Before I started my PhD I knew that I wasn’t interested in a career in academia. I wanted to do a PhD and was very interested in my research field (the control of a replicative endonuclease using phosphorylation), but beyond that, academia didn’t feel like the right place for me. That’s not to say that I knew what I wanted to do; my plan was to finish my PhD, go travelling and then figure that out. In January 2020 I submitted my thesis and left for Australia. I planned to spend 6 months travelling, but instead found myself in the middle of a global pandemic on the other side of the world. I returned to the UK shortly before it locked down to work on the family farm.
After a few months of lockdown and farming, I decided it was time to start looking for a job. Reflecting on my PhD experience, I realised that while many people had told me that writing their thesis had been the least favourite part of their PhD, I had really enjoyed writing mine. I also loved the work I had done with an educational charity, which involved visiting schools and teaching pupils about my research, although I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. I started to research science communication jobs and soon discovered medical writing.
Before stumbling across it, I didn’t know that careers in medical writing existed. My time at university had been largely spent in a chemistry department and most of the careers advice we received was tailored to chemists. Reading about the role of a medical writer I realised this was something that I would enjoy and could do well, so I began to apply for medical writing jobs. Knowing that I was interested in this area, a friend sent me a job advert for Insight Medical Writing (now Certara Insight) and I applied for the post. Following an interview (with a few technical difficulties due to my farm-based internet connection) and completing the writing tests, I was offered, and accepted, the position.
Starting a new job and moving to a new city in a global pandemic was not something I thought I would ever have to do. Nor was it without challenges. On my first day I went into the office, had a brief, socially distanced introduction to life as a medical writer and collected some IT equipment. Very shortly after, I was supporting on a document for a client and have subsequently worked on an array of projects for a variety of companies. Alongside this I have received in-house training and attended courses run by the European Medical Writers Association.
Eleven months after starting at Certara Insight I started going into the office. Working from home was challenging in those first few months; however, the support I received from my colleagues was exceptional and it wasn’t long before I felt settled!
Medical writing gives me the opportunity to use the transferable skills I developed during my PhD to manage projects, interpret data and write high-quality documents. I also get to learn about new and interesting science in a number of different therapeutic areas without the stress of wondering why my site-directed mutagenesis still isn’t working! Now that I have found medical writing, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
This personal profile first appeared in the FirstMedCommsJob careers guide, A writer’s role in drug development: a guide to getting started in regulatory medical writing, published August 2022