Alumni Highlight – Marina Damiano

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Our alumna Marina Damiano, Ph.D., gave a great talk at the departmental research and awards symposium. For those of you who missed the chance to meet Marina and hear about what she has been doing, we chatted with Marina and asked her about life after DePaul. You can connect with Marina on LinkedIn or Twitter. Our questions and her responses are shown below:

  • What degree did you obtain from DePaul and what did you do immediately afterwards (go into another degree program, go into the workforce, etc)?

I earned a B.S. in Chemistry and B.A. German (double major); Minor in Mathematics; and participated in the Honors Program during my time at DePaul.

After DePaul, I earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern University. My graduate research focused on developing nanoparticle-based therapeutics as alternatives to chemotherapy.

  • What is your current position and how long have you been in that position?

Two years ago, I started Damiano Group, a scientific communications consulting business.

I started my business because I noticed that scientists are not always the best at communicating the exciting and impactful research we do. This is a problem because good communication is necessary for exchanging ideas, piquing the interest of funding organizations, and engaging with the public to increase awareness and encourage action. It’s not only true for individual scientists, but also for the companies and organizations creating new products, services, and policies.

Focusing on researchers and organizations in science and healthcare, I help my clients better communicate the what, how, and so what for their research, product, or service.

  • What types of tasks and activities do you do in your current position (in other words, what actually happens in that job, our students might not know!)?

Every day is different! I work both in the business and on the business, meaning I am responsible for the actual work for my clients and all aspects of running the business.

My client projects fall into two buckets: writing and communications coaching.

Writing projects can range from creating a blog post featured in Nature to a peer-reviewed article in The Patient.

Communications coaching projects can range from coaching a senior Ph.D. student in preparation for a job talk — a research presentation given as part of a job interview in academia and industry — to preparing talking points for a healthcare CEO’s interview in a top online or print publication specific to the life science, pharmaceutical, medical device, and healthcare industries (often called trade media).

If I’m not doing work for a client, I’m strategizing on how to keep current clients happy, pitching new clients, hiring contractors, and doing anything necessary to keep my business running smoothly.

  • How has your chemistry degree and DePaul education helped you in your career? What were the most beneficial aspects?

My chemistry training at DePaul built the foundation for pursuing graduate work. More importantly, the liberal arts emphasis of DePaul provided a well-rounded education and gave me insight into the world outside of the laboratory and academia.

  • What do you think are the most useful skills to have for your current career?

Writing and speaking skills, of course. A basic understanding of science is ideal, but specific technical expertise is not necessary. Your job is to interview experts and ask the right questions to get the information you need to tell their stories.

It is crucial to learn how to read verbal and non-verbal cues when interacting with someone, how to be persuasive, and how to understand the viewpoint of your intended audience.

  •  What advice do you have for our graduating students or recent graduates as they look at the next step in their careers?

Graduate school and bench research in industry are not your only options (though they are fine options, indeed). You can create your own path, but the keyword is “you.” If you want a non-traditional job, you must attend the networking events, send the e-mails, introduce yourself to the speaker after the seminar, ask for advice. Most people had help finding their first job (or maybe even all their jobs) and are happy to give back time to talk about their career paths and assist new graduates. But, you have to make the first move.

  • Do you have anything else you would like to share with our students and alumni?

Developing good written, visual, verbal, and non-verbal communication skills is critical to success, even if you choose not to go into a career in science communication.

Practice talking and writing about science and your research to different audiences as often as you can. Know your audience and what’s important to them. Make sure you have a compelling reason for why they should care about what you’re saying or writing and how they can take action.

 

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