BSc Biochemistry to Data Scientist

Name : Josephine (Josie) Mensah-Kane - she/her

Job Title : Data Scientist

A levels : Chemistry,Biology, Economics, French

Undergrad and postgrad degrees :

BSc Biochemistry

MSc Bioinformatics

Favourite science fact: Human stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve stainless steel!

Journey in 3 Words : Evolving, Challenging, and Fulfilling

Briefly describe your role : My role mainly consists of developing and implementing algorithms to aid in the quick diagnosis of rapidly spreading bacterial and viral infections. I also manage the statistical analysis of clinical trials, for performance evaluations of diagnostic devices (e.g., COVID tests), and diagnostic devices for neglected and tropical diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever.

What motivated you to pursue a career in science: The intellectual challenge it brings, and how rapidly evolving and important science is in our everyday lives.

What do/ did you enjoy the most about your masters course? Our 3 month group project, which consisted of designing and coding a bioinformatics software app from scratch. It was interesting learning new coding languages and seeing how quickly

everyone on the course was able to pick up the skill (as most of us came from non-coding backgrounds)

You published a paper from your Msc dissertation, what advice would you give someone wanting/ currently pursuing a masters degree?: Be as interactive as possible with your lecturers/PhD demonstrators and don’t hold back from asking questions you may think are ‘silly’. When it comes to your dissertation, schedule frequent meetings with your supervisor and start writing up your draft as early as possible, update it on a weekly basis and consistently ask for feedback, as opposed to leaving it to the last few weeks. Most importantly, engage with your course mates – our course had a large group chat, which was really helpful in discussing all things from coursework, to job, or PhD opportunities.

How was the transition from Biochemistry to Bioinformatics and how did you land on choosing your Msc?

It was a fairly smooth transition, as my bioinformatics course (at QMUL) was catered towards people from non-coding backgrounds. It was a very fast paced, intense and challenging year, however, the lecturers and PhD demonstrators were extremely helpful. There are also many resources online (e.g. Stack Overflow) which are very useful in helping you tackle problems in many different ways. I chose to pursue a masters in bioinformatics, based on a recommendation made by one of my undergrad lecturers, who explained how much of a rapidly growing and interesting industry it was.

How have internships played a part in your journey? My first internship with ‘Hire STEM Women’ introduced me to many women working in the STEM industry, which motivated me to pursue a career in tech. My second internship, with ‘Code First Girls’, got me into coding/software engineering and cemented how interesting and easy of a

skill coding is to pick up, with enough motivation. Although both internships were

not directly related to my degree at the time (as I had not yet started my

bioinformatics masters), they introduced me to the many different career opportunities that I could explore by brushing up my coding skills.

How do you feel careers in your field have evolved / where are they heading to? The

bioinformatics field has grown exponentially since the Human Genome Project was

completed in 2003. In the future, I predict even more collaboration with other scientists from different fields, medical doctors, and even looking at ways to improve

individual health outcomes through the use of personalised medicine.

Knowing what you know, are there any bits of your journey you would change or advice you wish you were given earlier? I wouldn’t change any part of my journey, but I wish I knew to start looking for work experience earlier on during my undergrad years.

No career journey is a linear path, What are some hard

truths you have had to face along the way? It is difficult to secure job

in a particular field without relevant work experience, no matter how good your academic track record is.

When considering your career path, how much has your potential

salary affected your decision? Significantly, however, my decision was also mainly based on choosing a career where there’s plenty of room for growth, not only in salary, but in skills and responsibility as well.

Outside science how would you describe yourself? I’m an animal lover, I’m

really interested in the history of music, especially jazz and blues and even

have a blog centring that. I’m also really interested in video games!