Meet Christina Carlson, Research Biologist (Mendenhall Research Fellow) at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center

Xtina Field 2

Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis. I conduct research focused on environmental transmission cycles for chronic wasting disease, a prion disease of cervids, and investigate methods to interrupt these cycles. Our laboratory’s organization, operation and the day-to-day research aren’t entirely unlike that found in academic settings, but there are some differences between the government and academic sectors. For me, a primary advantage of a science career in the government is that my work directly serves the public interest. As a result, science carried out in government agencies is often of an applied nature—we are primarily interested in and tasked with addressing the most critical questions and problems impacting society, the environment, and our natural resources. The flip side of this coin is that, as public servants, we have less control over the direction our science takes than our academic counterparts since public and congressional priorities change year to year. In my experience, government science puts a stronger emphasis on teamwork and flexibility than the autonomy that is expected in academia.


How did you get your first job out of academia? I thought long and hard about exactly why a Ph.D. was essential to me and exactly what kind of work best fit my personality and motivations before committing to it. That led me to spearheading an agreement with my graduate institution (University of Wisconsin – Madison) in which I was able to complete my doctoral thesis research in a government agency (USGS National Wildlife Health Center). The experience I gained and network I developed within the federal system as a graduate student were invaluable to me in ultimately transitioning into my current position as a government scientist. Of course, not everyone thinks that far ahead about their first job out of graduate school, but I think the important message here is that “thinking outside of the box” can be applied at any stage of one’s career search or transition (I’ve expanded on this a bit more in my response to the final question below).


Tell us about your academic background. I completed a B.S. degree in biology and chemistry at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UWSP) and then M.S. and M.P.H. degrees at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I earned my Ph.D. at UW – Madison through a cooperative agreement with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. After completion of my Ph.D., I was awarded a USGS Mendenhall Research Fellowship in 2014.


As mentioned above, our research is focused on environmental prion transmission and contamination. One question we are particularly interested in right now is whether chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease of deer, elk, and moose species, is able to jump the species barrier and infect other wildlife. In experimental challenge studies, we’ve found that four native North American scavenging rodent species are highly susceptible to CWD, implicating a possible role for these animals as reservoir, vector or bridge species for CWD on the landscape. We are also currently investigating prion uptake in plants and working to characterize a prion-degrading serine protease we discovered in lichens as a novel anti-prion agent.


What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now? Know yourself and blaze your own trail if that’s what needs to happen to get where you want to be. When I decided to return to school to pursue my Ph.D., I knew which scientists I wanted to work with to carry out my thesis research. The only problem was that they were government scientists, and government agencies don’t hand out graduate degrees. After taking it upon myself to present my “alternate Ph.D. path” to graduate programs at the nearest research university, identify a resident professor with similar research interests who agreed to serve as my academic thesis advisor, and serve as the point of contact for logistical and information flow between my academic and government institutions, I was on my way to earning my Ph.D. in a non-academic setting, which set me up ideally to transition into the government scientist position I hold now.


Learn more about Christina on LinkedIn:

Posted in Government, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Meet Caitlin Mac Nair, Patent Scientist at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP



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

As a patent scientist (also called patent engineer, or patent agent for those that have passed the Patent Bar exam), I work as a liaison between inventors and the United States Patent Trademark Office (USPTO). Inventors come to us with an invention in biotechnology (such as a drug, an assay, etc.), and we help them draft a patent application and submit it to the USPTO. In response, the USPTO issues a correspondence called an office action, often listing rejections that need to be addressed before a patent can be issued. We then work with the client to develop strategies to address, and hopefully overcome, the rejections. This correspondence can continue for many years. Inventors can also choose to file the same patent application in a foreign country; since we are not licensed to practice patent law in foreign jurisdictions, we then work with patent agents in each country to file the application and respond to office actions that comply with the laws in that jurisdiction.

As a new patent scientist, drafting patent applications and strategizing responses to the USPTO is challenging. Therefore my daily tasks vary from those with more experience. Since months often pass between correspondences, when a new office action comes in my first job is to review the case in its entirety. I review the patent application, the references that have been cited against the application, and the prosecution history (previous correspondence with the USPTO). I then meet with a patent attorney, and help answer their questions so that they can develop a strategy to respond to the office action. Once we have a strategy, I write up the response. Experienced patent agents often work directly with clients, and develop their own strategy for responses.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

Even before graduate school, I knew that a long-term career in research would not be my best fit, so I was always on the lookout for alternative careers. A graduate classmate of mine casually mentioned that “patent agents” work in patent law without a law degree; it sounded pretty awesome! I asked Google if there were any patent agents with bioscience degrees in Madison, and over the course of about 6 months I contacted 6 patent agents and 2 patent attorneys, all of who agreed to speak with me. The more people I met with, the more I realized that a patent agent required all the same skills that I thought I exceled at (scientific writing, communication, organization), and I realized this was my new dream job. I kept in touch, and as my Ph.D. graduation approached, I reached out to my contacts and asked for feedback on my resume so that I could apply to jobs. This ended up leading to an interview for an unlisted job, and I was offered a position as a patent scientist almost a year prior to my graduation date.

Tell us about your academic background

I came to the University of Wisconsin – Madison to study biochemistry and criminal justice, with the intention of becoming a forensic scientist. I struggled with the courses and never really found my niche, and to make a long story short, I decided to postpone a big decision like graduate school until I really knew what I wanted. I got a job and spent 2 years working at an AIDS vaccine research lab. Taking time off was perfect for me. My job reaffirmed my love for science, and I realized that my passion was actually in molecular biology (more specifically viral immunology). I decided to pursue my doctorate, and earned my Ph.D. in cellular and molecular pathology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

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

Start early. I started conducting informational interviews almost 2 years prior to my graduation date. I think part of the reason so many people agreed to speak with me was because I wasn’t asking for a job; I just wanted information. Even by requesting feedback on my resume, I was still just asking for information. A connection should see you as a person that is passionate about a career, not as a person who just wants a job.

Learn more about Caitlin:


Posted in Patent Law | Leave a comment

Meet Ashley Sloat, Senior Patent Strategy Specialist at Hudak Consulting Group, LLC


Ashley Sloat, PhD, Senior Patent Specialist


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

I help early stage biomedical companies develop and strategize around their patent portfolios and technology. My days mostly consist of client work, including determining patent filings and/or business strategy, writing patent applications, meeting with clients, analyzing and responding to office actions (communcations from the United States Patent and Trademark Office), and performing and analyzing technology searches. Since we are a start-up, I also have some administrative responsibilities and assist with business development (seeking new clients).

How did you get your first job out of academia?

I decided early on in my Ph.D. that I likely did not want a career in academia, so I decided to diversify my Ph.D. To diversify my Ph.D., I took translational research courses, obtained my teaching certificate, was an associate editor for Faculty of 1000, and was a Technology Transfer fellow. My supervisor in the Technology Transfer Office connected me with and recommended me to Jessica Hudak, my current employer. Jessica was willing to mentor me in patent law while I worked at her company. Needless to say, the rumors are true, networking is essential throughout your career.

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

I studied microbiology (bacteria) in my undergraduate career and immunology (immune system) in graduate school. I studied the immune-mediated disorders, Multiple Sclerosis (immune cells attacking nervous system) and Graft-versus-Host Disease (immune cells attacking healthy tissue after bone marrow transplantation). We found that inhibiting Notch signaling significantly reduced the severity of both diseases.

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

Attend as many networking events as possible and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You would be surprised by how many professionals would love the opportunity to mentor you, discuss career options with you, and connect you with additional people.



Learn more about Ashley:

Posted in industry, Patent Law, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet Devin Rosenthal, Integrated Product Development Associate, Rho



Devin Rosenthal, Integrated Product Development Associate

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

I work for a contract research organization (CRO), which is a type of company that provides services to biotech and pharma companies that these companies either don’t have the internal expertise to do or that they just don’t have the bandwidth for. If I want to make this sound sexier, I tell people to think about a CRO like Don Draper’s ad agency in Mad Men–the agency provides ad services to companies like Chevrolet and Vicks similar to how CROs provide services to companies like Novartis and Pfizer. The CRO I work for specializes in clinical development services–basically everything involved in bringing companies from the lab bench to the clinic, getting them through the clinical trial process, and ultimately submitting their marketing application to (hopefully) get their drug approved.

My job is as diverse as the clunky “IPDA” title indicates. I do a little bit of a lot of things: for the biotech/pharma companies I work with, I do everything from helping them navigate the regulatory process, to designing their clinical trials, to writing up their trial results, to advising them on their development options. The perk of working at a CRO is that you work with companies in all different therapeutic areas and at all different stages of development, so you can amass a ton of experience in a short time. The downside is that you typically can’t get too deep into any one project due to your transient involvement. Fortunately this compromise works well for my personality (I’m much more “horizontal” than “vertical”).

For Rho itself, I do a fair amount of business development work; specifically, finding new companies for Rho to do business with, in part by building relationships with various early stage networks (e.g., tech transfer offices, investment/venture capital organizations, economic development organizations, etc.). Some of this I do through conferences, some through local networking, and some through social media.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

My first job out of academia was with a small biotech company, and I got the position doing the opposite of all the usual advice: I didn’t network with anyone at the company, I blindly submitted an application through their website, and I was slow in responding when their HR person initially contacted me. That said, this experience was an anomaly that serves to emphasize the importance of taking lots of shots on goal–you never know which ones will pan out. Chance favors the prepared mind, and serendipity favors the active participant.

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

My original interest in research science was piqued by a serendipitous (there’s that word again…) summer melanoma research internship at the NIH between my junior and senior years of college. I then majored in biology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (and studied blue crab molting), earned my PhD in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan (studying breast cancer metastasis), and did a brief postdoc at Tufts University (focusing on breast cancer epigenetics).

I loved the discovery and creativity elements of academia, but I found that I wanted more focus on an end goal and teamwork than academia typically affords. And I’ll be honest–I also wanted a career that would pay better than what academia could likely offer. After networking and weighing the various options out there, I decided to move into industry.

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

Don’t be afraid to take a chance! Email someone at the company/lab/organization you want to work for asking them if they’ll talk to you over coffee; go to that networking event that scares you; tell the CEO of the company you’re interviewing with that you want a position you’re totally unqualified for. That last one is what catalyzed my transition from research to clinical development, which has shaped my entire trajectory since.

Probably the two most important skills you develop in your PhD training are the ability to learn new things and the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty. Leverage these skills and I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.


Contact/Follow Devin:


Posted in industry, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

5 Reasons to be Grateful for the Internet during a Job Search

Because it is the theme for this week, I wanted to lay out a reminder of why we should be grateful for how many resources are accessible online these days to job seekers. Everyone is generally aware of this list, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of why you shouldn’t take these resources for granted.

Oh, and these are all FREE. Even if you can’t afford internet, the local library has it for you to use.

  1. Online Job Listings

I was just offered a job that I found and applied for through a really simple online application! Networking is important, but I guess it sometimes depends on luck and the job. I recommend sites like Glassdoor and Indeed since they are easy to use and can send you new search results by email, so you can be on top of newly posted opportunities.

  1. Advice Columns

There are many people online providing advice and most it is pretty darn good (if you go to the right sources).  I’ve really started liking stuff from The Muse but I also find a ton of great articles on LinkedIn. Don’t forget about LinkedIn, even if you aren’t using it for networking.

  1. Online Classes

Are you lacking some important experience on your resume? Take a class about it! It’s amazing the instruction that’s available online – you can learn anything from basic science to marketing concepts to guitar. If you can’t find an official class on what you want to learn, there is probably a YouTube video about it. The more time I spend online the more I realize I don’t have great excuses for not knowing something about a job or a company. Check out Udemy or Coursera.

  1. Online Communities

When you’re on the job market it can really start to take a toll emotionally, especially because there will likely be rejections even if you get interviews. It can start to make you feel alone. But there are a ton of people out there feeling the exact same way! I mostly discovered this from the comment threads after advice articles on LinkedIn or in the discussions in online classes in Udemy. There are lots of other places to find communities too.

  1. Social Networks/Email

I greatly appreciate the ability to stay in contact with people I haven’t seen (or even communicated with) in 15 years through the magic of social networks. Someone from your high school could have your dream job or live in a city you are considering moving to. It is easy to approach someone online and send a quick message asking for help. It’s easy on their part too because if they don’t want to help, they could just ignore it, and then everyone can pretend it just didn’t happen.


I don’t know how our parents/grandparents did the whole job-finding thing before the internet. I might never be successful if I had to rely on cold phone calls and bugging people in person. I barely remember what it was like to travel places without a GPS or smart phone.

Being grateful has been shown to make people happier, and happier people are more confident, and confident people are more likely to get jobs. So be grateful! And thank you for reading!

Feel free to share other things you’re grateful for in the comments.

Posted in Advice | Leave a comment

Surviving the Quarter-Life Crisis

by Ada Hagan

“The two greatest moments in your life are the day you were born, and the day you figure out why”  

– Mark Twain

It started about a year ago. I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Ethiopia. My task? Teaching medical students at one of Ethiopia’s newest medical schools. The result? A crisis. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I loved the trip. The students were smart and taught me as much as I taught them. But when I returned, I felt simultaneously exhilarated and lost. You see, I entered graduate school with the intentions of becoming a Principal Investigator. I realized last year, maybe I didn’t. And to be honest, I don’t think I’m the only one who’s felt thisway. Understandably, many of us are drawn to follow in the footsteps of the brilliant minds who mentor us. Later, we see perhaps it isn’t the path for us. Maybe we’re more fascinated by the intersection of science and policy, or public health, or entrepreneurship. Or maybe we want a career with a different work/life balance than academia. Regardless, a common phenomenon for students entering graduate school is, what I’ve heard termed, “the quarter-life crisis”.

The following is my story about surviving the first year of my quarter-life crisis. Gory details of confounding life stresses included.

My last minute, one month experience completely altered what I considered my future. A disconcerting feeling with effects on my husband too. We were both prepared for the linear process of becoming an academician. Now, I had no idea where I wanted to go next and by extension, he was lost too.

We complicated matters by living apart. He works in another state and we needed to figure out how to work in the same state. If I don’t know what I “want to be when I grow up”, it’s tough to know what city I’ll end up in. What if I’m interested in policy? Well, Washington D.C. is my best bet. Government research? Maryland, or maybe Atlanta? You see the quandary. I’m sure many of you can understand, and empathize, when a career decision isn’t just our own. It also belongs to our spouse, or family, in a way. They have goals, ambitions and places they’re interested (or not!) in living. Combined with your own frustration about not knowing and it’s a lot of pressure to deal with!

I’ll spare you most of the details about my journey but I will share with you that it took almost a year. Being a scientist at heart, I wanted a protocol. Exactly what steps do I take to figure this out? Turns out, it doesn’t exist. So, I made my own. Fortunately, there is a smorgasbord of fantastic resources so I’ll share ones I incorporated into my “quarter-life crisis protocol”.


Selecting My Options:

First up, you need to figure out what the world has to offer and this is where the Science Careers myIDP fits in. What’s interesting about this Individual Development Plan is its fluidity. Completion of the myIDP involves responding to questions about your scientific interests, skills and values on a scale of 1 to 5. Every time you take it, your response reflects your current state of mind. Thus, the outcome changes as you do. The myIDP matches your responses with a series of career options based on skills and interest. You can evaluate these suggestions based on: 1) Skills, for instance, are there skills you can improve to make something a better match? 2) Values, in my case, sales was a top three suggestion for me. As I have a cognitive dissonance with sales, I set it aside. Science Careers also provides resources to learn more about each career option. If you feel stuck identifying your skills, ask someone! Your close friends, family and co-workers will be able to help identify things you excel at. My older sister was instrumental in helping me to identify communication, particularly of scientific concepts, as a skill.

Exploring My Options:

Many graduate schools offer workshops and panels for exploring careers. Activities I took advantage of include: 1) “Hot Coffee, Cold Calls: Advanced Career Exploration” (ACE) workshop, developed by UofM students and Rackham, featured by Science Careers. ACE taught me how to explore an entire career in less than a month. 2) “What Now” a two day workshop targeted towards different student groups (e.g. biological sciences, social sciences or humanities). In “What Now, Biological Sciences” I learned tips for creating useful resumes from our graduate school career, networked, and had “speed mentoring” sessions to learn from professionals in other fields. 3) Career panels are great opportunities to get perspectives from a number of people pursing different paths. Make an effort to talk to them one-on-one following the panel and follow up. Many alumni want to help other students succeed; ask if they know someone in your field of interest for an informational interview. Additionally, I took advantage of resources (and vendors!) at conferences I attended. Practicing cold calling and emailing with ACE gave me the confidence to talk with new people. Plus, many conferences now feature career exploration resources.

Practicing My Options:

The only way to know if you enjoy something, though, is to do it. Practice is especially important if you’re worried you aren’t skilled enough! Every skill takes practice, and practice is inevitably, failure. So if you want to be good, you have to fail over and over again. Intimidating, right? I certainly know the feeling, and I struggle every day to be “okay” with failing. This article, in fact, is a case in point. I worry I won’t be articulate enough, or my experience won’t be valuable for others, in which case, why am I even writing this? Because you (or I) don’t know until we try.

A fantastic part of being a graduate student is that whatever you decide to practice, or try on for a day, there’s going to be a way to do it! And if there isn’t, you can create it! As you’ve probably figured out, I’m trying my hand at writing, specifically science writing. Believe it or not, outside of some grant writing courses, the opportunity to practice science writing at my university was conspicuously absent. So I found some like-minded individuals (thanks to networking!) and we created an opportunity. That’s where the graduate student blog, MiSciWriters, originated.

Some great sources of professional development outside of your graduate school are your professional societies. The American Society for Microbiology is developing ways to help their students practice non-academic careers; I’m sure many others are doing the same. If that doesn’t work out, see what your network has to say. Informational interviews have been helpful in identifying new opportunities like fellowships. Once you find something interesting, try it! If the activity doesn’t click, no big deal! Move on to the next until you find where you fit.

The Bottom Line:

I’m pretty sure everyone in our generation hits the quarter-life crisis. We have so many options and opportunities it’s mindboggling. And overwhelming. Not to mention occasionally discouraging. But when you make it through?? Utterly satisfying and more than a little freeing. I wrote this hoping it will resonate with others. Take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone and you’ll make it to the other side. Maybe what worked for me will help you. If not, I’m sure your graduate school has other options that will, just ask!

Perhaps you’ll finish soul searching and choose a new career path to follow, or maybe you’ll become more enthusiastic and passionate about the path you’ve already chosen. Either way, don’t ignore the temporary crisis. Embrace it. Grow in it. Learn from it. Maybe you won’t find the reason you were born just yet, but as long as your work makes you happy and fulfilled, I’m sure you’ll find your answer eventually.


IMG_20150821_180518_12Ada Hagan is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan in the department of Microbiology and Immunology and co-founding editor of the student blog MiSciWriters. Follow her on Twitter (@adahagan).

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet Noah Wolfson, R&D scientist at Ophthotech

Noah Wolfson

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

Essentially, I’m an in-house scientific consultant.  On a daily basis, I work with various departments at Ophthotech to answer scientific questions. If, for instance, our commercial team needs to understand how one of our drugs or a competitors’ drug works, I’ll go in and discuss the science with them.  I’ve also served on due diligence teams for in-licensing new drug/technologies.  In this function, I work with a diverse team to understand how different technologies work.  Once we’ve done that, we’ll also determine how much time and effort is needed to develop the technology, and whether we think that the time and energy is worth it.


How did you get your first job out of academia?

I networked…a lot.  After earning my Ph.D. I moved in with my parents and made it my full time job to find a job. I told myself that I would take any job that used my scientific skills but did not have me working at the bench.  Then for the next 2 months I met with 1-2 people a day and would go to an additional 1-2 industry events per week.  It was, remarkably difficult and draining, but at the end of the second month, I had a few potential job offers, had arranged some independent consulting work, and had met with a number of really wonderful people with whom I had life altering conversations.


Tell us about your academic background 

I spent 4 years as an undergraduate in a protein crystallography lab, and then worked in a kinetics lab for my Ph.D….i.e. I do biochemistry.  For my thesis, I determined the substrate specificity of an enzyme (i.e. why an enzyme chooses certain substrates over other similar substrates).


In my current job, though, the specific work I did in graduate/undergraduate is almost completely irrelevant.  In regards to science, I use the fundamentals of biochemistry and my analytical skills all the time, but I also use many of the soft skills I learned in graduate school too.  During my time at Michigan, I worked as a sexual health educator.  There I honed my listening skills and group working skills, and I use those skills just as often as I use my scientific skills.


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

Your next job won’t necessarily be the job you retire with.  People change jobs and job titles all the time.  Just think of the next step (especially if you are coming from a Ph.D. or master’s program) as one job in a long career of many jobs.



Check out Noah’s LinkedIn here:

Posted in industry | Leave a comment

How I Found Myself Networking


What is networking? When most of us learn about the idea of “networking,” it invokes a picture of awkwardly introducing ourselves to some important stranger at a conference, sounding smart, and convincing him/her to keep you in mind when they have a job opening. It sounds fake and kind of sleazy and makes me start sweating just thinking about it.

For industry and non-academic jobs, networking is vital. On the inside, your work might speak for itself and other academics can help connect you.  To look outside the ivory tower, however, you must start meeting people on the outside. For the shy and introverted in academia, this seems daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.

Why network? According to a lot of people who have real jobs, they got them through someone they know. Online applications rarely get you the interview (even though I just filled out four to feel productive).


Besides, there may be cool jobs out there that you’ve never considered, there may be jobs with too many applicants to stand out by resume alone, and some companies or start-ups don’t post openings because they rely on referrals and don’t want/need to spend money advertising. Even after you have a job, continuing to network will help you advance your career. The purpose of your “network” is to have people who are familiar with your interests and backgrounds who will think of you when an opportunity comes through their email.

Where to network? My main point is that when I decided I wanted to leave academia, I found that it was easier to network than I thought because it started happening by accident. You don’t always have to do a ton of informational interviews, even though they are useful. Listed below are the situations that I found myself “networking” in, with specific examples.


  1. Volunteering and outreach events

Since I am interested in science outreach, when I was living in San Diego I started volunteering at the science center on the weekends. I also participated in mentoring programs I learned about through my postdoc and all of the outreach events I could find. Through my science center volunteering I got to know some of the full time employees, and this way I managed to get an interview for a position there. And checking tickets at the door is where I met Olivia Mullins!

Try doing Science Outreach! Photo: Rueben H Fleet Science Center

Photo: Rueben H Fleet Science Center

While volunteering for adult-centered outreach events out in the community I met a few scientists in industry. When you meet at an outreach event, chatting about your background comes naturally. If you don’t hear about outreach through email and you don’t have a local science center, check LinkedIn or craigslist for volunteer opportunities. Searching LinkedIn under the jobs section, you can often find postings by VoluteerMatch.

  1. Meet-up groups

I am spoiled in So Cal because there are scientists everywhere, but I found a number of meet-up groups where the members worked in the science community. In case you haven’t heard of it, is a website where you can find people that have a common interest who hold events. I found a group that called themselves nerds, so of course there were a few scientists in there. Another was a skeptic group that held monthly science talks – I only went to one meeting, but the few that I met were involved in science somehow. I met someone once who was part of a DIY science meet-up, who seemed to consist of a lot of educators. Depending on your location, the number of meet-up groups varies a lot, but you can also start your own.

  1. Career development workshops

You may be antsy to get out of academia, but while you are there don’t take for granted the career development resources you have at your disposal. Most places have a designated career development or grad student/postdoc office for such things, and you can even volunteer to set up an event if you aren’t satisfied with what they offer. If you help organize a career panel, you can host one of the professionals on the panel for the day. Or, you can organize a lunch, where one person comes to talk about their career and answer questions in a small group setting (h/t to TSRI for doing those).

I’m also going to mention Toastmasters here – in case you aren’t familiar, Toastmasters is a public-speaking club and they are located throughout the world. They often put their meetings on because they are open to anyone who wants to check it out. I did Toastmasters in San Diego and it was not only a great place to meet awesome supportive people, but it is the quintessential career development workshop open to the public.

  1. Online (LinkedIn groups, discussion groups)

I saved this option for last because it’s not exactly real-life and social media isn’t a great thing to spend too much time on when working, but it can still be productive. My one example is that I started chatting with someone through LinkedIn who is trying to start a science communication agency, and this was initiated by commenting on a post he wrote. One trick I learned about LinkedIn is that you can message people in a group that you join without being connected, so join groups that are relevant to your interests (there are non-academic PhD career groups). I’ve also become connected to people through Facebook discussions groups about science communication. Someone else might mention Twitter here, but I still don’t know how to use that one productively.


And as a note to anyone who gets nervous meeting new people, let me tell you – it gets easier the more you do it. So go do it.

This list is mostly based on my personal experiences, so it would be great if anyone wanted to add their own networking tips in the comments! Thanks!

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Meet Jessica Ricci, High School Science Teacher at Sierra Canyon School 

Jessica Ricci Picture

Jessica Ricci, High School Science Teacher

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

I’m a high school science teacher. I teach five classes: this year its four sections of chemistry and one of physics. Classes are about fourteen students each, so I really get to know them. I have a lot of independence about what I teach, which allows me to be creative about my curriculum and find what works best for my students and me. We just celebrated Mole Day with guacamole, whack-a-mole, and a conversion scavenger hunt. The other chemistry teacher, who also has a Ph.D., and I have big plans for Mole Day next year! Part of my job also involves duties outside the classroom like club advisor and chaperone for school events.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

I decided that I wanted to go into teaching following graduate school. The job market for a full time lecturer position at a college is small, and I didn’t want to cobble together multiple adjunct positions. So I decided to look for jobs as a science teacher at a private high school because they do not require a teaching credential. There are placement services, free of charge to you, that can help you find a position. I used one specific to science teachers called ATOMS.

Tell us about your academic background 

I got my B.S. in Biochemistry from Rutgers University. There I did research on bacteria living in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. I received my Ph.D. in Biology from the California Institute of Technology. My graduate research focused on a particular class of lipids that bacteria make called hopanoids. These lipids have been preserved in rocks for billions of years and are bacterial fossils, just like dinosaur bones. They have the potential to tell us about ancient life on Earth. The only problem is, no one agrees on what they were telling us! That’s where my work tried to shed some light.

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

Go for it! Don’t worry if everyone else you know is continuing on in academia. Do what is right for you. I felt a lot of stigma about leaving academia, but it was completely the right decision. If you’re thinking about teaching high school, get some experience tutoring or visiting a class to make sure interacting with adolescents day-to-day is right for you.

Posted in Education, K-12, Teaching | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet Tien-Huei Hsu, Assistant Medical Director at Health Science Communications


Tien-Huei Hsu, Assistant Medical Director at Health Science Communications

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

I’m in the medical communications field. Our clients are pharmaceutical and medical device companies, which include big pharma, as well as small biotechs, and we can be brought on at different stages of a drug or medical device lifecycle (pre-launch, launch, post-launch active marketing, market maturity). We assist in developing a product differentiation strategy that is grounded in scientific data, key opinion leader engagement, and competitive landscape analyses. We create content that is aligned with the scientific strategy, and tailor our deliverables to the needs of pertinent audiences (physicians, scientists, hospital administrators, value analysis committees etc). Much of our work is directed at educating physicians about a disease state, the unmet needs in a therapeutic area, and informing them of the benefits and risks of new therapies.

Our deliverables are varied, and include everything from word documents and PowerPoint presentations to congress booth panels and virtual reality videos demonstrating the mechanism of action of a drug. With each project, I work in an assigned team, comprised of members from the accounts, creative, editorial, and finance departments. My day-to-day job varies, depending on the project. On any given day, I could be researching clinical trials, talking a client through an outline for a deliverable, discussing visually impactful ways of presenting scientific data with our creative team, working on identifying key opinion leaders, or attending an advisory board.

How did you get your first job out of academia?

This is my first job out of academia. I met representatives from my current company at a recruiting event at my postdoc institution, applied for the position, went through a long interview process, and got the position.

This is, without a doubt, a much abbreviated version; my actual job search lasted >12 months.

Tell us about your academic background 

I received both my undergraduate (BS, Biology and Philosophy) and graduate degrees (PhD, Microbiology and Immunology) from the University of Michigan, and I went on to do a postdoc at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Microbiology). I’ve always been fascinated by viruses, and so I naturally gravitated in that direction. My research over the years had focused on identifying host factors that contribute to morbidity and mortality during viral infections.

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

Network – even/especially if it seems scary! My job search didn’t gain traction until I started conducting informational interviews. These were 20 minute conversations over the phone or in person over coffee. Often, people are more than willing to share their experience with you. I have spoken to patent lawyers, a legislative assistant, an economist, a health policy professor, a senior project manager at a non-profit, and numerous others. This list may appear haphazard, but these conversations exposed me to diverse career paths, and helped me figure out what it is I wanted to do (and I got to meet really cool people).

Needless to say, please always be appreciative and respectful of other people’s time.

Tien’s LinkedIn:

Posted in Communications, industry, Medical Communications | Tagged , , | Leave a comment