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Illumina Genomics Podcast host, Paul Bromann, on effective science communication

Paul Bromann: Senior Manager of Scientific Affairs at Illumina & Host of the Illumina Genomics Podcast

Paul Bromann still remembers the day that he arrived in Chicago, ready to begin a graduate program in Neuroscience at Northwestern University.  While taking a cab to Evanston, he was surprised to learn that the driver had his PhD in Neuroscience! While this experience made Paul realize that graduate students go on to many different career paths outside of academia (and outside of science entirely), there’s no way he could have predicted where his own scientific training would take him.

After a postdoctoral fellowship and some time in industry, Paul moved with his wife to her native Finland.  Because there were comparatively few opportunities for him there as a scientific researcher, he transitioned to a job at the University of Helsinki’s Center for Drug Research, where he was responsible for networking with key opinion leaders outside of Finland to initiate and support collaborative projects.  While this transition ended Paul’s work at the bench, it was the serendipitous beginning of a long career in scientific marketing first in Europe and later in the United States. When junior scientists ask him for advice on how to emulate his atypical career, he tells them that they “have to be open to the possibilities that present themselves” away from the bench, whether that is working as an administrator, a journalist, or even as an entrepreneur.

Paul’s Work at Illumina

Paul currently works as the Senior Manager of Scientific Affairs for Illumina, a leader in nucleotide sequencing technology based in San Diego.  One of his responsibilities is hosting the Illumina Genomics Podcast, which tells the stories of scientists who make discoveries using Next-Generation Sequencing and genomics.  “I get to delve into these issues,” he says, “and find out what excites people, fundamentally, about the work that they do.”  Recent episodes highlight the transformative impact of new DNA sequencing techniques for projects which range from interrogating the remains of ancient humans to understanding the etiology of human diseases.

What advice does Paul have for researchers who are just starting their careers outside the lab? “My first lesson,” he says, “is to be quiet and listen to other people.”  Paul discusses his approach to improving his own networking and communication skills over the course of his career. He compares the learning curve for communication to the learning curve for bench research. “There’s a reason it takes several years to get your PhD.  I think it’s the same as anything else, like communication. You just have to do [it] and build that experience of communicating to an audience.” Those experiences aren’t always readily available in laboratory settings, where most time is spent alone doing experiments.  “We used to say that networking is a contact sport: you need to get out of lab to do it.”

We used to say that networking is a contact sport: you need to get out of lab to do it.

Paul Bromann

Even though he’s not working in a laboratory anymore, Paul discusses the importance of his scientific training.  He credits his work as a researcher with instilling in him a motivation to learn new things. “When I come into work,” he tells Nick, “I want to learn something new, I want to be challenged, I want to get something out of that day.”  Even though people tend to think of him as on the business side of things, he will always think of himself as a scientist and a communicator first.

Paul’s Favorite Books

Once a Scientist is made possible by support from our listeners! Each week, we ask our interviewee to tell us about their favorite books. If any of these reads catch your eye, you can support the show by using the links below to buy a copy for yourself!

Notes for this episode were written by Sam Asinof.

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