Talent/Career Tips

From Science Ph.D. to Medical Writer: Career Pathfinding in the Clinical Research Industry

By Lizzie Evans on November, 21 2016

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Lizzie Evans

Market Development Manager at Advanced Clinical.


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While there is no single path towards a career in the clinical research industry, everyone has to start somewhere. Shaniya Khan, Medical Writer at Advanced Clinical, knew that with expertise in immunology and laboratory research she had the skills necessary for a career in clinical research but navigating toward medical writing was no clear path. In this interview, we discussed how she leveraged resources and opportunities to establish a career that ultimately connected her scientific background with her skills and interests.


What was your motivation for seeking job opportunities outside of academic research?



I had spent one year as a laboratory research technician and five years as a doctoral researcher. While incredibly fulfilling at the time, it became apparent towards the end of my Ph.D. that bench research was not the career path I wanted to pursue after defending my doctoral thesis – I was ready to hang up my pipette.  Attending seminars and conferences with workshops titled “Careers Outside of Academics” gave me the needed push to reevaluate how I was going to apply the unique skillset developed while obtaining a PhD towards my career.

At that point I was sure of the following things: I loved immunology and found it very rewarding to explain immunological concepts to those who wanted to learn more about it – especially if it was their first exposure to it, I wanted to be in a position where interaction, conversation, and collaboration were essential, and most importantly for me, I wanted to be a part of the bigger picture.

Pre-clinical research is highly focused on scientific concepts that will, in time, have a significant impact. I wanted to be more at the forefront of putting into practice what has been discovered at the bench. I wanted to continue to think scientifically rather than be a practicing scientist. I was particularly attracted to clinical research roles that required understanding of an investigational product - biology, mechanism of action etc. – as well as an understanding of the complexities of data generation and how to write scientifically to communicate effectively to investigators.


The clinical research industry is complex and it can be difficult to navigate through career pathways. What resources helped you in identifying opportunities that best fit your skillset and interests?


Entering the CRO industry as an in-house CRA, I immediately learned about all of the moving parts that work in conjunction to effectively manage on-going clinical trials. When speaking with clinical managers, clinical monitoring leads, biostatisticians, and other functional team members, I asked a lot of questions and expressed my eagerness to try it. As I gained deeper exposure in to each functional area, I was able to identify where my educational background and skills fit best within a clinical research team.

I have been fortunate to work with managers at Advanced Clinical who were especially perceptive to my interest in medical writing and who valued my diverse skillset, which helped garner opportunities. I took advantage of the career guidance I was being provided, and within a short period of time I was trusted to help QC a pharmacodynamic report—my first exposure to a medical writing document,
where it all started.


How has your background in academic research contributed to your success as a medical writer?


I am very comfortable with scientific communication, such as reading, writing, and speaking. Scientific presentations were plentiful in my pre-clinical past, including my participation in an invited seminar at an annual scientific meeting. I have authored five peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts and my doctoral thesis. I enjoy reading scientific documents. Medical writing encompasses all of that!


What excites you about being a part of the clinical research community?


I find it exciting that I essentially get to see the progression and advancement of a scientific concept that first started at the bench and has now moved into the testing phase in a very deserving population of people.


What suggestions would you offer to someone seeking to enter the clinical research industry as a medical writer?


If you are entering the clinical research industry with a love of science, medical writing is an area that will definitely enable scientific thinking and communication. Bring your specific area of expertise forward and that will help guide writing projects.

Advanced Clinical is committed to career development and continued education for all employees. We are determined to ensure employees are challenged and become increasingly valuable as a business professional, both within our organization and as an industry expert.


View job listings for more information about careers at Advanced Clinical.




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