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Bsc Natural Sciences/Neuroscience to Medical Affairs

  • Name : Alex( he/him)

  • Job Title: Graduate Intern - Medical Affairs

  • A levels/equivalent: Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Extended Project Qualification

  • Undergraduate degree: BSc in Natural Sciences specialising in Neuroscience

  • Favourite science fact: the language you speak can drastically effect the way your mind works and the way you see the world compared to a speaker of a foreign language

Journey in 3 Words: Seizing the moment!

  • Briefly describe your current role

I work in Medical Affairs for a large pharmaceutical company, where I help respond to enquiries from nurses and doctors about our products. I also work across different disease areas, and work on projects to make sure I contribute as much as possible to the daily activities of Medical Affairs. In doing so, I maintain a strong understanding of the therapeutic areas that the company specialises in, and use this knowledge to aid healthcare professionals and improve patient outcomes.

  • What motivated you to pursue a career in science ?

Multiple things. I have always been curious about the world around me and thinking deeply about the processes that drive our everyday lives. After A levels, the opportunity to study neuroscience seemed too good to pass up. In pursuing this opportunity I could apply my understanding of chemistry to the biochemistry and biology of the brain and how this impacts our lives from daily decision making, to the development of neurological disease. Doing so felt incredibly rewarding, and the next step was to try and find a career pathway that would let me apply this knowledge to help others.

As a student, my understanding of the professional landscape was that any specialism I chose would define where I take my career for the rest of my life.

  • What's an insight from your field you gained only after getting your role?

After starting my role, I quickly came to understand the level of opportunity available to new professionals. As a student, my understanding of the professional landscape was that any specialism I chose would define where I take my career for the rest of my life. I thought there’d be limited opportunities to upskill myself in activities I missed at university, and that unless I took a postgraduate degree, my BSc represented the final step in my learning journey. This could not be further from the case. Beyond university there are endless opportunities to pivot/direct your career, even change industry altogether. If you’re lucky, these opportunities will be provided by your employer and you’ll have a good support network to help you get through periods of transition and uncertainty.

  • 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?:

Day to day, I spend a lot of time networking and collaborating with different people in the company. I enjoy any opportunity to learn, not just about science but important career development and professional skills. I have had to learn to be as agile as possible, and capable to adapt swiftly to major change, which is something you’ll see a lot of in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • You did a broad Bsc degree in Natural Science specialising in Neuroscience what was that like and what advice would you give someone wanting to study the same degree?

The course was quite intense, at first feeling like studying 4 different subjects. It wasn’t until later modules where the bigger picture starts to form and you see how psychology, biology and philosophy all contribute greatly to the pursuit of neuroscientific research. I would say anyone who wants to study this degree should approach it with curiosity, and be ready to digest a lot of advanced concepts. The reward at the end of it is huge though, and it’s incredible to study in a discipline that’s on the precipice of being the next major milestone in scientific discovery!

  • How important were the experiences and activities such as extracurricular research projects contribute to the “value” of your degree?

I think they were incredibly important for building my CV and showing my commitment to personal development. At interview, I often had quite a lot to talk about on my CV as I tried to make it as broad as possible, while still capturing a scientific focus. Some of the best projects I worked on at University were ones I had to reach out and look for, which gave me experience in approaching others for career development opportunities. I think the soft skills you pick up from doing so (networking, collaboration, communication) are just as valuable as the specialised skillset you develop in the projects.

  • For many early graduates the interview process can be quite daunting what application / interview top tip would you give ?

The biggest piece of advice is to exude confidence - difficult when you’re nervous, I know! Interviewers will pick up on a lot more than you think, just from your natural body language. Interviewing is all about putting your best foot forward, and if you can come across as confident - even if you don’t feel it - you’ll make a great impression. I would advise people to approach interviews as a professional conversation with someone you’d genuinely be interested to work with. Employers want someone who is engaged. Challenging interviewers with insightful questions and making them think is a great way of shifting the pressure and showing confidence!

  • Knowing what you know now, would you have done the same undergrad degree?

I would definitely put myself forward for the research projects and extracurricular activities I did.

  • How did you stay motivated during you degree and maintain a passion for your field currently?

Motivation for me came from learning. I found the more effort I put into my projects, the more I was getting out of them. In a field like Neuroscience, there is so much uncharted territory that we’re yet to explore and understand, so that opportunity to learn isn’t going away any time soon!

  • What were your perceptions of being a scientist before you started your course?:

I thought that being a scientist meant having 2 career options: either 1) lab work or 2) research/academia. It wasn’t until I started to explore industry roles that I realised this wasn’t the case, and that there’s a whole world of different opportunities that need life science graduates.

  • How have your passions and interests changed since you started thinking of careers?

Was there a defining moment for you?: Before my third year of University, I had no idea what I wanted to use my degree for. Discovering that skills I learned on my course could be a force for good and help improve patient lives was a pivotal moment for me. When I realised this passion, I knew that I wanted a career in pharmaceuticals.

  • Is there an experience/ conversation that has heavily impacted your career journey?:

Getting. A. Mentor !

Without question it was talking to someone who was willing to help me understand the industry I was looking to join. Apart from giving me an accurate idea of what my career would look like, my mentor was amazing at keeping me motivated and focused on getting my first role. I really owe a lot to her and probably wouldn’t be here without her.

I met my mentor through my University’s Mentorship portal. This was a directory of alumni who were offering their mentorship to current students - it was as simple as sending an introductory email explaining why I wanted a mentor and a general idea of my career development plans. Some advice I would give to current students is to get as much value out of your University fees as possible. The fees you pay give you access to a lot of fantastic resources - not just your study program - and can go a very long way to giving you focus on where you want to take your career.

  • Outside science how would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as compassionate, curious and driven. I have quite a competitive spirit, which translates a lot even when I’m just messing about with friends 😅. I value connection strongly and always love to meet new people and hear new ideas. In terms of hobbies, I enjoy letting my hair down with friends and family, going to gigs/festivals, exploring nature, playing guitar and cooking.


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