Like many students, Tori Blakeman found herself in a bit of a predicament when it came to choosing a career path. Initially choosing to study Biomedical Sciences, Tori then chose to specialise in Neuroscience at the start of her second year. Throughout her studies she became more and more aware that her strengths lied in writing, as opposed to lab work, something that is alien to a lot of BSc students. Read on to discover how Tori worked it all out and landed herself a job at a science and technology marketing agency. Her path may well inspire you…
Growing up, I was incredibly curious about how the world worked, and, in particular, how the human body functioned. However, I also thoroughly enjoyed the arts and media, so when it came to selecting a career path, it was a troublesome task. Now working in the field of science communication, it’s become clear that a science degree doesn’t necessarily mean you have to become a scientist in academia or industry. It is possible to find a career that satisfies both creativity and the thirst for scientific endeavour!
When it came to picking a course for university, I trawled university websites searching for courses that might take my fancy, coming across so many subjects that I didn’t even know existed. I came across Neuroscience, a course that involved finding out how the brain works. However, seeing as I still enjoyed wider human biology, and being cautious of specialising my career too soon, I did actually end up applying to study Biomedical Sciences to keep my options open.
The flexibility to transfer between biological sciences courses, as still offered by the University of Manchester today, was very ideal for me. The freedom of having another year to find out more about biological sciences ensured that once I specialised to the Neuroscience course at the start of second year, the choice was certainly correct for me.
My first taste of communicating science
Realising that I loved writing about science more so than actually carrying out science in the lab, I became very confused about what sort of career I wanted. I went into science as I enjoyed finding out new things about the world, yet I knew that deep down that I was a creative person, and I wanted to have a career where this creative side could be satisfied alongside my thirst for science.
Feeling lost, I had a look on the Manchester careers website, where I discovered the Manchester Gold Mentoring scheme. The scheme involves filling in a form explaining what you like, dislike and what you fancy from a career. Voluntary alumni from the University of Manchester then read the forms, and come forward to offer their support through a mentorship if they feel they could help.
In my case, a lovely lady working in medical communications, a field that assists the pharmaceutical industry with writing manuscripts, preparing academic posters and worldwide conferences, came forward and offered me work experience in her company’s offices in Macclesfield. This two week experience reassured me that there were jobs for someone like me out there, and her valuable advice to get involved with writing at university was integral to finding my career today.
Hobbies give you relevant work skills and keep you sane
After this advice at the end of my second year, I became heavily involved in student media, as a Senior Science Reporter for The Mancunion and also presented a Neuroscience-themed radio show, Brainwaves, on Fuse FM with two of my course mates.
I also kept up my involvement in the University’s Dance Society, something that I had been a part of since my first year. In my final year, as Secretary of the society, I got to organise the second largest dance competition in the country with over 1000 dancers from 23 UK universities.
My advice to everyone starting university is to always keep up your hobbies. Yes, hobbies give you amazing transferable skills and wonderful memories, but they’re also important to keep you sane through the hard times of a demanding course.
I know I’m biased, but in my opinion, Neuroscience was without a doubt the most fun, interesting and intellectually stimulating course I could have chosen. Many memorable highlights take me back to fun times in the lab, including holding a real human brain to learn about its structure, and inhaling nitrous oxide to learn about its effects on function. But the real highlight for me was learning about the wonder of circadian rhythms, our body clock, which eventually became the topic of my dissertation studies.
My final year project explored the relationship between circadian clocks and breast cancer and, much to my surprise after my challenging first year, the literature review element of it ended up getting published in the Breast Cancer Research journal. Knowing I wanted a career in science communication as opposed to the lab, I chose to carry out a science communication final year project.
Finding my SciComm career
Thanks to the breadth of science communication experience I gained during my time at Manchester, I was accepted on the MSc Science Communication course at Imperial College London.
Today, I work in science marketing at Notch Communications managing public relations and writing all sorts of scientific content for multiple scientific companies across the UK and the world. This involves anything from writing press releases and social media posts, to planning huge advertising campaigns and attending industry events.
You do you
Just because you’re on a BSc course does not mean you can only be a scientist in industry or academia. Yes, working in those fields is incredibly fruitful, interesting and rewarding, but there are so many careers out there within the science sector that need scientific knowledge, but do not require you to work in the lab.
It’s always difficult trying to work out what job you want. I started university having no idea what I wanted to do, but as long as you keep doing what you love and working hard, your career will fall into place. I never thought that Neuroscience, dancing and student media could ever combine to make a career, but here I am working in science communication – where the arts and science truly align.