Dr Hannah Devlin, science editor
Find out more about her communications career
This interview was conducted in 2012. In the autumn of 2017, we checked to make sure its careers advice was still accurate and updated the essential subjects and salary guide sections.
What do you do?
I’m the science editor at the ‘Times’. I spend most of my time writing news stories for the newspaper.
What did you study?
I was very keen on science at school, particularly physics. I studied physics at Imperial College London and decided to do a PhD in brain imaging using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
How did you get into journalism?
I was considering going into a career in research but wanted to explore some other options. Halfway through my PhD, I got a summer placement at the ‘Times’, and I loved it! It was through a scheme run by the British Science Association that aimed to give scientists an insight into how the media works that they could take back to science. What I did was not what was supposed to happen, but it worked out very well for me!
What other jobs have you had?
I really enjoyed my PhD but decided a career in research wasn’t for me. I got a job at a magazine called ‘Research Fortnight’, which is quite specialist and is aimed at senior academics, research managers and politicians interested in science. I worked there for about 18 months, then I was lucky enough to get a job back at the ‘Times’ to work on a new science magazine called ‘Eureka’. I started as a reporter, and I got made science editor at the end of 2011.
What are the most challenging and satisfying things about your job?
It’s a very energetic job. You don’t usually have days where there’s nothing on – it’s a continual output, and there’s always time pressure. I don’t necessarily see that as a negative thing, but it can be a challenge. The best thing is being in the extremely privileged position of being able to phone up some of the best scientists in the world and get them to answer your very simple questions! They might be talking about a [scientific journal] paper that they’ve been working on for years with a big team, or a clinical trial involving hundreds of patients. It’s about being there at the end of that and sharing in the excitement in some way.
What’s the work–life balance like?
There’s not a typical day – sometimes I’m in the office, but sometimes I’m out at press conferences or going to visit people in their labs. Generally, on the days I’m in the office, I get in at 10am and leave anywhere between 6pm and 9pm. I don’t find the work–life balance too bad. I work Monday to Friday and one in four Sundays, to prepare the Monday paper, but you get a day off in lieu of that.
A levels: French, general studies, maths, physics (1999).
MSci physics, Imperial College London (2003).
DPhil, University of Oxford (2007).
Summer placement, ‘Times’ (2006).
Reporter, ‘Research Fortnight’ (2007–08).
Science reporter, ‘Times’ (2008–11).
Science editor, ‘Times’ (December 2011–).
Salary guide (2017)
The average starting salary for a science writer is £15,000–£26,000, but salaries vary widely between regions and publications and rise with experience (Prospects).
Essential subjects (2017)
For journalism degrees, specific subjects are not usually required, but English is preferred. Politics and history are looked upon favourably. It is also possible to do postgraduate qualifications such as Master’s degrees in both general and science journalism after studying a more general degree first.
Hannah now works at the ‘Guardian’; see her up-to-date profile page here.