Where are they now? Mikayala King

Biochemistry with Medical Biosciences

Mikayala King graduated in 2004 with a degree Biochemistry with Medical Biosciences. We caught up with her to see what she has been up to.

What was your dream job as a child, and what is your dream job now?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress or vet, but now I want to be in a position to influence national and international policy on clinical trials – getting there!

What are your favourite memories from your time at Kent?

The friendliness and camaraderie of the department. Everyone was approachable, interested and always keen to encourage and impart knowledge.

What have you been up to since graduating?

I stayed at Kent to do my degree, masters and PhD and then 6 years post-doc in the lab before I ended up working in the NHS in Research and Development. I started off at the Comprehensive Local Research Network based in Maidstone. I was responsible for performing checks on study proposals to make sure they abide by the law and guidance and ensuring the participants were kept safe. I am now at Southampton where I head up two teams involved in the management of Research studies and have responsibility for ensuring participants are safe and clinicians are supported in understanding their roles within the law.

For fun, I have been all over the world including visiting Kenya, something I’ve wanted to do since i was a child and I walked 45km of the great wall of China for charity. I am also now the proud servant of a cat!

What does your role involve?

I head up the quality assurance and sponsorship teams at the Trust. My role is very wide ranging with both local and national working. I not only serve on several Trust committees and report to the board and Directors but also on national committees. I have weekly meetings with the government vaccine taskforce since I am responsible for COVID trials testing vaccines which informs government policy and the booster program. I am a research governance consultant and am regularly called upon for my guidance by other organisations across the country. I’ve also been involved with the Canadian government and Australian and South African organisations advising on clinical trial management.

I lecture on governance for both medical students and masters students at the University of Southampton and am a national trainer in good clinical practice and valid informed consent. My role also involves me being responsible for Research training across the Trust and feeding into the national training program run by the NIHR and R&D Forum.

When I write it down like that it explains why I’m always busy!

How do you apply the knowledge and skills you gained during your studies in your job and what advice would you give to students and fellow alumni?

I think you gain so many skills during your studies you really don’t realise it until you need to use them.

As a student you learn to project manage to really quite an advanced level. I find the nature of doing research in your studies also puts you in the right mindset to embrace change and the confidence to try new ways of working. We are very good at change management and explaining our reasoning too. The presentation skills and lecturing and teaching skills I gained enable me to not only continue with teaching and training but to have confidence in presenting to committees and meetings. The data handling skills help me in preparing reports in that I understand what I need the data to show and am able to present in lay terms to others. All of that reading and revising for exams means I have a good memory and ability to understand complex documentation like legislation and policy and to be able to translate that into practice. Couple all of that with the computer skills, managing databases, managing supervisors, managing your own time and work schedule, working autonomously and making decisions, we make fantastic managers!

What are your future plans / aspirations?

I am continuing where I am and building my teams so that we can support the Trust aspirations. We are looking at expanding our experimental advanced therapy trial program to include further genetic and tissue engineering studies. We are also looking at making the most of clinical data collected routinely as well as left over tissue which might otherwise be discarded. We are forging close links with the university and are looking at expanding our medical technology work with electronics, IT and engineering. I hope to bring all of the pieces of the puzzle together to help those people in most need through research.

Overall we want to lead the country and the world in innovation in clinical research. Its a very exciting time to be in R&D!

What advice would you give to current students doing your course?

Stay calm, don’t panic and remember to have some fun too.

University is a time for learning but also for growing up and finding out who you are. Don’t be afraid to ask or change your mind and make sure you take advantage of the very large brains you are surrounded by. You are going to be a scientist which basically means you can do practically anything!

Would I change anything?

Yes – I’d do the science fiction module as an option instead of environmental chemistry in my first year! Although having said that, I might have got a better mark but I wouldn’t have gone around a sewage works or gone poking around a quarry, both of which were so much fun I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out, so perhaps no!