Meet Meghan Hennis, Associate Consultant at Decision Resources Group

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Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.

I use primary (interviews) and secondary (published medical literature) research sources to understand the preferences of patients and medical doctors for various treatments of different diseases. This information helps pharmaceutical companies determine how best to allocate their drug development resources.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

I knew when I finished my PhD that I probably would not stay in academia long term, but I was not ready to start a non-academic position immediately after graduation. So, I did everything I could to put myself in a position where I would be able to explore my options, develop the skills I needed to be a good candidate for a job, and have the opportunity to apply. This started with my move to Boston because I wanted a postdoctoral position in a geographic region that would allow me to network and make connections for a later move out of academic research. And, although I did enjoy research in both graduate school and as a postdoc, it became clear to me after about 18 months as a postdoc that as much as I love basic science research, I did not want to stay in academia forever.

During my postdoc years, I did a lot of the usual job search things: I visited career services, I joined AWIS (Association for Women in Science), and I practiced interviews. Because I am now working at a consulting firm, I also practiced lots and lots of cases both on my own and with a friend. In addition to this, I spoke with everyone I possibly could: friends, friends of friends, friends of coworkers, people at networking events, contacts that I made through graduate school, etc. In the end, I got a little bit lucky because I knew someone working at Decision Resources who offered to recommend me to the group. This recommendation helped me get my foot in the door, and then I was able to secure a job offer by exhibiting both interest and relevant competencies during the interview process.

Tell us about your academic background.

My dissertation research was to characterize mice with the same genetic mutations as humans with familial Parkinson’s disease. I was looking for Parkinson’s-related phenotypes in the mice, with the hope of further understanding how these mutations cause disease.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now?

Have a good idea of the type of job you want. It’s ok to have a couple of ideas, as long as you can explain why you are interested in each field (and are able to prove interest).

 

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Meet Jessica Flynn, Associate Principal Scientist at Merck & Co., Inc

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Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.

I’ve been at Merck for just over 10 years now and am currently an Associate Principal Scientist in the Infectious Disease department.  Our group is focused on the discovery of vaccines, antibodies and small molecules to prevent or treat a variety of infectious diseases.  At Merck I’ve supported a number of vaccine research and development projects, spanning viral, bacterial and protozoan targets, and I’m currently leading a team of scientists, as well as collaborators from academia and biotech, in an effort to develop a novel viral vaccine.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

Connections were key!  As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, I was supported in part through the Cellular Biotechnology Training Program, a program targeted toward students interested in careers outside of academia.  One of the criteria for completing the program was for the trainee to conduct an internship with a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company.  My thesis advisor knew some of the scientists working in the HIV antiviral drug discovery department at Merck Research Laboratories, and she helped me set up a short internship.  Months later, while finishing up my thesis work and considering post-graduate options, I came across a Merck job posting that matched my scientific training.  After consulting with my thesis advisor, I reached out to the scientists I had worked with during my internship who provided a recommendation.

Tell us about your academic background (describe your science at an undergraduate level)

As I entered my junior year at the University of Michigan, I began work on an undergraduate research project with one of the neurosurgery residents and his team.  With an eye toward the promise of gene therapy to treat spinal cord injury and disease, we characterized adenoviral gene expression in the central nervous system of a rat model after delivery of the vector to remote sites.  After receiving a BS in Microbiology, I joined the University of Michigan department of Microbiology and Immunology PhD program where my thesis work focused on understanding retroviral genomic RNA dimer partner selection.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now?

Make connections.  You never know when that chance encounter, scientific conference conversation or research collaboration might turn into something more.  The connections you make now might someday become the key for opening the next door along your career path.

 

Learn more or contact Jessica: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-flynn-574b0712

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Meet Dae-Gon Ha, Equity Research Associate at Leerink Partners, LLC

 

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Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.

As research analysts, my job is to stay up-to-date on news flow that relates to companies that is in our “coverage universe” and either 1) convey such information and what it means for the stock to our clients (ie. mutual funds, hedge funds, and other institutional clients), or 2) update our financial model to project a “fair value” of that company (ie. stock price). Usually these two tasks are performed simultaneously as clients will often ask: “so, what does this mean for the stock? Do I buy or sell here?” As the public markets have become more global with implications as distant as China’s economy to something closer, such as a direct competitor reporting very negative clinical trial data, our perspectives and opinions need to broadly encompass multiple factors when addressing this “seemingly” simple question. Since we fall under the financial services category, our clients’ satisfaction ultimately drives our firms’ revenue.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

I reached out to LinkedIn contacts (MBAs, PhDs, and MDs) currently in finance and/or consulting for advice on the transition from academia into the corporate world. I also sought advice from friends currently in finance to better comprehend the job and its responsibilities. Lastly, when my research was complete and I understood the nature of the job, I submitted resumes on online portals (usually unsuccessful, but worth pursuing anyway) and directly contacted Managing Directors (MDs) for an informational interview. In two instances, an informational interview led to a job interview and where I’m at today.

Tell us about your academic background.

My PhD work focused on bacterial group behavior inside a human host, but particularly in the cystic fibrosis lung. Both cell-to-cell messenger molecules (called quorum sensing) and intra-cellular messenger molecules (second messenger molecules such as cyclic diguanylate/c-di-GMP) dictate numerous cellular behaviors and functions. I was able to identify how different external stimuli activate distinct proteins involved in the synthesis and detection of these molecules to generate a specific phenotype.

During my post-doc, I sought to identify novel compounds that could work synergistically with conventional antibiotics (eg. Ampicillin) to boost the bactericidal (bacteria-killing) effect on Gram-negative bacteria. The work involved high-throughput screening (150K+ compounds) and microscopy in an attempt to unravel the molecular mechanism behind the potency. Ideal candidates would “revive” old antibiotics that are no longer adopted in treatments due to prevalent antibiotic resistance seen among pathogens today.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now?

Start early. There’s never “too early”. Whether you’re a first year grad student or a first year post-doc, identify your career trajectory, start building your network and do your research on that particular career. Writing your cover letter(s), resume/CV, and LinkedIn profile a week before your application deadline is nearly impossible with an inevitable sacrifice on the quality of one (or more) of these documents. Don’t. Start early.

Learn more about Dae-Gon herehttps://www.linkedin.com/home?trk=nav_responsive_tab_home

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Meet Teresa M. Evans, Director, Office of Career Development

Teresa Evans jacketTeresa M. Evans, PhD

Director, Office of Career Development

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.

As the director of the office of career development I work to build programs that focus on preparing our grad students and postdocs for their careers of choice.  These programs include partnering with the community to build a network of bioscience professionals to aid in the guiding of our trainees. Further, I work with our trainee organizations to engage with the community through innovative community outreach efforts.  In this way, the office of career development not only exposes trainees to a multitude of careers but builds both their network and their marketable skill set.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

As a graduate student it was clear to me that there was an immense need for career development training for graduate students and post docs, like myself.  In order to fill this gap I worked with the Graduate School and our newly formed office of postdoctoral affairs to conceive the initial career development workshop series for our institution. These programs resulted in the building of a platform of skills and knowledge that allowed me to negotiate for my current position within the graduate school.  In this way, I was able to write my own job description and initiate a program that I am now at the helm of creating.

Tell us about your academic background (describe your science at an undergraduate level)

As a graduate student I studied the association between Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and peripheral nervous system diseases such as Lou Gherig’s Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).  I did this using both molecular and behavioral techniques in a mouse model system.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now?

The number one way to get a job is through your network. I encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zone and to meet new people whenever they can.  Also, do not think that you will find your job in a job listing. . . this is not the way that PhD’s often find their jobs.  You too can write your own job description.

 

Contact Teresa on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/teresaevansphd

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Meet Taylor R. Murphy, Manager of Global Applications

TaylorMurphyDescribe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.

Manage distribution sales network to bring capital equipment solutions to a diverse customer base surrounding the Western Blot workflow. Develop educational content, provide customer seminars, train global distribution partners and close instrumentation sales within life sciences labs.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

Worked for the development office within the College of Science at my graduate institution. Personal network was established as a graduate student, and I was fortunate enough for a smooth transition out of the lab.

Tell us about your academic background (describe your science at an undergraduate level)

Investigated molecular basis for the progression of Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Cataract development within the Zebrafish model system.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now?

Leverage your network, be out going and make friends from a diverse business background. You never know who will give you your next reference.

 

Contact Taylor on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taylor-r-murphy-ph-d-66392315

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Lucy McNamara, Epidemiologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.  My current position is as an epidemiologist in the branch of CDC that works on meningococcal meningitis, whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria.  I work on a number of different projects, including data analyses using domestic surveillance data, an evaluation of the new meningitis serogroup B vaccines that were recently licensed in the US, a study to better understand diagnostic tests for whooping cough, and work to support meningitis surveillance in the meningitis belt in Africa.  My activities vary dramatically by the day, but include performing statistical analyses, writing scientific articles and other documents, meeting and corresponding with internal and external partners about our projects, and domestic and international travel to perform evaluations and outbreak investigations.

How did you get your first job out of academia?  My first job outside of academia was as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer at CDC (more info here: http://www.cdc.gov/eis/).  EIS is a selective 2-year service and training program for young professionals who are interested in applied epidemiology and is famous for the role of EIS officers in outbreak investigations and public health emergencies (e.g. Katrina, MERS, Ebola).  Most EIS officers are MDs or have PhDs in epidemiology, but you can qualify for the program with other degrees (including a PhD in biomedical sciences) as well.  As an EIS officer I engaged in many of the same activities listed above for my current job as well as training activities and participating in CDC emergency responses – for instance, I was able to travel to both Guinea and Liberia in 2014 to help with the response to the Ebola epidemic.

EIS has an application process that is in many ways more similar to applying to graduate school than applying to most jobs.  You submit an application (with personal statement and recommendation letters) during the summer, then a subset of candidates are invited to interview in Atlanta in October, and you find out if you made it in in December.  Selection of specific positions within EIS happens later and then the program starts in July.  I can’t say for sure why I was selected, but I think it helped that in spite of my biomedical background, I was extremely enthusiastic about EIS and had a very clear idea of what I was getting into (via my MS in epidemiology and a lot of research on EIS) that I was able to convey in my application and interview.

Tell us about your academic background.  My undergraduate degree is a BA in Biology from Swarthmore College.  I actually became interested in EIS and epidemiology late in my undergraduate career, when I realized that they provided an opportunity to take action on practical public health problems while still engaging in scientific thinking, study design, and analysis.  As Swarthmore is a small liberal arts college, however, I didn’t have an opportunity to take classes in epidemiology as an undergraduate.  Because of this, I wanted to find a graduate school experience that would let me continue to gain expertise in a field I knew I liked – molecular biology – while also gaining experience with the fields I suspected I wanted to end up in – epidemiology and public health.  I looked at a variety of interdisciplinary graduate programs and eventually decided to go to the University of Michigan where I pursued a dual degree program to earn a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology and an MS in Hospital and Molecular Epidemiology.  My thesis research focused on HIV infection in hematopoietic progenitor cells, and as a graduate student I also completed a Certificate in Global Health.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now? I think a lot of times, as PhDs or students pursuing PhDs, we feel a lot of pressure to have highly successful careers even if it comes at the expense of everything else in our lives.  One reason that people may want to leave academia is because it can sometimes offer a poor work-life balance, but academia is far from the only field where this can be an issue.

So my advice: when you’re looking for a job, make sure to think about what you want your life to look like, not just your career.  It’s essential to factor in your personal life when making a career decision – how will your work-life balance be with this new job?  Do you want to move to the city where it’s located – and even if you do, will your significant other be able to find a job there too (if s/he wants to)?  Where will your kids go to school?  Most importantly, don’t feel that you are failing if you have to make compromises in your career for the sake of other aspects of your life.  Family, friends, hobbies, and sleep are important parts of your life too!

Find Lucy on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-mcnamara-958b1026

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Beth Walczak, Scientist at BD Genomics

 

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Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.

My daily activities are centered around product development for a yet-to-be commercialized single cell genomics platform. This includes molecular biology bench work, data analysis, and almost daily planning/data sharing meetings with a multidisciplinary team of engineers and scientists. The atmosphere is fast-paced and very collaborative with a ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach. Everyone on our team has very distinct expertise and experiences that help drive the project through its challenges quickly. This is very different from my grad school experience, where I was solely responsible for driving a huge project that crept forward in tiny increments.

 

How did you get your first job out of academia?

*Drum roll*…Networking! I took advantage of networking opportunities through groups like Association of Women in Science (AWIS) and Women in Bio (WIB). I had a great mentor through the Stanford/AWIS mentorship program who put me in contact with people working science in different capacities. I met a lot of wonderful people who were more than willing to meet for coffee/lunch and informational interviews. One of these lunches brought me together with a fellow AWIS-er who had biotech start-up experience. As luck would have it, her company had an opening for the kind of position I was looking for, in a field I was very interested in. She gave me some resume advice and her boss’s email address. Shortly thereafter I had an interview and joined the start-up as employee number 30. The company was acquired a few weeks later, so I quickly became employee number ~45,000. Needless to say, it’s been a very interesting experience.

 

Tell us about your academic background 

I studied Microbiology and Genetics at Michigan State and then obtained a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan.  For my thesis, I studied how different cell signaling pathways turned genes on or off in stem and progenitor cells of the adrenal gland in mouse models. Mouse adrenals are tiny and don’t lend well to technologies that require a lot of starting material (next-generation sequencing methods used in those years). I faced a lot of technical setbacks and spent most of my time troubleshooting for methods development. While the challenges I faced were frustrating, it was the first glimmer that product and assay development is where my passion is. As much as I was interested in the question behind the science, I was more interested in developing methods that made research possible. Despite wanting to leave academia, my thesis committee encouraged me to do a postdoc to ‘leave my options open.’ I was relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area and was fairly naïve about all the different kinds of opportunities out here. For me personally, a short postdoc was a good idea because it gave me a chance to learn a new field, expand my skill-set time, build a network and explore job prospects locally.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now?

Everyone says “Network!” and I couldn’t agree more. In addition to that, highlighting what you’ve gained from the rough spots in your training is equally important as discussing all the great things you’ve accomplished. For example, I spent two years in grad school working very hard on a project I had to shelve because of insurmountable technical issues. From that experience I gained resilience and incredibly valuable assay development skills that helped me land my current job.

 

Find Beth on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ewalczak

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