From PhD to Life

By Craig W. Stropkay, (PhD ’13, Molecular and Cell Biology, Ren lab)

Reach for the stars, they said. You should definitely go get your PhD, you’d be great for it, they said. Well, I guess they did have a point. Pursuing my doctorate degree in Molecular Biology at Brandeis was definitely one of the most challenging things that I have ever had to do in my life. I could spend hours telling you about the long hours I spent trying to construct my dissertation or the countless nights that I had to wake up and drive into the lab from Medford just to “feed” my cells — but that’s not the point of this article. I want to talk about something that I wish was more openly discussed when I first started my journey towards pursuing a PhD. Something that I believe is important to anyone who is currently working their way towards earning their doctoral degree: a job.

Now I know what you may be thinking: why would I need to worry about a job when I know I will continue onto a postdoc and then a tenure-track academic post? Isn’t that what everyone does? That is precisely my point. Don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing a career in academia upon completion of your doctorate. It takes a lot of patience, skill, and dedication to remain in the field after you have literally spent years becoming an expert in everything dealing with Life Science. Maybe you’ve considered going that route, feeling that your choices are limited. Many people believe that apart from academia, their only “alternative” option is to go into industry and work in biotech or pharma.

Image from Naturejobs article

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Undergraduate Science Symposium

workshop-poster-no-bkgd-comp-imagesBrandeis is hosting an Undergraduate Science Symposium and Career Development Workshop on April 12, 2014 (Saturday) (see attached poster). The goal of this program is to try to encourage interactions between the sciences at Brandeis and local universities, and to provide career mentoring to students interested in the sciences. Registration is free, food is provided, and there will be a poster session with prizes.  Students from a wide variety of institutions have already registered:

  • UMass Boston
  • Brown
  • Endicott
  • Clark
  • Mount Holyoke
  • Framingham State
  • Stonehill

and more.  Register soon before it fills up!

Biotech, Health & Science Forum on Nov. 14

Cary Weir Lytle from the Hiatt Career Center writes:

I am delighted to announce that registration is open for Brandeis’ premier career event of the year for science, health and research, and this year more than 25 employers from Sloan-Kettering and Health Corps to Pfizer and Boston Healthcare for the Homeless will be attending to help you.

Brandeis University’s 4th Annual
Biotech, Health and Science Forum
“Addressing unmet medical need.”

Sponsored by the Hiatt Career Center
Nov. 14, 6:00-9:00 p.m., Sherman Function Hall

Grad Students & Post Docs RSVP Here

Undergraduate Students RSVP Here

Meet the panel

This year’s program features employers in public health, research and development, medical research, clinical care, and business… all focused on new ways to improve health and patient outcomes. (see employers list below)

Thanks,
Cary

EMPLOYER LIST

Biotech, Pharma and R&D

  • Alnylam Pharmaceuticals
  • Cubist Pharmaceuticals
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
  • Merrimack Pharmaceuticals
  • Millennium
  • Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR)
  • Pfizer
  • Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Hospitals & Research Institutes

  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Boston Medical Center
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Children’s Hospital Boston
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • MGH, Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (MIND)
  • US Environment Protection Agency

Public Health

  • Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program
  • Harvard School of Public Health
  • HealthCorps
  • Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy
  • Physicians for Human Rights
  • Research Triangle Institute

Business & Emerging Health Solutions

  • Epic
  • Medical Information Technology, Inc. (MEDITECH)
  • Neuro Alert Monitoring Services
  • Safe Passage Neuromonitoring
  • Yesware

Life science grads and postdocs pack room for Career Panel

On Monday, Brandeis University hosted a Career Panel specifically devoted to discussing job opportunities and career paths for individuals with life science PhDs.  The event, sponsored by the Genetics Training Grant, was organized and hosted by Prof. Bruce Goode (Biology) and was very successful in drawing a crowd, with an audience estimated at 90 students and postdocs,

The professional credentials of the assembled panelists reflected the purpose of the seminar itself: a broad sweep of career paths each making use of post-secondary education in the life sciences.  Beyond professional success, the panel was further notable because it was composed largely of women, most of whom managed families along with their careers.

First, representing the academic research career path, was the likable Prof. Avital Rodal of the Brandeis Biology Department.  As a recent hire, Prof. Rodal was extensively queried about the process of applying and successfully being offered a tenure track academic position.  Prof. Rodal cited receiving her own grant funding as well as a strong record of publication as reasons for her success.  Michelle Hoffmann (Back Bay Life Sciences Advisors) has built a career in business and management consulting and discussed which skills from her academic training prepared her for her success in the consulting industry.  Shoumita Dasgupta is an eight year veteran of the teaching faculty at Boston University and advised the audience on how to obtain relevant teaching experience during graduate training and also described how her own career as an educator has begun to include higher positions (she is now an assistant dean) in the admissions department at the medical school.  Meredith LeMasurier works as an editor for the journal Neuron and provided insight into the process of academic publishing.  Her role in the organization involves assessing the merit of submitted articles in the context of the literature and coordinating the efforts of reviewers and authors.  Finally, Jake Harrison (Joule Unlimited) works as an experimental scientist for a small biotechnology sector company.  Jake noted that, like academia, the small company environment allows him to pursue a rigorous scientific agenda combined with the professionalism of a corporate workplace.

After brief introductory statements from each of the panelists, the floor was open for questions, and audience members were interested to learn about job availability and job security.  Jake advised trainees to invest time in building comprehensive profiles on employment focused social networking sites such as LinkedIn.  Shoumita urged students to build their professional network by talking about their career aspirations often with peers and mentors as opportunities can often arise through existing connections.  Michelle emphasized the importance of putting together a sharp professional resume (different than an academic CV) and doing ample homework before contacting a company.

After the event, attendees expressed great interest in having panels on a regular basis, with panelists from additional areas of the job market. A particular interest was in individuals employed by the government or working in a public health or in health policy related fields.

An over arching theme of the discussion was that jobs in any of the career paths are highly competitive but, nevertheless, many exciting options exist for individuals with PhDs in the life sciences.  Overall, given the highly pertinent career information and the opportunities to network directly with individuals in a variety of career paths, all trainees would be well advised to attend future versions of this career panel.

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