SBCS Employability Network

The School of Biological Sciences (SBCS) at Queen Mary is a vibrant, dynamic, research-intensive community of academics, dedicated to providing excellent teaching at the frontiers of science. Our Biology, Chemistry and Psychology-based degree courses are designed to ensure all undergraduates achieve their full potential through an intensive, hands-on, learning experience. Develop your employability!

Please look out for the 2017 SBCS Careers Forum (held usually in November) announcements in the coming months!

The 2016 SBCS Careers Forum review
Wednesday, 2nd November from 14.00 - 19:30, The Octagon, Queens’ Building, Mile End, London, UK

Our annual School’s Careers Forum, led by Dr Maya Mendiratta, SBCS’ careers consultant, was held this year once again in the College’s Grade II-listed events space, The Octagon. Spurred on by this superb library-style inspirational setting, the Forum started early at 13:30 with the placing of 31 colourful and informative Ph.D. project posters, aptly promoting the wide-range of the School's biological and chemical expertise.

The event was oversubscribed with 200+ pre-registrations, and 20+ external guests, in addition to those who came on the day. The first session started at 14:05 with Dr. Maya Mendiratta’s, inspiring talk on “Is a Ph.D. right for me?”. She covered... What it is, what you need to start/finish it, where to do it, good reasons/other reasons to do it, and how to find a project: Another fun website was

Following Maya’s talk was a panel discussion, “Beyond the lab”: from 14:45, with:
Natalie Hannan, of The Wellcome Trust; and the SBCS alumni: Shahid Dharamsi of Ernst & Young and Chloe Sinclair of Goodman Masson. All gave good outlines as to what they were looking for in graduate recruitment and their own experiences: (précis) look out for programmes within each company – rotating around internal departments; desk-based research possibilities; policy-based; PR – all these can be strongly informed by a science-based degree; such a degree also lends a strong analytical edge to a graduate; internship via QM Careers; speak to representatives at Careers fairs (visit as many as you can – network!); many jobs have a multi-discipline entry and the science degree helps a lot. “Resilience”, interpersonal skills, commercial awareness; research to find out the most supportive employers, with the “best work/life balance”.

Maya chaired the sessions and after each always asked our guests to expand upon their careers in the following Q&A as well as opening up to Questions from the floor. These were packed sessions with almost all seats taken and many insightful questions asked. A classic response (interview question) generalisation from the panel was “What added value can/will you bring to any particular company”. At the start of any job/career it is quite a level playing field for skills; so training and developing yourself inside any given company’s employee framework, will be key.

The third session, 15:35, was based upon a 30 min talk followed by 10 min Q&A led by Maya -
by Dr Haydn Boehm, Senior Director of Marketing, ThermoFisher Scientific:
Dr Boehm has had a very varied and clear CV story to date: Always remember how you present yourself… “Your brand” - CV, LinkedIn, Social Media, as well as your behaviour and appearance. “Develop your knowledge of the (job) market place” beforehand.

Our final sessions of the day were two talks on:
Alternatives to medicine in the UK, and a panel “Careers along the Drug Development Pathway”.
Dr Jeffries Mvenge of the American University of Antigua College of Medicine led the former, whilst the panel, consisting of Sue Shaw-Hawkins, of the Wolfson Institute; Gavin O'Neill, hVIVO; Daniel Wood, Kilburn & Strode (patents) and Maria D'Amico, of the Blizard Institute – all impressed us.
Key comments from the panel: “make yourself stand out (from the crowd) – by building up your CV with job/work experience, job shadowing, research and find a niche; ask about short-term contracts, or even unpaid volunteering – sometimes there are over 300 applicants for certain positions, and often a good quarter have high quality degree classifications, so gaining an edge with a lot of additional experience is now highly desirable. “Training is the key – to enter and develop a career, even in the first few months”. For staying in academia/research, a PhD is almost always essentially, although an MSc can still bring success.

18:00-19:30: Networking reception with staff, alumni and students, including judging 31 posters and prize giving. There were Employers and Alumni visiting, including professionals from clinical research, academia, education, pharmaceuticals and finance. With them mingled, with lots of discussion, many undergraduate and postgraduate students, all enjoying the fine refreshments prepared by the Queens' building events and catering teams (thank you to them!). Head of School (HoS) Prof. Richard Pickersgill, delivered a fine welcome speech, with thanks to all who prepared and delivered the event over the past months, especially Maya (SBCS’ careers consultant), Jon Strathdee (Internships coordinator) and all their colleagues from Careers, the Alumni office and catering. Later, Prof Pickersgill revealed our three SBCS Ph.D. project poster prize winners, as judged by himself together with representatives of the sponsor Reckitt Benckiser (RB), and also an alumnus, Maria d’Amico. In 1st was Sandra, 2nd David and 3rd Fosca, who have won 100, 50 and 30 GBP Amazon vouchers, respectively, through the marvellous sponsorship of RB, thank you!

Once again we very much enjoyed this annual event. Every time we see the great, positive strands of our School being drawn ever closer - as represented by all of us engaged with SBCS - teaching & research, coupled to raw potential. Those strands readily find us all seeking knowledge from one another, to aid each in developing a prosperous future. Here’s to the next one! Jon Nield & Ali Zarbakhsh, 8/11/2016

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The Royal Society of Biology have a wealth of information on Biology careers in general - well worth checking out.
Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London, WC1N 2JU.

Wednesday, 11th November from 14.55 - 20:00, in The Octagon, Queens’ Building

The 2015 SBCS Careers Forum was held in our wonderful Octagon, a Grade II-listed events space, elegant and inspirational. Originally built in 1887, it was firstly the College library, having been designed by the eminent Victorian architect Edward Robert Robson (1836-1917).
In this magnificent setting, the day started at noon with the positioning of 25 Ph.D. project posters, promoting a wide-range of the School's biological and chemical expertise. The afternoon's 249 pre-registrations, with 35 external guests, in addition to those who came on the day, gave a solid indication of the vibrant sessions ahead.
First, a talk: 3pm: Dr. Maya Mendiratta, Careers Consultant to the School of Biological Sciences and Ph.D. graduate from Imperial College, gave an inspiring talk and was joined by Ismail Uddin, a current PhD student in SBCS, who talked about his own experiences and winning project.
Key quotes: “Self-motivation”, “are you suited to flexible working”, “previous lab-based experience highly desirable”, “often there is a 2nd supervisor”, “integration into a research group”, “best to meet a likely supervisor and talk to their PhD students before applying”, “Does one have the right outlook to stay the course on a project for 3-4 years?”
Second, panel discussion: ~4 pm: “Careers along the drug development pathway”, with Michael Tonge, Senior Research Scientist, Astrazeneca; Dr. David Moffat, Director, Macrophage Pharmaceuticals; Maria D'Amico, EMPIRE Data Assistant, The Blizard Institute; Ken Boyce, Director, Pharma MI.
Key responses and comments from the panel noted were: “important to advertise oneself”, networking, “be proactive in finding one's role: communication is key”, “enthusiasm”, “management skills (time and for people, 'soft' skills)”. “People like to work with like-minded people”, “(Personal) delivery is important – but don't promise too much”.
Third, panel discussion: ~ 5pm: SBCS Alumni, with:
Dr. Paul Harrison, BSc Biology 1974, PhD Zoology 1978 “Keep questioning what you want” and re-evaluate, “be open to new opportunities” as you gain new experience, then aim to have enough (experience) to be in the right place at the right time for future opportunity. “Rise to challenges”
Bethan McAulay, BSc Psychology 2014, is a Recruitment Resourcer and Trainee Consultant for Key People, a recruitment agency within the healthcare sector. “critical thought: always, why this, that”, “reading up facts and preparation”. What do recruiters look for in a successful CV/interview? What was the best skill you learnt? - “logical planning”, “communicating your work output”.
Fourth, networking reception with staff, alumni and students: 6 to 8 pm.
We had Alumni visiting that included professionals from academia, clinical research, education, biotechnology, finance and IT. Head of School, Prof. Matthew Evans, summed it up well during the reception by thanking Maya, James Weaver (Employability Manager) and all from Careers, the Alumni office and catering, who had put the event together over the past few months.

The 2014 SBCS Careers Forum, The Octagon,
12th November, 2-7pm
From 2 to 7 pm in The Octagon with a networking/drinks reception 5 to 7pm, led by The Alumni Office.
This year’s Forum talks were, once again, very well attended. The first set of talks consisted of parallel sessions; in the Octagon, Dr Maya Mendiratta, the Careers centre’s consultant specific to our School, SBCS, gave a vivid and succinct account, to a full audience, of the expected traits desirable in a strong Ph.D. candidate. Elsewhere, a session was held regarding “Routes into Teaching”, with speakers from Teach First, Ark Schools and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
A second series of talks was based around (i) two SBCS alumni’s career progressions; one graduating from Molecular Biology in 1989 (medical marketing) and, more recently, Biomedical Sciences (medical information), followed by (ii) a presentation given by a representative of inVentiv Health Europe (clinical trials). From 4.30 pm a ‘panel’ provided for detailed insights into the careers of three alumni – Jade Lam of The Priory hospital and her NHS work; Dr Mark Klewpatinond, early to mid-career with ExxonMobil, and Dr Charles van Heyningen, a recently retired Clinical Pathologist.
During the alumni reception, from 5 pm, our speakers were joined by local academics from SBCS, many exceptional alumni and additional employers, as well as representatives from professional bodies (e.g. The Royal Society of Biology (a big thank you to Lily and Amy!) / Royal Society of Chemistry), and other universities (UCL/Imperial). Professor Matthew Evans, Head of School, delivered a well-received vote of thanks - acknowledging our guests, employers and alumni, whilst conveying our appreciation to all of the event’s organisers. Later, a networking session and workshop specific to our QMUL STEM PhD students was held by Dr. Tracy Bussoli of the Careers centre.

The Inaugral SBCS Careers and Partnerships Forum was held on 13th November 2013
The Inaugural Careers & Partnerships Forum for SBCS was designed to develop opportunities for UG careers, and provide an opportunity for Postgraduate Researchers and Staff to develop stronger links with industry. It was very well attended with a packed lecture theatre from 4pm, involving a range of speakers from different areas. The keynote seminar was by Dr Nessa Carey (Pfizer), followed by Jessica Gaviria (Centre for Cancer Prevention) and Dr Davidson Ateh (Biomoti), all of which were particularly well received, with time for additional questions after each talk. Thereafter, a panel of four guests also kindly took questions for 30 minutes. From 6pm onwards our guests and all students had the opportunity to review current research from final year PhD candidates within the School (posters). Indeed, our external guests from industry included Consultants, CEO and Chairmen from, amongst others, Pfizer, the Centre for Cancer Prevention (Wolfson Institute), the Royal Society of Chemistry, QProjects, Biomoti, Marks & Clerk, Barclays, Pushtechnology and JEOL Ltd UK, all of whom enjoyed the opportunity to speak and discuss their experiences of their respective careers during the vibrant reception held afterwards.

Queen Mary has an extensive and experienced Careers team, holding many events and providing a wide-range of advice. We maintain strong links with our alumni and destination employers. This forum was focused at growing into the ideal environment for creating networking opportunities and for keeping in touch. Let's get together and get ahead.
We want all our successful undergraduates to find the best career - one that will validate their learning, fulfil their aspirations and provide for a life-long, happy and productive, mindset.
Drs Jon Nield, Sevasti Foka and Ali Zarbakhsh. Key academics, SBCS Employability

SBCS, The G.E. Fogg Building

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Queen Mary, The Queens' Building

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Our Biology, Chemistry and Psychology-based degree courses are studied by over 1,650 undergraduates:

The 2016-2017 QMplus landing page / Handbook
List of UG programmes (.html)

Thinking about continuing studies in London? A Ph.D.?

Jon Nield, Ph.D. (Biology), Dr. Sevasti Foka (Psychology) or Dr. Ali Zarbakhsh (Chemistry): Key academics for SBCS' employability agenda.
Image credits: copyright Ray Crundwell.
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Last updated Thursday 22nd June 2017.