Farewell lab bench, hello writing desk

IMG_3675Friday was my last day at the John Innes Centre. Although I’m happy to be moving on to new things, I’m going to miss the place and the wonderful people I’ve been working with over the last 5 years. In the past few weeks I have been preparing for my departure by wrapping up my experimental work, clearing out my lab bench, fridge and freezer drawers, and putting together a research paper to send to a journal.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased by what I’ve achieved research-wise over the last few years. I’ve tried lots of things, some of them worked, and I’ve got some interesting data that I’m still really excited about. I will definitely be keeping an eye on the field in future to see what happens next!

Friday was also my last day of being a “Research Scientist”. In September I start a new job with the life and biomedical sciences journal eLife as an Assistant Features Editor. I will be editing and writing magazine-style content including “eLife digests”, which are summaries of the journal’s research articles aimed at non-scientists. I’m really excited about the job as I will be working in science communication both within the scientific community and also to wider audiences.

I want to discuss my reasons for leaving science research because, unfortunately, some people consider it to be a negative thing, like an admission of failure or a waste of all that training. I am NOT leaving research because I dislike labwork, or even because I don’t feel that I’m good enough to stay. I’ve loved the research work I’ve been doing over the last few years, but I’ve also really enjoyed all the science communication activities I’ve been involved in. I’ve decided to leave research because in the long-term, I think I will find a career in science communication more fun and rewarding. Far from being a waste, the understanding of science I’ve gained during my research training will help me communicate the workings and findings of science to wider audiences.

What does my new job mean for this blog? Don’t worry, it will be business as usual here as I intend to continue posting regular articles about plants and microbes. Given that I will be more exposed to a wider variety of life science areas, it is possible that I may stray to other topics from time-to-time to write about other interesting things I come across. However, I will retain a focus on plants and microbes because I still love plants, and I intend to continue learning about them in my spare time. Also, I think plants and non-medical microbes (those that don’t cause animal diseases) tend to receive less attention online than they perhaps deserve. If this blog contributes even a little to raising the profile of some of these organisms then I’ll be very pleased.


9 thoughts on “Farewell lab bench, hello writing desk

  1. Good luck in your new job Sarah! eLife looks like a really fun place to work! I used to work for a science publisher too and it’s great fun 🙂 Leaving research is definitely not something anyone should feel bad about!

  2. Best of luck Sarah with the new post and can well imagine it was bit of wrench leaving the place after five years. I am still recovering from handing in my dissertation at UEA for my Masters degree and turning 60 at then end of this week. The new post sounds really interesting and we do need to communicate science to the wider community in a meaningful way that can be understood by all

  3. What a fantastic new adventure you’re just about to embark upon. No training or education is ever wasted, I say. You just take it with you to the next stage of your life. I speak from experience. Undergrad degree in biochemistry, sideways into science journalism, now teaching journalism but keeping the science journalism as a specialism. Oh, and The Geeky Gardener grew out of all that lot too. Good luck.

  4. Good for you Sarah! You should never be made to feel bad about leaving research. Best of luck in the new job, you’ll do great I’m sure!

  5. Hi Sarah,
    Your new job sounds amazing, congratulations! There is a very weird stigma about leaving research. Your new job requires the huge variety of skills and knowledge you’ve picked up along the way, probably even more so than research!
    Have a great time, and look forward to reading more from you soon! 🙂

  6. Thank you all for your supportive comments to this post 🙂 All the people who really matter to me have been very supportive about my next career move including my ex-employer. I’m aware though that this is not the case everywhere. By explaining my reasons for leaving I’m hoping it may help others who work in less-supportive environments as well as challenge other people’s perceptions.

  7. Congrats! I think science communication is a really important field, and needs people who can relate to both researchers and non-researchers. I saw a really good presentation by Dr. Robert Fraley (Monsanto agricultural co-president) at a plant biology meeting a few weeks ago, and it really opened my eyes to the importance of being really good at communicating about biology. Has a career in science communication been something that you were pursuing for a while?

    • Thanks Vanessa. I’ve been interested in science communication for a while. The idea of moving into it full-time developed over my PhD because I really enjoyed the various science communication activities I tried alongside my research.

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