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Ross King

Dr-Ross-King-3-(2).jpgCareer progression

1. Pharmacology BSc 

2. MRes/PhD

3. Post-Doc research

4. Reseach Advisor

 

Ross is a Research Advisor at the British Heart Foundation.

What is your career pathway to date (including your education)?

I graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2010 with a First Class BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology and it was during my time at Glasgow that my interest in cardiovascular research was first piqued. Following my undergraduate degree, I moved to the King’s College London British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence to undertake my MRes/PhD. There, my doctoral research focused on understanding the physiological contributions of the sensory nerve-derived neuropeptide CGRP in mouse models of vascular inflammation, including hypertension and ageing. In 2015, I took up my postdoctoral training at the William Harvey Research Institute, where I investigated the role of neutrophils in driving pathological tissue oedema in response to sterile injury.

After my postdoc I made the difficult decision to ‘jump ship’ and joined the British Heart Foundation as a Research Advisor in early 2018, with primary responsibility for managing BHF Fellowships. Here I look after all BHF Fellows, ranging from PhD student right through to senior investigator level, in both the basic and clinical sciences.

Throughout my career I have continuously been involved with numerous ‘extracurricular’ activities – I have a passion for public engagement/science communication and I was an active member of the British Pharmacological Society’s Policy & Public Engagement Committee and the Young Pharmacologists Advisory Group (as it was once known!).

What do you do? What does a typical week look like to you?

In a nutshell, my primary responsibility is to manage BHF Fellowships. This includes advising prospective applicants on their eligibility/suitability, scrutinising Fellowship applications once they are submitted, managing peer review and providing expert scientific support to the BHF Fellowships Committee to allow them to make confident and evidence-based recommendations for funding. The Committee meets quarterly, so the core responsibilities of the role are somewhat cyclical – we go through many different peaks and troughs of activity throughout the year.

Aside from Committee management, I also have a responsibility to ensure that the BHF supports its Fellows as best as it possibly can. Pre-COVID, this meant that I often found myself travelling around the country, giving talks, meeting prospective applicants and giving them advice on how to craft the perfect application. I’ve also led on the planning, organization and execution of the biennial BHF Fellows Meeting, an event which encourages Fellows to get together, share their research and establish new collaborations. 

The rest of my time is often spent providing scientific support to the wider BHF – usually to the fundraising, marketing and communications teams. This often involves a lot of proof-reading and ensuring that any material that the BHF puts out into the wider world is scientifically accurate and up to date. I’ve also collaborated extensively with the research engagement team, who have kept me busy with public engagement events, such as the BHF London to Brighton bike ride and Cheltenham Science Festival.

Finally, I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to follow my nose and to forge my own path at the BHF. This has allowed me to develop my interests in research policy – specifically matters concerning research culture, including open access publishing, research assessment, and equality, diversity and inclusion-related issues.

All things considered, I am kept pretty busy most days, but we always have time for an after-work pint on Fridays!

What do you like and dislike the most about your current position?

The best thing about my role is that my scientific training is put to good use – I would not be able to do my job without a firm understanding of cardiovascular biology and the wider academic research landscape. I am considered to be an expert in my role, and that is quite a rare feeling. I also love the collaborative atmosphere at the BHF and how I am given the freedom to get involved in projects that I find interesting, and that can help advance my career.
 
Sometimes the work can be a little repetitive (especially committee management and the processes that surround this), but that is the nature of the job and with time you can become more efficient in handling this responsibility to free up your diary for more exciting work. Another frustration is that it is often difficult for me to see how I would progress to a senior position within the organization, but on the other hand this encourages people to move around and gain new experience elsewhere, which is never a bad thing.

How do you see your career further progressing in the future?

Since leaving academia, my future career prospects have broadened out considerably. I am now no longer expected to follow the linear and well-trodden path of ‘Postdoc, Lecturer, Professor’ and many more opportunities are now available to me. Indeed, after almost 3 years at the BHF, I will soon be moving to the Medical Research Council to take up a Programme Manager role, working closely with the Population & Systems Medicine Board.
 
I consider myself to be in the relatively early phase of my ‘new’ career and I’m therefore still trying to pin down what exactly I’d like my longer-term career to look like. I’m unsure of whether I’d like to stay at the sharp end of research funding, or whether I’d like to branch off into the research strategy/policy world – this could be in Government, in universities or even back where I started in the charity sector. I feel really lucky that I can now carve my own path and not have to follow one that I was led to believe was the only option!

What three pieces of advice would you give someone keen on developing a career in your area of work?

1. Staying in research a bit longer won’t harm you. I know a lot of people struggle with making the decision to leave academia (I did) and aren’t quite sure of when the best time to go might be. If you still enjoy research, the experience you gain there will be invaluable to you for any research-adjacent role. Of course, if you hate it, you should absolutely think about leaving!

2. Always keep something else cooking on the back burner. I think what gave my CV that competitive edge was that I was also involved heavily in public engagement, had sat on a few Committees and had done some extra volunteer work with the BHF along the way. Which leads me to my next point…

3. Network, network, network. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. ‘Networking’ is a scary word to some people (including myself), but realise that there are many ways to successfully network – you just need to find the style that suits you best. When I applied to the BHF, I was already known to many people throughout the organization. Make sure that people know who you are, and exactly what you have to offer. If this is a truly terrifying prospect to you – Twitter is an excellent start! You can follow me there @sci_ross

Published: 18 Aug 2020 in Industry

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