Making a Career Switch from Science to Policy

May 4, 2017 Jennifer Pohlhaus

How Scientists Can Leverage Research Skills in Policy Development

I’m frequently asked by fellow scientists what it takes to transition from biomedical or bench research to a career in public policy, business consulting, or beyond. As someone with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, I spent the first half of my career as a researcher working on Drosophila and E. coli. What I came to realize over the course of my graduate school career is that I had a genuine interest in how this research translates into science policy and I began to look at how I could use my science background in a new and different way.

As a trained scientist, I’ve found that there is a unique and valuable perspective that researchers bring to policy development. I have learned to balance these skills with those needed to succeed in the policy world, whether that means working for the federal government, in the private or non-profit sector, or as a consultant.

This two-part blog provides insight on how other scientists can make a similar transition with a look at (1) existing skills scientists can apply to develop meaningful policy and (2) how researchers-turned-policy professionals can build on some of these same strengths to transition to consulting.


Four Traits of the Research Brain

Making a career transition can be daunting. However, as I know from my own personal experience, scientists are well suited to contribute to policy given four important traits that we share: technical knowledge, problem solving, passion and learning, and communication.

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More Information

Please note this post refers to portions of a presentation for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). To view the full presentation or watch the program, go to×20-resource-fair

Jennifer Pohlhaus is Vice President and COO of Ripple Effect Communications, Inc. and oversees high visibility government projects for clients like the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

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