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Helen Keenan
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
Scientist Type: 
South East
First Degree: 
BSc Microbiology
Director/Consultant in Clinical Research
West Malling
Works For: 
Clinical Start Up Solutions Ltd
Pet Hates: 
Traffic jams and call centres
Burning Ambition: 
To run a marathon
Ability to fly
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
A Theatrical make up artist or a doctor
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
My mother. She suffered from Asthma most of her life and I wanted to make her better. I designed my first clinical trial for her at the age of 10, to find out what triggered her asthma attacks
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
The fact that the industry I work in is always changing and each day there is a new challenge
What would you change? 
The amount of red tape - although it is changing
What qualifications did you take at school? 
O levels and A levels (in Maths Biology and Chemistry)
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
Microbiology - I wanted to take a Biological Science and there was too much Chemistry in Biochemistry !
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
I don’t have either a masters or a PhD but did not find it hard to demonstrate the skills needed to achieve a CSci
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I help make the tablets you take safe
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
Working with new medications before they come onto the market
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
The worry that clinical research will move away from the UK because of some of the restrictions from NICE and the time it takes to bring a drug to market
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
Agreeing contracts with Hospital Trusts, getting Ethics approval for a submission for an application I have prepared
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
I started off working in a lab analyzing food for microbes then worked in water quality – inspecting water tanks and water systems but I gave this up after having one too many loft hatches hit me on the head. Went into Clinical Research as an administrator via a friend and then became a Clinical Research Associate monitoring clinical studies at doctor’s sites throughout the company. Eventually ended up as a Project Manager. Finally in 2008 set up our own company specialising in start up activities with a colleague
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
One moment writing scientific reports then next negotiating budgets
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
My job is very specialised but a project Manager in a Pharma company can expect to get around £45 -£50k per annum
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
I think the clinical Research Organisation Industry will become more specialised with smaller companies taking on parts of the Clinical Trial Process
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
Setting up my own company and having it run profitably in the first year
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
Very good
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
They think it sounds glamorous because of the amount of travel I do but I don’t think they really understand my job
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Watching a lot of films, going to the gym and trying to keep fit
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I value that Clinical Research is now recognised as a valid science by the Council . I applied as I wanted to be recognised by my peers for my career so far in science
What is the value of professional bodies? 
I think they are an important body because they can help maintain standards throughout all of the different scientific disciplines
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
I think it’s important as it’s a method of ensuring that standards are maintained and upheld throughout the discipline
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Start out at the bottom and work your way up – the skills you learn on the way will stay with you for the rest of your career
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
Very-it is vital for the role of a Clinical Research Associate (monitor) –I still remember a colleague who showed me the ropes and I still remember exactly what she told me. She was a stickler for detail and that has remained with me
How would you define “professionalism”? 
Very simple – you conduct yourself in a manner that allows people to see clearly that whatever you say has serious content. If you do this, people will regard your presence and your contribution as being reliable and being thoroughly thought through.
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
I would not change anything about the career path I have taken
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
I would not change anything about the career path I have taken
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