Vikki Allen

Vikki works as an editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, and as a freelance writer. She gained a lot of skills and knowledge during her doctorate, besides those specific to her research topic...

"I gained my doctorate at the University of Birmingham with research in organic chemistry. I worked there as part of a group of ten people, looking into the possible molecular origins of life. This was fundamental, cross-disciplinary work that I found really interesting. My undergraduate degree gave me experience of working in several laboratories in both England and France, and I wanted to continue with research.

"I currently edit two chemistry journals for the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) as well as working as a freelance writer in my own time. I joined the RSC after a brief period working as a postdoc. Since joining the Society I have held four different jobs. I started as an assistant editor within a small editorial team, was promoted to Deputy Editor, then took a year’s secondment as a journalist on the Society’s magazine Chemistry World, before becoming an editor.

"I didn’t have a plan to go into publishing as my first job, but the skills and knowledge that I had acquired during my doctorate seemed to prepare me for it very well – so I decided to give it a go. My job involves evaluating research papers for publication. Having a doctorate isn’t a requirement for my job, but it helps! The extra understanding of a subject that comes from doctoral research is very valuable, and has helped me to assimilate new ideas. I travel all around the world to conferences to meet researchers and can talk with them on an even footing. My science training is also vital for much of the freelance writing that I do. Although just a pastime at the moment, most of the work I currently do is with researchers in Asia, and is both interesting and challenging.

"I gained a lot of skills and knowledge during my doctorate besides those specific to chemistry. I learnt, for example, how to organise myself better, undertake detailed research taking an analytical approach, and to work in (and lead) groups. I became far more independent and self-reliant, and much more motivated in my career. As well as getting a great training in research methods, I also had the chance to teach many undergraduate students and take on pastoral care of them in halls. Looking back, I didn’t really take advantage of the fact that I was at the leading edge in my research area – I always felt that I had more to learn, as opposed to being the one to find things out.

"A career in publishing can be very rewarding. It can provide an opportunity to use subject expertise whilst moving out of a research or laboratory environment. Further down the line, it has provided me with opportunities to become involved in business and strategic roles."