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Picture of Nathaniel Dahan

Nathaniel Dahan is a PhD student in UCL Medical Physics and Bioengineering, working in the Implanted Devices group. His current research is investigating the use of PEEK (a biocompatible polymer) to package implantable electronic devices, with the potential benefit of greatly reducing the manufacturing cost of such implants. He undertook a secondment in the Department of Health in which he assisted the Head of Emerging Sciences and Bioethics group with a range of policy projects, including the Secretariat for the Emerging Science and Bioethics Advisory Committee.

Nathaniel says: "This secondment at the Emerging Sciences and Bioethics group in the Department of Health has been a great opportunity for me to apply the research skills I developed during my PhD in a policy environment, conducting interviews and producing briefs in a very topical context, working on new technologies related to Health. My supervisor was very keen for me to experience all aspects of the policy process and one of the highlights was to shadow officials at high profile meetings. Through this experience I witnessed how academics and policymakers can collaborate to provide policy recommendations. I have also gained a much better understanding of the whole policy process, as well as the structures in place which allow ministers, lawmakers and regulators to make informed decisions based on evidence."

Why were you interested in the UCL policy secondment scheme?

As I was studying for a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, I saw the secondment scheme as a unique opportunity to broaden my skill set, learn about policy making from within the government, and also an opportunity to get out of the lab for three months.

Where did you undertake your policy secondment?

In the Emerging Science and Bioethics group at the Department of Health (DH).

What did you learn from your secondment?

I learnt about the policy making process and how evidence based policy is at the heart of decision making in the UK government. I also had the opportunity to attend high profile meetings and prepare briefs which were used as bases for discussions. The highlight was to have experts in the field ask for my opinion during a committee meeting.

What did you find most valuable?

The opportunity to see how things work and to use the research skills I developed during my studies in a ‘real world’ example. The specific topics on which I was working were actually in the news during the time of my secondment.  Staff at DH was also extremely helpful and keen for this experience to be as beneficial for me as possible.

What surprised you most?

How well informed (or at least researched) decisions are, which is far from the impression one might have sitting at home and watching the news on TV.

What do you think the benefits were to your host organisation?

I think it was useful for them to have someone from academia who could conduct research into whatever topic they might need information on.

How has the secondment changed the way you work?

I would say that it has certainly influenced the way I write.

What would you say to other UCL researchers considering a policy secondment?

Absolutely go for it. It is a chance to do something else. At times it is more interesting than others, but overall it is a very valuable experience, which will help you develop new skills and market yourself better. After finishing my PhD, it played a key part in my securing the role I currently hold. 

Page last modified on 14 oct 13 08:40