Name: Mary Todd Bergman
Job: Communications Officer at EBI
My name is Mary and I work at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Cambridge, UK. Last year I took part in a panel for a ‘Sex in Science’ event on the Genome Campus, which included former scientists now working in politics, publishing and business development. I had to summarise my career for a pretty big audience – it was nerve-wracking. Here’s what I came up with:
I spent my teenage years in Belgium, and moved back to the US for my final year of high school. I attended an experimental four-year college in Massachusetts called Hampshire, where I stuck with the squares in Natural Science and studied skeletal biology until I graduated into a spectacular recession. My first job after college was in Seattle as a receptionist for a prosthetics lab, where I received no phone calls but typed and scanned a book on fitting a prosthesis into Microsoft Word. I was not hired there because I was not “effervescent enough”. After that, I effervesced as a research assistant in a gait laboratory in Boston for a few years, studying people walking and writing some papers about it.
I eventually left to join a publishing company just across the river, thinking I would be more suited to that kind of thing, and I was, but it was a terrible place. So I worked a few other nutty jobs for a little while, then moved to New York to be a production editor then manager in scientific, technical and medical publishing at John Wiley & Sons.
After five years, I moved to Belgium – following my husband’s job as a video journalist – and had two girls while volunteering as producer then editor/producer of a magazine for parents. I eventually took a paid job writing science news and other things with a fun group at a Greek company on behalf of the European Commission. Our focus was on policy, but we did lots of round-ups about research in different areas, like nuclear fission reactors and railways. I applied for a job at EMBL in Heidelberg in 2010 but, in a stroke of luck, was instead invited to interview at the EBI. I started as an outreach officer in the Training Team, and am now the communications officer – an all-rounder – in the External Relations Team.
My job is awesome. It requires being interested in sciencey things and genuinely liking people. I love that. I write and edit stuff for print and the web, which entails interviewing and maintaining contact with all kinds of people – not just at the EBI, but throughout EMBL and our partner institutes. I’m surrounded by people who have a calling and love what they do, and I help them spread the word about it. Who could ask for more?