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Career Ladder

Career Ladder: Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink

A love for science lit the path for this Science journal editor

by Taylor C. Hood
November 7, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 44


Credit: Courtesy of Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink
An image of Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink as a child in a field.
Credit: Courtesy of Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink

Always curious


Growing up in Germany, Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink was fascinated by nature and enjoyed exploring the forest. “I never had a science kit that I can remember,” she says. Science didn’t catch her eye until high school as she began to think about her future. For years she dreamed of becoming an archaeologist, but later her interest turned toward the chemical sciences.

Taking a leap in education


Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink began her undergraduate studies in biochemistry at the Free University of Berlin but later switched to chemistry with mineralogy as a second major. After two years, she decided that studying in another country would be exciting, and she received a grant that allowed her to study in England for a year at the University of Cambridge. While there, she was offered the chance to jump directly into the Ph.D. program. “I didn’t have the sort of foundation that other people had, but relished the opportunity of starting my Ph.D. early.”

Credit: Courtesy of Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink
Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink in a PhD graduation photo from the University of Cambridge.
Credit: Courtesy of Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink

Changing interests


After finishing her Ph.D. on the properties of nanoscale particles, Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink began a postdoc at the University of Sussex in nanoscience. She quickly realized that nanoscience research didn’t capture her imagination anymore. “To do well in research, you have to identify a question and have a desire to answer it, which can take years of focused effort.” She had interests in other subjects and considered changing fields to explore other areas. That’s when she switched to a biochemistry postdoc at University College London (UCL).

Leaving research for publishing


During her postdoc at UCL, Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink stumbled across a job posting for an editor at Science and was curious about how a journal works from the inside. She got the job and immediately realized it was the right fit. “It combines all that I love about science: the fascinating new insights, the connections between them, and the tools that scientists are developing—and I get to learn about these things every day.”

Credit: Courtesy of Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink
Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink.
Credit: Courtesy of Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink

Moving up with Science


After four years of editing research papers at the cutting edge of numerous fields, Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink was promoted to senior editor for Science’s Insights team, where she invites and edits scientist-written commentaries, oversees their publication, and occasionally writes her own pieces. She loves working with scientists to present their complex ideas in ways that can be understood by those inside and outside the scientific community. “I feel fortunate to be able to do this job and work with my fantastic colleagues both here in the U.K. and in our Washington, D.C., office.”

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