Bsc Biology - PhD Biomechanics to Senior Policy Officer
Name : Jade Hall (She/her)
Job title: Senior Science Policy Officer – Royal Society of Biology (RSB)
A levels: Biology, ICT, General Studies
BSc Biology with an industrial placement
MSc Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
PhD in Biomechanics and Animal Welfare Science
Favourite science fact:
A naked mole rat’s lower incisors can move independently and even work together like fingers or chopsticks.
Journey in 3 Words:
Exhilarating, Overwhelming, Intriguing
Briefly describe your role:
I am responsible for providing input and delivering a portfolio of activities focusing on policies linked to scientists. This includes research funding, research integrity and research publication. Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has also become a large part of my role, I support RSB’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group and Diversity and Inclusion Network. By working with RSB’s board of trustees, committees and staff members, I assist with planning and implementing a programme of work to pro-actively promote and embed EDI into our current organisational policies, practices and behaviours. Finally, I also focus on disseminating policy news of interest to our membership.
What motivated you to pursue a career in science?
Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated by animals and why they behave differently. My favourite characters in books and TV shows or toys were always animals, and my world exploded once I discovered nature documentaries. I was driven by a passion to explore the natural environment and was frequently found at my local ecology centre or the natural history museum.
Your BSc included a placement year, looking back how did this experience play a role in your current career path?
During my placement year, I worked for a biotechnology company investigating the enzymes used in glucose biosensors. I wanted to explore if working in a lab was for me. Developing my wet lab skills helped to secure my degree, but the interpersonal skills gained were irreplaceable. I was lucky enough to work and learn something from different team members, enhancing my communication skills by succinctly presenting my findings during lab meetings. Although I had a great experience, it helped me whittle down my career possibilities and provide direction as I then knew working in the biotech industry wasn’t for me.
What advice would you give someone wanting to do a placement year?
If the opportunity arises, do it! It is a fantastic chance to immerse yourself in an industry and see if there are elements you like or dislike. It is also advantageous as you get paid for a year, and it can increase your job prospects after graduation. There are always skills to be gained from each experience along your career journey.
How did you decide on your MSc? and do you feel you made the right decision for your career?
During my undergrad, animal and plant-related modules received the highest scores, indicating I could flourish learning more during post-graduate education. It was definitely the right decision, as I learnt from experts in a field, I was passionate about. Additionally, I always dreamed of working with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), where I carried out my final 6-month project placement. My eyes were opened to exciting conservation programmes, working in the charity sector, and impactful outreach initiatives such as Soapbox Science.
How did you know a PhD was for you?
Sometimes when you tell people you have a PhD, “you must be really smart” is a common comment, “I am really persistent and stubborn” is often my response. A PhD can have many ups and downs and is a marathon, not a sprint, which can be hard to grasp before you start. Although there were times when things never went to plan, I enjoyed talking to people about my project. To date, I still get excited about new developments in connected fields. A professor once told me that if you would spend your last pound finding the answer to your investigative question, you know a PhD is for you.
What advice would you give someone wanting to apply for a PhD?
Spend a significant amount of time on your personal statement and get another person to review it. Connecting with current PhD students to hear about their experiences can also be beneficial. Don’t be afraid to take non-traditional routes. I acquired my PhD via an interdisciplinary doctoral training programme that included an internship and opportunities to develop a variety of additional skills.
After your PhD, you transitioned “outside” of academia what helped you make this choice?
Vocalising my thoughts and fears with the people I trusted was crucial. Academia was my life, and I didn’t know what else was out there. So, I treated my impending future career as one of my study projects and researched! Tools such as LinkedIn are fantastic to investigate career paths, and blogs such as The Catalyst in Me are influential in highlighting the range of routes available. To date, I still have one foot in academia as I work with academics and support policy activities that apply to an academic context.
What do you enjoy most about your current role and which “transferrable skills” have been most valuable through your journey?
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. Furthermore, I have continued to stay inquisitive and maintain my passion for science. I still get excited when learning about a ground-breaking discovery or a fun science pub-quiz fact.
When considering your career path, how much has your potential salary affected your decision?
The older I have become, a salary has more significance and is frequently tied to my career choices. With each future endeavour it is vital to recognise your worth.
How would you describe yourself outside of science?
Pre-pandemic, I was a Cuban salsa fanatic. I loved travelling to salsa congresses around the world or going to local classes. Post-pandemic, I have developed a love for arts and crafts (it is just a coincidence that all of my art pieces characterise animals).