In this post in the Careers in Science Communication blog series, you’ll learn about Caitlin Runne-Janczy, a Product Development Manager at eScience Labs, an educational company that creates hands-on science lab kits and digital curricula to support them. Caitlin’s interview is broken into two parts, with part one detailing how she got into scicomm and part two focusing on what her job at eScience Labs is like. Find all the posts in this series here.
Writing is a lifelong hobby for Caitlin Runne-Janczy. “I wrote reports for fun in fourth grade because I was weird like that,” says Caitlin. A love of teaching also runs through Caitlin’s blood. “I come from a family of educators, mostly elementary school, middle school, and high school. I’m the only science person of the bunch. They don’t really know where I came from.” Working at eScience Labs, an educational company that creates hands-on science lab kits and digital curricula that support these kits, is the perfect blend of these two passions, or as Caitlin put it, “I get a little over-enthusiastic when it comes to the labs.”
While her love of educational science writing is clear, Caitlin’s career plans weren’t concrete when she finished grad school at the University of Iowa. “I left not really knowing what I wanted to do, but knowing that I wanted to leave the bench.” Her path to figuring out her career plans was paved with lots of writing, hard work, a slight detour, and a bit of luck. This journey started not at the end of her PhD but rather at the beginning. “When I was at Iowa in the Department of Pharmacology, I taught a couple of lectures in the undergraduate pharmacology course, like one or two lectures a year. And then in my final year of graduate school, I actually served as the student course coordinator. With the guidance of one of the faculty members, I helped grad students who were teaching for the first time. I walk[ed them] through their lecture, giving them advice, [and helped] proctor exams.”
These teaching experiences led Caitlin back to being a student when she signed up for a 10 week class at Iowa called “Teaching Your Research.” This course has participants take their research from the bench to the classroom by creating the outline of a college level course based on their research interests. “So for me, I researched G-proteins at the time. This program takes what you know about it [your area of research], and teaches you how to design a course, how to design good lesson plans, how to design test questions, and how to design lectures. I really built a course from the ground up.”
Science writing and editing
These teaching experiences definitely weighed in Caitlin’s post-grad plans, but in the end, writing won out. “I considered teaching at a liberal arts school but I’ve always enjoyed writing.” In the short term though, she did a one year postdoc in the Biochemistry Department at Iowa, but kept up a freelance writing hustle on the side. “I actually stumbled upon, about 6 months in, this opportunity to do scientific editing.” It was for Cactus Communications, a company that provides scientific editing services. “I was working during the day and editing at night. It was not the easiest 6 months. But it gave me the foundation to be a much better writer.”
At the end of her postdoc, Caitlin had a clearer idea of her career goals: “My plan was to go into editing journals. I really enjoyed the writing and editing sphere.” But things aren’t always that simple, especially when your spouse is also in science. “It ended up we moved to Colorado for my husband’s postdoc. Colorado is growing in the biotech sphere, and growing in the science sphere, but the journals aren’t out here. They’re really East Coast. When we first moved out here, I was still editing from home and looking for a job.” But Caitlin’s persistence paid off: “I spent about 6 months just editing and searching for a job and I stumbled upon eScience by luck, by chance, by complete happenstance. It was on Indeed or one of the job search sites. It's a rare trek these days to go in cold turkey for an interview and not know anyone. I say I’m the anomaly because I didn’t network to get to where I was. It was really luck of right place, right time, and having a good interview experience.” Although luck wasn’t the only factor in Caitlin landing her job. All of the hard work she’d put in outside the lab had paid off. “The combination of the editing and teaching experience that I’d had at Iowa really opened the door for me at eScience.”
Stay tuned for part two of Caitlin’s interview where you can learn what it’s like to work for a science education company. And make sure to subscribe to the Career Channel of the blog so you don’t miss the future posts in this series!
Additional Resources on the Addgene Blog
- Learn more about alternative science careers here
- Be like Caitlin and experiment with new careers while in grad school
- And just for good measure, here’s a few other posts about developing transferable skills while in grad school
Resources on Addgene.org
- Learn more about careers at Addgene