22 November 2019
Christie Norris – MSc Cardiovascular Science alumnus (2014-2015)
My academic journey started in rainy Manchester. I completed a BSc in Anatomical Sciences and quickly fell in love with the human body and all of its intricacies. It was my interest in the heart in particular that led me to UCL and the MSc Cardiovascular Science course in 2014.
The thing that struck me most during my two years at UCL was the variation - something that remains a key motivator of mine today. From cardiac morphology to cardiovascular research analysis, the course content was rich and kept my attention. Because of the course topic, I was regularly exposed to British Heart Foundation (BHF) funded research, for example critiquing a BHF-funded project and presenting it to a panel. I believe it was my exposure to the BHF and BHF-funded Professors during my course that made me apply for a Science Communications Internship after graduating.
I joined the BHF in September 2015 and since then have worked in a number of roles. As a Science Communications Intern and then Communications Coordinator, I produced press releases, wrote articles for our website and award-winning magazine Heart Matters and worked on national media campaigns, raising awareness of diseases such as heart attack and heart failure.
I then joined the Heart Stories team, working closely with people with heart and circulatory diseases and their loved ones, bringing their stories to life in our campaigns and other channels.
Finally I moved into Research Engagement and I’m now the BHF’s Senior Research Engagement lead managing a brilliant team of three. We are responsible for bringing BHF-funded research to life for staff and the public, for example at science events, and fostering relationships with our researchers. We’ve showcased BHF-funded research at the venues such as the Science Museum and Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, and travelled to the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago to engage international researchers with our grants. Research engagement requires in depth understanding of science, creativity and lay communication and people skills, all of which were nourished during my time at UCL.
The best part of my job is the people. Hearing and sharing people’s stories, whether an inspiring researcher or a young person with heart or circulatory disease, is what motivates me. What makes this charity particularly special is, despite being the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK, it has retained that small, family feel.
Although many students went on to complete PhDs after their MSc, I knew instinctively that that wasn’t the right path for me. Science communications and engagement wasn’t something I had planned, but felt right for my skill set and what I enjoyed. My advice to students would be to look into all of the options available to you. Whether a PhD, pharmaceuticals or science communications, there are a range of futures available to you. It’s up to you to decide what fits you best.