If you didn’t know already, 2019 was the year that I officially was no longer a student anymore – yes, I am still a little bit upset about that – and embarked on my first steps into the real world starting in my new job as a science communications officer.
I seriously cannot believe that I am already over a month into my new role and thought it would be a good opportunity to share a bit more about what I actually do in my job as so many of you have asked, what I have learnt so far switching from my lab based PhD into a comms role and a few things I have achieved already. So, in the second of the new features I am starting this week, let’s give you a quick intro into my life as a scicomm officer as the first installment of The Scicomm Career Diaries.
What do I do as a scicomm officer?
The thing I absolutely love about my role is how diverse it is and all the different comms aspects I can get involved with. In the same way that I had a lay sentence to explain my PhD work, I have a sentence to describe my job – although it is probably still a work in progress.
“I am a science storyteller and an enabler to help scientists communicate their research with the world”
That’s the long and sort of it – but what do I actually mean?
My job is to share the research of the institute with the wider population – that could be media outlets through press releases, articles for our own website, social media posts, arranging filming or recordings for TV opportunities, helping create an engaging talk for a researcher to visit a school, helping to design props and activities for scientists to share their research at events, arranging and designing workshops to improve the scicomm skills of my colleagues and all in between.
I also have roles in internal comms like writing newsletters – which admittedly aren’t my favourite things to be doing – but I also get to organise events that celebrate women in science and give researchers opportunities to share their work with the local public too.
So, as you can probably tell that is a very varied role and I have lots more ideas that I would like to push in the not so distant future to put my stamp on this role too. But overall I am just so excited at all these different opportunities that I can get involved with and learn from.
What have I learnt so far?
Talking of learning… I have been in my role for a little over a month now so surely there are some things that I have learnt?
There are obviously skills with programs and software that I have learnt, but I don’t want to bore you guys with a list of those sorts of things. Instead I thought I would give a quick run down of some of the research I have learnt about and then some bigger lessons that switching from a wet lab PhD to an office based comms role has taught me.
So in my short time in my job I have already seen one Cell paper and two Nature papers published, with two more out imminently and another paper to work on this week too. So, it is safe to say I have been spoilt for choice about research to learn about and communicate. These papers have covered topics from piRNAs, evolution, artificial intelligence, heart disease, transcriptomics and CRISPR just to name a few. Plus I have got to learn about new techniques that I would never have had the opportunity to use myself – but my favourite has got to be seeing a microscope that can image the proteins binding to a single molecule of DNA! A SINGLE MOLECULE OF DNA! I don’t think I can convey my amazement at how cool I think this is. But I am hoping I can arrange a behind the scenes look on that one to share with you all.
But what are some of the other lessons I’ve learnt switching from student life into the real world?
- Commuting sucks! Obvious I know – but it is definitely a price worth paying for a job I absolutely love! But on the days where I am not packed into the train vestibules or tubes on the underground, all that time I spend travelling everyday has actually made me more efficient with my time management. It doesn’t leave me much time to relax at home – so any blogging, watching of my crappy TV programs or making headway on my 2019 reading goal is done on the train. It has allowed me to compartmentalise and focus on all the stuff I like to do and allows me to not think about it when I’m back at home
- One of the reasons lab days can be so long are because you have to wait until certain steps of experiments are done. While I guess I still have long days overall, my work days are much shorter than they were before which is obviously great! But the weirdest thing that I have learnt how to do moving from lab to scicomm is that if I haven’t finished something by the end of the day, I don’t have to stay until it is done. It will still be there tomorrow – providing that it isn’t time dependent of course!
- I have learnt that I can come up with a lot of useful suggestions and wonderful, crazy ideas of how to communicate researchers work and outreach programs, so it has given me confidence that I do fit in in this role – not like I previously thought!
- It is also great to finally know what having an actual lunch break is like. Lab days can leave you grabbing something whenever the opportunity arrives, if at all. But now I can step away from me desk and completely switch off from work for a little while each day. It is so incredibly refreshing and it has made me much more productive again too
This really is just the tip of the iceberg. My inner forever student is very satisfied as I am learning something new every day about so many different things. And that just makes me happy.
I have also learnt that I am really grateful for the link of our institute with Imperial College London so I have access to even more amazing connections and opportunities. But also that I am so happy that I spend most Tuesday mornings at meetings on the main Imperial campus and Tuesday is food market day – and they do the most delicious food! My faves are the chocolate brownies so far!
What have achieved in my first month in the job?
So, while I have learnt a lot, what have I actually done. So, I have send out my first internal newsletter – which was kinda scary sending something to a list of over 350 people without anyone there to check that I was doing it right the first time. But it all worked out and I didn’t crash anyone’s inbox! I have attended a storytelling workshop which was just amazing from the wonderful Dr Kat Arney. I am organising two events – one which I pitched as a new addition. I’ve upped my graphic design skills organising posters and brochures. I have started to take over the social media channels and started to make progress on writing the Institute’s social media strategy. I’m thinking about social media campaigns and I’ve written 5 news articles about recent papers too.
It has been a fantastic start and I just hope I can continue to get my teeth stuck into more and more exciting projects and research. And hopefully pioneering some of my own ideas soon too.
What more can you expect from The Scicomm Career Diaries?
So, as this is a new feature and I have only given you the speediest overview of how I have spent the first month in my job, I just wanted to let you guys know what you might expect from this feature. Especially as so many of you have been asking me questions about my job – and I will encourage you to continue asking them!
So, The Scicomm Career Diaries is just an evolution of The PhD Journey section on my blog. I just happen to no longer be a PhD student and actually have a real job! So expect more ‘day in the life of’ posts from me as I show you how varied my days are, posts about how my scicomm roles compares with others under the same umbrella – because it is so varied, tips and tricks for finding your way into similar roles – please let me know any specifics, more scicomm advice, tip and tricks sharing what I learn along the way, coverage of any special events or opportunities I may get, to showcase some of the awesome work going on here and anything else my imagination can come up with. Plus most importantly your suggestions.
So, I hope that quick run down as given you a little bit more of a clue as to what I have been doing in my new job, and I hope I can continue to share more so you can learn more about my role and scicomm in general.
Is there anything else you would like to see in The Scicomm Career Diaries feature? What do you want to know more about with regards to my job, scicomm or anything you have read in today’s post? Let me know in the comments or contact me via any of the links in the menu!
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