Dr Ben Abbott
Associate Editor at Springer Nature
Meet Dr Ben Abbott. After completing his Non-Clinical PhD in December 2020, Ben is now an Associate Editor at Springer Nature publishing content across the entire spectrum of clinical and translational medicine.
I did an MRes at the University of Manchester involving a six-month project in Professor Caroline Dive’s lab at the CRUK Manchester Institute [...] I knew how strong the connections were with The Christie and Cancer Research UK and that Manchester was the place to be for cancer research.
Dr Ben Abbott
Dr Ben Abbott
Current Role: Associate Editor at Springer Nature
Previously: Postgraduate Researcher (Non-Clinical)
PhD Title: Investigating the role of osteoblasts in prostate cancer metastasis
Research Group: CSA (Cell Stress and Apoptosis)
Lead Supervisor: Professor Paul Townsend
Graduation: July 2020
My PhD at the MCRC-CRUK Manchester Centre was focused on the role of osteoblasts in prostate cancer bone metastasis. My project investigated the cross-talk between bone and prostate cancer cells and found that bone cells induce a process called autophagy in prostate cancer cells as a survival mechanism.
I handed in my PhD in April 2020 and shortly after I started working as an Editor for the BMC Series journals. I am now an Editor at Communications Medicine, which is a brand new, broad scope Open Access medical journal. We will be publishing across the entire spectrum of clinical and translational medicine, epidemiology and public health. I work closely with the Chief Editor as part of a team of two editors on this new journal. Communications Medicine is part of the Nature Portfolio which encompasses Nature, Nature Medicine, Nature Communications and other journals
I studied for a Biomedical Sciences BSc at the University of Manchester but at the end of my degree I thought I’d like to get some more hands-on experience in the lab. I did an MRes, also at the University of Manchester, involving a six-month project in Professor Caroline Dive’s lab at the CRUK Manchester Institute, which I loved. It was really exciting to work in such a large and knowledgeable team on an interesting project aimed at understanding the biology of small cell lung cancer and what makes it so aggressive. This project kept me interested in being in the lab and led to me apply for PhDs in Manchester and elsewhere. I ultimately chose to stay in Manchester due to its reputation in cancer research. I knew how strong the connections were with The Christie and Cancer Research UK and that Manchester was the place to be for cancer research.
My job is directly related to research and I enjoy being involved in the publishing process. I read papers every day, which allows me to keep up-to-date with all the latest developments, and routinely communicate with our authors, who are all scientists and clinicians. I perform outreach with academics to discuss their work and its suitability for our journal. After my PhD, I wanted to move into a more stable career route. My post is permanent and I hope to progress to the role of Senior Editor.
I started my role during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means I have been working from home throughout. A general work week would typically involve assessing new submissions and deciding if they meet our journal’s criteria for being both technically sound and novel. For papers that do meet our criteria, we then need to identify experts in the field to act as reviewers. Once we receive their reviews, we make decisions as to whether or not to proceed with publication. The week also involves commissioning reviews and commentary articles, attending seminar series like those held at the MCRC, and maintaining the journal’ social media channels. We also routinely attend conferences and visit labs to learn about the latest research and engage with potential authors, although this is all virtual at the moment.
Each day is varied and the knowledge and understanding of cancer sciences I gained during my PhD, as well as my research experience in general, has been instrumental to my work.
A lot of PhD students won’t know what career path they want to choose when they’re at the start of their research. It was only in my final year that I started thinking about “what next” and the option of publishing came up. My supervisor, Paul, was also great for career advice and helping me to decide on next steps.
My advice for current postgraduate researchers would be: don’t worry if you feel that a research career isn’t right for you. There are plenty of alternative careers outside of the lab in which you are still involved in science and in which your skills are highly valuable. Don’t hesitate to reach out to others for guidance, be that your supervisor, alumni or former lab members who’ve gone into particular careers. People are usually generous in responding to messages or agreeing to meet virtually.
During your PhD, beyond technical capabilities, you also acquire skills in project and time management, public speaking, writing, and keeping up-to-date with the field. You learn to think and work independently and to drive the project forward yourself, in spite of all the challenges that arise, while also playing a part in a wider team. The skills you learn in the lab and more peripherally can be applied to other jobs and to alternative careers, just as they do to academic pathways.