The 2018 SBCS Careers Forum was held on 5th of December in The Octagon, QMUL, UK
The School of Biological and Chemical Science (SBCS)’s annual Careers Forum was chaired by Dr. Maya Mendiratta, our SBCS Careers Consultant, and Jon Strathdee, QMUL’s Employer Engagement and Internships Coordinator. The Forum was held in the University’s superb Octagon hall (see photograph below) with 185 students and recent graduates pre-registering, and many more attending throughout the afternoon. We were guided expertly through a series of talks on CVs, modern Healthcare applications, Business options in the Life Sciences and a panel discussion on the variety of Careers available in Life Sciences research. At close, we discussed these topics further with our guests over refreshments during a networking reception.
Four sessions were held starting at 14:30 with Maya welcoming everyone and introducing the School’s Careers Liaison Tutor academics: Dr. Lakxmi Subramaniam (Biomedical Sciences), Dr. Ali Zarbakhsh (Chemistry), Dr. Sevasti Foka (Psychology) and Dr. Jon Nield (Biology / Biochemistry). Jon and Sevasti spoke a few minutes each about their respective roles within the School. This led into:
2.45 pm - CV workshop with Reed Scientific:
REEDSCIENTIFIC is one of the UK’s best known scientific recruitment agencies, part of REED Global - “the biggest family run recruitment business in the world” and “the UK's largest candidate database” with REED Recruitment Consultants, Marchelle and Dani. They gave an entertaining initial Kahoot!™-based app quiz, followed by several good and bad examples, asking us to comment on each, why one was better than the other, and pointing out the pitfalls (and consequences) of a poorly presented/written CV.
Use descriptive sentences to “catch attention” i.e. each CV must be polished and refined for every job applied for. Always list lab skills in full – strive to put in keywords for potential computer-based sifting. Keep the style of your CV consistent throughout. Students should show if their training has allowed them to adhere to regulations, health and safety and required guidelines. “Show your potential” – always explain what you have achieved and explain the work experience undertaken. Write down all your modules and scores for ‘keyword selection’ algorithms. There must be no grammar or spelling mistakes. Always send a cover letter with your CV, unless explicitly told not to. This was a highly detailed presentation, and much appreciated.
3.30 pm - Babylon Health – Led by Tej Singh (Talent Acquisition Lead) and Sophie Crane (Talent Operations Manager), an Online Doctor Consultations & Advice service. The speakers outlined their own career paths and, during questions, discussed in detail what they were looking for in graduate recruitment and interviews. Maya chaired this session, often posing insightful questions herself during the Q&A as well as taking Questions from The Floor.
4.15pm - Business Options in the Life Sciences with Michael Ezra, SBCS alumnus & Regional Business Manager of Kestrel Ophthalmics
Michael graduated from Queen Mary around 1990 and spoke about his career in the sales, marketing and customer service paths of the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. His first advice was “What are your financial and personal ambitions?” - be clear on these; develop customer networks; be reliable, punctual and on time when meeting people; be professional. “How to get started in (any) industry?” Attend job exhibitions, graduate fairs; see employers face to face – see a person first, even before they see a CV (and you, as an individual, are noted); then, as a candidate, you have more control – and are possibly more likely to be interviewed; Sales roles/progression: Starting as a rep. (20k), Account manager (30k), Regional manager (40k), after 20 years – Director (60-100k) – more security staying employed in a job (c/f having a family)... or branch out into your own business (potentially more lucrative): 100k+ for MD/CEO.
To find employment: Use the QM alumni ‘pool’, some large companies recruit directly (speculative approach – again, create interest with an employer before the CV stage), LinkedIn profile development - ‘follow’ companies. When first employed, learn about “Company etiquette” - key behaviours: punctuality, responsibilities (be proactive, take some additional roles on), company culture – spend time to understand what this is – always a variety of (balancing) choices: work in teams, follow the leaders, set your own example – companies are always looking to nurture the managers of the future (that fit their culture). Career planning / employed or self-employed (if the latter, start-up your own business with 15-20 years of experience, create market value, grow the business and/or sell to a larger corporate semi-retirement)? - the concept of ‘being in control’ as you develop your career – it all takes effort, but was found to be the most satisfying route.
4.50 pm - Alice Moden, of The Civil Service’s Science & Engineering Fast Stream (with department rotations), gave the audience a brief overview of The Civil Service, stressing how important additional work experience is, how policy roles require detailed and creative thinking (logical reasoning, evidence-based information gathering), as well as working in large teams, coupled to feedback between researchers and policy makers: the Fast Stream being geared towards identifying the Service’s future leaders (higher grades).
5.00 pm - Careers in Life Sciences Research – panel discussion (Dr. Maya Mendiratta, chair)
We were joined by four SBCS graduates, now pursuing jobs in Clinical Trials - management, data entry: Lilian Goodchild, SBCS alumna & Graduate Intern (Centre for Cancer Prevention, Wolfson Institute); Atiqa Miah, SBCS alumna & Clinical Trials Practitioner (Barts Health NHS Trust); Pedro Testi, SBCS alumni & Global Operations Trials Manager (Clinical Research/BioPharma, Merck Group). Once more, a surprising set of perspectives – together with a variety of questions from the floor – how each had developed during their degrees and come to realise their current roles in being both Clinical Trials managers and practitioners [Trial monitoring, data management, lab work, project management, data entry, or a combination of these roles].
After 5yrs+, these roles can grow into managing Phase 3 trials involving 40+ international sites (locations) and tens of thousands of participants. Maya posed some key audience-orientated questions: How to get started in these careers? Two of the panel started off by working for free, doing data entry tasks – or worked in a call centre; this led to networking opportunities, meeting certain people, and doors opening; speculative approaches. One panel member did a “gap” year between degree and Ph.D. to gain research experience, which led to current job. Attend careers fairs. Research a Clinical area thoroughly, find out which grants have been awarded and to whom… then “find people doing work in the area you are interested in and contact them”. The session ended with a frank and open discussion on current and expected remuneration.
18:00-19:45: Networking reception with staff, alumni, employers and students: extended discussion with our external guests. We enjoyed the refreshments prepared by the Queens' building catering. Head of School, Prof. Richard Pickersgill, delivered a succinct and capital vote of thanks - for all who delivered the event, noting the diversity and potential that Queen Mary nurtures and is justifiably proud of.
Six years on from its inauguration, this annual Forum brings SBCS’ core creed into one setting – its scientific research and knowledge creation (50+ posters shown - of current UG, M.Sc. and Ph.D. projects), coupled to the teaching and counselling of the generation ahead. We wish them all a most prosperous degree course and future career.
Jon Nield, 13th December 2018
Reviews for our previous SBCS Careers Fora are presented towards the end of this webpage.
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.
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.
Jon Nield, Sevasti Foka, Lakxmi Subramaniam and Ali Zarbakhsh: Key academics / Careers Liaison Officers, SBCS Employability
SBCS, The G.E. Fogg Building
Queen Mary, The Queens' Building
The 2017 SBCS Careers Forum - a short review: Wed. 6th December, The Octagon, QMUL, UK
(QM students: for the full detailed review with extra examples, please email Jon Nield)
The first session started at 15:00 with Maya welcoming everyone and introducing the School’s Careers Liaison Tutor academics: Dr. Lakxmi Subramaniam (Biomedicine), Dr. Ali Zarbakhsh (Chemistry), Dr. Sevasti Foka (Psychology) and Dr. Jon Nield (Biology/Biochemistry).
15:10-15:40 “Science Communication and Policy”, Lisa Dinh of Genomics England, Zöe Martin, Cancer Research UK
Both speakers were keen to stress how important additional work experience is followed by how each of their (policy) roles has required detailed and creative thinking. Zöe, who is a Policy Manager at Cancer Research UK, provided a great slide that listed a number of key options regarding how to find out more. Maya chaired this session, posing insightful questions during the Q&A as well as from The Floor.
15:40-16:10 “CV Workshop with Reed Scientific”: Aislinn Brennan, Project Executive
From their website, REED is “the biggest family run recruitment business in the world” with “the UK's largest candidate database and expertise in 20 specialist sectors”. We were grateful to have this expertise, specifically in CVs, on hand this afternoon with Aislinn who works in REED Scientific. She showed several good and bad examples and pointed out the pitfalls (and consequences) of a poorly presented/written CV. This was a highly focused and detailed presentation, and very much appreciated by the audience.
16:10-17:00 The third part of the forum session was split into two sessions:
a) Pharmaceutical, biotechnology & healthcare, chaired by Jon Strathdee in The Octagon, and
b) Careers in Conservation, chaired by Maya in room E.303 in The Queens’ Building.
For the Pharma’ session a): Clarissa Gardner (UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), Elena Whiteman of the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine, Muhammad Mustaqim (Lonza) and Hassan Khalid (GSK) provided detailed accounts of their careers.
17:00-17:50 The final session, a panel workshop on “Beyond Science?”
We were joined by four SBCS alumni, now pursuing jobs in management, business and finance:
Jane Smith (QMUL Graduate Management trainee), Samuel Adu-Gyamfi of Sam Tutors, Samuel Shahid Dharamsi of Ernst and Young, and Samuel Esilaba at Bloomberg. Again, a surprising array of perspectives – together with a variety of questions from the floor – how each had developed during their degrees and come to realise their current job.
18:00-19:30: A networking reception with staff, alumni, employers and the students. A chance to mingle and extend discussion, make contacts and future meetings. We all enjoyed the refreshments prepared by Queens' building catering. Head of School, Prof. Richard Pickersgill, delivered a fine vote of thanks speech. A brief tour of the campus was made for alumni, after the close, up to 8 pm.
Jon Nield, 7th December 2017
The Forum started early at 13:30 with the placing of 31 colourful and informative Ph.D. project posters. 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: www.findaphd.com.
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. (précis) look out for graduate 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!). “Resilience”, interpersonal skills, commercial awareness; www.glassdoor.co.uk
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”.
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. “Develop knowledge of the (job) market place”.
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.
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. “Training is the key – to enter and develop a career, even in the first few months”.
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. Head of School (HoS) Prof. Richard Pickersgill revealed our three SBCS Ph.D. project poster prize winners, sponsored by Reckitt Benckiser (RB).
Jon Nield & Ali Zarbakhsh, 8/11/2016
The 2015 SBCS CAREERS FORUM Review: Wed. 11th November 14.55 - 20:00, The Octagon.
The 2015 SBCS Careers Forum was held in our wonderful Octagon. 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”
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?
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.
The 2014 SBCS Careers Forum, The Octagon, 12th November, 2-7pm (shortened version)
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 an alumni ‘panel’ provided detailed insights – Jade Lam of The Priory hospital; Dr Mark Klewpatinond, 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 Inaugural SBCS Careers and Partnerships Forum was held on 13th November 2013 (shortened version)
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. 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 min. From 6 pm onwards our guests and all students had the opportunity to review current research from final year PhD candidates within the School (posters). 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 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.