This summer, LifeSci Communications welcomed 11 interns to its team. The interns have spent the past several weeks developing their skills in account services, digital and social media, and creative design. As the program draws to a close, we asked a few of our interns to share their biggest takeaways from working in biotech communications.
Madelyn Divino, Boston College Class of 2023, Account Intern
Before this internship, I don’t think I ever heard the words “biotech” and “communications” in the same sentence. In an education system where students study within the confines of their major for four years, it is difficult to even conceive that one could combine scientific knowledge with communication skills. Yet, I learned just how this could be done through my internship at LifeSci Communications this past summer. Through this role, I have expanded my reach of what it means to be a writer and a scientist and have certainly gained some valuable lessons along the way.
- Science writing is an art .
The first lesson I learned at LifeSci is that science is, in fact, an art. Now, I am in no way implying that science is fictional, given that it is inherently based on observation and experimentation. Rather, what I mean is that the communication of science is about so much more than stating facts and statistics. In science writing, while accuracy is of the utmost importance, there is so much creative skill involved in the expression of science, and it’s quite tricky to master. It’s not easy to be correct, concise, and engaging all at once, nor is it easy to set aside your own voice to take on a client’s. As my supervisor, Veronica, can attest to, my biggest hurdle was that my writings often incorporated my own animated, sometimes even dramatic flair because, well, I love to tell a good story. As the weeks went on, however, and Veronica continued to provide me with helpful feedback, I finally began to connect the dots that it was not my story that I was telling my audience. Rather, company audiences consisted of investors, biotech enthusiasts, and reporters, all of whom expected a different kind of writing than I was used to producing. Now, I can confidently say that my time at LifeSci taught me how to strike a better balance between the empirical and the theatrical.
- Anyone who wants to truly grasp a scientific topic has the capacity to do so.
My second takeaway is that there is a great misconception about science, leading many to shy away from immersing themselves in it: that you must have an M.D. or Ph.D. to understand and communicate about scientific matters. Working at LifeSci has taught me that anyone who wants to understand science can understand it, even if they specialize in a completely different area of study. Even as a neuroscience major with a somewhat sturdy scientific background, I entered this summer not knowing a single thing about gastroenterology, gene editing, or liver tumors, yet I emerged as a self-proclaimed “mini-expert” in these areas. All that it took was some digging into industry trades, company websites, and news articles to start to put together the pieces of the companies’ science. I think it’s encouraging to know that each and every one of us has the ability to understand and communicate about anything that we want to in our everyday lives if we immerse ourselves in it.
Jenna Sheehy, San Diego State University Class of 2022, Digital Engagement Intern
Prior to this internship, “biotech” and “communications” were two completely different realms to me. There was the “biotech” space that felt foreign and there was the “communication” space that I was comfortable in and had spent my time in school studying. Coming into the internship, I was a little apprehensive about what biotech communications would imply but I was excited to learn.
After two days in the program, I began to doubt my abilities, I was familiar with terms such as “SEO” and “Impression”/“Engagement” but I was also encountering terms such as “immunotherapy” and “naïve T cells”. I felt as though I was unqualified to speak on these terms and was hesitant to write any content for the companies or analyze any reports. At the end of my first week, I had my first 1 on 1 check-in with my supervisor and that was when I started to feel more at ease. I was assured that not only is it okay to ask questions, but it is also okay to not be completely familiar with the biotech industry. There are so many resources to learn and grasp an understanding of the science, from the client’s own website to members on the LifeSci Communications team who have a background in the specific scientific field. I began to feel more comfortable in the space but also confident in my ability to communicate all things science.
As the internship is coming to an end, instead of seeing “biotech” and “communications” as two different spaces, I have been able to build the bridge of biotech communications and combine the skills I know about growing engagement with my new understanding of different sciences. I was able to create digital content for companies as a way to inform their audience about their technology and scientific expertise, bringing together the power of engagement with the power of knowledge. I was also able to do reports on different companies’ engagement patterns and audience reach, in order to examine how effective the strategies employed were in reaching users who could benefit and learn from their science. I now feel confident in not only the accuracy of what I am saying but also in my ability to be concise and effective when working in biotech communications!
Charlotte Mirgel, PMMA 2022, Fordham University, Media Relations Intern
While working in biotech communications as a non-scientist can be intimidating, this internship has shown me how rewarding it can be to work in this space. Here are some of my key takeaways that can hopefully be of help for others who are thinking about pursuing a career in biotech communications:
- There’s a variety of different target audiences within biotech communications.
While doing some research for a school project on the topic of effective science communications, I came across a definition, describing science communication as “the practice of communicating science with non-experts”. After being with LSC for almost two months now, I’ve realized that this definition might be too broad and doesn’t do the diverse audience landscape in biotech communications justice.
Through my internship I learned that there are actually a variety of different audience groups that could be considered “non-experts’ and that exist not only within the lay public, but within the biotech space in general. Expert or not, patients, consumers, advocacy groups, healthcare providers, doctors, institutional investors, and many other audiences all require communication strategies that are tailored to their respective interests and needs.
In addition to that, my internship allowed me to dig deeper into one specific and certainly important audience within the biotech communications space: the media. Working for the media relations team allowed me to look at members of the media as important “mediators” between us (as science communicators) and the audiences we are ultimately trying to reach.
- Telling humanizing stories in science communication is key .
Another important lesson I learned is that biotech communications is about way more than just providing your target audiences with the “missing” or needed facts. Especially when trying to reach audience groups like patients or consumers, putting yourself into their shoes and humanizing your story is key. Patients don’t necessarily care about how the drug exactly works from a science perspective, but they do want to understand the value it can bring to them, and how it can change their lives for the better.
While there are so many more aspects to think about, it’s been rewarding to see how people at LSC brainstorm stories and find creative and target-oriented ways to convey their clients’ messages.
Looking back at my internship with LifeSci Communications this summer, I’m truly grateful for everything that I’ve learned and for the amazing colleagues I had the opportunity to work with.
Gaby Meyer, The College of New Jersey Class of 2022, Account Intern
Before starting my summer internship with LifeSci Communications, I was anxious but excited to step into the world of biotech and healthcare communications. As a public and mass communication major, I had some exposure to the field of public relations but minimal experience in biotech or science. Even so, I went into the summer with an open mind, eager to learn and grow. By interning for the account team across various clients, I have learned several valuable lessons and skills I will carry with me in my future endeavors.
The biggest takeaway I have learned from this internship is that you do not have to be an expert or even have a background in science to work in the field of healthcare communications. The idea of working in a science field was very intimidating, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to understand the work I would be doing as a result. This internship showed me that this is not the case at all. Working alongside the account teams and these biotech companies showed me that even digging on websites, reading articles, and discussing these topics can help anyone understand these companies and their therapeutic areas. That said, one of the most important takeaways from this internship for me is that anyone can work in this field as long as they are willing to put in the work.
Another lesson I learned through this internship is how vital this work could be. While it may seem as though the work that biotech companies do only affects those in the medical field, this is not the case. Through working and learning about these companies, it has become clear that these organizations remain dedicated to helping patients by delivering innovative medicines. The numerous content created for these organizations requires creative aspects and initiatives that keep audiences engaged and interested in the message they are sharing. While it’s not always easy, the work these companies are doing is critical, and getting to catch a glimpse of it this summer has been truly rewarding.
Simon Kangoun, UMASS Amherst Class of 2022, Account Intern
When I interviewed for my internship at LifeSci Communications (LSC), I spoke to my desire of getting a more holistic view of the medical field. Previously, my experience was catered towards a medical school application including shadowing physicians, working as an EMT and lab research. In my last year of school, I realized that I didn’t want to pursue an M.D., but I wanted to stay in the medical field. I felt that exploring the business side of the medicine at LSC would give me the information I needed to pick my future career path.
On the home page of the LSC website it says, “Transforming science into a story.” At school I remembered how difficult it was to explain scientific concepts to non-STEM majors without them getting bored and feeling like they are in lecture again. My goal for the summer was to see how LSC translates the complicated science of biotechnology companies into a story that can engage all kinds of people. The hours spent understanding the client’s science, creating an engaging and impactful message, and getting the client’s story in the media is truly remarkable to see and experience. I didn’t truly realize what is required to create an engaging narrative for clients and how much work it is to get them media exposure and have their story reach more people. Thanks to my summer internship at LSC, I have gained a more holistic view of the medical field and seen how even the most complicated science can be made into a captivating story that can be delivered and understood by all.