Science Policy - It is definitely better than a PhD - Le Hai and KCL Careers and Employability

So it’s Easter, and you can’t wait to go home to see your beloved parents. However, while you know that you have been doing “great” at school and have nothing to worry, you still feel anxious about the thought of having to endure those long and awkward family dinners, where your aunt Mary, whose son Jonny is studying Medicine or Engineering or whatever, asks your mom deprecatingly what you are going to do with your “Bioscience” degree. Now before muttering under your nose something generic like “PhD or Master or whatever”, how about take a look at what our KCL alumni, Dr. Rebekah Carr, Dr. Parwez Samnakay and Mr. Matthew Chisambi, have to say about their work in the field of Science Policy.

Dr. Rebekah Carr- HM Treasury:

After completing her MRes and PhD at KCL’s Department of Developmental Neurobiology in March 2015, Dr. Carr faced a challenge of finding a job and choosing between academia and research as many of her predecessors. However, instead of walking down the conventional path, she has decided to take the one less travelled by Bioscientists, and has been working on Science and Innovation Policy within HM Treasury ever since. Her job as a Policy Adviser includes advising and briefing Ministers on policy issues, meetings and events as well as working with other government departments with spending proposals. Albeit a long and busy job, she described it as interesting and stimulating. Dr. Carr landed at her current position when she first applied for an 18-month graduate development program. Throughout this rigorous placement, as she explained, one could not only be exposed to many different aspects of policy making but also create a positive impact, while still being in a science-related atmosphere. The busiest times are usually around fiscal years, where one might have to work over 37-40 hours per week, but in all cases those overtime hours are paid and compensated. Furthermore, similar to academia in many ways, while there is a fair amount of time spent behind desk, if one is good with time and work management, they can choose to show up to as many meetings or conferences as they want. Having a PhD and coming from a science background have definitely been a great advantage for Dr. Carr; however, her advice for getting into the competitive Graduate Development Program is to always try putting a positive spin on transferable skills one might get from lab work, as well as showing commitment about science policy during the interview. As for her future plans, Dr. Carr admits she will be working there for a while; however, she is confident that she will have the option to change the environment; since one advantage of working in the Treasury is that there is always opportunity to try out other departments and sectors.

Relevant links: Graduate Programme- http://www.hmtreasurycareers.co.uk/the-graduate-programme/about-the-programme/

Dr. Parwez Samnakay- Government Office for Science,

Before completing his PhD in plant biotech in Rothamsted Research Institute, Dr. Samnakay holds a BSc and MSc in Molecular Genetics and Pharmacology from both King’s and Imperial. However, the main reason that has deterred him from continuing with research and academia after completing his doctoral studies is the lack of human interaction. Thus, through the Civil Service Fast Stream for Science and Engineering, Dr. Samnakay began his job as a Policy Officer at the Government Office for Science. The job revolves around “helping the Government Chief Scientific Advisor provide the best science advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and also ensuring that science is transmitted effectively across Whitehall through several mechanisms, which include the Prime Ministers Council for Science and Technology, and the Chief Scientist Network”. Furthermore, during this time he has been actively involved with Foresight projects, and stakeholder management. On getting a PhD, Dr. Samnakay emphasized that one really has to be passionate about factual science as it is intense and does not always work out in the end. Hence, he is a strong advocate of graduate schemes such as the aforementioned 4-year Fast Stream for Science and Engineering, as they do not only pay better, but also provide many relevant experiences and future opportunities. For instance, the first year placement on the same program involves working for many institutes, including, but not limited to Department of Health, Department for Transport, Ministry of Defence, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. Another way of getting into the system is to apply directly as a science specialist through external recruitment and government organisations or internship positions through civil service projects such as Foresight, where the starting salary is roughly around £25k. As for future plans, Dr. Samnakay is content with his job, and is determined to continue contributing and having a positive impact on the field of science and science policy.

Some of the qualities important for Science Policy application:

Relevant Links: Fast-stream Science & Engineering Programme: https://www.faststream.gov.uk/science-engineering/

Civil Service Jobs: https://www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk/csr/index.cgi

Foresight projects: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/foresight-projects

Matthew Chisambi- Hammersmith and Fulham CCG

Mr. Chisambi graduated from King’s with a BSc in Pharmacology with Extra Mural Year. However, confused about his future job, he chose to teach Science for two years at TeachFirst before joining Deloitte as a strategy consultant. There he had an opportunity to apply his expertise and transferable skills he had learnt during his undergraduate studies such as writing report, research and compile data for his clients. After Deloitte, he worked for a year for Royal College of General Practitioners as Senior Research Officer on Healthcare Policy before committing to his current job as an Urgent Care Programme Manager at NHS Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commission Group. Similar to Drs. Carr and Samnakay, Mr. Chisambi’s job revolves around designing projects and supporting CCGs to monitor, manage and improve performance across the entire emergency and urgent care interface, as well as ensuring that different programs are delivered in an effective and integrated way across the NHS trust. Nevertheless, despite being successful at his job, Mr. Chisambi reiterated throughout his talk the importance of investing in oneself; as while competition is fierce in this line of work, there are also many learning opportunities available. Therefore, for his future plans, he is looking to finish his Master’s degree in Health Policy from Imperial and to continue working on his passion as a health care professional

Ultimately, if you are still interested in improving your future, Careers and Employability have some more great events and even not Life Science-related for you to come. Make sure to go over and check out their page: https://kcl.targetconnect.net/home.html

If you wish to write for our blog, please contact us on: enquiries@kclbsa.com