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The University of Southampton
Biological SciencesOur alumni

Emily Feist MBiomedSci graduated 2016

PhD, due to graduate this year, 2021

Emily Feist's Photo

During my PhD I was given many opportunities to present my work to a wide audience – in my job now, I work to communicate complex scientific concepts in a simplified and engaging way to a varied audience – my experience at Southampton and the opportunities I was presented with certainly are a factor in me being successful in my career.

What made you select the University of Southampton?

Southampton is a Russel group University, meaning that the teaching is research focussed, and offered fantastic facilities for my undergraduate degree. Biomedical Sciences at Southampton offers a broad range of topics, many of which appealed to my interests. The flexibility of the Biological Sciences programmes was also a draw, offering many opportunities to tailor the programme to my personal development. 

What was it like studying here?

I did the four-year integrated Masters of Biomedical Science, which enabled me to learn about a vast range of topics and gain practical skills in the lab. The ability to choose modules that are of interest to you make the degree individual for each student – I particularly enjoyed the neuroscience and immunology modules. The teaching is of an exceptional standard, with the lecturers all involved in research themselves and with an evident passion for their subjects. My Masters degree gave me a fantastic insight into what it would be like to pursue a PhD and I ended up staying at Southampton to do my PhD, building on the skills that I developed as an undergraduate.

Southampton is a multi-cultural city, filled with art, music and good food, if you are interested in finding it. As a city with two big universities, Southampton has a vibrant night life and there is definitely something for everyone.

Sport was a huge part of my University experience and Southampton offers a wealth of different options, from casual teams to performance squads that compete at a high level. The Athletic Union works hard to ensure that sport is accessible to everyone, no matter their background or ability.

Accommodation at Southampton is reasonably priced, whether opting for the University halls (first year only) or private rented. Halls are extremely sociable and a great way to meet people when you first start university. 

What were your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences)?

My year as club captain for Ladies Lacrosse – such a brilliant club and so many amazing memories. When I started my PhD, I started coaching the first and second team as didn’t have time to play, and was awarded the Mike Beresford Coach Award, whilst the team were awarded Team of the Year – a definite highlight.

I was lucky enough to attend many conferences during my PhD – I learnt so much and was able to travel to some really interesting places. Attending and presenting at the IUPAC conference in Ghent with Lindy was a particular highlight.

Being an author on a paper for research that I had been involved with in my undergraduate degree.

Publishing my own research during my PhD.

Participating in Pint of Science, taking research into the pubs of Southampton, was a fantastic experience and highlight. 

What did you enjoy most about your course?

Learning about scientific advances, the practical sessions (great facilities), broad range of topics, course flexibility, opportunity to work on independent project that contributed to published work (undergraduate). 

Did you have the opportunity to study modules outside of your core subject area?

Yes, I took a health policy and economics module in my second year of undergraduate. I enjoyed working on a topic that was out of my comfort zone and developed a different skill set. 

Did any exposure to employer opportunities (such as work experience, company presentations, career mentoring) or research led learning during your course help you achieve your ambition? If so, how?

Research led learning provided me with the skillset to pursue my PhD. This in turn has led me to a career in medical writing, where I am able to draw on both my undergraduate and postgraduate experience to help me excel in my current role. I think that my participation in outreach work led me to where I am today, instilling a passion in me for communicating science. 

How has your degree helped develop your career?

I developed written, analytical and presenting skills that I use day-to-day in my career. During my PhD I was given many opportunities to present my work to a wide audience – in my job now, I work to communicate complex scientific concepts in a simplified and engaging way to a varied audience – my experience at Southampton and the opportunities I was presented with certainly are a factor in me being successful in my career.  

Medical writing is a hugely diverse career, ranging from writing manuscripts to creating mode of action videos to designing infographics that can be used to engage health care professionals, and all across a wide range of therapy areas. I developed skills in all of these areas through project work in my undergraduate degree and throughout my PhD, as well as being exposed to a broad range of subjects during my undergraduate degree, providing me with a solid background for understanding key concepts. 

What interesting projects have you been involved in that you would like to tell us about since graduating?

I am currently working on a range of projects that focus on vaccination behaviour, including communicating the advances that are being made with the Covid-19 vaccines.   

What have been the highlights of your career to date?

I am very early in my career, having only finished my PhD a few months ago. My PhD highlights were presenting my work at international conferences. 

What tips would you give to current students looking to start a career in your sector? What could they be doing now to make themselves more employable when they graduate?

Look out for opportunities that enable you to talk about your work – get involved in outreach work (the University Open days and engagement festivals are a great way to do this), work on your presentation skills (these will be transferable across any sector), find something that you are passionate about and want to talk about. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in careers that you are considering – ask them questions about their day-to-day work to see if it is something that interests you. 

Do you have any future ambitions?

Continue to build on my career in medical writing.

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