Becky Hurst, Associate Medical Writer at QXV Comms, Manchester, UK
Becky did her PhD in Immunology at the University of Manchester. After her PhD, she stayed as a postdoc in the same lab to publish some papers. She then decided to make the bold move to Singapore to do a second postdoc at Nanyang Technological University. “During my second post-doc I decided that I wanted to:
- Move back to the uk;
- Have a more structured job with shorter deadlines;
- Not have to stay at work until 3am on the flow cytometer!
Becky returned last Christmas and has been working as an Associate Medical Writer at QXV Comms, part of Ashfield Healthcare Communications, in Macclesfield. I asked her how it differs from working in academia. “It’s very different from working in academia. It is much more structured and fast paced, with tight deadlines. I enjoy the sense of satisfaction of having small tasks that can be completed or ticked off a list. I also enjoy working with a great team of people, rather than working more independently in the lab.” It sounds like it’s challenging but rewarding and I wondered if she missed anything about working in academia. She says she missed the more active part of academia – walking around the lab doing the experiments rather than sitting at her desk all day. And like a few others she misses being her own manager who decides which experiments she should do and when she should do them.
A typical day for her now looks very varied, like this:
- 9.00 am Check emails and answer any urgent queries from clients
- 9.30 am Prioritise work to be done that day
- 10.00 am Proof reading posters
- 11.00 am Send brief to design team to make changes to posters
- 12.00 pm Account team meeting
- 1.00 pm Lunch
- 2.00 pm Take in comments from client and make changes to a manuscript
- 4.30 pm Data check of a manuscript
“Depending on the client and the company you could be writing manuscripts for a journal, abstracts or posters for a congress or promotional material. People are often surprised that medical writers don’t spend their entire day ‘writing’. In fact, a lot of time is spent managing projects, and liaising with clients via teleconferences or email.”
Now, her work covers a broader range of science than before. “In an egotistical sort of way, I also miss the respect of being an expert in my field-I feel like I have started again at the bottom of the pack. But hopefully with time, I will gather the skills and expertise to be a good medical writer too.”
As another Medical Writer has mentioned previously, a PhD is not a prerequisite for a MedComm job but Becky believes that her PhD prepared her for the role by developing her transferable skills. “Not only when it comes to having some of the technical skills needed, including interpreting data, writing manuscripts and being familiar with the processes involved in scientific conferences; but also general communication skills and a confidence in my own abilities. Therefore I would advise people to do a PhD if they are thinking about it.”
What’s Becky’s advice for doing a PhD then? “I really do believe that each PhD is completely different according to the supervisor involved. I would advise all potential PhD students to make sure they have met with the supervisor several times to make sure that they think they could establish a good working relationship. Also, speak with the other lab members if possible, to ensure that the supervisor will provide the necessary support and guidance.”
There are many UK and USA vacancies at QXV Comms. Check out the careers tab on their website.
This post is part of a mini series on post-PhD careers.