A world of science outside the lab: science communication placements

Ellen White is a BSc Biomedical Sciences student who is coming to the end of her ten-month placement at a science communication, marketing and PR agency based in Manchester. Read on to get an insight into a career in science outside of the lab.

When I first embarked on my Biomedical Sciences degree, I already knew that a life in a laboratory wasn’t for me. Fiddling around with pipettes wasn’t my forte, so I certainly didn’t want to do a year in industry where I’d have to spend more time in a lab coat. Right? Wrong!

Little did I know that The University of Manchester provides you with the opportunity to carry out a placement at a wide range of places, from bio-tech start-ups to schools. I’ve nearly completed a 10-month placement at a science communication, marketing and PR agency called Notch Communications, and it’s opened my eyes to where a science degree can get you.

Placements are a chance to make new friends, and here I am with some of my work colleagues
Placements are a chance to make new friends, and here I am with some of my work colleagues

Why should you consider a science communication placement?

From the soothing tones of David Attenborough shedding light on the animal kingdom, to the healthcare leaflets you find at the doctor’s surgery, science communication is everywhere. It’s extremely important – impacting on how we perceive our own health, influencing government policies on global warming etc – but it is also a skill that is often not given the credit it deserves.

The complex and potentially confusing world of science has to not only be articulated with the utmost clarity to the general public, but also delivered in an engaging and fun way, to both inspire and inform. Science quite literally makes the world go round, and that’s why it’s vital that we have science communicators who possess both the scientific understanding and flair for communication to relay the wonders of the scientific world for everyone to enjoy.

What is life like at a science and technology marketing agency?

Marketing boils down to knowing your clients better than they know themselves. In order to create branding and messaging that perfectly emulates the voice and ethos of a company, you have to understand them totally inside and out: their offerings, strengths, weaknesses, aims, competitors – everything!

This process is made even more interesting when the companies you are working with are in the science and pharmaceutical sector. My placement has allowed me to move away from academia and be exposed to the real life applications of science and research. I’ve had the opportunity to gain insights into cutting edge healthcare trials and how they work and progress, and see start-ups that provide revolutionary technology grow from strength to strength.

The industry is not only exciting, but day-to-day life is also always varied. I’ve designed brochures and produced videos, and written numerous blogs, press releases and social media strategies… and no day would be complete without some sort of brainstorm! My placement overall has been a great place for both my creative and academic skill set to flourish.

Storyboarding for a video is a chance to get creative
Storyboarding for a video is a chance to get creative

What have I learnt along the way?

Firstly, placements are an opportunity not to be missed. Not only do you get experience in an industry that interests you, but you also have the chance to meet all kinds of people, see new places and try new things, too. It’s a taste of professional life, which is a completely different ball game to the university student experience.

Secondly, don’t panic! The placement application process can be entirely overwhelming. In order to reduce your levels of stress, try and figure out what it is you want to gain from a placement before you start looking. Sending one or two quality applications to companies that really interest you will stand you in much better stead than applying to anything and everything you come across.

What have I learnt about myself? How clichéd! But no, seriously, forget about the CV – the main reason you should go on placement is to learn more about yourself. Going on placement has tested me in more ways than I could have imagined, but as a result my confidence in my abilities has skyrocketed.

I now know I’m actually pretty nifty at writing blogs, and good enough at making videos to consider setting up my own YouTube channel. I’ve even been told I should become a newsreader…? Who knows what the future holds for me now!

So, there you have it, an insight into my placement experience. The only question left now is, what will you gain from yours?

Follow Ellen on Twitter, watch her video on Diabetesand read more about her placement here: notchcommunications.co.uk/placement-not-placement-insights-can-help-answer-question

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