International Students Testimonies

Storytelling and science communication at the Quantitative Biosciences Institute in California

Alexa Rocourt, student of the M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology, perfectly combines professional practice and research: Besides her studies, she works as a Media Communications Specialist and Events Coordinator at the research institute QBI (Quantitative Biosciences Institute) in San Francisco. In this interview, she gives us an insight into her work and reveals what she particularly likes about the study program.

Alexa Rocourt is studying M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology and is currently working at the Quantitative Biosciences Institute in California.

Alexa Rocourt is studying M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology and is currently working at the Quantitative Biosciences Institute in California.

Currently, you are working at a scientific institute in California, and researching the anthropology of science. That sounds really impressive. Tell us more about your work!

About two and half years ago I started working at the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), a research unit that is part of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). QBI’s mission is to use quantitative approaches to uncover the underlying biology behind virtually any disease area and ultimately identify treatments that could have therapeutic value. My role at QBI is to help all audiences understand the vast community of researchers that are involved in this mission by working with them to create visual representations of the Institute’s science and values, as well as by coordinating its general online presence. In short, I help tell QBI’s story.

How did you come across the job position? Why did you decide to combine your anthropology studies with your professional career?

As an undergrad, I built a background in journalism and graphic design, which are skills that I wanted to continuously enhance after college and into my career as a writer, artist, and media producer. In 2019 I started my journey at QBI and found myself in constant interaction with people in the scientific community whose stories I had to relay to the public. In wanting to broaden my understanding of how to effectively be a science journalist, I sought out a degree in the ultimate field for learning about how to comprehend and share narratives about societies and cultures: visual and media anthropology.

Which general and study-related kinds of knowledge, skills and qualifications are you able to apply to your job at QBI?

The skills I am learning at HMKW are incredibly relevant to my present and future career goals.

A big part of my role at QBI is to help facilitate the Institute's efforts to break down scientific silos through global collaboration, in order to achieve groundbreaking science. An important key in accomplishing this is to make research and researchers more accessible to fellow collaborators and to the general public through multi-media projects and events. The anthropological knowledge I am gaining helps me provide the Institute with a dynamic and authentic media presence. Fine-tuning my media and communication skills in relation to people and cultures through this M.A. will reinforce my ability to contribute to QBI's continued progress and growth in a curiosity-driven, considerate, and diverse way.

In your opinion, from which experiences will you benefit the most in your future career?

Choosing to combine my professional career with the M.A. at HMKW equips me with tools that strengthen my creative abilities to use media communication as a vehicle for powerful and effective storytelling, not just in science, but in any field I may come across in the future.

By learning the fundamental approaches, topics, and working methods of visual and media-oriented anthropology, I am deepening my understanding of how to best create and coordinate multi-media representations of people, cultures, and global initiatives.

Last but not least: What is your conclusion about your decision to apply anthropology to your career so far? Would you recommend it to other HMKW students?

In my view, anthropology is the study of what makes us human. It can therefore be applied to all fields in one way or another. Generally speaking, learning to consider the evolution and outlooks of different societies and cultures equips you with the ability to approach any career with a keen sense of curiosity. Personally, I have become more inquisitive about my work environment and have felt more confident in questioning outdated constructs in science, for example, which has driven many of my recent projects. By adopting an “anthropological mindset”, I feel more aware of the diversity in my professional and personal surroundings and challenge myself daily to work towards assessing situations without biases.

Overall, I recommend the study of anthropology to anyone who is curious about how different aspects of human existence actively play a part in our modern world. I believe it is a tool that leads to perspective in any career path.

Thank you very much for the interview and all the insights into your work. All the best for your future!