Following his passion for science – away from academia

Brittany Leigh did not plan to become a professional science communicator. During her PhD she studied biological oceanography with a focus on viruses in marine life, and during her post-doctoral she studied viruses in mosquitoes. For most of her early career, she imagined herself on the professor track.

“I liked: one, getting involved in cool science; two, to be able to talk to people about that science; and three, having the flexibility to make my own schedule. But during my postdoctoral I realized that these main things are not unique to being a professor,” Leigh said.

Courtesy of Brittany Leigh

Brittany Leigh learns, synthesizes and writes about new research and shares it with others at LifeSci Communications.

Today, Leigh is a senior account executive at LifeSci Communications, which serves clients of all types, from early-stage biotech companies to commercial-stage pharmaceutical companies.

An awareness when alone in the lab

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Leigh was a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University and worked alone in the lab due to capacity constraints. “That was my hard, deep look at what I was doing. Hiding in a lab, ‘Is this really where I want to go?’ she let me think,” she said.

Part of what he realized at the time was that the things he loved about science weren’t actually the biggest part of a principal researcher’s job. Most of a PI’s time is spent writing grants and doing administrative tasks she knows she doesn’t want to do.

When the professor admitted that his path was not the way he wanted, he had to find what he wanted. made request. He needed to find where else he could use his passion for science.

However, all the training he received helped him identify what he was looking for.

During her postdoctoral fellowship, she took teaching classes and volunteered presentations to the public, which taught her how to communicate with a diverse audience and, perhaps more importantly, taught her that she loved doing it.

“I started Googling, ‘science communications jobs,’ and found the DOCjobs site (a job site listing jobs for scientists outside of traditional academia) and a job was posted on LifeSci.” She applied “just to see what happens” and eventually landed a job she loved.

‘At the forefront of all this great science’

At LifeSci, Leigh is responsible for public relations and communications for six clients focused on gene therapy, infectious disease and cancer.

At any point in any given day, it could be writing a press release explaining a company’s data in an accessible way, developing a website, designing a poster for a conference, working with animators on videos, or using social media. for clinical trial recruitment. It can even write a scientific paper if the company needs it.

His audience includes investors, other companies, doctors, patients and the media. “If someone wants to talk to (a person) in the company, it will pass me by,” he said.

Leigh said LifeSci tends to hire scientists with some writing experience, and instead of hiring professional writers and teaching them science subject areas, it trains them on the specifics of writing needed. The company assigns authors to clients based on the type of science expertise needed and the author’s interests.

He said he learned all kinds of new research, synthesized knowledge and wrote about it and shared it with others, which was all he wanted from being a professor.

“I’m at the forefront of all this great science and I see it transitioning from basic science to bedside,” he said.

More importantly, Leigh works remotely, which is important to her. With a partner in the army, Leigh must move freely and have time for her family.

Take time to reevaluate

In academia, sometimes your research can be your life. Leigh said on LifeSci that she was able to get away with that point of view. “There are limits,” he said, and people value your time.

He also said he’s learned that it’s important to think about what you want and why. “Check yourself and see if you still like the things you do and it’s okay if you don’t like it,” he said.

She noted that sometimes people can get stuck doing something they used to like, think they love, or think they’ll love.

“I always make sure to really nurture the things I love to do so I can grow that way.”

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