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Author: Suzy | Views: 116351 | 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.


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. is one and . . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 86536 | Comments: 13
Last by GUEST COMMENT on Feb 27, 2012, 9:55pm
This bit of genius is brought to you by Matushiq Sotak.

. . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 47809 | 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
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 44596 | Comments: 12
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Jun 24, 2013, 8:39am
I’m totally late to this party. I spent the morning writing my rebuttal to DrugMonkey and Co, doing the news, and cranking out a few pesky experiments. Ah, to live the life, right? Anyway, I’ve noticed that all of the good topics are now taken so I have to scrub the bottom of the bucket. I think one of the most important decisions I made in my scientific career was when I decided where I wanted to go to graduate school. The factors that play ball in this game are numerous and obviously not the same for everyone, but here’s my rundown of all of the things I wish I knew before heading off to graduate school.

Not to be too bitter about my undergraduate experience or anything, but the graduate school preparation was horrendous. No one told me from the beginning, “If you want to go to graduate school, here’s the X, the Y and the Z.” This may all sound like common sense, but some of it is not and having someone tell me all about X, Y, and Z my freshman year would have been helpful.

Do grades matter?

YES. They matter as much as they do for your annoying pre-med classmates, especially if you want to go to a . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 42598 | 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
Author: Suzy | Views: 23059 | 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
Author: Suzy | Views: 14355 | 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
Author: Suzy | Views: 12768 | 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
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 11363 | Comments: 13
Last by Laura Maaske on Jan 08, 2013, 7:58pm
What comes to mind when you think of a medical and scientific illustrator? Is it a kind of art you admire? How do you respond to highly detailed drawings? Do the fleshy human interiors make you squeamish, which is a remark I have sometimes received from clients regarding medical images in general? Does the precision impress you? Does the stiffness offer you stillness or rigidity, something to explore? Do you love the great masters of the field: Leonardo DaVinci, Andreas Vesalius, Max Brödel, Frank H. Netter, John James Audubon?

As a student medical illustrator, I knew what I wanted to learn. I wanted to wrap my mind around the science and the drawing skills I would require in the future. I already had an undergraduate degree in zoology, and our courses in the Division of Biomedical Communications were to be shared with the medical students at the University of Toronto, so science was heavily on my mind. There were . . . More
Author: Evie | Views: 8464 | Comments: 4
Last by Evie on Nov 01, 2010, 9:06am is a great idea. It allows anyone and everyone to help out with as little or as much as they choose.

Basically school teachers in the US who find themselves in need, make a request, explaining exactly what they are missing from their classroom. They tell you what it is they need that would be of tremendous help, they explain what they need it for. And how it's gonna help the kids learn, and love science, possibly just as much as you do!

If you can spare a few minutes and a couple of bucks, you can be responsible for making a kid fall in love with science. A love that can last a lifetime.

You the donor, get to pick exactly where your money goes. There are literally thousands of 'projects' you can choose from. I am sure if you browse through the list, at least one will be near and dear to your heart. And perhaps you will choose to donate a few dollars to the cause, in place of your morning coffee.

As a huge bonus, this month, under 'Science bloggers for students', all us science bloggers are trying to get as many people involved as possible. You see, for every dollar you donate, HP will match it, and we'll get double the impact and double the help!

So what do you say? Can you throw a couple of . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 7033 | 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
Author: Suzy | Views: 7949 | 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
Author: Suzy | Views: 8952 | 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
Author: JaniceF | Views: 6468 | Comments: 7
Last by KL on Sep 28, 2011, 11:38am
Today, I met another woman who is a postdoc and has decided to leave academia. That's a total of 5 women now, all of whom were postdocs for somewhere between 1-5yrs and have left or are planning on leaving. And no, it's not always because of family/kids.

I met PostdocXX yesterday at a conference mixer and we immediately hit it off. After the last symposia, we went for drinks and talked and talked or rather she did. I think she was just so grateful to find someone sympathetic to her struggles. She's in a lab with 17 postdocs (50:50 male:female) and 3 grad students. At this conference with her are three postdocs from her lab (2 guys and 1 other gal). Her supervisor is here at the conference and it turns out that he's decided to play hookey and go and see a ball game. The interesting thing is that he's invited four people to join him. Guess who. All boys. And two of them are postdocs from his lab. The other two are colleagues of his that are also both senior faculty. So her and this other female postdoc have been left out. She knows that this is an ideal networking opportunity, but doesn't get the chance to participate because whether by intention or not, she has not been invited. In PostdocXX's words, "I'm just tired of battling the old boys. I don't want to do it anymore. It's not that DrXY is not a good scientist, he's so great. And when I need to talk with him about science, I just email him and he will immediately set up a time. He's got great ideas and is very encouraging, but I don't feel supported, you know. I guess I'm just not ambitious enough." WTF, another one bites the dust, is what I thought.

So on that note, here is the last of my reposts on career trajectories. It's called, "The Glass Ceiling of Academia." and is from April 1st 2010.

. . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 6640 | 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
Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 6375 | Comments: 1
Last by firsat on Oct 03, 2011, 12:12am
In case you haven’t heard, memristors are a big deal (see NanoLetters, ACS Nano, and Nature). So what are they and why are researchers in academia and industry so interested? Are they going to change life as we know it?

Scientists, at least folks like me working at the intersection of biology and technology, are really interested in memristors because they are a fully electronic component that act (broadly speaking) like neurons. That is, they have the capacity to “remember” based on the current that flows through them. So, just like you might develop muscle memory from touching a hot pan (and hopefully learn to pull your hand away fast) memristors can learn. What caught my eye recently was this article that touted protein based memristors. That is, an electronic component that can mimic biological circuits, using biological molecules. Woah.

So let’s back up. What is a memristor? The typical spiel is that memristors are the fourth fundamental circuit element besides the resistor, capacito . . . More
Author: Lab Mom | Views: 5525 | Comments: 10
Last by EpiGal on Aug 07, 2010, 8:22pm
Ms. PhD's post at YoungFemaleScientist got me thinking about this article from The Atlantic Magazine.

Reflecting on the fact that women now outnumber men in the workplace Hanna Rossin suggests that it only makes sense given the evolution of the job force in America. As our society develops from manual labor/manufacturing/agrarian nation to a post industrialized one, it appears that the attributes in women (communication, nurturing, flexibility, social intelligence, the ability to focus) open doors to success which were previously closed. The majority of jobs in the US no longer require size nor strength.
It can be found, most immediately, in the wreckage of the Great Recession, in which three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men. The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance. Some of these jobs will come back, but the overall pattern of dislocation is neither temporary nor random. The recession merely revealed—and accelerated—a profound economic shift that has been going on for at least 30 years, . . . More
Author: Holly | Views: 4391 | Comments: 3
Last by Holly on Aug 25, 2010, 11:42pm
After one of my previous posts, there were a lot of questions/comments that involved funding so I decided to write a two post follow up. This will focus on how/where to look for funding. The next will focus on angel investors that focus on funding biotech companies.

In no particular order:

1. Your Rich Uncle: So many people have mixed feelings on having your wealthy family/friends invest in your company. I have heard entrepreneurs say things like: "Hey whatever helps it get off the ground." If you want to choose this option, then it is completely up to you. Do so with caution. If you go this route you have to be prepared that the relationship you have can go down the tubes. Even if it doesn't go down the tubes, in the event that your business fails you may have undue guilt towards your friend/family member. This is completely a : DO AT YOUR OWN RISK option.

2. Bank Loans (Typically SBA): This is very traditional option. The SBA association will guarantee your loan to the bank. To qualify you usually need to have a business plan, and other information about you personally. It's a great option, especially if you haven't nabbed any other grants or investors.

3. SBIR- Known as Small Business Innovation Research. The NIH also gives grants to . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 3970 | 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
Author: Suzy | Views: 3442 | 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