On Tuesday, 14th November 2017, a biomedicine careers workshop, including a talk, “From Biochem PhDs to Entrepreneurs,” and a careers discussion panel, was held for biomedical science students in QMUL.
Led by Maria-Victoria Bermudez and supported by Shiu Wang Chau – both biomedical undergraduates – the workshop introduced the needs and opportunities present in the healthcare and biotechnology industries, allowing students to consider their professional development and readiness for employment.
After recognising a lack of discussion regarding career opportunities, Maria created an evening workshop to equip students with knowledge of available career paths after graduation, illuminating the preparation and skills required to attain them. The workshop allowed students to gain unique perspectives on unorthodox career paths, and with the help of Dr. Colm Ryan, delivered first-hand knowledge of the journey to entrepreneurship from a scientific background.
Guest speaker Dr. Colm Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Reagent Genie and its three brands: Assay Genie, Antibody Genie, and ELISA genie, began the workshop by delivering a presentation on his career progression. Dr. Ryan described his personal experience in transitioning from a PhD to a sales job, to eventually establishing his own company. With over 7000 products distributed world-wide, Reagent Genie and its proprietor recently became one of the top 10 successful biotech start-ups in Ireland.
The presentation from Dr. Colm served to present students with real-world knowledge of the biotechnology industry from the perspective of a successful entrepreneur who began in science. Dr. Colm’s talk provided useful information, such the benefits of a PhD in entering the biotech industry, and ways to recruit investors when starting a company.
The second half of the workshop was a discussion panel on combining medicine and research, with panelists Dr. Colm Ryan, Madeleine Hart, Asifa Islam, and Erato Antoniou. Shiu, a first year biomed student, moderated the questions. Questions from the audience prompted much-needed conversations about medical school applications, PhD applications, application schedules, volunteering, internships, software skills, and general preparation for the future.
As a biomedical science student and through her links with MEDi, Erato Antoniou helped to shed light on the realities of medicine. She says: “MEDi is a relatively new society that aims to provide graduates an access into medicine and dentistry, by supplying the required insight into what these courses entail. Our society achieves this through networking opportunities with various healthcare practitioners to aid students in securing work experience in the medical field.”
Students considering medicine may also consider joining this society to help them prepare for medical school.
Madeleine Hart, a PhD student who previously worked in an NHS genetics laboratory, provided input from her experiences, from how she secured the position to its benefits when applying to and completing a PhD. She says: “My experience within a genetics diagnostic lab was very important for me to get onto my PhD programme. It not only gave me laboratory experience, but it also drove my interest in research, allowing me to be certain in my decision to pursue the PhD.”
The panel later moved on to a comparative discussion of careers in research and healthcare, and the demands students may face in these career paths. Asifa Islam, a former clinician and current PhD student, spoke about her transition from medicine to research, including her motivations for doing so. She says: “When choosing a career, it is important to fully understand what the job requires of you. For example, if you choose the medical profession, ask yourself questions like: ‘Can I work long shifts and erratic schedules? Can I witness trauma and death on a daily basis and still be empathic and smile at my patients?’”.
Dr. Viji Draviam, senior lecturer and Maria and Shiu’s academic advisor, emphasised the need for students of all years to start thinking about their career path as early as possible. Dr. Draviam has been a strong advocate of students taking the lead in organising talks, interviews, and discussions on career choices, plans, and hurdles.
This is the first of many coming career workshops held for SBCS students. The goal is to provide information and guidance so to make well-informed decisions about their futures, allowing exploration of opportunities they otherwise may not have known. To fully support biomedical student careers in QMUL and beyond, Maria and Shiu are preparing a website resource of meeting highlights and videos.