Making a Change: From Scientist to Medical Writer

By Stephanie Stevens
[3 minute read]

As a neuroscience researcher, Dr. Tanvir Khan has done some fascinating work understanding how brains process physical sensations, antioxidants' effects on kidneys, and how genetics affect behavior. And while the work has been rewarding, he recently found himself at a crossroads. He wanted more time to enjoy life (doing research can be very demanding), and, more importantly, he came to realize that he liked writing about science more than working in the lab. 

"I have been writing in my journal since sixteen and have written other things like short stories and essays, both scientific and non-scientific, over the years," he notes.

After exploring his options, Khan decided that a medical writing career was his next step, so he enrolled in UC San Diego Extension's Medical Writing certificate program.

His goal? To make biological research more accessible to the average person: "Biology fascinates me. However, many people find biology a challenging subject because they feel they need to memorize a lot of complex technical terms to understand it. I hope to change that perception," he shares. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
I have a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and have been studying and working in biological science since 2002. Even though I have a science background, I have always enjoyed writing. I currently have a blog where I cover interesting discoveries, as well as basic theories, in the field of biology that focus on making biological science more accessible. 

Why did you decide to study at UCSD Extension?
I wanted a career outside of research, and medical writing seemed to be an exciting career option. As a medical writer, I can combine my science knowledge with writing. Since I was living in San Diego and heard good things about the program, it was an easy decision.

What have you learned in your program?  
I learned a great deal. Since a medical writer needs to be concise and precise, I feel my writing has improved. From writing medical documents to editing and polishing, the program provided me with all the tools I would need to get into the field and specialize in a particular subfield. For example, I took classes that gave me a thorough understanding and hands-on experience in regulatory writing.

What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in taking the medical writing program?
Most of the medical writing classes I took had a student forum, and by interacting with the students and the instructors, you can expand your knowledge. For example, people who are more knowledgeable in a particular area can help you with something you are not very familiar with. They can also offer valuable advice. I learned several keyboard shortcuts that made me a more efficient writer. I also got a checklist, compiled by one of my classmates, that helped me start a new assignment.

Are there any "tricks of the trade" that aspiring medical writers should know?
Networking is very important. Having a professional network on LinkedIn can really open doors. Applying for a job through a connection dramatically increases the chances of getting the resume reviewed by recruiters.

Has your experience at Extension helped your career?
Yes, it definitely has! I just got a job offer, and I have another interview next week.

What are your thoughts on lifelong learning? 
It can not only be exciting but also can help us change our career direction. For example, I wanted to do something other than research, and taking medical writing classes helped me transition from academia. 

Did you learn something new from reading this blog? Let us know in the comments! Learn more about the Medical Writing certificate program on our website.


Posted: 11/19/2020 10:59:37 AM with 2 comments
Filed under: career-change, medical-writing, neuroscience, phd, science, writing

raveena aher
Thank you.
5/24/2022 5:08:42 AM

Kristen Hutchison
Thank you for sharing your story Dr. Khan! It's interesting to hear about your transition from academia to medical writing.
1/2/2021 5:49:29 PM

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