Interview with Sophie Cook

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Sophie Cook

Blogger at The Scientific Beauty and Medical Writer

Website: The Scientific Beauty Instagram: @sciencebeaut Twitter: @sciencebeaut

Tell us about yourself

My name is Sophie, I am from Manchester in the UK and am 27 years old. I have a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Manchester but left academia to be a Medical Writer (more about that later!)

Why did you start your side hustle?

I started my side hustle, my blog thescientificbeauty.com during my PhD. I knew very early on (like in my first week!) that academia wasn’t for me, but knew that having a PhD would open doors. After I decided on a career as a Medical Writer, I started my blog so that I would be able to show examples of writing (as well as a genuine interest in writing) to potential employers. But in no time at all it became my passion, and is probably what carried me through the PhD!

What is your side hustle?

The Scientific Beauty was originally a skincare blog, where I would decode the ingredient list on the back of popular skincare products to help my readers make an informed decision about buying a product, regardless of the advertising and celebrity endorsement. I do still do this, but I have always had a huge passion for style. Through my blog’s Instagram I also started advocating Women in STEM, and the fact that a scientist doesn’t have to fit into the ‘nerd’ stereotype that the public, and indeed fellow scientists, put on us. Soon the fashion side of my blog took off, and even now people engage more with my style posts; I find myself out shooting new looks with fellow fashion bloggers every weekend, editing photos most evenings, which I find hugely therapeutic, working with fashion and beauty brands that I’ve been a fan of for years and attending fashion-orientated events, all with the aim of changing public opinion and showing fellow scientists that just because I love fashion and makeup I should still be taken seriously in my work.

How does your PhD help you in your side hustle?

I wouldn’t say that my biochemistry PhD helps me at all in my side hustle as a fashion blogger (though it helps with the more in-depth beauty posts for sure!). But I would say that without going through the PhD process and embracing the social media that surrounded my blog I wouldn’t have ‘met’ so many inspiring women in science. Having those online connections, having people who empathised with those darker days of the PhD (pretty much every day!), helped me get through my PhD and helped my blog to grow and gain its core following. Without the PhD, I think I would just blend into the background as *another* fashion blogger, and I love that the science angle gives my blog a bit more of a unique selling point.

Sophie Cook

What does an average day in the life look like for you?

In my current day job as a Medical Writer, I am desk-based in an office. Day-to-day I work on helping our pharma clients communicate the results of their phase III clinical trials. This can range from writing up trials for publication in medical journals, creating a presentation for a physician to give at a global conference or developing internal training materials for the pharma clients to educate employees for their conversations with physicians. I get to travel around 6 times a year, usually to congresses, to help deliver meetings and symposia.

How does having a PhD help you in your current position?

Having a PhD in my role is not essential for every company, though having one opens more doors. A PhD will give more experience in writing posters and manuscripts, analysing and critiquing data and trains you to have excellent time-management skills. However, in some companies, they will teach you this on the job. I would argue that the only useful thing about my PhD is that I can introduce myself to clients and physicians as ‘Dr’, as literally every person in the room will also be a Dr in some form.

How has your emotional health changed since leaving academia?

I can barely even put into words how much my emotional health has improved since leaving academia. The depression and anxiety have gone, I no longer go to sleep every night with a feeling of dread about waking up and going to the lab the next morning and I no longer doubt myself at every given opportunity. My current colleagues are supportive, we share the load when there is too much to do, I’m constantly being sent for training and given opportunities where I can learn and develop at the same time as being supported by someone more senior. Honestly, life has never been better!

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