Becoming a scientist


Sarah Holloway, PhD 

Senior Director – Scientific Domain Intelligence  

“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some terrific scientists and clinical development colleagues at various companies such as Pfizer, Takeda, and Shire, across the U.S. and internationally.”

When I was 16, I had to choose between two very different career paths, one which would have led me into a career in journalism, the other studying Chemistry and Biology. Much to the chagrin of my English teacher, I chose to pursue a career in science. I loved the intellectual challenge and rigor that the scientific discipline offered, that never-ending process of discovery and re-discovery. I was also intensely curious about the world and how things worked. Growing up in a small Cornish village in the U.K., I felt a career in science would satisfy my intellectual wanderlust. 

I also knew early on that I wanted to study Pharmacology at Bristol University. Pharmacology–not to be confused with pharmacy–is a branch of science that deals with the study of drugs and their actions on living systems. It is the study of how drugs work in the body and how we can harness therapeutics to positively impact human health. I chose the University of Bristol as it was a recognized center of excellence for research into the Central Nervous System (CNS). For me, understanding the brain and how it works was and still is the ultimate scientific puzzle to solve.  

After attending Bristol University, I went on to the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge, my research thesis focused on the role of somatostatin receptors in the rat central nervous system. I still remember with fondness the many hours spent in the lab, crouched over my electrophysiology rig, hoping my striatal neuron would hold out for just long enough for me to finish my experiment. 

Following my Ph.D., I took a non-traditional route, and rather than pursuing academic bench research, I instead ‘crossed the carpet’ into a life within the pharmaceutical industry, where I spent more than 25 years. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some terrific scientists and clinical development colleagues at various companies, such as Pfizer, Takeda, and Shire, across the U.S. and internationally. My career sweet spot has been in roles where “R&D meets commercial,” an area where I’ve been able to apply my scientific expertise and help translate advanced scientific concepts into clinical, development, and commercial requirements. I’ve held a number of positions over the years, spanning the entire drug development continuum, from basic research, through pre-clinical and clinical drug development, into product launch and global marketing. Just before joining Kelly Science & Clinical, I spent three years in the Medical Device industry. 

Now, as the Senior Director of Scientific Domain Intelligence for Kelly Science & Clinical, I look around the corner and identify the biggest trends in science, thinking proactively about what that means for talent, clients, and for Kelly. Driven by data, my colleagues and I have defined six specialty practice areas of focus that represent some of the hottest or fastest-evolving areas of science. These areas are where the demand for specialized talent will continue to grow and why we have developed a portfolio of tailor-made talent solutions.   

Throughout my career, I’ve been driven to look for connections, both within and beyond science and clinical. Thinking about the trends shaping our industry today, I’m fascinated by the increasing integration of science and technology. I talk weekly with my Technology counterpart, Tolga Cengiz, to discuss the synergies between our specialties and to understand how technology advances are fueling innovation within the scientific and clinical worlds. The integration of A.I. and machine learning into the R&D processes is driving huge efficiency and productivity gains. Within the clinical research ecosystem, the increased use of technology has played a pivotal role in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From a human capital perspective, the key question will be how the increased utilization of technology and automation will influence the skill sets and capabilities required from the workforce of the future. I believe an emphasis on softer skills will become more prominent. With our recent acquisition of Softworld, Kelly Science, Engineering, Technology & Telecom will have even more organizational intelligence with which to be able to better advise and support our clients.