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Battle Of The Science Jobs: Lab Vs. Non-Lab

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

✍🏻 Gabriela Nedelea | Trainee Laboratory Analyst at Tersus


At Workflow Weekly, we are showcasing stories of individuals with life sciences backgrounds, who have worked in non-lab-based science/healthcare roles. We want to raise awareness of the incredible careers and organisations that are immersed in science and healthcare, but outside of the lab.


Story Spotlights: Laboratory Analyst (/Medical Writer)

Gabby at the Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU) Research Laboratories in 2019.
Gabby at the Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU) Research Laboratories in 2019.

Gabriela "Gabby" Nedelea is a research-driven laboratory analyst but she also has commercial non-lab, medical writing experience.

Following a series of studentships sponsored by the Microbiology Society and NonScents™, she pursued a Master's of Research in Biomedical Sciences at Cardiff Metropolitan University, graduating with a Distinction.

Gabby has tried lab and non-lab roles and was able to switch between them! She went for what felt right at the time and you can too!


What’s your educational background? 👩🏻‍🏫

I have a Biomedical Sciences background. I have a BSc Biomedical Sciences degree from Cardiff Metropolitan University and recently graduated with a Master's of Research in Biomedical Sciences, with a focus on Medical Microbiology.


Why did you choose a life sciences route? 👩🏻‍🔬

I was awarded the Harry Smith Studentship Award by the Microbiology Society in the summer of 2019.

This resulted in the opportunity to test various antibacterial formulations in an in vitro chronic wound model.

It was around this time that I discovered my passion for research, so I decided to pursue a postgraduate qualification and further my knowledge in the field!


What work experience have you undertaken in the past? 👩🏻‍💼

I was very fortunate to be awarded a second studentship with the support of my supervisor Dr. Sarah Maddocks and in collaboration with Dr. Lori Robins from the University of Washington, Bothell.

My task was to put some more antibacterial formulations to the test, which led to several publications (which are currently in development) and I also got to present my findings at various conferences at the time.

I was always in the research lab after classes in university, and never passed on any opportunity to help wherever I could.

After graduating, I pursued several scientific roles, both inside and outside the lab.

I joined Word Monster as an Associate Medical Writer and undertook the Monster Academy course that presented us with some medical writing fundamentals. After this, I had the chance to work as an Associate Medical Writer on a wide range of projects for various clients from both within and outside of the UK.


What is your current role and what do you do day-to-day?

Why did you choose this role/career? 🧑🏻‍🔬

My current role is laboratory-based, and primarily involves the use of light microscopy to test for the presence of asbestos fibres in bulk samples; the role involves precision and attention-to-detail, utilising polarised light microscopy to test various samples.

The scientific methodology and being able to learn a new laboratory technique is what initially attracted me to the role.

The challenge of detecting the fibres and maintaining strong focus over great periods of time also spoke to me, as it very much resembled my experience in the research lab throughout university.

Group photo includes Gabby (4th from the right) and some of the members of the Microbiology and Infection Research Group at the time. (Taken in 2019 at the Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU) research laboratories.)
Group photo including Gabby (4th from the right) and some of the members of the Microbiology and Infection Research Group at the time. (Taken in 2019 at the Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU) research laboratories.)


What tips would you give students looking to apply for placement years, internships, and graduate roles? 📋

I graduated at the height of the pandemic, and securing an entry-level position felt like a monumental task at the time.

I recall thinking I may never get to work in the field that I love, however, with time, I learned different tips and tricks that I stand by to this day.

The most important thing is to definitely do your research into the company that you're applying for, and send a short message to the hiring manager or a company contact explaining why they caught your eye and why you think you'd be a good fit for the role.

I overlooked this step far too many times in the past, and wished I had known about it sooner!

After that, it's all about tailoring your application to the personal specifications provided by the company in the vacancy advertisement.

More often than not, recruiters will look for keywords in your resume or tick through a list of requirements they advertised, as they're reading your application.

It's important to ensure that you've listed the skills/attributes they may be after within your resume to increase your chances of being shortlisted.

Lastly, I also believe an element of luck is involved when applying for roles, so it's important to be gentle with yourself and take every situation, good or bad, as an experience for the future!


What are 3 things you would tell a young person interested in pursuing a non-lab career in science? 💡

1. Trust Your Gut

The very first thing that comes to mind is to trust your instinct!

You probably overcame a lot of obstacles to reach this part of your career, and as much as progression is important, always listen to your inner voice and trust it will lead you to opportunities suited to your skillset and experience.

2. Non-Lab Science Roles Are Fulfilling Too

3. Be Eager To Learn

Gabriela Nedelea, Content Writer at Grace Writes

Written by: Gabriela Nedelea (Content Writer)

Grace Pountney, Editor-in-Chief at Grace Writes

Edited by: Grace Pountney (Editor-in-Chief)


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