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PhD Neurobiology to Medical Writer

  • Name :Hodan Ibrahim

  • Job Title:Medical Writer

  • A levels/ equivalent :Biology, Chemistry, History

  • Undergrad and postgrad degrees

  1. BSc Biomedical Sciences

  2. MSc (By Research) Neurophysiology

  3. PhD Neurophysiology

  • Briefly describe your current role:

I work in medical communications, primarily managing and writing scientific publications.

  • What motivated you to pursue a career in science

I enjoyed learning about the human body and the biology of disease in school and college, which made me excited about going for a career in science. I also think my history A-level helped prepare me for my research career, as we spent a lot of time learning how to collect evidence and write essays arguing for and against specific points. This experience was super valuable once I started to write dissertations and theses.

I was listed as an inventor on the patent due to my contributions.

  • How would you summarise your PhD and how does it fit into the wider context of health for someone not in research?

My PhD was focused on botulinum neurotoxins (better known as Botox) and how they might be effective at treating pain. I was able to work in the industry lab that sponsored my project, and test all sorts of new and different compounds that were produced by the protein scientists. I felt very fortunate to be testing a lot of these compounds for the first time, and I was also listed as an inventor on the patent due to my contributions.

  • Your MSc Supervisor was crucial in your PhD journey. What advice would you give people interested in doing a PhD on the application process and take away messages having completed?

While I applied for PhD projects at different universities, it was extremely competitive as I was essentially competing with people all over the world who have had a variety of research experiences and potentially papers already published. Having an MSc is often required by universities in the UK and EU, so I think that if obtaining a PhD is your goal, making connections with supervisors and other academics in your department during this time can be extremely useful.

  • What was it like doing an Industry collaborative PhD?

Being part of an industry collaboration was an incredible asset during my PhD, not just for the funding, but also the lab resources that I had access to. I started my project in January 2020, months before the COVID pandemic and lockdown, which meant the university labs were closed. I was extremely lucky to be able to move our lab into the company’s lab facilities which were open and work there, which meant my project was minimally affected by the lockdown.

I was also fortunate to also have close contact with people on different career paths within the company, who gave me lots of inspiration and advice about potential roles I could go into.

  • The Job market can be quite daunting. What tips do you have?

My current job is in medical communications, which I got into after doing some research on LinkedIn, looking at where other people with similar experiences as myself ended up. While I did struggle in the beginning sending applications and not hearing back, my luck drastically changed after I started spending time revising my CV and cover letter for each application. Having a well-structured LinkedIn profile can be valuable, as recruiters often reach out directly with job opportunities so make sure they can find you!

  • For your current role, what application / interview top tip would you give ?

Medcomms is quite difficult to get into, as most roles expect you to have at least a years’ experience at an agency. To navigate this, its important to leverage the skills, potential publications and work experience you do have. There are different fields within medcomms, such as medical education and creative medcomms, so tailor your research depending on which field you are interested in pursuing. is a super useful website with information and videos about the industry.

I gained a lot from my time as an academic scientist but I do feel there are many great, fulfilling opportunities to be found outside of the academy also.

  • Do you ever see yourself transitioning back into academia?

While I could see myself transitioning back to academia, it seems unlikely as once you step off the academic escalator (PhD -> post doctoral scientist for a few years in different labs -> lecturer etc) it becomes difficult to step back on due to the requirements needed (published papers and grants won). I gained a lot from my time as an academic scientist but I do feel there are many great, fulfilling opportunities to be found outside of the academy also.

  • How have your passions and interests changed since you started thinking of careers? Was there a defining moment for you?

PhD students can often get very attached to their project and to the idea of being an academic, which was true for myself especially in the beginning of my project. As I did more research about the career landscape, I found that the idea of multiple short-term post-doctoral positions (1-3 years each) that come along with the pressure to publish after each one in order to obtain your next job did not appeal to me. The vast competition for lectureships also means that some people stay within this postdoc valley for longer than they would like. This made me look for the types of jobs I could get outside of academia.


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