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New York, New York
Science Communications Director
Delos Living LLCVIEW PROFILE
As science communications director for Delos Living, Aurelie (Lili) N’songo, Ph.D. (BMS ’17, NBD ’17), focuses on translating complex scientific concepts into approachable, accurate language. She trained as a neurogeneticist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, studying the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. A career development internship opened her eyes to opportunities outside the lab, and she’s never looked back.
I manage internal and external scientific communications for Delos, the pioneer of Wellness Real Estate. Delos proposes solutions for homes, offices, schools and other indoor environments that place health and wellness at the center of design and construction decisions. We create spaces that contribute to human health, performance and well-being. This could include bringing adequate light to people who work in subterranean environments or minimizing light exposure when you get up at night to go the bathroom so your sleep isn’t too disrupted.
Delos partners with Mayo Clinic on the Well Living Lab on the Rochester campus — the only research facility dedicated to understanding the interaction between health, well-being and indoor environments through human-centered research. Research in the lab focuses on seven areas relevant to indoor health — air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind (i.e. mental and psychological well-being).
What I do specifically is help explain to our clients and partners the science behind our products and programs and how they can impact the way we live and feel in our indoor environments.
I have a Ph.D. in neurobiology of disease from Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Science. I studied Alzheimer’s disease in the Ertekin-Taner Laboratory and the Bu Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in Florida. They were great experiences. Because Alzheimer’s disease affects many people, I would regularly receive questions regarding the causes of the disease and the state of the research in that field. That’s when I realized that there’s a huge gap between what goes on in the research lab and what the public learns. By the time the information is conveyed to the public, it’s often diluted, and the public ends up misinformed. I decided I wanted to change that. During my last year at Mayo, I was involved in a career development internship in which I explored opportunities outside of the lab.
For almost a year I learned about scientific journalism by working on Mayo Clinic’s Discovery’s Edge online magazine. I helped translate Mayo’s scientific studies into a language that anyone could understand. I saw that I could use my natural communication abilities along with my scientific training to impact how science is portrayed in the outside world.
Scientists aren’t trained to talk to nonscientists — they’re trained to talk to their peers. Everything we do in research is aimed at humans, but we often fail to explain and convey what we do to others. I want to dedicate my career to telling scientific stories accurately and in language anyone can understand.
Yes, I return to Mayo Clinic in Rochester often for the Well Living Lab collaboration. Our company has a team based in Rochester.
I also stay in contact with my mentors in the labs at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
The medical professionals at Mayo Clinic truly live Mayo’s mission statement: the needs of the patient come first. I’m trying to do the same thing in my new career. In this case, the needs of people center around making sure they can understand scientific messages. I orient everything I write toward the patient or consumer.
There’s a misconception that research Ph.D.s have to work in certain limited fields. Increasingly, there are opportunities for those who are academically trained to transition into new areas. Ph.D. training makes you adaptable. Be open to applying your skills to new areas.
I left the path that had been laid out for me for years in exchange for something uncertain. But it’s been incredibly fulfilling. A Ph.D. wasn’t required for my job, but the skills and training I have prepared me to figure out how things work, solve problems and manage time.
I’ve been in New York City for less than a year, so I’m still exploring the city. I am adamant about work-life balance, so I bike, go to museums and soak up the culture. I am from Paris, France, and I return there a couple of times a year.
See past New Chapter stories here.