Thursday, September 22, 2016

Postdoc Appreciation Week: Speed Networking & Career Panel

Learn about PhDs and Tufts alum that have successfully transitioned into careers in Industry! 

In attendance: 

Antoine Boudot - in vitro Cancer Biologist at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals (former postdoc at Tufts)
April Blodgett - Sales and bioconsulting at PerkinElmer
Anh Hoang - Co-founder / CSO at Sofregen Medical
Michael Mattoni - Senior patent agent at Mintz Levin
Travis D'Cruz - Licensing associate at Tufts University
Michael Doire - Department manager - Biology at Tufts University
Angela Kaczmarczyk - Scientist / Founder of BosLabs
Nina Dudnik - Scientist / Founder and CEO of Seeding Labs

What drove your career path away from academia?
April: A lot of work and little pay.
Antoine: Too many postdocs in the Boston/Cambridge area that also want to do the same as you do.
Travis: Going through the motions and seeing his PIs on their offices for so long, writing grants and not doing actual science.
Nina: Never wanted to be an academic. What she cared most about was not about the details of the experiment but to explain/communicate to others why the science matters.

What do you do to step away from the academic path? What research did you do to prepare yourself to move out of academia?

Antoine
  • He works at the bench everyday as he used to do as a postdoc, but he enjoys not having to worry about funding and getting materials/reagents. 
  • Set up a LinkedIn account and realized it was about building connections. He also went to networking events and started making connections within Merrimack. So start making connections now!
April
  • Make connections now. Do not expect to connect with people now and then ask for help or a job the following day. Having a vaccine background helped her (microbiologist by training). 
  • She loves the speed/demands of her job. She felt like making a change after several years and she likes doing sales, so she made the move and started thinking about previous experiences that translate to sales so that she could use them to get the job.
Ang:
  • After publishing in a high impact journal paper, nothing happens. What was conflicting for her was that all that work led to a high impact journal paper would not progress much beyond that. Thus, she wanted to do something about it and started a company.
  • She came from a large, well-funded research group, so she says she had resources. She also did studies toward a MBA. Postdoc'd at day and hustled at night.
  • Her postdoc did not prepare her for any of this! The learning curve was very steep. When starting a company you do wear 5 hats 40 hours a week. The postdoc prepared her for the science part (to sell the idea to investors), but not the business side of it. She didn't know how to incorporate a company, how to pay her employees, how to provide them with benefits... People management is a whole different subject to deal with when setting up a company.
Michael M.:
  • Realized didn't want to do research 3 or so years into the PhD, but he pushed through. He went to the tech transfer office and asked if they had an intern position. He now wears 3 hats at his job.
  • No need to be an attorney to become a patent agent.
  • Soft skills from the postdoc to apply for a job: the dealing with people, wearing twelve different hats.
Travis:
  • Sought out what other options are there. He found other postdocs who started a small consulting group and he joined them. That helped him stand out among a pool of job applicants when he finished his postdoc. Think outside the box!
Skills that you gained during your postdoc?

Michael D.
  • Took a different path: he did graduate school in molecular biology but as he progressed through grad school he realized that he didn't want to necessarily do that. 
  • Skills: Learning does not often solely happen in the class room. You learn valuable skills at your work place. Rarely the person who knows more in the lab is not the PI (not in terms of the everyday requirements). It's usually the lab manager/technician.
  • He looks for people with passion and knowledge. Doesn't care about people coming from top schools alone.
Michael M.:
  • A major skill is to ask the right questions! In his case: what does a specific sector need? How can he become an asset to their organization? Utility-centered approach. Take initiative. Know where you want to go. Be honest to yourself about not knowing. Get it out of your system.
Michael D.:
  • Much easier to teach PhDs about management than management people learning how to do science!
What to do when you already know what you want?

Angela:
  • Started by writing for the student magazine at Berkeley. Went to a bio-hacking talk and was intrigued by it. Moved to Boston and acquired teaching experience at Harvard, then found out about space open to do science at Somerville. Science classes open to all backgrounds (a lot of them are engineers interested in learning biotechnology!)
  • Events during the weekends and a forum this Monday 9/26/16 at LabCentral.
  • She is also a visiting scientist at the Broad Institute.
  • In the future she wants to do the community lab (BosLabs) full-time.
Nina:
  • She thinks the biggest problems in the world can be addressed by science. Knew she wanted to be a geneticist when she was 13 (wanted to feed the world).
  • Incredible compulsion to solve problems. 
  • When in Harvard she realized that many labs had a surplus of or were wasting equipment that could be used further, so she started Seeding Labs 5 years even before she officially started Seeding Labs.
  • Got funding for Seeding Labs even before she started writing her thesis.
  • Started doing networking events and met people that helped her learn about finances and management.
  • She had to learn about 7 different languages she would not have learned when in academia to run the labs.
Michael M.:
  • You will never be prepared for the next step! You make it as you go along.





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