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Author: Suzy | Views: 23056 | 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: 3433 | 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
Author: Suzy | Views: 6637 | 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: Disgruntled Julie | Views: 1441 | Comments: 17
Last by GMP on Aug 29, 2010, 7:29pm
Yesterday, LabMom discussed the problems with science and gender at a very young age when trying to enroll her daughter in science camp. Seeing as I have no children myself (nor will I anytime soon), I tend to steer clear of discussions relating to children and parenting. However, something else LabMom mentioned caught my eye.

“It is no secret that boys tend to lean towards subjects in the physical sciences, while girls tend to have more interest in the biological sciences, but I had just assumed there were be a few other girls at dinosaur camp.”

I feel like this is a topic that is coming up more and more frequently. While I used to just read about the problem with getting girls interested in science, more and more I see individuals phrasing it as a necessity to get females more interested in the physical sciences. (Note: I’m not trying to say that LabMom is doing this, but rather her post and subsequent comments made me realize how this is becoming a more common topic.)

But I have to confess… I don’t understand why this is a BAD thing. I’m not talking about situations where women are not exposed to science at the same level as men, but rather . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 1267 | Comments: 17
Last by Alena on Jan 06, 2012, 12:34pm
Alchemystress is a graduate student working on her PhD in Chemistry. She works on instrumentation, biotech, microfab and nanotech. She is in her first year of a PhD program but second year of graduate school. Alchemystress started out as a biochemistry student and did a BS in biology and has worked in the proteomics field of cancer research for about 2.5 years before starting her work in chemistry.


I am super feminine, but not girly, I dress classic like Audrey Hepburn but have tattoos, and skulls on my keychain, working on a quarter sleeve in fact. I am a chemist that does engineering and biology. I drive a truck and wear high heels almost everyday. I model, I do runways, I build mass specs and nanodevices. I spin fire, and am an honorary part of a fire circus and I teach organic chemistry. I did Burning Man, I did research on a boat in Hawaii. I have a horrid curiosity to the point where I want to know everything even, when I am not interested. I hike and love the outdoors, camping and getting dirty but enjoy a good dance club as well. I drink whiskey and smoke cigars sometimes, and I also like to run long distances.

I think people forget that to be successful doesn’t m . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 12534 | 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: 1856 | Comments: 9
Last by Ragamuffin on May 04, 2011, 12:57am
This week's guest blogger is Kristin Lammers. She has an MS in chemistry from Rutgers University and is currently a PhD student at Temple University in physical chemistry. Her thesis work is on environmental chemistry and CO2 sequestration.


I recently read Jade's post about what she would want to study if she wasn't working in the biotech industry. She indicated that she would love to research multiple sclerosis and this has motivated me to share with you my perspective on life as a graduate student. In actuality, we may all go through the thought process of questioning our current path in the sciences. This is usually catalyzed by some experiment gone wrong or when we are in the “negative region of the sine wave”, which is quite a common case in graduate school. However, my perspective really isn’t too far of a stretch from the life of a graduate student, just that there is one extra hurdle to deal with, and maybe an extra abundance of caffeinated drinks. I have been “blessed” with (a) MS. Yes, the degree in chemistry and the autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis. Interestingly enough for me, I rec . . . More
Author: Disgruntled Julie | Views: 1053 | Comments: 13
Last by Odyssey on Aug 05, 2010, 8:17pm
A female physician with a successful career and family once tried to explain the work-family balance to me as: "You can have it all; you just can't have it all when you want it." In other words, she went for the whole good things come to those who wait cliche -- in other words, eventually, someday, you'll retire and then you'll get the family life you craved while you were working. I tend to think of it more like "You can have your cake and eat it too, but your cake will be triple wrapped in the freezer taunting you for years before you get to take the first bite." Whatever it is that you want, it's right there waiting for you... but if you want it all, patience is key. Sure, you can jump right in and sink your teeth into the cakey goodness (assuming you like cake; I do not), but then the cake will be all gone too soon and you'll spend the rest of your life wondering if you should have waited. On the other hand, you can not-so-patiently wait, hold your hands over your ears while everyone else talks about how great their cake is, and then, when the time is right... unwrap that (slightly stale) cake and enjoy a life of bites.

So why has my life philosophy been reduced to pastries? Well, you see, I have my cake, and I am in the long, slow, pain . . . More
Author: Angry Scientist | Views: 1988 | Comments: 3
Last by Tideliar on Nov 22, 2010, 1:06pm

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Author: Suzy | Views: 7031 | 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: 1875 | 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
Author: Suzy | Views: 1749 | 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
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 3018 | Comments: 3
Last by Dr. Girlfriend on Aug 09, 2011, 3:45pm
For those of you unfamiliar with me, here is a little bit of my background. I recently graduated in December 2010 with my B.S. in Chemistry. I did undergrad research and worked at an environmental lab after college. After about 5 months, I ended up in academia as an organic geochemistry technician at a very large prominent college in Oklahoma.

In the beginning, I was ecstatic and flattered that all my hard work landed me such an awesome position. As the weeks went on, I struggled trying to find my niche in this odd dynamic of a team. Firstly, I am the only American girl in the lab. I did bond with the other male technician and my lab manager but getting to know the postdocs was a whole other ordeal.

See, we get visiting postdocs every 3 weeks. Right now there are 6 here for their 1 year postdoctoralship. This is unfamiliar territory for me because I’ve never heard of that many in one department. They are all foreign as well. However, this is not a problem. I lived in Italy for 6 months and am very respectful and enamored by other cultures. Slowly but surely I won the hearts of the Brazilian, the Pollack and Frenchie. I want to share with you some things I learned regarding foreign colleagues and how my work environment is so much better now.

10. D . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 11356 | 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: JaniceF | Views: 86513 | 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: 47777 | 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: Suzy | Views: 7948 | 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: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 44591 | 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: Holly | Views: 1390 | Comments: 3
Last by Holly on Aug 11, 2010, 7:36pm
The idea of becoming an entrepreneur is intoxicating. You get to pick your own hours, you are your own boss, you get to create things that didn't exist before. For us in the biotech field, it's doubly intoxicating. When we start our own business, we are doing things like curing cancer, creating things that enhance science and research, or educating the world. These are all causes that the average person would love to dedicate their lives to.

If you are thinking about creating your own bio-business, I am definitely not going to lecture you on the basics about starting your own business. Anyone who has gone through graduate school knows what it is like to work 'till 2 am and have to work weekends. You also know what it is like to have your mind completely engulfed by an idea, and how to continuously build and create upon it. Don't worry, you have already proven you can live and work in this environment. Beyond that, here are four questions you should ask yourself before you start your new business.

1. FAILURE- Can you handle it if your business fails? Sounds simple enough, you work in science, and you have experiments that fail all the time. I am not talking about handling little failures, I am asking how you would react to something you worked for a year on, for 14 . . . More