Biomedicine alumna Susanna leads in science communications

Name: Susanna Appel     
Based: Stockholm, Sweden
Degree: Master's in Biomedicine, 2009
Current role: Communications manager and Acting Vice Head of Operations at SciLifeLab (Science for Life Laboratory)

KI alumna profile photo

What is your education experience?

My degree at KI was my beginning! I studied Biomedicine at KI for four years. Following this, I continued my studies by obtaining a Licentiate Degree (basically half of a PhD) in Molecular Exercise Physiology, also at KI. Several years later, I went on to study freestanding courses in Science Communication, Project Management, Graphic Design, Digital Management and Communications Management at other universities and schools.  

Why did you choose to study at KI?

Positive brand associations around educational quality and having undergraduate learning integrated in a vibrant research environment. I had ambitions to become a textbook author back then and felt that biomedicine was the perfect springboard, right at the intersection between chemistry, human biology and medicine.  

Make contacts and build good relationships with teachers, invited lecturers and peers. The classmate next to you may be your future colleague, collaborator or manager.

Susanna Appel, Biomedicine alumna

Describe your experience at KI.

Reminiscing my time at KI, the workload was undeniably intense at times, but I mostly remember a lot of laughs and now know I made friends for life. We carried heavy books in our complimentary blue KI backpacks (major credit to the team behind today’s lovely plum profile color!) and joined forces during cram sessions.

The teachers were knowledgeable, most of them highly active researchers, and I experienced countless aha moments during lectures, workshops and laboratory practicals.

My best memory is probably when I defended my licentiate thesis in the same room where I had attended my very first lecture – like closing a circle.  

After you graduated from KI, what was your next step?  

Just before graduating from the Biomedicine program, I had performed my degree project with Professor Carl Johan Sundberg and got the opportunity to continue pursuing a research degree in his group. After my licentiate degree, I applied for a role as project manager for external relations at SciLifeLab.  

What is your current role?

Currently, I’m the Communications Manager and acting Vice Head of Operations at SciLifeLab  – a collaborative research center and a national infrastructure providing access to pioneering technologies in molecular life science.  

I’ve been with the organisation for six years now, and my role has evolved over time. Adding to this, I’m an absolute course junkie and have enrolled in quite a few during this time, which has furthered my skills and abilities in communications as well as leadership.  

Describe a day on the job. 

My days are all very different, I have to say. Yesterdaý, I held staff development review meetings and wrote a piece on outreach activities for our annual report. Today, I participated in a working group meeting on Data-Driven Life Science and put together material for our social media.  

What are your future aspirations?

Well, they’re pretty defined, actually. In January, I will be joining the chemistry innovation partner company Paragon Nordic as their Marketing, Communications & Product Manager. I’m excited to learn more about the commercial side of things.  

How did your studies at KI help your future career?  

I learned so much! Perhaps I didn’t really reflect on this at the time, going from one lecture to another, just trying to keep up with the syllabus. But today, it’s apparent that the program gave me a strong knowledge base, including both breadth and depth. In my current role, I meet with life scientists from a variety of fields and even if I’m not an expert on their particular work, I find myself having adequate understanding to be able to ask relevant questions – a necessity for creating effective communications.  

What is your advice to current students?

Be active during lectures and don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is unclear to you. Also, I’m a firm believer in that handwriting and sketching out concepts on paper is a great way of learning and remembering. Lastly, make contacts and build good relationships with teachers, invited lecturers and peers. The classmate next to you may be your future colleague, collaborator or manager. Networking during the pandemic is definitely more difficult, but not at all impossible!