UCL Careers


Alumni profile: Johanna Habicht

Meet UCL Natural Sciences alum Johanna Habicht who shares how her career has panned out so far and her top tips on making the most of your time at UCL.

A portrait image of UCL alumni Johanna

14 November 2022

Degree programme: MSci Natural Sciences
Graduation year: 2019
Current job role: Clinical Researcher

Tell us about your time at UCL. What did you study? 

I studied an MSci in Natural Sciences at UCL, where I chose to major in Neuroscience and minoring in Organic Chemistry. During my third year, I studied abroad in Singapore.

Studying Natural Sciences at UCL was such a formative experience for me as the degree allowed me to explore different avenues – my time there truly made me more aware of myself and also what I would like to do. When I first started out, I thought that I want to do something at the molecular level, such as chemistry. However, during the first two years, I realised I preferred the Neuroscience subject area, pivoting me towards looking at research with animals.

That said, it was my Master’s project that was a crucial turning point during my studies and wider career. For starters, my project wasn’t plucked from a conventional list – in fact, I managed to bring on board Tobias Hauser from Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research as my project supervisor after approaching a few academics, asking if they needed support from a student. Despite having to spend most of my final year hunkered down in a basement, I absolutely loved my Master’s project where I got to test participants playing computer games within a drug study.

What does your career path look like? How did you get from UCL to where you are today?   

After graduating, I dipped my toe in various organisations. My Master’s project helped me land a Research Assistant job at the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research. I stayed there for 2.5 years and learned so much and developed a lot of skills from undertaking behavioural and neuroimaging studies with children, adults and patients with mental health problems. Alongside this role, I also worked part-time in a start-up called R.grid that automatised clinical trials.

I have also worked at a mental health charity, Richmond Mind, where I researched and co-designed a project and training course to improve resilience for parents. Afterwards, I worked for six months in The Behavioural Insights Team, a consultancy that uses behavioural science to guide policy. Following several application attempts, I managed to work as an Advisor on their Gambling Policy and Research Unit.

Currently, I work in Limbic, which is a start-up improving the mental health system. We have a referral tool, where we are helping NHS services automatise the referrals and save clinicians time and improve the patient experience. In addition, we have a therapist assistant tool that helps patients to log their mood and do homework, as well as for the clinicians to see the progress of patients. My role is a Clinical Researcher, which means that I am responsible for evaluating our products and conducting clinical trials and evaluations.

As you can see, doing a Natural science degree has opened doors for me and it really is up to you what you would like to do with your degree. When I was 16, I told my parents that by the time I am 25 I would have already developed 2 drugs and got them through clinical trials. Now, I am actually working on clinical trials, just with medical technology!

When looking for internships or job opportunities, I think it is very important to take initiative, persevere, be kind and diligent in the process. 

Looking back at your time at UCL, how did your work experience shape your career?

I took a bit of an alternative route to what UCL Natural Sciences students tend to take – instead of internships, I undertook different volunteering experiences at UCL and took part in different events, such as London Model World Health Organization. I also did a short-term job in Estonia over a summer to spend more time with my family there.

These opportunities truly equipped me with a lot of skills to put on my CV, as well as helped me better understand what I wanted to do as a career. I would absolutely recommend doing longer-term volunteering - sometimes this can teach you more about yourself and what you like doing and what you are good at, compared to a one or two-month internship. Plus, taking part in different events and projects is something you can add to your experience list on your CV. I have included my Masters project, attending events and hackathons as part of my CV.

And finally, what advice would you like to share with our students that are currently applying or trying to choose the career that's right for them? 

Don't give up and seek out opportunities. We have this saying in Estonian - no mouse is going to run into a mouth of a sleeping cat. And that is true! Not all opportunities might be on all platforms. Reach out to companies, or individuals who you find interesting over LinkedIn. Find something that you have in common with them and just send them a message. If you contact a large enough number of people, I’m positive that at least one of them would be happy to meet with you and share interesting insights into what they do and how they got there.

Moreover when you’re carrying out different projects or work experiences at UCL, make sure to keep a list of things you are doing and learning. Then when it comes to writing your CV, you have a list of things to go back to that you can include. You might think that you will definitely remember all events you took part of or all projects you did, but I can promise you that you'll forget.

Most importantly, you can always change your career path! Just start from somewhere. It's completely normal if you don't know exactly what you want to do. Most skills are transferrable, and you can always change a job or industry if you cross that bridge.

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