If I could have any job in the world… I wouldn’t work? Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong.
My name is Sadie Boniface, I’m a Trial Coordinator in the Addictions Department, in the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College.
As a Trial Coordinator, my job is to make sure that the research we’re doing runs smoothly. So the trial that we are doing is about how to reduce young people’s alcohol consumption and we’re targeting young people that have come in to A&E; and they have been randomized to receive either treatment as usual, or they also get a brief intervention, which is a 5-minute chat with a researcher, or they would get an app that we’ve designed which hands information and advice about alcohol. And what we’re doing now is following up all our 1,600 participants to see whether they drink more, they drink less depending on what intervention we’ve given them.
A normal working day for me, well, this morning I got in about 9:30. What most people do when they have an office job and they get in is, I check my emails first then I spend a couple of hours doing some sort of admin for the trial, sending out vouchers to participants who have done our questionnaire, sending out paper questionnaires, contacting people by phone, stuff like that. So I spend quite a bit of time doing that every day. I quite often will be writing or analysing data, doing something like that on the computer, quite often in meetings, maybe at seminars, maybe at a conference, but what I think would be unusual for me is be doing the same thing all day long, and that’s actually one of the reasons that I really like my job: I like the variety and the diversity I have in the day, in the week.
Communication is a really important skill in this kind of job. So I’m talking to participants a lot of the time and they’re teenagers so I’ve got to talk to them one way, and then I’ve got to write a paper for an academic audience, and then I might have to present some of my work at a conference that’s different again; and then I might be writing a report that has a more general audience, so like a policy-making audience so that’s going to be different. And then sometimes, if your research is interesting to the press, you might be talking to the media, doing teaching as well, so it’s really important to be a good communicator and to be really adaptable to different situations and different audiences.
If someone wanted to follow my footsteps, I would probably suggest ‘work really hard at school’, and ‘try to get into the best university that you can’. It doesn’t matter so much what course you decide to do at university but go somewhere good, work really hard, do really well, and also try and get work experience, try to find someone that can make you shadow them, try and find someone that can mentor you even if that’s informally.
It took me quite a few months to find my first job: and it’s okay if that happens.
One thing that people might not know about work in Research being so academic, is that there are these really dull stereotypes: everyone is wearing glasses, everyone is wearing tweed patches, everyone is wearing corduroy trousers, but it’s really not like that. There is a lot of really fun and dynamic people working in Research and it’s not all about crunching numbers and not all about reading books all day and we don’t do that.
A few words from Sadie ...
I’m a trial coordinator, so my job is to make sure that our research runs smoothly. The trial I work on is looking at interventions to reduce alcohol consumption among teenagers who have come in to Accident and Emergency. At the moment, I am helping to coordinate a team of researchers who are completing six month follow ups of 1,600 participants in the trial. I also write up our research findings to present at conferences or to be published in peer-reviewed journals. Soon, I will start helping to set up a similar trial in high schools.
I joined King’s in May 2015. I did my undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences (Biology with Philosophy) at Durham University, and on my course I enjoyed learning about health. After graduating, I went straight into an MSc in Health Sciences at Newcastle University, after which I moved to London and worked at UCL for five years on some different research projects and also my PhD. In 2012-13, while I was at UCL, I also did some fieldwork part-time for King’s on a study that is part of the research programme I now work on. It was really beneficial for me to gain that experience as that led me to the job I am in now!
Exciting aspects of Sadie's job
The variety – in any one week I will be contacting participants, hearing about other people’s work at seminars, designing a new study, analysing data, writing up results as a paper, in meetings, teaching…
The freedom – I get a lot more choice over what I do at work than a lot of people my age. As well as my research, I am involved with groups to help researchers like me with career development, and I spend a lot of my lunch breaks mentoring young people write UCAS personal statements!
The results – the main reason do this job is I want to improve people’s health!
I’m early on in my career, and at this level a lot of the jobs are on projects that only last a couple of years. At a higher level, permanent jobs are more common, but people in roles like mine are often moving around quite a lot – working on different projects, different topics, or at different institutions – and some people don’t like that lack of stability. Luckily I like change!
- Good GCSEs and A-levels to get you in to a science or social science course at university