How My Neuroscience Ph.D. Makes Me a Sucessful Strategic Communications Partner

We may have been trained for a career in research, but Ph.D.s possess valuable skills that enable us to position our clients for success.

As anyone who has heard our founder and president, Matt Middleman, M.D., talk about what makes LifeSci Communications unique knows, one of our key differentiators is the number of M.D.s and Ph.D.s on our team. Now what does that mean exactly? Is it true that advanced scientific training can prepare you for a career in biotech communications? How can Ph.D.s contribute to a strategic communications program when we’ve spent years alone in our labs only communicating with our mice, pipettes and microscopes?

While you may think we spent years alone with our non-human research subjects, for many of us, our time in graduate school gave us skills that prepared us perfectly for this career. I may have spent thousands of hours recording the behavior of mice in a dark room, extracting RNA from brain tissue and counting cells under a microscope, but I also spent thousands of hours writing about and presenting my science to my peers and advisors, teaching undergraduates and reading about and synthesizing new research. The unique perspectives gained through this work complement those of my colleagues who have spent decades in the industry, giving our team the ability to attack complex communications challenges from all sides.

Here are just a few of the ways the work accomplished during a Ph.D. can prepare you for a career in biotech communications:

Having a scientific background, even if it’s not in my client’s area of focus, allows me to synthesize information quickly, learn their science and effectively pull out key differentiators.

One of the most important activities at the beginning of any communications program is messaging. During this process, we immerse ourselves in each client’s science and its competitors, pulling out what makes our client special and how we can communicate that clearly and effectively, while being scientifically accurate. During this messaging process, I spend time with my client’s research, reading their publications and reviewing their posters. Because I have a scientific background, I’m able to read peer-reviewed journal articles quickly and pull out key details, even if it’s not my area of expertise. When it comes to the writing, I am able to ensure scientific accuracy, without the client correcting me or having to hold my hand through the process. This is immensely important, as it saves everyone the time and headache of correcting our work, and we’re able to focus on what is important: getting those key messages out to target audiences.

Spending time writing about and presenting my own research and watching other scientists do so as well gave me first-hand experience in communicating with sophisticated audiences.

Most of our clients at LifeSci Comms are emerging biotech companies, which means they are looking to communicate primarily with sophisticated audiences such as institutional investors, key opinion leaders (KOLs) and potential business development partners in big pharma. Most of these individuals have advanced degrees like mine, so I have an advantage in terms of understanding what tends to resonate with these audiences. Additionally, while not exactly the same, my time writing papers and giving talks, as well as watching my peers and advisors do so, gives me on the ground experience in this type of communication. On a practical level, I know how to build a clear corporate presentation, and my years making talks and posters in PowerPoint definitely have not gone to waste.

Teaching undergraduates helped me learn how to clearly and concisely communicate complex topics.

Even though our clients are often communicating with sophisticated audiences, it is critical that we work with them to communicate their complex science in an accessible manner, whether they are speaking with a reporter who might not have a scientific background, a patient or even a sophisticated investor who just doesn’t want to take the time to do a scientific deep dive during an initial conversation. I’ve spent enough time explaining action potentials to students who thought they were taking a class for an easy A only to realize they somehow have to synthesize biology, physics and chemistry all at once to have a good system for explaining complex science in a simple manner. (Isn’t neuroscience fun?!) As an added bonus, no biotech CEO could ever be as scary as an Ivy League undergraduate who received a B+ on an exam!

These are just a few examples. Our advanced scientific training enables us to work with our clients as true strategic partners, and each of the Ph.D.s here at LifeSci feels incredibly lucky to have found a career where we are on the cutting edge of science every day, helping our clients tell their story to the world.

Interested in becoming LifeSci’s next Ph.D. or M.D.? Have questions on why exactly I spent thousands of hours watching mice in a dark room? Need a lesson on action potentials? Let’s talk! Feel free to reach out to cait@lifescicomms.com.