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  • Shaping the Future Together:Science, Policy, and Public Engagement

    As an early career scientists finding a space in politics may not be the first thought but change doesn’t come by waiting for someone else to do the work.In many ways science holds itself as an evidence based unbiased practice supported purely by facts, while politics is generally known for the opposite. The latter has become a game of appeasing the masses and finding the evidence that will support your narrative. The RSB(Royal Society of Biology) young voices of the future policy events encourages researchers to pose questions to parliamentarians with an invited audience to further understand how UK parliament works and where scientists fit in. The event was attended by sitting members of parliament of the science and technology select committee. In this session roles are reversed with them on the hot seat ,opposite to what they are used to. As someone not fully aware of how parliament works, forgive me for any errors. A pre-set list of questions are asked by representative bodies of different institutions and learned bodies from the UK. I was invited by the Royal Society of Biology and other members included Ecological society, Royal society of chemistry and more. The questions asked ranged from: translating the breadth of issues facing scientific communities from funding to graduate outcomes and public engagement with science to pressing water quality issues. With so much covered which you can watch back in detail below. But this is what stood out to me. …squeezed out Retaining professionals in any field is a growing problem and for scientists from PhD minimum stipends to striking lecturers, the conversation has moved from encouraging new people into STEM to keeping those recruited in. A particularly important issue from a TCIM point of view as with every new initiative floods more people leaving the field that just don't feel supported. The government through many public campaigns do encourage STEM pursuits and its’s marketed as a lucrative well paying industry, and while this may be true for some there are holes in the framework to address employment across the sector. On the top end, even with the work being done by many niche organisations it seems that the ceiling is impenetrable with purposeful negligence at times. The discussion hinted on the importance of fixing this problem. Public Engagement Covid-19 is the backdrop for one of the biggest public health campaigns for many young scientists. The effort in spreading correct information was not solely down to top government officials but heavily relied on the vast range of skills from scientists from medical doctors and immunologists to influencers, comedians and more. This provided key context for the discussion on the use of social media and training that may be needed in the future. It was interesting as scicomm is still a relatively new field that is growing daily. What we currently know as scicomm is constantly evolving and will only grow further. A clear example of this is the upcoming launch of YouTube health - a dedicated section with select content creators providing bite size health information for everyone. The discussion suggested the government should look into engaging with the expertise available outside traditional forms of communication. Policy in Action River pollution in the UK is a growing concern of public and environmental health. Illegal dumping of sewage into the rivers was brought up by the ecological society. This was especially interesting as it was a current issue that needed to be addressed and responded to by recent government work - “ sewage and inlands water bill - 2021 ” recently published that aims to monitor and report sewage dumping and report the results for potential action by the government. Having clean free outdoor space is incredibly important for wellbeing - taking away from the natural resources and what affects regal living and enjoyable actions. To reverse this damage government policies will have to change to force companies responsible for river pollution to change what they do.Interestingly a question touched upon at the policy event shows change being placed but impact and benefits won't be seen till much later. Like science, policy can be a slow burner in getting known evidence from written reports to positive outcomes. Policy is an important part of how society functions and the event further highlighted this and sparked interesting ways for me to at first just stay updated and actively care about things I am passionate about. It takes the interest from concerned groups to get action if this isn't already an area of importance to the government. While great and long lasting changes are probably more impactful through policy, that doesn't make it the only way for change and change doesn’t come by waiting for someone else to do the work. You can watch back the event below. The Covid-19 pandemic gave us the greatest insight into the role of the Chief Scientific Advisor in a national emergency and while there is only one slot available there. To get your policy journey started - these careers all contribute to impact driven work. Policy Advisors : “To date, I still have one foot in academia as I work with academics and support policy activities that apply to an academic context.I enjoy connecting people that are working on inspiring EDI initiatives with learned societies. In the policy world, you have to be a sponge absorbing lots of evidence. Along my journey, I have learnt to take large amounts of information and disseminate findings in understandable, digestible formats covering various life science disciplines" Junior Consultant UNICEF. “ My role focuses on finding the best ways to organize content for country offices, finding free online resources, and looking at course completion rates. This role has enabled me to get more experience with program implementation and evaluation, which is very applicable to public health projects. “ Science Communication: As someone with strong research skills, I have been able to branch out from science writing; these days, I also do health, policy, technology, and business writing. Because I am a scientist, and am familiar with the terminology scientists use, I also know how important it is to summarize complex topics in a manner that is easy-to-understand for a general audience. So, my science background has been foundational to my career as a science writer. Business Developer: “My passions have become more tailored to my career. When I was younger it was more focused on Technology but now my passion is to help improve the quality of the human lifespan. The defining moment was in 2017 when I went to a conference and saw the future of what healthcare could be. My passions have become more tailored to my career. When I was younger it was more focused on Technology but now my passion is to help improve the quality of the human lifespan. The defining moment was in 2017 when I went to a conference and saw the future of what healthcare could be. “ Freelance consulting : I’m setting up as a consultant for medical research charities and researchers. I provide insight into research grant portfolios, links with industry, how to develop research strategies that are patient focused, and how to utilise research for fundraising.You learn about pitching to different audiences, the importance of strategy vs planning, stakeholder management, meeting chairing, etc. Science Strategy Lead: In my current role at the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health, I help embed sex- and gender-based analysis in Canadian health research. This involves keeping up with the most recent science in the area and developing materials like fact sheets, training modules and presentations to help equip researchers to apply these methods in their own work.

  • Immunology and African Studies to Public Health

    Name - Jonta Kamara (she/her) Job Title - Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) at UNICEF Headquarters A levels/ equivalent - International Baccelaurate Diploma Standard Level: Chemistry, Math, Peace and Conflict Studies Higher Level: Biology, English, French Undergrad and post grad degrees BA ( Hons) in Health Studies with a double minor in African Studies & Immunology from the University of Toronto, MSc Public Health from King’s College London Favourite science fact: Public health is very interdisciplinary that almost everything can be public health. Journey in 3 Words: Branding. Intentional. Network. Briefly describe your current role : My current role is focused on UNICEF’s Learning Passport, which is a tool used to ensure children everywhere can access education. My role focuses on finding the best ways to organize content for country offices, finding free online resources, and looking at course completion rates. This role has enabled me to get more experience with program implementation and evaluation, which is very applicable to public health projects. What motivated you to pursue a career in science? As a Sierra Leonean in the diaspora, I was always disheartened knowing that where you live and your financial situation can have a significant impact on your ability to receive healthcare. This led to my interest in public health and health system strengthening. Global Health is such a varied field, how have your experiences helped shape the path you find yourself on now? ( e.g internships and other experiences) ? During undergrad, I made sure to try a variety of opportunities. This enabled me to have a good sense of the kind of work that I enjoy and what I would like to do in the future. I realised that I was not very interested in wet labs and preferred roles that involved event planning and desk research. This helped me on the path, that I am on now, as I took the time to reflect on the skills I have and what I enjoy doing and used this to guide the kind of roles I look for when applying to jobs. What is a typical week like for you? Would you describe your role as varied or predictable and how does that tie into your personality? My position as a JPC is fully remote and I am on the same time zone as New York which is where the UNICEF Headquarters is based. I have 30 minute meetings with my supervisor on Monday and this sets my tasks for my week. My supervisor is very open to me suggesting tasks to do to ensure the role fits the skills and experiences I want to have. My role is varied, which I like as I am able to get varying experiences such as research, program evaluation, and also attending meetings with country offices. This ties into my personality as I like engaging in several initiatives at a time. During my week I also try to plan content for my Instagram @Jonta_Kam and my blog on my personal website: What advice would you give new students and recent graduates on maintaining a good work-life balance and staying on track given your experience as a part-time research assistant? I did my research assistant activities while I was a full-time student. During my undergraduate degree, I did these positions for course credit. I found that doing them for course credit made it easier to maintain a good work life balance as they were more strict in ensuring that you worked a certain number of hours a week. As a Master’s student, I found it harder to maintain a good work life balance while doing part-time research assistant roles and being a full-time student. Advice, I would give is make sure you are not working overtime too much especially when balancing other commitments. Also, be open with your supervisor and let them know if you will be unavailable during certain times of the day and speak up if you feel as though you have too much work. I think these opportunities are great to gain work experience, but at times they may be hard to balance with your other commitments. Sometimes, maintaining a good work life balance is very hard depending on how supportive your team is and how fast the deadlines are approaching. What resources have helped you most during your career journey ( you can also talk about the lack of resources if applicable) During my career journey, one of the resources that have helped me the most is people. Family members and friends have always connected me to people working in global/public health which have connected me to people in various public/global health positions. This allowed me to network with individuals since I graduated from high school. Having these conversations early developed my understanding of careers in the field and also my ability to feel comfortable networking with others. I always make sure to maintain my relationship with these connections, so it is nice to hear from them how they have seen me grow. What is an insight you gained about your job/global health only after you started your career? An insight I learned about global health after my career is that the specific degree that you have is not actually that important, it is more about your experience and how you brand yourself. Have you had a mentor and how has that contributed to your career journey? I signed up for a mentorship program once in undergrad otherwise my mentors have been connections that I have made and kept relationships with. When finding a mentor it is important that you both match, so I personally prefer scheduling a meeting with an individual so I get to know them and maintaining the relationship if that is what I want to do. These mentors have helped me by connecting me to other individuals, forwarding my name for opportunities, and providing advice on cover letters and resumes. You are very active on linkedin and have just launched your own personal website( ) Planning to launch instagram ! . What advice do you have for networking and putting yourself out there? Honestly, just go for it and start! Networking can be very daunting at first, but when you do it a lot of times, there are a lot of benefits for you as you are making yourself more visible and speaking to people also helps ensure you can effectively communicate your interests to others. People that you don’t know will also interact with your posts, and you connect with people that have similar interests. Overall, I have found it to be very rewarding especially as you never know who you’ll end up being connected to and how this will help you. website: How have your passions and interests changed since you started thinking of careers? Was there a defining moment for you? A defining moment for me was when I realised I did not want to limit myself to solely public health research and academia and saw myself also working in program management and roles that involved program implementation. This led me to reflect on the courses I was taking and the experiences I was gaining and how they would help me work in the kind of roles I aspired to be in. Where do you see yourself in 5 years In 5 years I see myself working in public health but more on the African continent. I also see my personal brand growing, so I hope to do more speaking engagements and possible consultancies, but we will see where life takes me. Outside science how would you describe yourself? Outside of science I like to model and travel. I am also into supporting more African founded brands whether it is make-up, hair products, artwork, clothing. I always try to support them and look for more!

  • Biochemistry to Software Developer

    Name : Aishat Yusuff (She/Her) Job Title: Trainee Software Developer A levels/ equivalent : I schooled in Nigeria so the A Levels equivalent is the West African Examination Council(WAEC) Exam and I got: English -B3, Maths - B2, Chemisty - B3, Physics - B3, Biology - B3 Undergrad and Post grad degrees Bsc Biochemistry Msc Clinical Biochemistry Favourite science fact: I find it interesting that visible features like the ear and face shapes can be used as paternity cues in sons. Journey in 3 Words : Interesting, challenging and surprising Briefly describe your current role: My background is quite different from my career field now. My role as a trainee software developer involves me learning new things about software development/engineering while on the job. It involves a lot of studying and hands-on practice, which isn’t unusual for the field because technology is always evolving. What motivated you to pursue a career in science? I first fell in love with science when I saw some medical students in white lab coat. It sounds quite funny but it was a driving force for me. However, I decided to career-switch because I wanted to try my hands on something new. The ultimate career goal for me now would be combining my Biochemistry knowledge with my newly acquired software development knowledge, to advance health tech! What is a typical day like for you and which skills do you enjoy using the most and which ones have you needed to learn and work on to suit the role? A typical day for me includes a few catch up meetings with my colleagues to update them on what I’m currently working on/learning. As I work from home, this ensures that I’m not isolated, as I also get to ask lots of questions. As my role involves a lot of learning, I’d be creating simple practice software projects, while solving problems and reading about different software development concepts. Problem solving, oral communication and research skills are my most used skills on a typical day. As I’ve recently started working on a project with my colleagues, I wager that I’d be using a lot of team working skills in the months to come. As a career switcher, all of the above mentioned skills came quite easy for me because I’ve groomed them in my academic life, however, I’ve had to tailor my problem solving skills to suit the software development field. It was quite difficult at first but constant practice and asking for help when I need it has made it easier for me. How did you decide on your Msc? and do you feel you made the right decision for your career? I wanted to explore the clinical aspect of Biochemistry as my undergrad was quite generic. That’s why I decided on my MSc course. I’d also say yes, I made the right decision for me at the time. The MSc journey didn’t just teach me about clinical Biochemistry, I learnt a lot more as a person; about my own personal health; about writing even about my professional skills. What advice would you give anyone wanting to follow your career path? I’d say do not be afraid to make a career switch if, like me, all you’ve known is a different field. I know that technology is the latest hype but don’t like that stop you. Take a leap and try it out— and this doesn’t just apply to technology by the way. Remember that you’ll only live this life, once. You decided to make a big career switch, what resources or thought process led you to this path after your life science based degree? Initially, I’d wanted to try something new because I wasn’t getting a favourable response on my job application process — after my MSc. I needed the confidence boost and I’d figured that trying out something I used to think I’d suck at, might help. Coding wasn’t a thing I thought I’d find interesting, so when I started learning (and enjoyed it), I realised that I could make this a career. The code first girls initiative provided me with lots of free resources to facilitate this journey. "Rejection can be very debilitating and we’ve ALL experienced it, so please know that you’re not alone in how you feel." What advice would you give on dealing with rejection and perseverance? Rejection can be very debilitating and we’ve ALL experienced it, so please know that you’re not alone in how you feel. What I’d say though is that like me, you can try your hands on new things ( that may provide another source of achievement and will remind you that you’re worth it!). This doesn’t mean that like me, you should make a career change, but I find that when you do things that remind you that you can achieve anything, you can channel that renewed confidence to combat that sense of rejection ( and strengthen your perseverance). Would you have originally picked this career path instead of doing a masters if more information was available to you at the time? I believe so, yes. I don’t regret doing my MSc in clinical Biochemistry, because as I’ve mentioned earlier, I learnt a lot from the process. But I believe if I’d found the desire to “try something new” earlier, or I’d come across a brilliant initiative like Code First Girls earlier, I might have opted for a conversion masters in Computer engineering or software development. What advice would you give your younger self ? Enjoy your learning phase. Let go of all that worrying about what your future would look like and actually enjoy every learning moment of your present. You’d look back on them and see how those moments contributed to who you are today. Where do you see yourself in 5 years ? I see myself still holding firmly to the above advice. I also see myself being a formidable presence in my current field and helping other career switchers like me overcome their imposter syndrome (and be the best versions of themselves). Outside science how would you describe yourself? Outside of science and technology, I enjoy listening to and taking care of myself. I do this by immersing myself in my love for books, writing, kdramas and sleeping 😄.

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  • The Catalyst In Me (TCIM) l Life Science Careers I United Kingdom

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    January 2023 (2) 2 posts December 2022 (1) 1 post June 2022 (2) 2 posts May 2022 (4) 4 posts April 2022 (3) 3 posts March 2022 (3) 3 posts February 2022 (1) 1 post December 2021 (2) 2 posts November 2021 (2) 2 posts October 2021 (5) 5 posts September 2021 (2) 2 posts June 2021 (1) 1 post Jan 15 6 min TCIM Reviews What does a research technician do? Dec 4, 2022 6 min Blog Is my degree a scam? : the bioscience job market needs a change! Jun 26, 2022 5 min Msc/ MRes The Science Graduate to #Love Island Pathway ! Apr 18, 2022 7 min Bsc 5 reasons you should attend more online conferences Mar 18, 2022 4 min TCIM Reviews A New Chapter for Heart Transplantation Oct 31, 2021 4 min TCIM Reviews #ProudToBeBlack FoundersInStem - Wenite Black History Month Oct 10, 2021 7 min TCIM Reviews What can I do with my degree? - Life Science Graduates Apr 21, 2021 6 min Science communication The African Genome Project - Why is it important ? Apr 5, 2021 5 min TCIM Convesations Public perception of science Mar 7, 2021 5 min Bench to Bedside Male Contraceptives : A 2021 Update I Bench to Bedside Jan 16, 2021 8 min TCIM Convesations Are Vaccines the only end to the pandemic? Nov 6, 2020 8 min TCIM Convesations The World Can Handle Covid-19 Sep 6, 2020 6 min My thoughts in words It's September ... why don't we have a vaccine yet? Aug 9, 2020 3 min My thoughts in words Pandemic over ? - The new normal May 3, 2020 5 min My thoughts in words Should I take the corona vaccine? Apr 7, 2020 5 min My thoughts in words Corona Times - Vaccines Jun 16, 2019 4 min My thoughts in words Mental Health - the spectrum Sep 13, 2018 4 min TCIM Reviews POLY CYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME Jul 4, 2018 3 min Science communication SUNSCREEN ... Jun 7, 2018 4 min Science communication THE GREAT HUMAN ROAD TRIP

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