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Suzy CA USA

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Great article. I am actively looking for entry-level research positions in pharma/biotech industry and some of the tips seem to be really useful! . . .Read More
Jul 22, 2013, 8:40pm

Wow, these are some great resume tips. It's nice to have everything in one placce like this. . . .Read More
Jul 20, 2013, 3:08pm

Thanks for the great post! It provides many useful references and very informative.   . . .Read More
Jul 17, 2013, 2:16am
Awesome Stuff
Views: 2460 | Comments: 1
Last by jellybabe on Nov 25, 2011, 10:15am
Anyone with strong bioinformatics skills looking for a job with a fantastic energetic new PI at the University of Arizona?

Today I spent time with a friend and new PI at the University of Arizona talking about her metagenomics projects. She's been advertising for an opening for a computational biologist for quite a while.  She tells me that she can't find anyone to fill this position because they are in such high demand and there are so few people who have the skills so they are all getting jobs fast. She is looking for a postdoc or would even support a grad student for their PhD if they wanted to do the work.

Apparently a research associate with bioinformatics expertise can get a job in industry for as much as $90K a year, making it hard to find qualified candidates who want to work in academics labs.

So if you are looking to increase your marketability with a highly valued skill set in popular demand, then computational biology looks to be the way to go.

And if anyone is interested in the position at U of A, email me.

. . . More
Views: 6806 | Comments: 13
Last by Suzy on Sep 07, 2011, 1:06pm
Last week the biotech community in San Diego suffered a tough blow as many positions were eliminated as part of a plan to save $20 million dollars in the hopes that Life Tech will please their investors. People who lost jobs included veterans with the company, many who were loyal and hard-working to the almighty borg of biotechs, sacrificing their nights, vacations, and weekends to promote the success of an organization that never sleeps.

Life Tech was formed out of a merger of two companies; Carlsbad-based Invitrogen and Foster City-based Applied Biosystems. The acquisition of ABI by Invitrogen in 2008 resulted in the $6.7 billion dollar company renamed Life Technologies, which holds some of the hottest IP in the world, including lucrative patents on PCR, qPCR, and market domination in Human ID/forensics. With a portfolio this powerful, how could they fail?

Life has not reported how many people were sent home last week and they have not updated their numbers on the State Employment Development Department website which tracks company layoffs, according to the . . . More
Views: 22081 | Comments: 22
Last by DNAGuy on Apr 22, 2013, 1:59pm
This question is about the hiring process and the discussion around salary. The answer is quite involved so it would be easiest to post it separately so we can discuss the topic and also, as always, I welcome others to share their experiences.

Just wondering if you might be able to comment on the hiring process.

Specifically in my case, I'm just wondering how salary negotations occurs in a company.  Who at the company has the power to say "you will be paid x" or "we agree to your proposal of making x".

Or do you (the person hiring) get a salary range that you're "allowed" to offer/accept?   I'm almost wondering if it's like buying a car where the dealer needs to talk to managment... :)

Nervously awaiting to have the negotiating talk... :)

In the case when I was hiring (and I am at a small privately owned company), I had a range that I could offer but I fully expected to pay at the top end of the range. Having worked at the large biotechs, I know what a scientist with a PhD should be making and I firmly believe that you get what you pay for so I wasn't going to low ball the right candidate.

So for those of you wondering what that range is, on the west coast, for a Ph.D. with no prior job experience (so fresh from a postdoc . . . More
Views: 54482 | Comments: 19
Last by Jenil on Jul 22, 2013, 8:40pm
This week I will answer questions sent to me by a LabSpaces reader. I welcome additional input from readers who have their own experiences with industry job hunting and using recruiters. Please do feel free to share your knowledge.

Questions:

I have really been enjoying your posts on your experience with working in industry. I am coming to decide that I want to jump off the academia boat and try something else. The main problem with doing that is that I have no idea where to start. Would you mind discussing the "hows" of finding a job in industry? How is an industry type resume compare to an academic CV? Where should I look for PhD level positions? Are there recruiters or head hunters that help people find positions? Answers to any of these questions would be extremely helpful and appreciated.

How to find a job in industry and where should I look for PhD level positions?

There are a couple of approaches one can take for biotech job hunting. I would recommend using the typical search engines to start. Monster.com is one and . . . More
Views: 13658 | Comments: 18
Last by Suzy on May 17, 2011, 7:04pm
After attending a conference a couple months ago and being forced to sit through some pretty bad presentations, I had in mind to discuss the importance of grad students learning how to put together and deliver a good presentation. This skill is critical and I can't believe how many scientists struggle with presentations. I know it's tough and I know when you're nervous it is easy to forget some things you wanted to say. But there are ways of making your presentation easier for your audience to understand, and make it so it triggers reminders for you, so when the nerves come in, you don't forget what you wanted to say.

My most recent experience really highlighted this problem because as soon as the speaker was done, a man behind me raised his hand to ask a question. He said, "I COULDN'T HEAR A WORD YOU SAID AND I CAN'T READ ANY OF YOUR SLIDES!" He was pissed off. I was too, but I wasn't going to stand up in a room of 100 people and yell at the speaker. But it was true. So many things were wrong in every talk presented.

Honestly, if I pay several hundred dollars to attend a conference and I get up at 7 am to make your 8 am talk (which is waking up at 4 am for me on west coast time), and I get to the room, and now I sit through . . . More
Views: 5331 | Comments: 25
Last by Suzy on May 12, 2011, 10:41am
I walked past the mini-conference room area that AACR set up in the middle of the exhibit hall and my eyes immediately zeroed in on the name of one of my science idols: Elizabeth Blackburn. She was going to be speaking about careers to young scientists and allow them to ask her questions.

I noted the day and time. It wouldn’t matter to me what she was talking about. I would be there.

The next day at 10 am, I watched her walk in to the roofless cubicled room and you could feel the excitement as she hurriedly walked to the front. I stood in the back by the entrance. All of the chairs were reserved for scientists who were post-docs and grad students but I was just grateful to be there early enough to have a spot to stand and listen.

How I wished I had this advice when I was young and ill-informed!

If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Dr. Blackburn speak, go out of your way to see her. Words can’t describe her magnetic presence and gentle, sincere smile. I could use some California new age terms here to describe her positive energy or radiant aura, but I’ll spare you.

Just a little introduction for people who don’t know . . . More
Views: 1194 | Comments: 12
Last by Suzy on May 28, 2011, 8:02pm
I began a series of posts that explained how products are born, that is, how they go from a concept or idea to a product on the shelf waiting to be bought. So far we've discussed what R&D does and what marketing does to make sure that a product has the greatest possibility for success. Well there is another person on this team who plays a critical role in the product development process and launch.

While the title of this person can vary, their department is in operations and their function is to control and organize all the tasks required to get the product manufactured. I want to talk about this leg of the product development lifecycle because I think it would be helpful to those of you looking at jobs in biotech and trying to figure out some of the job descriptions you might see advertised on websites. A position in manufacturing, QC, QA, or managing teams working in these areas are all viable job options for . . . More
Views: 18476 | Comments: 13
Last by Priyanka Choudhury on Apr 02, 2013, 11:45am
I get asked this question a lot. There are two questions, actually, that students ask me all the time. One is: how did I get my job? The other: do I really need a PhD?

Today I will attempt to answer the second question.

So I was going to start out by saying that whether or not a PhD is the right choice for you depends on what you want to do with your life. Essentially- where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? And then I read the article by Image Goddess about how annoying this question is (and I laughed). So let's not go there.

I understand that not everyone has a clear vision of what they want in life. They aren't sure what makes them happy at age 21, or even 25, so how can you choose whether or not to devote 6 years of your life to working slave hours for barely living wages? This certainly complicates things.

The decision as to whether or not to get a PhD really does depend on having some idea of what you want to do in the future. If you don't really want it, I think you'll be miserable and chances are you won't make it through. According to this article, only 57% of st . . . More
Views: 1580 | Comments: 14
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Mar 09, 2011, 2:08pm
I thought long and hard about the blog topic today because really, when you think about the subject of "what would I be doing now, if I could be doing something else" well, that's a complicated question.

There's the thing you could have been doing if you had chosen a completely different path a long, long time ago. That's totally different from what I would like to be doing now if I could do something different. And the answer would be very different if asked, what would I do if I could do anything in the universe. And the answers to all of these change based on where you are in life too as well as, say, if I hit the lottery tomorrow, what would I do instead of what I do now, if money didn't matter.

So I was thinking about what else I would have liked to study if I could study something else. Still be a scientist but studying something else. And I know what the answer is.

I would make it my life's mission to cure multiple sclerosis. If I could quit my job right now and work for free in any lab I wanted, fully funded, I'd find an MS lab and work on that. Because MS bother me. It bothers me that this disease is still so mysterious and u . . . More
Views: 1162 | Comments: 9
Last by Suzy on Mar 06, 2011, 2:45am
Picking up our discussion on the new product development life cycle, we last talked about R&D and before that feasibility. The next department to work on the new product is marketing. The person who will announce to the world the arrival of this new kit is the Product Manager or Marketing Manager.

(If you do not recognize some terms used here, please ask or check the Marketing Dictionary.)

Today's article is a lesson on how to calculate the size of a market and how to estimate how much money one can make in that market.

During feasibility, marketing provided the committee a financial analysis of the product. This is called the "business case". The key concerns are always around the numbers. There are numerous tasks to keep track of in preparation for a product launch and most of the early tasks revolve around market and cost analysis. The later tasks revolve around the creative aspects of marketing the product (design of . . . More
Views: 1070 | Comments: 17
Last by Suzy on Feb 24, 2011, 9:05pm
My travel schedule is set for another year. Every year I tell myself I’m not going to commit to so much travel but whenever I am asked to cover some event, it’s an opportunity for me to talk to people in diverse and burgeoning fields and get new ideas for products, so I don’t say no.  And who doesn’t enjoy attending conferences? So I’ll be traveling to a conference every month from now until October with a break in September.   

Does it sound like fun? There are pros and cons to traveling for work. If you like visiting different cities and enjoy meeting people and talking science all day long, you would love it. If you would rather chain yourself to the lab bench than talk to a hundred people in an 8 hour day, then this part of a biotech job may not be for you. Fortunately, it’s not required for all jobs and you can always decline.

I came up with my list of what I like and dislike about traveling for work.  Maybe this will help some people considering careers in marketing or sales, because this is a big part of the selling life.

*****

The Good: I love meeting scientists, hearing about their work, and getting compliments on our products by scientists

The Bad: Talking for 8 hours a day to strangers makes me want to go back to . . . More
Views: 4353 | Comments: 6
Last by Suzy on Feb 17, 2011, 10:19am
OK, let’s pick up our discussion where we left off last week, at feasibility. You did it. You successfully convinced a room full of vice presidents and directors, or maybe even the CEO that they should take your fabulous product idea to the next level. You’ve got marketing on board, excited to promote it and now it’s time for the work to begin.

You are the lead scientist so this will be your baby. You most likely are working on other projects too so you have to divide your time wisely. An R&D scientist always has multiple projects as various stages of the development process. You don’t get to spend full time on one thing. You know what your deadlines are and the target dates for giving updates to the committee and you make it a point to meet them.

I think to fully explain how a product is developed it would be helpful to have an example. Let’s use an example of something that no one has ever figured out how to do yet but almost everyone wishes they had a solution for. How about:

A novel method that allows for any protein of any size or sequence or species to fold correctly when recombinantly expressed in E.coli cells.

No inclusion bodies, no toxic . . . More
Views: 1004 | Comments: 5
Last by Alchemystress on Feb 10, 2011, 7:45pm
Think about all of the products you use every day, both at home and at work. Every single thing you use started out as an idea or concept from someone who thought, “If I had something like this, it would make life so much easier.” We all have those ideas. But how does a product go from concept to solid object sitting on a shelf waiting for you to buy it? The process is long and complex and involves many people. Even the simplest more inexpensive item requires the touch of dozens and sometimes hundreds of people.

Most of us never think about how that thing or kit came to existence and what was involved to make it happen.  But if you knew how much work went into every last detail down to the way it looks when you open it and how you heard about it, you would never look at a product the same way again.

Today I am going to tell you how this works.  Naturally this process varies greatly depending on the size of the company and the type of product (for example, software vs a DNA kit, vs a sequencing service are totally different). I am going to describe the process in more general terms. Because the truth is that even in a small company, this process must be followed. The system is in place to make sure mistakes are not made, that lemons are killed before too much t . . . More
Views: 2448 | Comments: 16
Last by Suzy on Feb 16, 2011, 2:04pm
My grad schools days are long behind me, and as time goes on, my memories of the pain and suffering become more of a blur. But, there was one day that I will never forget. Not only did I lose an entire days work, but I was lucky to avoid serious injury. It was the day I made the biggest mistake I ever made in the lab.

My graduate school was in a southern area of the country where obnoxious humidity hovered over you, causing you to sweat just from the act of breathing. Homes in this state were built during the confederacy, and as such, did not have air conditioning. In fact, running an air conditioner, if you actually could afford a window unit, would use so much power that you could turn nothing else on in the place without blowing two of the four fuses which powered the apartment from an outside fuse box.

So, just like all good graduate students, I spent most of my weekends in the lab where the air conditioning liberally blasted away with no concern for the electric bill. Because of the unbearable humidity, and because I rode a bicycle four miles to the lab in this sweltering heat, typical clothing was always shorts, t-shirts, and plain white keds with no socks. I was dripping sweat on arrival but achieved immediate relief once inside the arctic air of the med . . . More
Views: 2013 | Comments: 19
Last by Michelle on Nov 27, 2011, 10:37pm
Thank God it's Thursday because I am already burnt out from the first three days of this week. It has been an inordinately stressful week for multiple reasons, one of which I will talk about today.

It's not the lab. Lab work is like heaven for me. I love escaping to the bench, avoiding human contact, and focusing on how to get something puzzling to work.

It's not the next looming product launch, although it does have my stomach in knots and feels a little like a 800 lb gorilla on my back. I am still 75% sure we'll finish on time.

What’s really causing me mad stress this week is managing people.  I can see why experience in managing people is so critical to employers. Because it is tough and every problem situation is unique so there is no way to train for this.  You just have to learn through doing and then figure out what you could have done better after.

It all started with an email. Doesn't it always start with email? Email is so tricky, you know. Intentions and tone can be misinterpreted through email and this happens on both sides. When you send an email to someone, you have no idea what their day was like. They might be having the worst day ever and even the slightest comment may be perceived antagonistically. Even dealing with people you . . . More
Views: 16413 | Comments: 18
Last by Suzy on Jan 27, 2011, 11:25am
I would like to thank AGreenMonster for these great questions for discussion. I am going to answer these from my perspective, which is from a life science company. I welcome anyone to give their feedback as well. In fact, if any of the readers out there feels like they have a lot to share, I would be happy to host your article on my blog so that you may provide more details. Just drop me a line.

Hi Jade!

The question from me would be, what would you say is the biggest difference between academic research and industrial research?   You say you don't have the same independence- how does that translate day by day?  Does that mean that you're given a project and are told what procedure to do at every step?  Or do you mean, that you told you need to work on x and get y in whichever manner you can?

To answer this question, let's first list some of the pros about working in an academic setting. You get to ask your own questions, questions that are interesting to you personally. No one is telling you what to do, how to do it, or for that matter keeping track of your time in any way. As long as you are productive and moving forward, you are doing well.

In contrast, in a company, you may have to work on a project that doesn’t interest you much. You ma . . . More
Views: 6569 | Comments: 14
Last by Suzy on Jan 23, 2011, 2:53pm
Many thanks to the scientist who sent in these great questions for discussion.  I welcome input from everyone so please share your advice with this reader. If anyone has more questions, please feel free to email me privately if you prefer. These questions were edited to remove specific details and indentifying information.

******************

Hi Jade,
I'm a frequent reader of the blog, if a rare commenter. I thought I would ask your advice on moving into biotech jobs. To give you a bit of background, I am doing my PhD at a UK university and still in my first year, but I'm certain I would like to work in industry. I spent two and a half years before grad school at a small company, working in a contract research division that ran tests looking for acute toxic effect in pre-clinical compounds from pharmaceutical companies. I found I liked the company environment for research, and quickly figured out that tenure-track faculty positions aren't what I'll be looking for. My work has mostly been happenstance, not that I don't find it interesting, but I have many other research interests, like cancer biology, immunology, and virology. I want to have a game plan in moving forward in my career, and figure now is better than later to have one. I am curious for your opin . . . More
Views: 1064 | Comments: 3
Last by Ruby Gadelrab on Jan 12, 2011, 7:24pm
For those of you who follow the tweets of @DivaBiotech, you are already familiar with the varied interests and activities of outgoing world traveler and international marketing guru in the area of genomics, Ruby Gadelrab. Ruby is one of my favorite tweeps, keeping me up to date on the personal genomics scene and the latest biotech science news. I asked Ruby to guest post on LabSpaces so we can hear more from this former molecular biologist turned marketing executive supertalent. Her background and experiences in biotech and her love for cutting edge science make her an excellent source of information and inspiration for up-and-coming biotech scientists.

Thank you Ruby for sharing this article with us. I hope we can print Part 2, when you report the results of your genetic profile. Depending on what comes back, I may do the same.

*********************************

During the summer of 2009, I came across a fascinating Genetic Study that I decided to participate in. Part 1 of this blog will describe the study and some of its features I particularly liked. In Part 2, I will share some of my personal experiences in participating in the study.

The Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative ( . . . More
Views: 5011 | Comments: 31
Last by Atet Kao on May 24, 2013, 3:04pm
I am a scientist for profit. This means, as you are well aware, I have to work with marketing people to generate pretty pictures showing perfect results with any product that we sell. You know those flyers and brochures and ads in BioTechniques where a tiny picture of a gel or a qPCR assay with photoshop perfect curves or bands is plopped on the page next to some meaningless picture and supposed to convince you to call or go to a website? Those things.

Before working for a company, I would take a look at those pictures but I never put much stock into them. I mean, of course they're going to show perfect data. What else will they show? Their kit sucks next to a competitor? So marketing data never really did sway me much. I looked at it, but not in any depth. I guess, I expect there to be some attempt at science in the ad, but it's merely representative data.

My first biotech job wasn't in marketing. The company I worked for was and still is considered one of the best in the world and I was so very proud to be a part of that company. When they would introduce a new product, the product manager would come present all the beautiful R&D data proving the product works and it was convincing. I would walk away from those meetings absolutely positive that . . . More
Views: 1233 | Comments: 8
Last by Genomic Repairman on Aug 01, 2010, 8:34am
As more and more of my academic scientist friends become disillusioned with their prospects for a balanced life or financial freedom, moving to industry seems the logical choice. If you really want to make the big dollars, you'll want to move out of the lab and try out marketing or sales.

Now, you won't be able to go directly to a marketing position from the lab without some marketing experience or maybe having taken a few marketing classes. But scientists can transition from an industry lab position to a marketing position or go straight into sales, which only really requires that you are a scientist that is outgoing and friendly to others. (An oxymoron, I know).

If you do make the change to a company, even as an R&D scientist, you'll be interacting with marketing a lot. To aid in your understanding of your first marketing meeting, I’ve put together a list of marketing lingo that would be good to know. This isn’t so much a jaded article as much as my attempt to help those of you, who despite my bitching, still want to cross over to the dark side.

So here you go and please let me know if you have anything to add or need further explanation.

In alphabetical order:

Bandwidth: People
When used: To get out of doing something someone asks . . . More
Views: 752 | Comments: 4
Last by Suzy on Jul 27, 2010, 11:30pm
In between topics to rant about, I thought I would tell you a little bit more about what it's like to be a biotech scientist. I've been in many different sized biotechs and even between them, the culture can vary quite a bit. Therefore, I'll try and describe it in general terms to give you an overview of the life of an industry scientist in research and development (R&D). Of course, some people will disagree. Just like academics, there are good labs and bad labs with good managers and bad, and in some companies you get to do mostly R (which is the most fun) and in others it's mostly D (which can be tedious and not as inspired) and this will make a big difference in your perception of industry science.

These are my own perspectives but feel free to leave comments about your experiences if you like.

Time Management

Let's start with your freedom. In biotech companies, your time is heavily monitored. Unlike the days in academics where you could disappear to the library for a few hours to read or write, or have a coffee break at any time of day as your schedule permits, this is not possible in biotech. People will miss you. People will look for you. It doesn't matter whether you work long hours- or weekends- you are expected to be at the beck and call of your co- . . . More
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