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, Biomedical Sciences, 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!

The 2018 SBCS Careers Forum will be held on 5th of December in The Octagon - more to come!

The 2017 SBCS Careers Forum on the 6th December in The Octagon - short review:
(QM students: for the full detailed review with extra examples, please email Jon Nield)
Forum led by Dr. Maya Mendiratta, SBCS’ Careers Consultant and Jon Strathdee, our Employer Engagement and Internships Coordinator.
During the afternoon, we were guided expertly through a series of workshops and panels - Science Communication; CVs; Pharmaceutical, biotechnology and healthcare research options; Careers in conservation; Management, business and finance experiences.

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”, by Lisa Dinh of Genomics England, and Zöe Martin of Cancer Research UK
Both speakers succinctly outlined their own career paths and, during questions, discussed in detail what they were looking for in graduate recruitment and interviews. They 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, often posing insightful questions herself during the Q&A as well taking Questions 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, and how they had progressed from their courses.

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: for all who prepared and delivered the event over the past months, especially Maya (SBCS’ careers consultant), Jon (Internships coordinator), the Schools’ Careers Tutors, and colleagues from the Careers/Alumni offices and catering. A brief tour of the campus was made for alumni, after the close, up to 8 pm.

Already in its fifth year, this event brings so many (if not all) threads of SBCS’ mission together – research, knowledge creation, teaching - and couples this to the future, our students; we wish them all a most prosperous degree course and satisfying future employment.
Jon Nield, 7th December 2017

Reviews for our previous SBCS Careers Fora are presented towards the end of this webpage.
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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, Lakxmi Subramaniam and Ali Zarbakhsh: Key academics / Careers Liaison Officers, SBCS Employability

SBCS, The G.E. Fogg Building

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Queen Mary, The Queens' Building

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

2017-2018 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), Dr. Lakxmi Subramanian (Biomedical Sciences) or Dr. Ali Zarbakhsh (Chemistry): Key academics for SBCS' employability agenda c/f Careers' Liaison Officers.
Image credits: copyright Ray Crundwell.
Last updated Thursday 22nd October 2018.

The 2016 SBCS Careers Forum Review: Wed. 2nd November, The Octagon, QMUL, UK

Our annual School’s Careers Forum, led by Dr Maya Mendiratta, was held in The Octagon, originally built in 1887 for the College's library, having been designed by the eminent Victorian architect Edward Robert Robson (1836-1917). 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: 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. (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!); many jobs have a multi-discipline entry and the science degree helps immensely. “Resilience”, interpersonal skills, commercial awareness; research to find out the most supportive employers, with the “best work/life balance”.
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.
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. Head of School (HoS) Prof. Richard Pickersgill, delivered a fine welcome speech and revealed our three SBCS Ph.D. project poster prize winners, sponsored by Reckitt Benckiser (RB). In 1st was Sandra, 2nd David and 3rd Fosca, who have won 100, 50 and 30 GBP Amazon vouchers, respectively, thank you RB!

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 within SBCS - 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 (= 6th Dec 2017)!
Jon Nield & Ali Zarbakhsh, 8/11/2016

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.

Reviews for our previous Careers events - these contain some very interesting morsels of advice, hence are retained here:

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”, “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 (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 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 (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.