Neuroscience to Freelance science writer l TCIM Careers
· Name - Sheeva Azma (she/her
· Current job title - Freelance Science Writer and Lead Writer/Researcher, Fancy Comma, LLC
· A levels/ equivalent - N/A
· Undergrad and postgrad degrees - BS, Brain & Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MS, Neuroscience, Georgetown University
· Favourite science fact - Neuroscientists used to think that you’re born with all the brain cells you will have your entire life, but now they know that the adult brain grows new brain cells.
Journey in 3 Words - Persistence wins everything!
· Briefly describe your role -I am the founder of my own science writing company, Fancy Comma, LLC (http://fancycomma.com). Basically, this means that I spend a lot of my time doing what I love -- writing. As a freelancer, I get to take on work that I like, and I can say no to projects that I don’t think are a good fit. I also get to set my own hours. The flexibility of being a freelancer is amazing! I also, of course, have to deal with the business aspect of freelance science writing. That includes seeking out jobs, as well as performing accounting and other tasks.
· What motivated you to pursue a career in science - I have always been interested in science, especially neuroscience. Growing up, I really liked chemistry, biology, neuroscience, and medicine, and so I studied biomedical sciences in undergraduate and graduate school.
· How have your previous experiences played a part in your career path. - I was a cognitive neuroscience researcher for over 10 years, during which time I studied the attentional mechanisms of the brain, and the brain’s susceptibility to stress and addiction. My scientific training gives me the critical thinking skills needed to examine issues carefully. 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.
· What made you decide to pursue science writing full-time and as a freelancer - I actually wrote an entire article about this! You can read it here: https://www.thexylom.com/post/science-writing-was-worth-it-it-just-took-longer-than-i-thought.
· What was the hardest bit about pursuing freelance writing ? and what advice would you give someone wanting to follow this path? - The hardest part about freelance writing is the fact that it can be very isolating at times. Sometimes, sitting in my little writing nook, it felt like I was the only person doing science writing. It helps to connect with other science writers. In today’s increasingly remote world, this is easier than ever. On Twitter, you can chat about science communication and follow the hashtag #SciComm. You can also join the National Association of Science Writers, which holds regular networking events and provides other resources for science writers. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, also!
· How do you feel careers in your field have evolved / where are they heading to? - When I was in academic science, many of my colleagues expressed concern that they did not have marketable skills. As a graduate student, I helped organize career panels for people interested in jobs outside of academia -- so-called “alt-ac” careers. These days, so-called “alt-ac” careers have become more mainstream. You can read more about this here.
Also, careers in science have never been more important. Science is at the forefront of many global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
· When considering your career path, how much has your potential salary affected your decision? - Salary is an important consideration when deciding on a career. As a freelancer, your income can be inconsistent, so it’s important to have strong budgeting and accounting skills so that you can live comfortably while doing something you love
· Outside science how would you describe yourself - I am an avid runner and have run three marathons - The Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, and the Philadelphia Marathon.
To keep up with Sheeva, follow her on socials below