Previous School:

Oasis Academy

I fully enjoyed my time at College. The structure of classes helped me become more independent in my revision and working schedule, which was vital when I went to university. I also met so many friends through College who helped challenge me academically in class, making me a better learner. Being part of the Aspire programme also helped me a lot when deciding which universities would be right for me.

Although I loved Biology and Chemistry at College, I knew I didn’t want to go into Medicine. During my time at university studying Biological Sciences, I found I enjoyed the scientific side of medicines and clinical trials, but I knew I didn’t want to work in a lab.

During my second year of university, the pandemic hit and severely impacted my studies. But I kept going, and by the end of my third year, I decided I wanted to learn more about the clinical trials and pharmaceutical industry. This led me to study for a master’s in Medical Affairs at King’s College London. Modules included pre-clinical drug development; biological advanced therapies; patient involvement; and a placement working within a pharmaceutical company in London. All this gave me a great baseline to understand the clinical trials landscape, and it played a key part in how I got my job.

Starting out as a Clinical Trials Administrator in the Royal Marsden Hospital’s Paediatric Department, I’m now a Data Manager for multiple international early phase breast cancer clinical trials within the Marsden’s Clinical Trial Unit in Chelsea.

My role includes the design and management of databases and clinical information; liaising with laboratory technicians about sample collection from patients; and working with the doctors, nurses, and clinical fellows to develop the clinical trial protocols. We also work with the pharmaceutical companies who develop potential new medicines, as well as agencies like the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) to ensure trials comply with all the necessary legislation.

At College, I had no idea roles like this existed in the healthcare and science field – the more visible roles were doctors, nurses, or lab staff.

In terms of my longer-term future, I’m keen to specialise in the financial side of clinical trials and organise funding and trial management at a higher level – roles that I did not know even existed when I was 17!

My biggest advice for others interested would be that there are so many roles like mine which involve science and medicine, but do not involve a medical degree, you just need to dig a little deeper.

If you can, start off with a broader science degree and specialise in the later years – I did Biological Sciences, but followed a ‘biomedical pathway’ at university, looking specifically at human physiology and diseases. Also, you’ll find there are hundreds of further qualifications after doing a BSc which give further insight into different areas of healthcare.

Francesca Mason

Reigate College: 2016-2018

Higher education: Biological Sciences BSc (Hons) at Durham University then MSc Medical Affairs at Kings College London

Currently: Data Manager, Clinical Trials Unit, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

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