Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.
Job title and company: Admissions, Outreach and Engagement Manager, Imperial College London
Approximate salary range for your type of role: £45,000-£60,000
I have always been passionate about making science and engineering accessible to others, whether that was through research talks or posters during my PhD, or to members of the public, school children, MPs, community groups and patients through my career.
The catalyst for me was a course created by Professor Noel Sharkey at University of Sheffield, where amongst other sessions we had a talk from Fiona Fox, Director and now CEO of the Science Media Centre. After meeting Fiona, I interned at the Science Media Centre during my PhD and it really opened my eyes to a world outside of academia, and the impact of good and bad communication of science.
I returned to Sheffield with renewed enthusiasm and lead an event on science in the media, a workshop on public engagement for academics. I then teamed up with three other PhD students to setup a science communication charity called Science Brainwaves.
This gave me experience of working with a range of staff across the university, including getting high-level buy-in from the VC and the University events, media and external relations leads and experience organising a range of events. Reflecting on that experience the area I found most rewarding was the development of frameworks and enabling opportunities for others.
My first job after my PhD was at the Royal Society of Biology. I have no doubt that the experience I had built and potential I had shown outside of my PhD was what got me that job. Initially I worked as the Media and Events Executive dealing with press releases, social media management and events. Then I was promoted to Public Engagement and Events Executive where I worked closely with the BBC on the BBC learning roadshows, and worked with the Director of Parliamentary Affairs on a number of events in Houses of Parliament, including the development of Voice of the Future.
I left the Royal Society of Biology in June 2013 to take on the role of Outreach Manager in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial. This move was a bit of a risk as it was a one year maternity cover, but the opportunity to work in engagement in my field of bioengineering was too good to miss. I will have been at Imperial for 4 years this year, so it was a gamble that paid off.
My role at Imperial has evolved over the years, I now mange outreach and engagement for the Department, working with academics and researchers to do communicate their research, and I provide opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students to develop their transferable skills through engagement and outreach opportunities. In 2014 I had the opportunity to be Director of the MECbioeng14 conference, the UK’s national bioengineering meeting. This year I have also taken on the additional role of Admissions Tutor for all the taught programmes in my Department, MEng Biomedical Engineering, MEng Molecular Bioengineering, MSc Biomedical Engineering, MSc Human and Biological Robotics.
I work from 08.30-18.00, day to day I spend a lot of time in meetings and interviewing candidates. I am involved in cross-College initiatives in societal engagement and admissions, and I am working with our operational excellence team on some change management projects at the moment. I am also on the College’s ‘Horizon’ talent development programme at the moment, which has involved a number of courses, personal development and a cross-College project.
There are a growing number of engagement or outreach type roles in universities now, there is often a variety of the scope and titles of these roles. My top tip for researchers interested in going into this field would be to gain experience, there is nothing better than practical experience for learning and understanding if this the area you want to build your career. There are lots of opportunities to do this while doing your research, and if you tailor your outreach or engagement to your research, it can actually be an important part of delivering research impact. My word of wisdom for researchers is to keep your eyes and mind open to opportunities and take advantage of those opportunities when they arise.
Where can researchers look for jobs like yours? University websites, Jobs.ac.uk, NCCPE mailing lists e.g. Public Engagement Network e.g. Community Partner Network also PSci-com mailing lists, Guardian jobs.