This is the sixth in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.
Name: Sandeep Dayal
Current position: Health science policy analyst, Office of Scientific Program and Policy Analysis, NIDDK
Location: Bethesda, MD
Time in current position: 1 year
Postdoc: Role of chromatin remodeling in class-switch recombination with Gary Felsenfeld and Marty Gellert at NIDDK
Day-to-day: We analyze the science that goes on at NIDDK and make it accessible to people, i.e. Congress as they decide on funding. We support the institute director. I write in lay language a lot. I work on things like meeting reports, admin reports, PowerPoints and briefing materials. I analyze data sometimes. I work a lot with the extramural staff and the communications office.
Almost everyone in the office has a Ph.D. and some postdoc experience. It’s necessary to have people with strong science backgrounds to quickly digest very technical material. It’s actually kind of intimidating! Everyone’s really smart.
Essential skills: The main skill that stands out is writing. You have to really love to write, and writing in lay language is not the same as what you write in the lab. That part was kind of new to me. You really have to understand the science inside and out to write for the public and maintain the accuracy. It’s a constant learning process.
It also takes a little bit of humility. You have to be okay with people editing your work. In the beginning, documents would come back all bloody red with tracked changes and I was like, “Oh, my God, I thought I was a good writer.” And lots of things I do don’t have my name on them. You have to be okay with people not knowing you wrote something.
Adjustments: In the lab, I was used to being pretty independent. The amount of interaction with other people in this job is just so much more: working in a group to discuss ideas, managing projects, delegating responsibilities, being diplomatic in how you handle things, being tactful and respectful of people’s time and effort. On the other side, you spend a lot of time sitting in your office and writing.