Science Communications

Careers that build on science communication include medical writing, science journalism, editing, publishing, and communication positions based in museums and other non-profits. Oral and written communication skills, as well as the related abilities to both comprehend and synthesize large amounts of complex information, are rigorously developed during graduate and postdoctoral research, teaching and mentoring. These skills can be augmented through additional training, particularly in how to communicate effectively to diverse audiences, and by gaining direct experience. Trainees who have entered careers in communication have typically been scientific journal editors, active bloggers, have written articles for University and other publications, and/or have been involved with other forms of media such as science-based radio and television shows.

Examples of institutions where you could work in this field:

Scientific Journals
Marketing Agencies
Science Communications Firms

Examples of job titles that you might find at those institutions:

Medical Writer, Technical Writer, Editor, Account Executive, Editor

Professional societies that are relevant to this career category:

American Medical Writers Association, National Association of Science Writers, Association of Commercial Professionals-Life Sciences

Alumni Working in Science Communications

Fabiola Rivas

PhD Immunology 2003
Editor, Immunity, Cell Press

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
While many aspects of training were important to build a strong scientific background, the one aspect that is useful every day in editorial is having developed the ability to understand and evaluate research papers.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
Running a journal involves everything from commissioning new articles, managing the review process for articles, providing input on new manuscripts, discussing new ideas with fellow editors and the journal’s editorial board, selecting cover art and articles to press release or highlight on the website/social media. Editors also involved in other scientific exchange projects such as organizing symposia, hosting webinars, etc.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I enjoy constantly thinking about new advances in the field, and I also enjoy the interactions with scientists, be it as authors, reviewers or advisors. I find most rewarding the ability to highlight interesting science to the community, and to help bring new ideas to the discussion.

Brooke Sylvester

PhD Cancer Biology 2011
Associate Medical Director, ProHealth

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
My job requires that I communicate complex information in an effective manner and to diverse audiences for educational purposes. Consistently presenting information internally at UChicago presentations and at national/international conferences, explaining my research, serving as a teaching assistant, and writing research proposals and publications provided me with strong experience for my current role.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
Most of my time is spent developing medical and scientific content that is presented at national conferences. It is also my duty to monitor scientific publications and key opinion leaders, related to the disease states I cover, to keep my clients and internal team informed on new findings. I additionally provide strategic advice to stakeholders on pharmaceutical product (drug) branding and competitive intelligence.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I enjoy traveling to different disease state conferences and monitoring the field for breakthrough research findings and medical advances. I am constantly learning new information that I must turn around and quickly communicate to others; my job definitely keeps me on my toes!

Emily Conover

PhD Physics 2014
Physics Writer, Science News magazine

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
During my last year in graduate school, I started looking for opportunities to write about science. I wrote several articles for the UChicago news office, the Chicago Maroon, and anyone else who would let me. Around the time of graduation, I applied to some internships, and ended up doing the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship, a program that places scientists at different media outlets around the country for a summer. I worked at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Then I got a 6-month internship at Science Magazine before finally getting my first permanent science writing gig.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
My days cycle through the various steps of writing articles for our website and magazine. To find story ideas, I look through papers and press releases for newsworthy research. Once I’ve chosen a story topic, I call scientists on the phone to have them explain the work or comment on its significance. Then, of course, I work on writing and editing the story. There are lots of other smaller tasks I do as well, such as finding appropriate art to go with each story, answering reader questions, posting on social media, etc.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I feel incredibly lucky that my job allows me to keep up with the newest scientific research and to have fascinating conversations with scientists around the world. My job also feels worthwhile: Explaining scientific research to the public is an important part of the process. Finally, I really enjoy when readers send in positive feedback about my stories, or when someone asks a really good question that showed they were thinking hard about the topic.