When I arrived at the UC Davis Genome Center in January 2005, I started a job as a postdoctoral researcher. Over time, I became an Assistant– and then an Associate Project Scientist. Throughout my 11 years at UC Davis, my primary focus was on research science: using bioinformatics approaches to investigate a variety of genomics projects.
However, my job titles became a poor reflection of what I actually ended up spending my most of my time doing. Increasingly I spent time managing & organising projects, training & mentoring people, and communicating about science. As I detailed in my exit seminar, there were many different hats that I ended up wearing:
- Helping develop undergraduate and postgraduate courses
- Mentoring students (including high-school students as part of the annual UC Davis Young Scholar Program)
- Assisting with development of training workshops
- Teaching at training workshops
- Organising Assemblathons
- Running the lab website
- Organising departmental foosball tournaments!
- Writing a book on Unix & Perl
- Revamping, maintaining, and writing content for the Genome Center website
- Setting up twitter accounts for the Assemblathon, Genome Center, and our Unix & Perl training
- Revamping the websites of the UC Davis Bioinformatics Core Facility (note, this is still not quite live)
Science communication came to dominate my activities at UC Davis and I also realised that a) I really enjoy this (more than research science!) and b) it's something that I am good at. Away from work, I decided to write more about science on my ACGT blog (333 posts since June 2012), I helped create a web comic devoted to science outreach (The Take-Home Message), and I found some time to teach courses on using Twitter for a local non-profit.
We have known that we were going to leave Davis and return to the UK for quite a while and so I made the decision that it was time to make all of these secondary activities the primary focus of my new job. For the last few months I focused on looking for work in the fields of science outreach and communication. This also involved switching my computer's spell checker back to British English as 11 years is long enough to 'go native'.
So today I can (finally) reveal my new job which — at the time of writing — I will be starting in about one hour's time! My new role will see me become the Digital Strategy Manager for the Institute of Cancer Research. The ICR is one of the world's leading cancer research organisations and was ranked first in the Times Higher Education league table of university research quality.
The ICR has been driving forward cancer research for over 100 years. Aside from the varied research programs, the ICR trains several hundred PhD students, works with industry to develop new drugs, and — as a charitable organisation — has a variety of fund-raising programs and campaigns. This multifaceted nature is something that presents many challenges for how the ICR has to communicate their work to all of the different stakeholders. This challenge was one of the reasons why I was attracted to this role.
There's an irony that my wife has just left a cancer research institute in Davis and now I am starting work at one in London. I'm sure I'll have many questions for her in the coming weeks! I look forward to learning a new vocabulary of cancer related terminology, and will try my best to learn how to pronounce names like 'abiraterone'.
My new role puts my science research career behind me and formalises my new journey into the world of science communication. I look forward to helping bring you news about the great research, training, and other activities that occurs at the ICR. I plan to continue blogging about science in my free time, and will continue my 101 questions with a bioinformatician series on my ACGT blog. I imagine that the blog content will evolve somewhat and maybe I will find myself writing about the challenges (and rewards) of being a science communicator!