Natalie Hamer is an early career researcher in the field of biomedical sciences and is currently completing the final year of her undergraduate program at Newcastle University. She recently took time out of her busy academic schedule to talk with us about her research experience and her love for SciComm.
Natalie can not pinpoint a specific moment when she realized she wanted to pursue a career in the sciences. She has always been an inquisitive person who could be found happily seeking out new information with her head in a book. This curiosity easily translates into a love of science because as Natalie describes, “there is always more to learn, more questions to ask and more to be answered.” Natalie’s first experience in the lab was as a research assistant, working under a Ph.D. candidate, at Newcastle University’s Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biosciences. In this lab, Natalie contributed to a project studying protein interactions within the synaptonemal complex during cell division. The synaptonemal complex is thought to mediate chromosome pairing, synapsis, and recombination.
This prior lab experience helped to prepare Natalie for her next project, a year-long industrial placement in GSK’s Epigenetics Discovery Performance Unit. Here, she studied how epigenetic markers can be manipulated to learn more about, and to possibly treat, immune-mediated diseases including Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, and Psoriasis. During her time here, Natalie worked on her own project and also contributed to other department projects through collaboration with team members.
During her time at GSK, Natalie’s daily activities varied greatly. In the beginning of the project, she spent time reading prior research and developing her specific research questions. From there, she could begin to plan her project and outline the next steps she would need to take. It is important to remain flexible during this part of the process because plans often change, but Natalie notes it is still important to have a vision for the project. Once the study is underway, Natalie spent up to 8 hours per day in the lab running experiments and recording results. She keeps a lab notebook of data and procedures and explains that these often make sense to their owner, but can be incomprehensible to others. In one of her positions, Natalie transferred this information to an e-journal, which was time-consuming but made it easier for other scientists to view her results. She noted that, in this situation, a data collection app like Conseris, would help save time by recording organized results immediately and by making collaboration easier. Other days, while waiting for results, Natalie might spend hours at her desk analyzing data already collected, meeting with team members, or preparing presentations. She noted that many days involved a balance of lab and office work, so she was never bored on the job.
Natalie takes her love for science outside of the lab and shares it with others through her passion for Scicomm. Scicomm, or science communication, refers to public communication presenting science-related topics to non-experts. Natalie does this through her blog, SciShot, which she uses to share her love of science with the world. She was inspired to start this blog when she first began trying to explain her work in the sciences to her family and friends. They often did not understand the work she was doing, but when she clearly explained it with easy to understand analogies, her loved ones were able to share her excitement. For example, as she describes, “When I told my family how we could cut out faulty genes and replace them with new ones to defeat hereditary diseases...I saw their eyes light up with amazement.The same excitement and wonder that I myself experience on a daily basis."
This experience inspired Natalie to share research findings with the general public because these discoveries can benefit everyone, not just scientists. In Scicomm writing, authors avoid jargon or other difficult language that does not contribute to the message of the article, which encourages more of the general public to read about science. While Natalie is happy whenever science articles are targeted to a general audience, she does dislike the use of “clickbait” titles which sensationalize research findings. She is passionate about making sure the information in her articles is accurate and relevant, not created solely to attract readership. Some of SciShot’s most popular articles assess news stories that make claims about science topics. Natalie finds the original publication and reads the research findings to see if the claim is legitimate, or if it has been inaccurately sensationalized. All of Natalie’s articles aim to present relevant research articles in a clear and interesting way. If you want to learn more about her work, be sure to check out her blog!
At Conseris, we are passionate about making data collection accessible to all types of researchers and we admire Natalie’s dedication to helping the general public better understand science topics. Start a 30-day free trial of Conseris today and see how your work can become more efficient.