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Who wants to hear about working at WHO?

By uczjsdd, on 19 May 2022

Dr Sarah Paulin gained her PhD in Pharmaceutics and Microbiology here at UCL, and is now a Technical Officer in Antimicrobial Resistance at the World Health Organization. Sarah kindly took the time to chat to us about her career journey and current role, and shared tips for researchers wanting to follow a similar path.

What are you up to at the moment?

I work at WHO headquarters in Geneva in the area of antimicrobial resistance, which was the topic of my PhD. Now I focus less on the microbiology and more on supporting countries in their efforts to contain antimicrobial resistance, primarily focusing on lower-income countries, in all regions, but largely the African region.

How did you get from your PhD to here?

My PhD was laboratory-based, and while writing up my thesis I realised I was motivated by working with people and building capacity in under-resourced areas. Lab work can form part of that, but it’s one small aspect of the larger picture, and I really enjoyed working with that larger picture. For me, that meant moving into Public Health. Knowing this, I took every opportunity to ensure my thesis had a focus on the public health aspects of my work. I also took advantage of UCL courses, in particular for PhD students wanting to move out of academia, where I gained insight into what was possible, and learned more about my personal skillset and what was transferable from a lab-based PhD. I also attended a UCL CV session, which helped me get my CV ready. And I started talking to people within UCL and externally, trying to understand my options.

WHO was not the first or only place I applied. I also applied to The Clinton Health Access Initiative, for a role straddling lab work and public health. In the end I didn’t take the job, but it was a great experience in trying to sell myself outside academia. Then I saw a consultancy role based in a WHO regional office in the Philippines. I tailored my CV, sending it to a few peers to check it made sense, and I was given an interview. They were looking for someone specialising in antimicrobial resistance, and at the time few people had completed a PhD in that area, so my background helped. It meant relocating to the Philippines, but that fit in ok with my life at the time. And the role was only for three months, but everyone has to start somewhere, so I went for it!

I was a consultant for one and a half years after they extended the consultancy from its initial three months. It didn’t have the permanent nature or safety net of some other options, but I was willing to stick it out and wait for a staff position, and when it came up I won it and stayed in Manilla for three and a half years, travelling around the 39 countries and areas the region covers. After that I was recruited to move to headquarters, where I have applied and moved up into two different jobs, and that’s where I am now.

What were the toughest parts of the transition?

Going into the unknown was challenging. Once you go outside of the academic path, it’s hard to get back in, so it’s a difficult decision to make. I was also unsure I would even be accepted into a public health role – and I was actually willing to take a volunteering role to begin with because of this. But taking the classes UCL Careers offered, and meeting others who were also looking to make the jump beyond academia, was incredibly helpful and reassuring, because then I knew I wasn’t alone or crazy in wanting to get off the academic path. It’s only when you start talking to others and go to these presentations of others who have made the transition successfully, that you realise you can do it as well. I realised I just needed to try and believe in myself, which is not always easy! But one of the qualities you can learn during a PhD is to be able to believe in yourself.

It was also challenging financially at times, and it helps if you have a bit of a safety net as well, which not everyone has. Volunteering and internships are often unpaid or low pay, consultancy can be poorly paid (I lived in a tiny studio in Manilla when I first started), but at the end of the day I felt it was worth it.

Thankfully, things are slowly getting better for people wanting to enter the field, as today there is a small stipend for WHO interns, and of course Geneva is a more expensive place to live, so people should also look for options in WHO regional or country offices, which can be more affordable. There are also many opportunities for scholarships once you start looking into them. It takes longer to apply, but there are possibilities to get additional funding to the stipend for these opportunities.

Is it normal to start as an intern at WHO?

Definitely. In non-COVID times, WHO offers internships, which is something I had done during my undergrad. Mine was a very short internship, just to get an insight into public health before going into the lab side, and at the time I didn’t think I was coming back, but now I’ve come full circle! So people usually join as an intern, maybe during the summers of their Bachelors or Masters programme. Internships are anywhere between 6 weeks and two or three months, so some people may be able to fit it in during a PhD if that can be agreed upon with a supervisor etc., and then you’d have some public health experience on your CV by the time you graduate. Then an appropriate consultancy opportunity might arise, and once you’re a consultant you get to know a region and technical area, so of course your CV is much more favourable if a relevant staff role becomes available. If you want to move into global public health, getting to know the realities on the ground through in-country experience is a great place to start.

What does a normal working day look like for you?

Currently, I’m creating a new global guidance document to support countries in developing their policies around antimicrobial resistance. This covers technical innovations that need to be brought in, labs and diagnosis being one of the facets, but it also looks at infection prevention control, and at appropriate treatments. So you might find me working on that. But I would also have regular calls with different regional offices to organise training within countries; most recently we’re supporting Jordan for a leadership and governance training in this area, and I had a call with a regional office based in Egypt and the country office based in Jordan, and spoke to the country counterparts to organise the planning.

I would also probably join a webinar series and present on my area of work, and an external meeting with other implementing partners to offer input and advice into what they’re doing. And I would also do very normal admin, such as putting out a request for a proposal because the WHO needs support in technical assistance in country “X”. For example, in Sierra Leone we need someone to fly in and support them in the costing of their national policy, so I must run through the recruitment process and competitive bidding and get the contract in place, and then manage the resource mobilisation and financing for the role. So in any one day, or maybe week, there’s a big spectrum of work, from global technical to very country-specific support, and from bigger picture work to more fiddly admin work that supports all of it.

What are the best bits?

Definitely seeing the public health changes at the country level. When you organise and deliver a successful training to countries, be it in how they more effectively use their resources in terms of interventions, or ensuring their plans and policies are comprehensive and fit for purpose, and then you see that put into practice, it’s great. For example, if in two or three years down the line from your work, you see a reduction in inappropriate use of a certain antibiotic, that’s the most rewarding part for me. I also personally enjoy working in different locations and getting to know different cultures and health systems, I find it exciting, even if others might find it challenging, so that’s been one of the best bits.

Also, although no one works in public health because they’re chasing money (!), the UN does have quite a few benefits; there is great pension, child education, and health insurance for example. So if you view it as a whole, it’s a good package from an employer.

And what about the worst bits?

Admin, admin, admin. Working in a large UN organisation can be very bureaucratic. There are a lot of processes we have to adhere to and lots of forms to be filled out. This is all for good reason, but it makes putting things into practice rather slow, so that’s probably the most challenging thing. Another challenge is having to be careful about representing the organisation appropriately, because when I speak in my role, I represent the WHO.

Is a PhD an advantage in your role?

The PhD wasn’t asked for as a consultant, but for my most recent position, having a PhD was a desired educational background. So the further up you go at WHO or other public health agencies, the more advanced educational experience, such as a PhD, helps. And at the next level up from me it may be basically mandatory. I think there’s a mixture of reasons for that. There’s the very specific technical expertise that can be useful. There may even be slightly added credibility that the title brings. But there is also the transferable skill-set a PhD develops. I did my PhD in a very specific bacteria with a very specific resistance-mechanism, but it gave me the foundational science for the big-picture global and technical planning and policy work I do now. And as immediate results are rare in public health, the self-motivation, self-discipline, and perseverance a PhD instils is also extremely useful. And the communication skills, gained from writing papers and a thesis and presenting at conferences, are key.

What’s the progression like?

There aren’t many levels at the WHO, and it’s not automatic that one would progress through them. You have consultancies and staff positions. As a staff member at WHO we have “P” levels, from P1 to P6. I started as a P2 in my first contract after the consultancy, which I think was because of my PhD, I suspect if I hadn’t had that I would have started at P1. Where you start is based on years of experience generally, but you’re not automatically promoted as the years pass, you have to look for new opportunities as and when they arise, and then re-apply. I was in the P2 staff role for two and a half years and then moved to Geneva for a short-term role and then applied for my position at P3 level, usually requires five years of experience plus the educational qualification, usually a Masters, and then as of one year ago I applied for a P4 position, which is usually seven years of experience in the relevant area. The PhD usually counts partially as experience if it’s related to the area, and if say, you also had teaching responsibilities, that would partially count, so anything you did away from your pure research will count towards your years of experience. And then you can keep applying, and the goal for me is to eventually work in a country office again. So there’s not so many levels, and you do have to constantly re-apply. There is also not a great deal of job security – nothing is forever – but that also keeps it interesting because you’re kept on your toes, looking for work that continues to intrigue you.

So you’re not on a permanent contract?

No, the concept of a permanent position does not exist at WHO anymore, we generally have one to two year contracts that will be extended based on availability of funds and need. So even though it seems like it might be more stable than academia, sadly, it’s really not. People do tend to find new jobs if they want them though, so it’s a bit different to the precarity of academia in that way – and especially if you’re willing to be more flexible and move location, there will always be opportunities. I was flexible in moving to Manilla and Geneva to get these roles. I now have a family so the next decision will probably be to move again to another country, but that will be a decision I have to make with my family. But for me, I love the work and the travel, it works for me, but I know it wouldn’t work for everyone.

What are your top tips for researchers wanting to follow a similar path?

  • Find opportunities to volunteer or learn more where you are, and add those types of experiences to your CV to set yourself apart from others. For example, I took part in the Brilliant Club, developing educational materials based on my PhD area and supporting and educating pupils from underprivileged areas in London, which strengthened my communication skills and my CV.
  • Take any opportunity you can to test out whether public health is even something that would interest you – it’s not for everyone. Of course, those opportunities will also help build your CV.
  • Talk to people. And start that as soon as possible. UCL has many opportunities for networking, and LinkedIn and other online platforms are increasingly useful for this. And in the world we’re now in, there are so many opportunities to join webinars and virtual conferences and listen in and then reach other to speakers or other attendees.
  • Don’t just wait for the recruitment process to take its own turn, be proactive. One of the things I’ve learned through getting the consultancy role and later positions is that sending a personal email to the person recruiting may be helpful. They may not respond, but they may, and either way they may remember your name as someone enthusiastic with good questions.

Any extra advice for people graduating into an uncertain climate?

There definitely aren’t fewer opportunities in this field at the moment, and it actually may be that our more flexible and balanced working environment – with more people being able to work remotely and not necessarily having to immediately change country – means that these opportunities are open to more people. So I think it’s actually an exciting time to get into the job market. And as the world is a lot more virtual now, gaining additional skills to suit the world we’re living in will be beneficial for any area of work.

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

By uczjsdd, on 17 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

By uczjsdd, on 2 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.

Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference – Breakout Sessions

By uczjipo, on 3 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!