responsible for developing strategic partnerships between UCL researchers and external commercial partners, with a focus on pharma and healthcare sectors. Before joining UCL Innovation & Enterprise he was a Business and Innovation manager at UCL’s Translation Research Office, supporting industrial research collaboration activities through a faculty-facing role. Prior to that he was one of the founding members of Molecular Warehouse, a UK diagnostics and digital health startup.He’s a molecular and cell biologist by training, with more than 10 years of academic research in various biomedical areas. Vassilis studied for a BSc in Genetics at Queen Mary University, followed by an MSc in Clinical Neurosciences at UCL and a DPhil in Cell Biology at the University of Sussex

 

Dr Rebecca McKelvey – Founder and Director, in2scienceUK

Rebecca has a PhD in neuroscience from UCL and during her PhD she founded the social enterprise in2scienceUK. In2scienceUK’s mission is to improve social mobility and diversity in the STEM sector and works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds helping them to achieve their potential and progress to top universities and research careers. The programme works by leveraging the skills and passion of researchers who give summer work placements and workshops to students. To date in2scienceuk has supported over 1,000 students in London, The South East and South West of England.

Want to learn more about the Keynote speakers? See our blog post on them here!

Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference – Keynotes

SophiaDonaldson23 May 2019

Booking is now open and free to research staff and students:

Research Staff book your place via MyUCLCareers

Research Students book your place via the Doctoral Skills website

Talking us through the Life and Health Sciences pipeline, we will have keynotes from:

  • An Investigator in the Novel Human Genetics Research Unit (NHG-RU) for GSK,
  • A Clinical Trials Manager for Medpace,
  • The Head of the Multidisciplinary Division at Costello Medical
  • A Senior Consultant, in the EMEIA Life Sciences Strategy Centre of Excellence EY-Parthenon

Alongside the keynotes, we have two great forums with speakers including:

We also have an Entrepreneurship workshop led by in2scienceUK – an award winning charity which empowers students from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their potential and progress to STEM and research careers through high quality work placements and careers guidance.

Conference Schedule: Thursday 6th June, 10am – 5.30pm


9.30 – 10.00 Registration

10.00 – 13.00 Introducing Life & Health Sciences outside of Academia: Keynotes and Q&A

Welcome by Institute of Child Health and an Introduction to UCL Careers

Keynote – GSK “Research: Bio Tech/Pharma”

Keynote – Medpace “Clinical Trials”

Keynote – Costello Medical “Science Communication”

Keynote – EY Parthenon “Life & Health Sciences Consultancy”

Q&A Session with keynotes

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch Break

14.00 – 15.15 Breakout Session

Option 1: Forum Careers in UK and Global Health

Option 2: ForumCareers in Government & Policy

Option 3: WorkshopEntrepreneurship

15.30 – 16.00 Closing Remarks

16.00 – 17.30 Networking Drinks

 

Want to learn more about our keynotes before the conference? Read below:

GSK
Dr. James Porter, Investigator
Novel Human Genetics Research Unit (NHG-RU).

James obtained a BSc in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bristol followed by an MSc (Immunology) and PhD (Innate immunology of asthma exacerbations) at Imperial College London before joining GSK in 2014. At GSK he has led and contributed to numerous early-stage target validation campaigns, novel target ID studies and more recently supported late-stage programmes. James also acts as an industry supervisor to undergraduate (industrial-placement) and PhD (CASE) students and serves as a data integrity representative, ensuring scientific data meets the high standards that GSK sets out to achieve.

What is your key tip for researchers?

“Scientific techniques are generally the same in industry and in academia, if you’re considering a career in industry think about what skills you can apply to an industry setting.” 

Company Bio: The Novel Human Genetics Research Unit (NHG-RU) is one of the four key research units within the GSK R&D organisation. With access to multiple genetic databases (23andMe, UK Biobank, Finngen etc.) and GSK expertise (Human Genetics and Functional Genomics), the NHG-RU is poised to identify, validate and progress novel targets with strong genetic association to diseases, with significant unmet medical need and commercial opportunity.

 

Medpace
Dr. Stephanie Millin, Clinical Trial Manager

 

Stephanie Millin completed her PhD from the University of Oxford in 2017, having studied genetic modelling and molecular pathways in Parkinson’s disease. After taking a break to surf and scuba dive in Australia, she returned to the UK straight into her current job at Medpace. Stephanie’s PhD contributed to her fast-tracking from an entry-level position as a Project Coordinator to her current role as Clinical Trial Manager within a year, a transition that could normally span several years. Stephanie is now responsible for overseeing and managing all aspects of Clinical Trials with a focus specialism on Nuclear Medicine.

What is your key tip for researchers?

“Don’t let failures get you down! They’re disheartening and inevitable, but each one takes you a small step closer to success.”

Company Bio: Medpace are a leading mid-size clinical Contract Research Organisation (CRO) that operates globally within a range of therapeutic areas. “Our unique global partnering philosophy emphasizes an uncompromising commitment to clinical research and to the highest level of ethical standards and performance in our jobs.”

 

Costello Medical
Dr. Lucy Eddowes, Head of Multidisciplinary Division

Lucy has led a wide variety of projects since joining Costello Medical, covering the majority of core services that Costello Medical offers, leading to her establishing a team in 2017 that is dedicated to providing multidisciplinary support to clients. In her role as Head of the Multidisciplinary Division, Lucy is particularly focused on continuing to diversify and grow the service offerings at Costello Medical. Lucy also oversees Costello Medical’s pro bono project activities, collaborating with non-profit organisations to expand work in this area.

What is your key tip for researchers?

“In terms of taking the first step outside of academia, deciding what to try can be challenging. But don’t forget that you are surrounded by colleagues having the exact same thoughts and facing the same dilemmas so group together to share, learn and keep each other motivated on your career searches.”

Company Bio: Costello Medical provides scientific support in the analysis, interpretation and communication of clinical and health economic data. “Our vision is to be a community of the very best people, constantly challenging ourselves to make meaningful and outstanding contributions to improving healthcare.

 

EY Parthenon
Dr. Sami Jaffar, Senior Consultant
EMEIA Life Sciences Strategy Center of Excellence

 

Sami has over 4 years of life sciences strategy consulting experience for established and emerging pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and has worked across different therapeutic areas. His core expertise is in portfolio and disease area strategy, due diligence evaluations and opportunity assessments for BD&L.Prior to EY-Parthenon, Sami was a Senior Consultant at Navigant Consulting, focusing on life sciences commercial strategy projects and developing expertise in IBD and oncology therapeutics and diagnostics.

What is your key tip for researchers?

“Consulting is a difficult industry to enter. It requires appropriate preparation and that can be daunting, but do not be afraid of failure. As Henry Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Company Bio: EY-Parthenon is the Strategy Consultancy arm of the EY brand (which covers Tax, Audit, Accounting, Assurance). The EY-Parthenon Life Sciences Strategy Center of Excellence works with the leading Global Biopharma & Biotech companies to solve complex issues through innovative strategic solutions.