This summer, we invited cancer researchers at all levels to write a blog post for the third EACR Science Communication Prize around the theme “Science in Motion: Navigating Transitions”. Like the previous awards, researchers from around the world sent in a great number of high quality original entries. Thank you to all who took part!

Today, we are delighted to announce that Mary-Pia Jeyarajasingham is the winner of the EACR Science Communication Prize 2023 for her entertaining and thought-provoking piece on the ever-challenging nature of transitioning through a scientific career.

You can read Mary-Pia’s winning entry below, and we will also publish our shortlisted entries over the next few weeks.

Science in Motion: Navigating Transitions

by Mary-Pia Jeyarajasingham

Transitions in science can be daunting. Whether it be from research assistant to research technician, postdoc to professor or academia to industry, fear and worry can always present themselves. Given the ever-changing dynamic nature of scientific research, there are various transitions to navigate daily, never mind when switching between roles.

The path to ‘success’ is never a straight line and it’s always defined differently for everybody. Speaking to a few of my past and present colleagues from various positions in academia/industry, I’ve listed their thoughts on what makes transitioning through science challenging.

But let’s start with an analogy. Say you’re a red blood cell and you’ve just left the comfortable environment of your last job at ‘The Marrow.’ Now you’re applying for a position enabling you to take oxygen and deliver it to bodily tissues.

Scary, huh? That’s OK. Let’s begin…

The One Where You’re the Impostor

Imposter syndrome is a massive hurdle in any career path, especially in research-based settings. During the early stages of my academic journey when I was still figuring out what I wanted to do, I had extreme cases of self-doubt/anxiety and debated whether I could even have a research career. These thoughts are extremely crippling when applying for new positions.

It took the support of two lecturers to stretch, support and challenge me to do (what I thought was impossible) and apply for the PhD programme I’m on now. Being brave and voicing concerns to someone you trust are extremely important as they can determine how effectively you navigate your research journey.

The One Where Everything’s a Conspiracy

The portrayal of science in mainstream media can be extremely exaggerated for scaremongering purposes. Public engagement and science communication are becoming increasingly important tools to diminish such falsities, encouraging open, honest discussions about research directionality.

Chatting to university alumni at a recent symposium, they addressed the need for public engagement – one professor mentioned how important it was to visit schools to converse with students and how important this direct interaction was compared to parents, teachers or occasionally skewed media portrayals.

Transparency in science is also extremely important for research progression, so there is generally a pressing need for individuals to communicate research outcomes and goals effectively.

The One Where You Need All the Experience


I saw the above, verbatim, on LinkedIn the other day and sincerely agree. Previous mentees have contacted me asking how they could gain more experience for entry-level roles – defeating the purpose of such positions!

The pressure of feeling like you need to ‘know everything’ before applying to certain jobs can be off-putting. But be assured that unfamiliar concepts will usually be covered on the job! There are always ways in which you can also frame past experiences to meet the criteria/responsibilities of another job. Resilience is key to any application.

The One Where You Should Just Go For It

The innate discovery and curiosity associated with scientific research have always been at the forefront of why we do it. It’s important not to lose sight of this and to not feel hostage to some of the barriers we may face as part of our natural career progressions. Hence why my last point is probably the strongest on this list – just go for it! Don’t let the job description, a ‘lacking’ experience or anyone hold you back.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Laura Campbell-Sills:

“Resilience is seen as more than simple recovery from insult, rather it can be defined as positive growth or adaptation following periods of homeostatic disruption…”

Let’s all bounce back from homeostatic disruption! Together.

About Mary-Pia:

Mary-Pia Jeyarajasingham is a first-year Biochemistry PhD student at the University of Cambridge / AstraZeneca. She completed her MSci in Biomedical Sciences at St George’s, University of London in 2022. Her current research focuses on the actin cytoskeleton, specifically targeting molecules that may influence filopodial dynamics and assembly. Outside the lab, she enjoys playing the piano and violin, reading, travelling and posting regularly on her science communication (SciComm) Instagram @TheBiomedWaterCooler.