Working hard but wishing for more chat sessions
EducationNottingham Girls’ High School (1984-1996. The teachers got a bit sick of me after all that time); Imperial College, University of London (1997-2001) University of Glasgow (2002-2005)
QualificationsA-levels in biology, chemistry and English; BSc (Hons) in applied biology and a PhD in animal behaviour and ecology
Current JobSenior medical writer
Favourite thing to do in my job: Finding out new stuff! The human body is pretty amazing and I get to learn about how it sometimes go wrong and how doctors and drugs can fix it.
My Work: I’m a medical writer and help pharmaceutical companies tell doctors and patients about drugs and diseases
Why does anyone need a medical writer?
When pharmaceutical companies have a new drug, they want to make sure that doctors and nurses know about it – which diseases it’s for, how it works, how effective it is and any side effects it might cause. They can also provide information to patients about their disease and about possible therapies for it. It’s my job to help pharmaceutical companies do all of this.
So, what does a medical writer actually do?
In the same way as your teachers use lots of different ways of helping you learn (e.g. talking, getting you to look at text books, showing you diagrams) I use lots of different ways to help people working in healthcare learn. This can be pretty basic things like PowerPoint presentations (I do A LOT of these!), posters and information leaflets – or it can be quite cool digital things like ibooks, websites and online meetings.
But you’re not a doctor…how do you know about diseases?
Because I’m not a medical doctor or a nurse I often have to learn about different diseases before I can write about them. An example of this is if I’m writing about a drug for leukemia, I have to understand what causes leukemia, how it affects the body and how a drug can get make a patient better. I then put all of these pieces together and make them into something that people in healthcare can use to discover more about the drug.
Being in an office all day sounds realllllly BORING!
You’re right – it does sound boring, but it’s really not! I get to work in a great office and we have very tasty coffee here! I spend lots of time working with colleagues to find fun and interesting ways to describe drugs and diseases, for example, last year we helped build a 3D hologram that talked to you as you walked past it!
The best bit of my job is definitely the travel. Doctors from different countries will often have different views on how to treat patients, so I get to go around the world finding out the similarities and differences and then writing material that’s relevant for them.
My Typical Day: I could be flying to the US to meet doctors, or sitting at my desk preparing PowerPoint presentations
Welcome to my office!
Every day starts with unpacking my locker & choosing a desk – yes, even after you have left school, you may have to have a locker.
Then I deal with emails – and because I work with clients from all over the world, I often get quite a lot of messages overnight.
Then I settle down to some writing. At the moment I work on several different cancers, all of which affect people in different ways. So, I might be writing a leaflet for patients to help them understand how a bone marrow transplant might help them; or a website that helps doctors recognise the symptoms of rare diseases; or slides for internal drug company meetings that explain why everyone should be excited about a new drug.
Afternoons are often full of meetings – which can be anything from talking to a client about their products to brainstorming ideas for a doctor’s training session. We also work on some cool digital and social media projects so sometimes I get to play on sites like Facebook and Twitter to see what other companies are doing – and I don’t get told off for it!
I’d love to be able to show you some of the things I work on but we have to keep them confidential a lot of the time… Come back in a few days & hopefully I will have something more interesting here.
What I'd do with the prize money: Run a science roadshow! .
I’ve had an awesome time talking to all you budding scientists & it would be great to come into schools to take more questions, as well as visiting others that haven’t signed up yet. And I could prove that not all scientists have white coats or beards!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
I like jam
What did you want to be after you left school?
A fish biologist – which is a long way from what I ended up being!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not very much – but it was more that I didn’t get caught, not that I was a model pupil.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta are in my most-played playlist at the moment.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
The most fun non-science thing is water ski-ing, although it’s a lot less fun in March (brrrr!) than the middle of the summer.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Love, peace and for my cat to use toothpaste so he doesn’t wake me up with stinky fish breath
Tell us a joke.
What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t work? A stick