Bsc Applied Biology to Head of Audio ,Research Publishing Intl
Name :Will Mountford (He/Him)
Job Title: Head of Audio, Research Publishing Intl
A levels/ equivalent
1 B and 3 Ds, Media Studies, German, Biology and General Studies. Through luck or generosity, I still got a Uni place for a course asking for BBC. The B was in Media studies.
Undergrad and post grad degrees
BSc Applied & Human Biology, Aston University (2011)
MSc Science Communication at UWE Bristol, 2014
Favourite science fact: the Murchison Meteorite, a chunk of space rock recovered from Australia, contains amino acids that do not appear in any living thing on Earth.
Journey in 3 Words :Casual chats, professionalised
Briefly describe your role: I manage the pitching, development, recording, and release of ResearchPod episodes, in which research papers and projects get translated into accessible language summaries or interviews for boosting outreach and academic impact. Back when we could host events, I also ran the local scicomm events group Sci X Southwest.
What motivated you to pursue a career in science?
A friend of mine in Year 9 did a presentation in English class about how he wanted to be a midwife when he grew up, and I thought… I could do that. So started angling myself towards biology. That friend’s a photographer now. So, yknow… sliding doors.
As a podcaster with vast experience in different forms of science communication how would you describe the field of communication to someone just starting?
There’s so many different styles, outlets and goals of science communication, it can be a little boggling to think about where to start. And there’s just as many niches going unfilled and undiscovered. I’ve hosted comedy nights with Sci X Southwest, handled human brain tissue, interviewed OAPs about their walking group and air pollution, and got a thousand strangers to (using safety equipment) stare at the sun, all in a single year. There’s no one path to take, or goal to reach.
How did you decide on your MSc? and do you feel you made the right decision for your career?
Purely by chance, as i was browsing the ‘Find a Masters/Find a PhD’ directory during my final year of my BSc, I saw a banner ad for the MSc course. As soon as i started reading its contents, I thought “...why did no-one tell me this was an option before?”.
And, I can’t imagine my life if i hadn’t done it.
What skills from your degrees have helped you during your career journey to full time podcasting
Besides being able to academically cite the reasons why my job should exist (which many old-school scientists seem morally opposed too…), an openness to new topics has been essential, considering i’ve interviewed experts in everything from quantum psychology to welding. Going into those knowing that i am not going to be the most well informed about the topic drives me to find a new line of questioning, or new way of breaking down topics, so that anyone could listen without feeling alienated or talked down to.
We also spent some modules dealing specifically in media production and skills, with the transferable knowledge going from video editing to audio editing being a big time saver.
No career journey is a linear path, what are some hard truths you have had to face along the way?
Your time, energy, income and commitment to something are yours to know the value of. When someone, somewhere, starts asking too much of one of those without compensating another, you can wear yourself out, be it a long commute meaning you don't have as much home/leisure time, or getting paid enough for something you don’t find enriching. I’ve maintained a solid and unwavering dedication to not moving to London, no matter how ‘perfect’ a job may sound, for the exact same reason.
How has volunteering steered your journey?
It got me my first ‘scicomm’ job, going from an occasional volunteer at the local science museum to a full time member of staff alongside my MSc studies. I got to meet a lot of excellent people as a volunteer, and later as a staff member working with volunteers, from all walks of life, and it made for a great reminder that you never know what someone else knows. It’s all well and good delivering training around ‘Your amazing body’ and thinking your already-rusty BSc is impressive til it turns out one of the trainees is a retired doctor with over 1000 hours of volunteering under his belt. Establish a shared groundwork of understanding first, with no expectation or assumed knowledge, and build on it together.
What advice would you give on dealing with rejection and perseverance?
This is something I am still working on, and am lucky enough to have friends and family to offer emotional support. One particularly rough example was the winter I sent out something close to 60 job applications, with little to show for it - I don’t remember a single one of those applications now, but I definitely remember the one job I got at the end of it. Optimism can be hard to come by, but it’s a good choice when possible. Like I mentioned earlier about ‘career choices’, it’s hard to imagine what else might have been, when things have (through equal measures of effort and luck) worked out to a pretty alright place currently.
Having done Media studies would you say the desire to communicate and produce content has always been there?
The Media studies course was ’The fun one’ go my choices. I had a science, with a clear plan for uni and career afterwards, a language for all the benefits an expanded world view brings, and then something for myself to enjoy. Of course, after a generation of being told ‘Media studies is a waste course for laybouts and hipsters’, look at media landscape we find ourselves in. Maybe if everyone had been studying it a bit closer...
To look at that with a broader idea of communication and content, I suppose there may have always been something of a performer in me. I played in bands as a kid as well, and the live performances with Science Showoff/Sci X Southwest have scratched the same itch. However, I would temper that with the (bad?) habit of being self-minimising a lot of the time. See, I’m doing it already...
I have a notion that, if I’ve set up an event well, or conducted an interview properly, or produced a podcast cleanly, then no-one has to know I was there at all. Where an interview leads should be the common-sense questions on any listeners mind so they can get an answer immediately. An event should be able to run smoothly without my hand on the tiller at all times, that sort of thing.
This can be a useful instinct, in terms of being totally prepared for conducting interviews or having backups/technical redundancies at events. On every other hand, not particularly advantageous. I need to work up the bravado to see my journey as inspiring, personally, but if it has that quality for anyone reading this, I’ll take it.
What is your biggest pet peeve about how the world perceives science
That being very well educated makes you infallible. You can be the smartest person in the room and still be wrong. Or worse, be biased. Worse still, be a dick.
When considering your career path, how much has your potential salary affected your decision?
Had someone tapped me on the shoulder as i browsed for masters courses and said ‘For the rest of your twenties, you will see all your friends and colleagues living far more comfortable lives than you’ It would have undoubtedly given me pause. It’s a shame to say, but the ability to live and function comfortably in society is dependent on income, and there’s large gaps between the high and low ends of the scicomm scene.
But, to come back to those personal values, I have found myself in incredibly enriching jobs that pay well enough for now. I have met great people, travelled the world, and had some excellent times. Then, when that balance started tipping, it’s been time to go
Seeing as i’m buying a house and have a baby on the way, I reserve the right to revisit this statement and sell out completely.
Outside science how would you describe yourself.
Physically, I’m a balding cis dude with a beard and glasses - Truly, i was destined to be a podcaster… Politically, I spent the last 3 years working on a run for Bristol City Council as a Green Party representative, and support their policies of inclusiveness, social/ecological justice, and prioritising wellbeing over GDP. Generally, i’m just vibing.
Connect with Will and listen to his podcast -> https://twitter.com/ResearchpodHQ