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Andrew Arkley|June 14, 2024

Scientist CV: How To Write A CV For A Career In Science

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The world of science is vast and ever-evolving, offering a wide range of career paths for those with a scientist CV, a curious mind and a passion for discovery.

Here are just a few of the many exciting careers you can pursue as a scientist:

  • Life scientists study living organisms, from the tiniest microbes to the largest animals – they can specialise in fields like zoology, botany, or microbiology
  • Physical scientists investigate the non-living world, including matter, energy, and their interactions – common specialisations include physics, chemistry and astronomy
  • Earth scientists study the Earth, its atmosphere, oceans, and landforms – geologists, meteorologists, and oceanographers all fall under this category
  • Environmental scientists address environmental challenges like pollution, climate change, and sustainability – they work to protect our planet and develop solutions for a greener future

There are plenty of other options too, of course. With so many options available, you’re sure to find a field that aligns with your interests and skills.

In this guide we’ll cover what to think about when putting together a scientist CV, because given the variety of careers available, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to take.

How should you structure a scientist CV?

The conundrum for scientists applying for roles is neatly summarised by the career services office at Harvard University – CV, Resume or Something In Between?

In short, how to structure a scientist CV depends on a few key considerations:

  • What position are you going for?
  • Who is the target audience for your CV?
  • Which is more appropriate for the role – an ‘industry’ CV or an academic CV?

Academic CVs radically differ from those for other professions in terms of structure and sections.

In most industries a CV tends to include contact details, a personal statement, skills section, career history, education or qualifications, hobbies / interests and the words ‘References available on request’ or something similar.

But on an academic science CV, you’ll often see some – or all – of the following sections in addition:

  • Research experience
  • Teaching experience
  • Publications
  • Funding and grants
  • Administration
  • Conferences and presentations
  • Awards and honours
  • References

Moreover, on an academic CV, you’re more likely to expand the education section and put it near the top.

Let’s take a look at each of these sections and what to include.

Academic biomedical scientist CV example

William Jones

[Address] – [Phone number] – [Email address]

Personal Statement

Highly motivated and meticulous biomedical scientist with a passion for immunology research and a strong commitment to scientific education. Possesses seven years of experience in laboratory research techniques and a proven ability to design, conduct, and analyse complex immunological projects. Seeks a research-focused position to contribute expertise and continue exploring the intricate mechanisms of the immune system.

Qualifications and Education

University of Edinburgh, UK, 2016-2020

  • Ph.D. in Immunology, 2020 – Thesis: “Investigating the Immunomodulatory Effects of Vitamin D on Macrophage Function”
  • M.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences, 2018 (First Class Honours) – Dissertation: “The Role of T-regulatory Cells in Autoimmune Disease”
  • B.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences, 2016 (Second Class Honours, Upper Division)

Research Experience

Postdoctoral Researcher, University College London (UCL), London, UK (2020-Present)

  • Investigated the role of gut microbiota in regulating immune responses in inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Developed and implemented novel in vitro and ex vivo models to study gut-immune interactions.
  • Analysed immune cell populations and cytokine profiles using flow cytometry as well as ELISA.
  • Authored and co-authored publications on immunomodulation and gut health (please see Publications section).
  • Presented research findings at national and international conferences.

Ph.D. Research Assistant, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK (2016-2020)

  • Investigated the impact of Vitamin D supplementation on macrophage function in a model of chronic infection.
  • Utilised flow cytometry and ELISpot assays to analyse immune cell activation and cytokine production.
  • Contributed to the publication of research findings in a peer-reviewed journal (please see Publications section).

Teaching Experience

Teaching Assistant, Biomedical Sciences Department , University of Edinburgh, (2018-2020)

  • Delivered laboratory sessions and tutorials for undergraduate courses in Immunology and Microbiology.
  • Provided individual guidance and support to students in a laboratory setting.

Publications

  • Jones, W., Brown, A., & Davies, M. (2023). Vitamin D supplementation enhances macrophage phagocytic activity and pro-inflammatory cytokine production. Journal of Autoimmunity, 138, 109872.
  • Smith, J., Jones, W., & Harris, P. (2020). Regulatory T cells and their therapeutic potential in autoimmune diseases. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 202(2), 187-199.

References

  1. [Name] – [Role] – [Institution] – [Phone number] – [Email address]
  2. [Name] – [Role] – [Institution] – [Phone number] – [Email address]
  3. [Name] – [Role] – [Institution] – [Phone number] – [Email address]

Industry scientist CV basics

The academic format may not be right for the role in science you’re going for though. Why?

Take a look at this article by Isaiah Hankel PhD on the difference between an academic and industry CV on Cheeky Scientist. Now you know!

The goal of an industry CV is to help employers see the value you can bring to their company. Tailor it to accentuate your strengths and highlight the most relevant skills you have to offer.

An industry CV is only one or two pages long. You don’t need to go into so much detail about your education and it’s not necessarily to provide all the reference details on the document.

A typical CV prioritises an attention-grabbing personal statement with standout information that other candidates may not have. The rest of the first page should showcase your greatest achievements and accomplishments – using work, education or skills sections.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write a CV for industry roles. And if you’re looking for a computer science CV template, we have that too!

CV basics

No matter which format you choose, make sure you master the basics.

Check your CV thoroughly before sending – fix spelling and grammar mistakes, or anything else that will make potential employers stop reading.

Give as many relevant and impressive examples from your career so far as you can, try to quantify your work achievements to date. These facts and figures will have more impact in the right context – if you’re struggling to explain your best ones, use the STAR method.

A strong CV features plenty of evidence to back up its claims, otherwise the achievements can sound too generalised, so employers struggle to see how you stand out.

If you need to give a long or complex STAR example, consider including it in your cover letter or supporting statement instead.

Always think about how you can customise your CV to each role you apply for, tailored to the job description.

Final thoughts: Writing a scientist CV

We hope this article has given you some useful guidance for writing a scientist CV.

Give yourself the best chance possible with an outstanding, well-written CV, because there’s plenty of competition out there for the most desirable roles.

Remember that potential employers have lots of CVs to look through, so make sure you have a strong opening section to hold their attention.

Whichever format you choose, ensure it’s one that draws attention to your strengths – here are the different types of CV. In the industry CV format, you can choose between a skills-based one or the reverse-chronological classic style.

Start with the basics, then focus on including the right information for the job description. Provide evidence to back up your achievements.

If you need any help, we’re experts at writing professional CVs. That includes CVs for scientists – so please don’t hesitate to get in touch for more details.

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