Spotlight on...Nancy Baines

29 April 2017 - By: Caroline Wood

Spotlight on...Nancy Baines

Nancy Baines
Nancy Baines. Photo: Paul Shields

By Caroline Wood

“I’m someone who likes being with people, so when I presented my research project at the SEB Meeting 2000 in Exeter during my PhD, it gave me an insight into a world that appealed to me.”

Nancy Baines, who graduated from her PhD in microspore culture of bread wheat at the University of Nottingham in 2002, is a former staff member of SEB. She explains how she found her way out of academia and into a career she really enjoys: “I found many elements of my research project a bit too insular for my liking and realised that what I enjoyed most was organising and interacting with people,” she explains. Imagining that event management might be an ideal job for her, Nancy volunteered to help organise the Annual Meeting the following year in Swansea, where she had a real taste of the behind-the-scenes logistics of large events. On completing her PhD and following her partner to California, Nancy took the opportunity to consolidate this initial experience by taking an events management course at the University of San Diego: “It was hard to apply for entry-level event management jobs with a PhD as people presumed I wouldn’t stick with it. But the course showed I was serious about entering the sector,” Nancy says.

Northern heights

On her return to the UK, Nancy also returned to the SEB to take up a role at the SEB Head Office, then based in Southampton, organising the society’s conferences and symposia. “The job made an ideal mix of my scientific background with the events side, and my PhD certainly helped me to develop a rapport more quickly with academic colleagues,” she says. After marrying a Yorkshire man and moving ‘up North’, Nancy worked for several years at the University of York managing the graduation ceremonies, before transferring into her current role as Industry Liaison Officer in the Environment Department. Here she uses her people skills to arrange internships and placements for students with employers and external organisations. “One of the things I enjoy most is interacting with the students,” Nancy says. “Quite often, they sell themselves short so helping them to flourish and develop is incredibly rewarding.” Typically, her days are spent reviewing CVs, guiding students through applications and organising careers events. Although her role is based on personal interactions, Nancy affirms that her PhD developed key skills that she draws on constantly. “Like a PhD, there are no boundaries to my role – it’s not a job that you can finish,” she says. “There are always more companies you could contact, more events you could put on, etc. You have to be realistic and set your own limits.”

Managing your career

Nevertheless, working in events and administration can be ideal for those who want to remain in science, but without being tied to the lab bench. “I find it really interesting work because I can still be part of research but it’s a much more flexible job that I can fit around the needs of my family,” Nancy says. For those considering a similar career, Nancy recommends getting involved with departmental committees, such as Athena SWAN programmes or student representative boards. “You will learn a lot about the managerial organisations that function behind the scenes at universities. If you develop your CV in as many different directions as you can, it will be invaluable when you apply for a job, whatever it is.” Nancy also recommends The Graduate Programme for University Leadership, which can kick-start a career in university management. “A PhD sets you up for so many different career paths – it really is fantastic training even if you don’t stay in scientific research,” she concludes.



Category: SEB+
Caroline Wood

Caroline Wood

Caroline Wood was the SEB’s 2014 science communication intern. Since then, Caroline has been a regular contributor the SEB, reporting on events and writing insightful features for our members.
Caroline has an undergraduate degree from Durham University in Cell Biology and is currently a PHD student at Sheffield University studying parasitic Striga weeds that infect food crops. You can read her blog here.