Aleksandra (Leksa) Nall was a GGR student in Amita Sehgal’s lab, where she used small molecules to study sleep regulation in Drosophila. She defended her thesis in July 2014 and was hired as a medical writer at Articulate Science the following October.
Located in Hamilton, New Jersey, Articulate Science is a premier medical communications agency division of Nucleus Global. Medical communications agencies provide a variety of services to a diverse range of clients, but are most often utilized by pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies. The agencies design and deliver customized products to be used for patient education, sales representative training, marketing, consulting, and continuing medical education. Medical writers at most agencies, including Articulate Science, work in teams under a project manager. As a medical writer, Leksa’s responsibilities include communicating the basic science of a specific disease state, a drug mechanism of action, or interpretations of clinical data in lay language. After a year as a medical writer, Leksa was promoted to a senior medical writer, and her responsibilities have grown to include more responsibility and mentorship roles.
Her immediate transition from the bench upon completion of her degree naturally involved many changes in her day-to-day life. Since leaving academia, she notes that she is still surrounded by a great group of fellow PhDs and gets to attend the occasional scientific conference, allowing her to remain connected to science However, she no longer has the flexible schedule that she enjoyed so much in graduate school. Leksa admits the main downside to her new life is the 7AM wakeup call and the commute from her row home in Center City. However, the transition from academia to agency has been accompanied by a welcome increase in compensation to temper this hardship.
Leksa’s advice to current students considering a job outside of academia is to take breaks from lab work and pursue activities that develop other skills. For example, do something in which you can interact with other people, develop leadership skills, or cultivate a passion. Having hobbies doesn’t necessarily mean decreased productivity — Leksa completed her degree in 5 years and published two first author papers and a review article. Despite the pressure that students face to spend all of their time at the bench, they will be well-served by having experiences and accomplishments outside of science. To this end, Leksa’s leadership experience included being the captain of her ultimate frisbee team and organizing the Penn Med Art Show. Being able to speak to these types of experiences during interviews was essential to successfully landing a job. Leksa also emphasized the benefit of the many opportunities within CAMB to give research talks and learn to clearly and concisely communicate the significance of research, the logic of experimental design, interpretation of the results, and the implications for the field. These skills will be important no matter what career you pursue.