Career as a research scientist

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Paula Jordan is a chief scientific advice and liaison officer within the Science Directorate, which is part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). She works as part of a team that supports the chief scientific adviser (CSA) in making sure that Defra's policies are based soundly on high quality scientific evidence.

How would you sum up your role as a research scientist?

My main role is to act as a point of contact between scientists in Defra's laboratory agencies (Central Science Laboratory, Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) and the CSA. I have to identify any key issues of interest for the CSA regarding the agencies, and vice versa.

What is your working environment like?

I work with fellow scientists and administrative support staff. My work is office based, so there is no laboratory work, but I do visit the agencies and other bodies.

What skills do you need to be a research scientist?

I need good communication skills, as I have to pass on complex scientific information simply and clearly on behalf of the CSA to people at all levels, both with and without scientific backgrounds.

What do you most enjoy about your career as a research scientist?

I chose this career because I enjoy learning about science but didn't want to continue laboratory work. I am enhancing my knowledge of science in areas that I am not really a specialist in, for example plant diseases.

Also, I enjoy interacting with people and this job allows me to do that, particularly as communication is a key part of the job.

How do you see yourself progressing?

Eventually, I would like to head a division within Defra. As I have only been in the Civil Service for about a year and a half, I need to gain as much experience as possible. My short-term goals involve experiencing different work environments and cultures, and possibly working overseas.

Paula's route to her career as a research scientist

  • A levels in chemistry, biology and mathematics.
  • Degree in Biological Sciences.
  • Master's degree in applied Molecular Microbiology.
  • PhD in Environmental Engineering.
  • Joined Defra as scientific officer and gained promotion to current post in the CSA's support team.

Paula's research scientist tip

  • The Civil Service has a vast array of job opportunities, so don't think you are stuck in a certain sector for life.

Research scientist related jobs

  • Environmental scientist
  • Food scientist

Salary of a research scientist

  • Scientific liaison officers in the Civil Service earn between £24,014 and £29,120 nationally, or between £26,880 and £32,698 in London.

Career as a research scientis

  • Scientific advice and liaison officers need to have a degree in a relevant science subject.
  • Training takes place mainly on the job. You gain experience by working under the supervision of experienced staff until you are able to work on your own. You may also work towards professional qualifications.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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