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WNN Webinar | How to land a job outside academia

In today's world, the role of science journalists and communication professionals is crucial in bridging the gap between scientific discoveries and the public. Our last Women’s NeuroNetwork event welcomed two scientists who have found their niche in the realm of science communication: Diana Kwon, a freelance science journalist, and Estrid Jakobsen, a Communications and Student Engagement Manager at the Quebec Bio-Imaging Network (QBIN). Their unique journeys shed light on the diverse paths one can take to pursue a career in science journalism and academia-adjacent roles.

Diana's Path to Science Journalism

Diana is a science journalist who has written for esteemed news outlets such as Scientific American and Nature. As a freelance journalist, she shared her experiences and insights into the dynamic world of science communication. Her work involves writing about newly published studies, conducting deep dives into various areas of research, addressing issues that affect scientists, and providing a scientific perspective on current societal challenges.


Diana’s mission as a science journalist is to accurately explain science to the public, critically assess scientific claims and discoveries, debunk myths, and combat misinformation related to scientific issues.


Diana's journey into science journalism began during her graduate school years when she realized that long-term research was not her true passion. This realization prompted her to start her own science blog, igniting her interest in science communication. Seeking a more structured learning experience, she joined the science and tech section of the student news publication at McGill University, where she honed her writing skills and gained valuable insights into the realm of journalism. Despite initial rejections, Diana's determination led her to secure internships at Fermilab and Scientific American, which served as steppingstones to her freelance career.


There are commonalities and distinctions between scientists and science journalists. While both share an inherent curiosity about science and possess the ability to critically evaluate scholarly articles, journalists possess a broader knowledge base, whereas scientists possess specialized expertise in their respective fields.


"Scientists primarily share their findings with fellow experts, while journalists translate and convey these findings to the public."

During the event, Diana provided a glimpse into her daily routine as a science journalist, which involves thorough research of scientific studies, conducting interviews with researchers, attending conferences, pitching story ideas to editors, writing articles, and fact-checking. She emphasizes the importance of adaptability and a diverse skill set, as science journalists often need to cover various scientific disciplines.


Internships, freelance work, and alternative paths

When seeking an internship in science journalism, there are important tips to keep in mind. Building experience through involvement with student newspapers, maintaining personal blogs, and contributing to smaller publications or outlets that predominantly feature articles by scientists serve as excellent starting points. Networking with professionals in the field, attending journalism conferences, and participating in internship fairs can also pave the way for internship opportunities.


There are advantages of both freelance and staff positions in science journalism. While a staff job offers the benefits of camaraderie, collaborative projects, and financial stability, freelance work provides flexibility in terms of location, work schedule, and the opportunity to work with a range of outlets. Freelancers enjoy the freedom to explore diverse topics but may face initial challenges in terms of income stability.


In addition, there are alternative career paths in communications and public relations as alternative career paths to science journalism. These roles involve working for universities, research institutions, government agencies, and companies.

 

Estrid Jakobsen: From Academia to Science Communication

While compiling a PhD in neuroscience, Estrid realized her passion for communicating science and translating complex ideas into accessible language for the public. She currently works as the Communications and Student Engagement Manager at QBIN, where she plays a vital role in disseminating research findings and organizing public outreach events.


During her talk, Estrid highlighted the challenges she faced during her transition from academia to science communication. Leaving behind the academic environment and starting a new career required adapting to a different work culture and learning new skills. However, her scientific expertise proved invaluable in understanding complex research and effectively communicating it to diverse audiences.


The responsibilities of a communications professional in the scientific field ranges across several exciting responsibilities. These roles include creating press releases, organizing media coverage of research publications, managing social media accounts, coordinating public outreach events, and fostering collaborations between researchers and journalists.


Effective communication strategies help bridge the gap between scientists and the public, ensuring that research findings are accurately conveyed and understood.


"Navigating the job search can be challenging, but it's crucial to remain persistent and remember that during your PhD, you acquire various valuable skillsets that you may not fully recognize, such as resourcefulness and time management."

Estrid emphasizes the importance of networking, leveraging connections within the scientific community, and gaining practical experience through internships or volunteer work. Engaging with science communication organizations, attending workshops, and showcasing one's communication skills through personal projects or a strong online presence can significantly enhance job prospects.


 

Both Diana and Estrid emphasize the power of storytelling in science communication. Crafting narratives around scientific discoveries and humanizing the research process helps engage and captivate audiences. By connecting scientific concepts to real-life applications and personal experiences, science journalists and communicators can make complex ideas accessible and relatable to a wider audience.


The journeys of Diana Kwon and Estrid Jakobsen showcase the diverse paths scientists can take to enter the world of science journalism and academia-adjacent careers. Whether pursuing a career as a freelance science journalist, working in science communications, or exploring other related roles, their experiences highlight the importance of storytelling, adaptability, and continuous learning.


By effectively bridging the gap between science and the public, these scientists play a vital role in shaping public understanding and appreciation of scientific advancements. If you have a passion for science and a knack for storytelling, the realm of science journalism and communication can be well worth the pursuit!


 

The talk recording is available for WNN members, please send us an email to receive the link. We appreciate your feedback, so please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments! womensneuronetwork@gmail.com


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