Planning Your Grad School Exit

As graduate students, an oft-dreaded question is “When are you graduating?” The pursuit of scientific advancement comes with no roadmaps and the marathon of graduate studies can be particularly challenging in the last leg. When, finally, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, many graduate students discover that there is a more dreadful question waiting for them. What next?

If you look back to the beginning of your journey as a grad student, you remember the days and nights of hard work you put in getting your admissions packets in order- everything from standardized testing scores to letters of recommendation and letters of intent. In hindsight, you realize that the more organized you were, the less stress you faced. The same holds true for when you are about to graduate: the more you plan your exit, the smoother your transition into your next position will be. Michael A. Matrone wrote an insightful article about how to manage a graceful departure from your current job to a new one, and much of this advice can be applied to graduate students and post-docs planning to transition into the next stage of their career.

To begin with, one must have a plan. Nothing can be more challenging and stressful than realizing that you are weeks away from your graduation with nothing planned for your career post-graduation. A proactive approach is necessary to even come up with a plan. If you already know your calling and have a clear picture of the career you want to pursue, you are one step ahead of those that do not know what they’d like to do after graduate school. Most graduate schools have career counselors or special programs depending on your area of study which can help you chose your path ahead. The Rutgers iJOBs program funded by the NIH BEST initiative is an excellent place to explore your career options in a variety of career tracks such as Intellectual property, Science, and Health policy, Medical Affairs, Science outreach and education and many more. Once you’ve narrowed down a career path, you can start taking steps to find a job in that area. Having enough time to network with professionals in your field of interest while also working on acquiring any necessary soft-skills and technical tools is vital.

The next big decision to be made in your exit strategy is about when to tell your boss about your job search. In the professional setting, it is almost always advisable to keep any job hunting a secret from your supervisor. Even the best of working relationships can be strained when it becomes open knowledge that you are looking for greener pastures but is particularly tricky for graduate students, especially those planning to pursue non-academic career paths. Grad advisors may feel a strong sense of betrayal if their protegees do not wish to follow in their footsteps, which can complicate matters. In cases like this, it is often best to have multiple mentors, so they may guide you without having to disclose your intentions to your advisor early on. Alternatively, there are some fantastic mentors out there that will do their best to support and guide you to accomplish your career goals even when they do not coincide with their career path. A great way to broach this subject with a supportive mentor may be when you are discussing your IDP (Individual Development Plan) partway through your Ph.D.If you do plan to have an academic career, your PI may be best suited to help navigate your path initially, followed by a variety of faculty and grad school staff to guide you further along. Usually, it is best to disclose your intention to leave only after your new job offer is signed and sealed. Once again, this is especially tricky for graduate students who have to juggle their defense, graduation, and transition into a new job. This shift is more delicate for international graduate students who additionally have to consider their status and visa applications (check out this post about your life after student status by Monal Mehta).

Choosing transition dates depends on individual cases, but we must consider several things when selecting them. From the time you tell your advisor you are leaving, 2-4 weeks notice is sufficient. For grad students, this is simpler, as the date of your leaving is dictated by the day of your thesis defense. It is important that you tie up all loose ends before going, whether that is making sure your lab notebooks are up to date, your paperwork is in order or ensuring you smoothly transfer any ongoing project and its materials to a lab member. Alternatively, if you manage to successfully land a job towards the end of your grad career, it gives you, your mentor and your committee a sense of urgency to wrap up your dissertation. It is also essential to take into consideration the financial ramifications of making such a transition. A change in your workplace may mean you have to move, which is an expensive proposition, even if it is to find a more suitable location within the state (Did you know that your relocation costs are tax deductible if you’re moving more than 50 miles?). What is more, any gap between your exit date and your start date may mean a lost paycheck. This gap is challenging for health insurance too, as you may lose coverage between when you leave your position as a grad student and when the insurance from your new job kicks in. Often, insurance at a new workplace begins on the first of the month following your start date. So unless you start on the first day of the month, you may be without coverage till the next month begins.

Last but not the least, the key to a successful transition is to do your best and not burn any bridges. It is best if you leave your old workplace on a positive note. Keeping in touch with your advisor and colleagues is essential. Make sure that they can reach you at your new position as communication is critical. Your relationship with your advisor and lab members does not end on the day you leave. Whether you love your current situation or whether you can’t wait to get out of it fast enough, it is essential to exit grad school professionally.

My fellow bloggers, Paulina Krzyszczyk and Maryam Alapa, improved this article by their valuable insights and edits.

Regulatory Writing Workshop: More About Teamwork than Meets the Eye

The following is a re-cap of an iJOBS event—Regulatory Writing Workshop—held on January 30th, 2018 on Busch Campus. Doreen Lechner, director of the Biopharma Educational Initiative and Clinical Trial Sciences Program at Rutgers, moderated the event and provided information on relevant courses offered at the university. Artur Gertel, Principal at MedSciCom, LLC; Diane Petrovich, Head of Medical Writing Infectious Diseases and Vaccines at Merck; and Ketra Volcy, Medical Writer Consultant, formed the panel of experts that answered questions about working in regulatory writing. Rupal Patel, Senior Manager of Regulatory Affairs at Chugai Pharm, introduced the concept of an investigational brochure and led the workshop activity. Qing Zhou, President of American Medical Writers Association of the Metro New York chapter, also spoke about the wonderful networking opportunities in this field.


Before attending this workshop, myWordles Regulatory Writing assumption was that any job description with the term “writer” in it, involved someone working in isolation, pouring over documents and barely speaking a word throughout the day. Surprisingly, my perception completely changed after listening to a panel of experts at the Regulatory Writing Workshop. Each of them stressed how their roles are really part of a team effort.

One of the main responsibilities of a regulatory writer is to compile all the information about a drug in development, including results from non-clinical (mechanistic, interaction studies, etc), pre-clinical (animal studies) and clinical (Phases 1 through 4) studies. This encompasses a wide variety of clinical documents. With such a broad responsibility, they must interact with all of the separate departments and individuals who perform these various activities during a drug’s development. In fact, the panelists agreed that a big portion of their days are spent in meetings, because they are extracting useful information from all of the people performing these different roles. Clearly, my perception of writers working in isolation was incorrect!

Other insider-information that was offered up by the panelists was that occasionally, there can be long work-hours, especially when there are tight deadlines. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens, as writers’ tasks fall near the end of the timeline, as they await information from upstream sources, to compile and incorporate within documents. The panelists agreed that the silver lining to working on a deadline is that it enhances a sense of teamwork. Other information that was shared from the panel was that, regulatory writers can oftentimes work-from-home, which can provide some flexibility and improve work/life balance. In the end, what makes it all worthwhile is that the work of regulatory writers is highly meaningful and impactful to patients.

As the workshop continued, attendees were given the opportunity to play the role of regulatory writers through a hands-on activity. In groups, we were given thick packets that contained information about a certain drug. From that, we were to extract details that were relevant to include in an investigator’s brochure (IB). An IB is a document (~150 pages) that contains all clinical and non-clinical data of a product relevant for use in humans. It is a living document, meaning it is constantly being updated, even after a product is on the market, to include key information about its safety and efficacy in humans. It is provided to all investigators involved in clinical trials with the drug. Some information that is included in the document is in regards to drug indications, reported side effects, mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics and more.

What struck me the most about the hands-on IB activity was the high level of detail that is recorded for each drug. In industry, it is important for this information to be readily accessible, as the goal is for the product to be approved for use in humans. The more that is known about a drug, the safer its administration and use can be. After the activity, each group offered their opinions about the experience. There was a general consensus that regulatory writers must be very detail-oriented, possess a high level of scientific understanding (perfect for PhDs and post-docs!), and be able to summarize information in a clear and succinct manner.

For those interested in learning more about Regulatory Affairs, Rutgers offers certificate (15 credits) and masters (36 credits) programs as part of the BioPharma Educational Initiative. There are also four other tracks: Medical Affairs, Clinical Trials Informatics, Drug Safety and Pharmacovigilance, and Clinical Trials Management and Recruitment Sciences. Courses are entirely online, and are attended by many industry employees, who provide a relevant, real-world industry perspective in the discussion to complement the coursework! If you think you would like to participate in these courses, consider taking them as part of Phase 2 of iJOBS!  Another valuable resource for those interested in this career path is joining the American Medical Writers Association. There is a local, New York chapter that offers networking events and workshops to help you build connections and skills to be successful in this field! Make sure to take advantage of opportunities like these – such as extra courses or membership in a professional society – that provide you with unique experiences, and also help you stick out on your resume as you apply to Regulatory Writer positions!


Edits and suggestions that contributed to the development of this post were made by fellow bloggers, Jennifer Casiano and Maryam Alapa.

Fantastic Resumes and How to Make Them!

The following blog post was written after attending the iJOBS Workshop: Transferable Skills and Experience as a Professional Profile: Resume and Cover Letters on January 23rd, 2018.

What exactly is a transferable skill? How does my resume show I am a qualified candidate for this position? These were questions I was hoping to get the answer to when I attended the iJOBS Seminar: Transferable Skills and Experience as a Professional Profile: Resume and Cover presented by Dr. Fatima Williams. Dr. Williams has worked as a career advisor at the counseling office for the University of Pennsylvania and now runs the consulting firm Beyond the Tenure Track, which advises college graduate students and post-docs on career advancement. Read Blogger Urmimala Basu’s review of the service here. She has also published a book on searching for a career titled:   . Dr. Williams described a resume as a “Navigate your way through the subtilties of the resume by following her instructions and recommendations:

Blue find job button

 Analyzing the job description

When building your resume for any position you want to be sure that you communicate that you can complete the key tasks. Dr. Williams taught us how to use the job description to find the key skills a job requires. Then address each of those job requirements with key skills and show that you have them. The key is to think broadly about your experiences and the takeaway message that you want to instill in the reader. When telling a story about how your experiences addresses a major job requirement, use the following outline: Context ⇒ Skill ⇒ Outcome. Or if you addressed a problem, use Challenge ⇒ Action ⇒ Result. For example:

Context: Research lab was spending $10,000 on a mouse colony that no member of the lab was actively using.

Skill: Used litter data to identify the optimal number of cages needed to maintain the mouse colony.

Outcome: Reduced unnecessary mouse colony expenditures by 78%

This experience outline, in sequential bullet point summaries, will allow your reader to get an idea of who you are while illustrating your job qualifications.


A few additional tips!

  1. Publications are results, but so are collaborations! Don’t be afraid to count collaborations as results on their own.
  2. A big challenge in resume building is how to take lengthy and impressive CVs and edit them down. It’s best to prioritize the information relevant to the position you are applying for.
  3. You should only list one email address at the top, more than one is excessive.
  4. Get a sense of the company audience for the position you are applying for by using the company’s social media pages. Ask yourself, what does this organization value?
  5. Create a narrative with your resume. A summary line or two under the header will allow the reader to have a roadmap of how to read the rest of the document.
  6. When listing technical skills, do not list the courses you have taken but, rather, the projects you have completed.
  7. Under your experience header, you should add your technical skills. Use this section to give concrete examples and quantity of completed projects. For example, if you completed 6 projects write the number as a number (6) and not written out (six), this allows the reader to access your major points quickly.
  8. Situation Task Action Result is a method that is very helpful for concisely conveying messages. Use it to tell stories about your accomplishments.
  9. You can include links, but keep in mind that no one is going to your links.
  10. If they don’t ask for references in the first round, do not include them.
  11. Make sure your resume is visually appealing by not squeezing everything in with a half a point margin.
  12. Use fonts other than Times New Roman…Everyone uses Times New Roman. Try Arial or Calibri for visual diversity!

Key Differences between academic and resume writing

At one point during the seminar, several participants reviewed a resume description of grading student work. The participant commented that they felt that the description was embellishing a mundane task that was not difficult and describing grading in this way made them feel uncomfortable. Another participant agreed with that the description made them feel uncomfortable, they thought that description should be more concise and to the point. Dr. Williams discussed how, in these cases, there are different languages used. In academia, you want to be as clear and to the point as possible. When applying for a job, you want descriptive language to serve as a guide for the resume reviewer to follow along. This type of descriptive language is easy for the reviewer to understand and makes them feel comfortable. Dr. Janet Alder (iJOBS executive director), also pointed out that language changes in the business world in comparison to academia. Dr. Williams also mentioned that many PhD applicants are too modest with their accomplishments and have a hard time embellishing them enough to be consistent with the language of business. She encouraged us to write stories in our resumes by asking “Is it true? If I don’t tell the story, who else will?”.

To help you write your story, focus on your results and outcome. Here are some useful ways to think of outcomes:

  1. Time Spent
  2. Money Saved and/or Earned
  3. Number of people recruited
  4. Number of papers published that was a result of your research
  5. Can the reader picture the scene?
  6. Have I included action verbs?
  7. Is everything quantified where possible?

This seminar went beyond my expectations by supplementing familiar major points and introducing me to many new techniques and suggesting a system to generating well-written resumes. Writing and presenting your skills is very similar to other types of science writing; you must always keep the audience in mind. When giving a presentation, you have to think about what the audience is going to take from your presentation. Likewise, with a resume, you want to directly address the prompt presented to you in the job description. Remember to sell yourself through your writing, tell your personal story in a fun and interesting way, and show that you have the skills to succeed at the position you are applying for!

Edits and suggestions that contributed to the development of this post were made by fellow bloggers, Eileen Oni, Jennifer Casiano, and Maryam Alapa.

Internships for PhD students, acquiring experience for your future career

by Talia Planas-Fontanez

The following is an article review of, “Through internships, Ph.D. students expand their skills and explore their options” by Elisabeth Pain.

If the professional profile of your curriculum is the appetizer, your work experience is the main course.” –Charley Mendoza. The work history in your resume is an essential part of any job application. It reflects the experience required for that position, and sets you apart from other candidates. Based on your work experience, an employer will determine if you can be an asset or a wrong fit. However, even after the completion of doctoral training, a significant number of students recognize that lack of experience can be an obstacle for any entry-level job in non-academic post-doctoral careers.

How does a PhD graduate, with no previous industry experience increase their chance of getting a foot in the door? Answer: Through an internship that will provide you with relevant experience, plus skills and connections in industry. Within the last 10 years, internships with industrial, nonprofit, or governmental organizations are becoming increasingly popular in today’s competitive job market. These opportunities have been providing graduate students a chance to expand and diversify their skillsets, helping them establish new networks, and gain valuable work experience outside academia. An internship is a great opportunity to distinguish yourself in a sea of job applications! 

PhD Graduate Career Paths

After you complete your PhD, a variety of careers spanning academia, communications, law, biotech, pharmaceuticals, and more, are waiting for you. You have the option to apply for jobs where you will continue to use not only your academic subject knowledge, but also the range of transferable skills that you have gained during your graduate career.

According to a 2012 NIH report, 70% of the biomedical PhD students that graduated in the US in 2009 do a postdoc. Even more interesting, when looking at post-graduate career paths, 43% of Ph.D. students end up in academia, either in research or in teaching, while 57% end up working in industry, government, or scientific enterprise.


To explore these employment options, internships are important and could be a key part of your training.

Graduate programs and universities in Europe, such as the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research council in London, and the Institut des Sciences Moléculaires d’Orsay in France are starting to incorporate what they call a “third mission” (Jongbloed et al., 2008). This term refers to innovative activities that, in addition to the traditional responsibilities of research and teaching, universities can offer to facilitate academic engagement within industry and society. Elisabeth Pain mention that “in France, all Ph.D. candidates with a doctoral contract are entitled to take up to 32 days a year away from the laboratory to perform paid work in teaching, science communication, technology transfer, or consulting”. In the United Kingdom, the major government funding body, Research Councils UK, launched a prominent new Policy Internship Scheme in 2015, “encouraging research council funded PhD students to incorporate a three-month internship, with one of a selected number of influential policy organizations in the UK, into their PhD experience” (Wilson Review, 2012).

These internships provide a valuable link to the private and public sectors, for both individual PhD students and their university departments. Initiatives like these create new channels of communication and opportunities for collaboration, which are indispensable in the biomedical sciences.

Create your own opportunity!

Completing an internship as part of your research training can be a great career development opportunity. The most important part is defining your goals and what you hope to obtain out of the experience. If your institution does not offer specific programs, you may decide to apply for an advertised internship or approach a personal industry connection that you may have, to see if they would be willing to offer internships.

Here is a list of some opportunities that could be of interest. Take the time and explore them!

National Cancer Institute

RAND Graduate Student Summer Associate Program

Merck Research Labs (MRL): ADME Group

Eli Lilly


Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)

Edits and suggestions that contributed to the development of this post were made by fellow bloggers, Eileen Oni and Paulina Krzyszczyk.

Meet the blogger: Emily C. Kelly

Hello everyone!!! My name is Emily Kelly, and I am a 2nd year PhD student in the Cell and Developmental Biology Program at Rutgers University.

I’m originally from the beautiful, warm-weathered island of Puerto Rico. Since high school, biology, specifically microbiology, has sparked my interest. There is something fascinating to me about a living organism that is unseen to the human eye. From that time, I developed an interest in both clinical and environmental microbiology. I have a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Microbiology and a master’s degree in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus (UPRM). At UPRM, I worked under the guidance of Dr. Matias J. Cafaro doing research throughout my undergraduate and graduate years. In his lab, I developed a passion for research. Dr. Cafaro became a role model and mentor to me, and is the type of professor I aspire to be. During my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I the majority of my work was in environmental microbiology, but I was still interested in the clinical side. To fulfill this interest, I had the opportunity to complete two research internships, during the summers of 2011 and 2012, at the University of Virginia (UVA), in Dr. Norbert Leitinger’s laboratory in the pharmacology department. After being introduced to biomedical sciences through these experiences, I knew that this was the career path I wanted to pursue.

During my master’s, I met Drs. Chaparro and Langer who encouraged me to participate in a partnership program, BRIDGES to the doctorate, that Rutgers University has with UPRM. This program selects students in Puerto Rico working on their master’s degree with a desire to further their studies with a PhD in the biomedical sciences. This was a great opportunity to continue my interests and start building my career. This is how I got to Rutgers! I never thought that I would get this great opportunity!

Here at Rutgers, I have met great people and wonderful scientists. I work under the guidance of Dr. Huaye Zhang, whose laboratory’s research focus is in looking at the molecular mechanisms that regulate dendritic spine morphogenesis and plasticity. We also look at the effects that changes on dendritic spines might have that would lead to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Schizophrenia disease (SD) or Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This research area goes far beyond what I was familiar with, but what is most amazing is that no matter what the research, I am constantly learning and challenging myself with new experiences.

I’m also part of the Seeding Labs Rutgers’s Chapter. This program focuses on helping to empower fellow scientists and support research laboratories in developing countries. I also joined the iJOBS blog family in the Fall 2017, where I hope to expand my communication skills and inspire others with my posts.

This is a little bit about me, and I will be sure to keep you posted about my own, and my colleagues’, experiences during graduate school!

The Business of Science

By: Tomas Kasza

Have you ever had a bench epiphany? One where you feel that the bench skills you are mastering will never be used at your next job? Making the transition from graduate or post-doctoral training to other types of jobs can be a difficult transition. What is the best way to have your resume show you have the skills necessary to succeed at the positions you are applying to? One way to show that you are prepared for a new career could be an additional degree to augment your education. The certificate in Science and Technology Management from the Rutgers University Business School can provide the business acumen you need to enhance your resume.

This certificate is offered through the Masters in Business of Science program at Rutgers University. The master’s program describes itself as preparing “students with the necessary business and entrepreneurial skills and know how to translate scientific and technological ideas into profitable products and services.” Participants in the program can be undergraduate or graduate students, and depending on their level, they have different requirements. Bachelor’s students are drawn to the program if they want to specialize in one of the many fields offered through the MBS program.  These students take business classes alongside science classes encompassing life sciences, engineering, and information technology. Students learn to apply their more-specialized scientific knowledge to provide value to businesses.


PhD and master’s level applicants applying for the certificate already have the science know-how. Thus the certificate program does not require that they take the science courses. Instead, the certificate requires the core business courses along with two business elective courses for a total of nineteen units. What kind of business courses are we talking about? Some of the required business courses have the titles “Market Assessment and Analysis for Business & Science” and “Principles of Accounting and Finance for Science and Technology Management”. These courses can supplement your scientific knowledge by bridging the gap to business. Additionally, courses are taught by professors who have relevant experience in industry and can address the skills mismatch between traditionally trained Biomedical PhD students and the skills potential employers would like you to have.

Admissions to the program is available during each semester, but some classes are only offered during specific semesters. Admissions to the program requires the approval of your PI, but requires less paperwork than most graduate school applications. Another great aspect about this certificate is that the required courses are also offered online. Taking classes without physically being in a classroom adds a lot of flexibility to obtaining the certificate, allowing busy researchers the time to complete lab experiments. On the other hand, I have spoken to a Rutgers University PhD graduate who obtained this certificate and they told me that taking the class in person allows you to network with classmates who are already employed in industry. So, perhaps the advantages of taking the classes in-person outweigh the benefits of taking them online. That is something that you will have to decide for yourself!

If you are interested in applying to the Masters of Business in Science, you should set up a meeting with a program counselor to discuss the best goals for your degree and desired career path. You can find a comprehensive description of the program here. Good luck to those who decide to apply to the certificate program!

Strategic Online Networking to Propel Your Career using 2Actify

By: Huri Mücahit

The following blog post was written after attending the iJOBS Workshop: Strategic Online Networking to Propel Your Career on January 18th, 2018.

With this workshop, iJOBS once more offers the opportunity to expand networking skills with the program 2Actify. Following the success of the pilot program launched this past summer, (see Fatu Badiane’s experience with 2Actify), the founder, Penny Pearl, is once again demonstrating the importance of effective LinkedIn profiles for career advancement.

The goal of the program is to teach you how to meet new people, develop relationships, and to stay in contact with your network. Success with these new skills can not only land you a job, but advance your career. This becomes especially important in today’s ever-changing job market, in which less than 1% of online job applicants receive a response. Of those Ph.D. applicants that do, many accept the first position offered, even if the salary is much lower than desired. Still, others are often underemployed. So, as Penny suggests, “career readiness is a must”.

With enough inspiration, anyone can stretch outside of their comfort zone. Anyone can do it, but it takes more than inspiration.

So how can you expect to stand out amidst the multitude of applicants? Simple – through effort, persistence, being strategic about your connections, and staying committed to your goal. Ultimately, you must remember that you are the product, and tools such as your LinkedIn professional profile will advertise your expertise and skills. If done correctly, your profile will serve as the tool for your marketing campaign to attract and reach out to the right connections. The great thing is, the networking process does not need to be as daunting as you might imagine. Often, the best way to start building connections is to take advantage of those you already have! Your professors, your colleagues, alumni, etc. – these are influential people who can form the foundation of your expanding network.

How does the 2Actify program help?

The online course offers four self-paced 35 minute modules. Each module offers a step-by-step process on how to create a magnetic profile, establish connections, write compelling messages, and stay on the radar of existing connections. There are also live Q&A sessions and interactive online groups. Although the price for the program is typically $20/month, iJOBS students can obtain a coupon code for special pricing. The benefit of 2Actify, however, is that you edit and personalize your LinkedIn profile, a process that some companies charge upwards of $1200. You also learn how to market yourself for new career opportunities.

Penny Pearl was also kind enough to answer several questions, which are listed below:

  1. What are the four modules and how long do they take?

Each module is 35 minutes long, however, the benefits are dependent on the amount of effort you put in. There are many resources available within the program that extend beyond the modules themselves. As such, the program is self-paced.

  1. Would you recommend the paid features of LinkedIn?

For students who are in the beginning stages of editing and personalizing their profiles, the free version is usually sufficient. LinkedIn does offer advantages to those who are actively searching in the job market through specialized packages offering finite searches and unlimited “viewbacks” (revealing who has looked at your profile), among other benefits. The decision to utilize these depends on the applicant.

  1. Would you recommend including potentially problematic sections on your profile, like gaps between jobs?

It’s all a matter of how you word it. The important aspect of your LinkedIn profile is to advertise the skills you’ve obtained during those gap years, even if it was for unpaid positions. Employers want to see your accomplishments and capabilities, so your experiences during these periods may serve to strengthen them.

  1. Should you put a resume on your LinkedIn profile?

While you certainly can, the drawback is that your resume must be general enough to be of interest to all of your potential contacts. More importantly, when looking to establish connections, it’s much more beneficial to give people a reason to reach out and message you. This facilitates conversation and provides an opportunity for a much more solid connection.

If you’re interested, make sure to visit the 2Actify page on the iJOBS website to sign up! In addition, feel free to contact 2Actify directly at!

Self-Awareness: The Key to Professional Success is Understanding your Personality

As individuals, our personality is unique; however, there are basic shared characteristics among us and it is important to understand our personality as it impacts the relationships with those around us. A simple definition of personality is our natural or preferred way of being. Naturally we feel competent, productive, and energetic, and sometimes are not aware of our innate way of being. Knowing our strengths can be a good asset, but it can also be a liability if they are used inappropriately. Paying attention to our personality characteristics and knowing how to manage them can enhance our relationships and allow us to be successful.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality assessment that categorizes your personality preferences in four dimensions: The first dimension includes where you focus your attention- Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I). The second: way you take in information- Sensing (S) or Intuition (N). Third, the way you make decisions- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F). And fourth, how you deal with the world- Judging (J) or Perceiving (P). Knowing your personality gives you a framework for self-awareness and can lead to better self-management. This personality indicator allows people within groups to speak more effectively about their needs, expectations, preferences and identify conflicts. Awareness of this tool can be used with a group for team and relationship development.

Myers Briggs

Let us talk about the different dimensions of the Myers Briggs personality test. The first dimension is where you focus your attention or how you gain energy. Those who prefer extraversion (E), usually talk and think in real time, preferring verbal communication (so they will not read your long emails), and find listening difficult. They prefer action over reflection, and seem approachable and social. On the other side of the spectrum are introverts (I), who think first and then speak. They also prefer to write their thoughts, and are good listeners. Introverts sometimes seem reflective and contemplative. That is because they learn best by reflecting first, and like to work alone or in pairs. Both of sides of this spectrum contribute greatly to a group. For example, E gives external focus, voice and expression, and diverse ideas. At the same time, an I person contributes focus, organization, and feedback of ideas. It has been found that the distribution of this spectrum is almost 50-50% in the United States. Often introverts and extroverts are attracted to each other and enjoy working in a mixed group. In my case I am an extrovert because I like to speak and bring people together, but I have a more-introverted side when I organize my ideas before a meeting or an experiment.

The second dimension involves the way you take in information. Individuals that are sensing oriented are focused on the present details, the here and now, and what they are going to take out of their experiences. They are highly data driven. Sometimes, they can get frustrated if they do not have specific instructions and they tend to micromanage situations. Those who are intuitive are more future-focused, more interested in the big picture and generalities, focus on theory over data, and do not depend as much on details. In a group, S individuals can provide extensive background, providing data-rich information. They are curious about what happened in the past and what is going on in the present. Additionally, they bring realism and detail to the group. N individuals, have vision and tend to generate concepts, trends and patterns.  They are curious about the future and possibilities, and speak in a general and figurative way. Statistically in the U.S. 66-74% of the total population are S and 26-34% are N. Isabel Briggs Myers, believed that this dimension is very important in defining how we learn. As part of the majority, I am a S person; I enjoy details and collecting data.

The third dimension is how you make decisions. Are you oriented by your feelings or do you prefer to use objective thought? Thinkers are objective, give strong and direct feedback and are problem first and people second. They solve problems by making clear and organized decisions, and they are driven by the need to be correct. F individuals tend to minimize conflict and prefer to be liked over being correct. These individuals are very centered on their values. Because they put people first and problems second, they tend to connect well with people. Remember, regardless of your personality, you can take on either T- or F- perspectives; the key is to identify the appropriate one to use depending on the situation. In the U.S., 40-50% of the total population are T and 50-60% are F. Myers suggest that this dimension is the slowest to be fully developed. We can easily switch between being a T or a F depending on the situation. Within this third dimension, people are focus on deciding what to do or not do upon gathering new information. This is the function can define your life mates, careers, and other decisive actions.

The last dimension is how you deal with the world; do you prefer things to get decided or you are open to new information and options? Judging (J) individuals plan in advance, make a schedule and follow it.  They tend to be easily irritated by unexpected changes and they complete tasks with strong and clear direction. Perceiving (P) individuals avoid planning and want to see the options, enjoy changing protocols and activities, and are very flexible. They can get easily distracted and diverted from deadlines and usually answer questions with more questions. This dimension can sometimes be the cause of tension among PIs and trainees. However, both groups are very important contributors to the work environment. J individuals bring decisions, closure, structure, and an organized life. P individuals brings spontaneity, perpetual curiosity, and flexibility. There is an estimate of 54-60% J and 40-46% P individuals in the United States.

One important thing to remember is that only you can validate your type preferences. It can be a good idea to check the MBTI assessment online to discover more about your personality and manage it for a successful relationship with others. Exploring your personality and managing your preferences will get easier with practice. It can also be a good idea to invite your lab members to discuss each person’s different personality and how to interact in order to have a better work environment. Remember, that there is no good and bad personality, it is about adjusting for the appropriate time. For example, I prefer extraversion, sensing, thinking and judging. According to the test I am a “life administrator” which prefers takes charge, organizing, knowing the facts and push hard to accomplish the goals. In some ways, I found that this is true. For example, I am very organized, so one of my liabilities is that I don’t like changes in my schedule. With my PI, I learned that I need to save some time to try other assays, improvised meetings or changes in the agenda. To improve upon this, I have been saving some time in my day for those things and prioritizing my tasks. I needed to make those changes because I was missing networking, association meetings and others activities that are important to my development as a scientist. Now, I am participating in new groups and meeting more people in the area. The take home message is that if you learn how your group works you can take advantage and see how everyone can complement each other.

Additionally, there are many resources online where you can find conflict management, space for professional growth and more information about each of the personality dimensions. If this is a topic that interests you and you are an iJOBS participant, consider signing up for the SciPhD program in February. During the program, you will have the opportunity to complete an MBTI assessment and apply your strengths to your future career path! After taking your personality test (whether as part of SciPhD or on your own), I invite you to send it to your peers and see how you differ from  those around you!

A First at Ferring


The Rutgers iJOBs site visit to Ferring Pharmaceuticals on November 30th marked the first time when Ferring hosted students from a university for an onsite visit. Ferring was established in Malmo, Sweden by Dr. Frederik Paulson in 1950, and today, has offices all over the globe, including the corporate headquarters in Saint Prex, Switzerland. The site that we visited in Parsippany is Ferring’s US operations center. Ferring has pre-clinical research and development facilities at the Ferring Research Institute (FRI) in San Diego, as well as other R&D facilities in Denmark, Israel, Switzerland, China, India, and Scotland.

The afternoon started with a presentation by Dr. Joan- Carles Arce, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) at Ferring. After giving us the company’s historical background, Dr. Arce discussed the strategic pharmaceutical areas where Ferring is a world leader: peptide-based drugs and biotechnology products with a focus on reproductive health, urology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, and orthopedics. They also have a considerable presence in the field of fertility-related products specifically known as Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) which can help couples conceive. They have products ranging from those that address male and female infertility to ones that aid conception and prevent pre-term labor. He emphasized that Ferring handles the entire life-cycle of a product starting from pre-clinical product development to clinical studies, and even into post-marketing research. Interestingly, in response to a question about acquiring novel molecules or peptides from smaller firms, he stated that there seems to be a reversal in the industry about product acquisition and more and more companies prefer to develop their molecules in-house. This little tidbit is worth noting for those graduate students who are interested in pursuing a career at the bench in the industry since it implies that more positions for pre-clinical research may become available.  While time constraints did not allow him to go into details about all their products, he did emphasize that the core motto at Ferring is “People come first.” This people-centric work ethic means Ferring focuses on helping the patients and doctors, along with its employees.

Following the presentation by the CSO, we proceeded with a panel discussion. Experts in areas such as statistics, US patent and law, medical affairs, market access strategy, and clinical development shared what their work at Ferring entailed, as well as the path they took to get there from their humble beginnings as graduate students. A common theme was few, if any of them, found themselves at Ferring straight out of graduate school. Dr. Yodit Seifu (Senior Project Statistician), trained as a statistician in Canada and then moved to the US. She first joined Novartis, though she is now working at Ferring with a small team that provides support to a variety of cross-functional teams. Dr. Jesse Fecker took a more circuitous route instead. After completing his doctorate, we went on to join a law firm as a technical specialist before going to law school. He is now the Senior Director and Chief US Patent Counsel at Ferring. While he went to law school, he advised that, to be employable in the industry, becoming a patent agent may be sufficient (these are people with degrees in specific niche areas which pass the patent bar exam, which is not the same as going to law school!). For those grad students interested in pursuing a non-research position and have a passion for patent law, this may be the path forward.

Dr. Pierre-Emmanuel Puig, while permanently stationed at the Switzerland site of Ferring, is currently in the USA for a year-long rotation and joined us for the panel discussion. Unlike some others, Dr. Puig knew he wanted to move away from the bench once he had his doctorate. He leveraged his interest in business and management to get an MBA and now works at Ferring in Global Market Strategy and Operations. Briefly, his position involves distilling the scientific knowledge for the non-scientific personnel, both within the company and outside, for example, to insurance payers. Unlike Dr. Puig, Dr. Patrick Heiser, (Senior director for Clinical Development in Reproductive Health and Urology) went for the traditional post-doc following his doctorate, following which he joined Ferring. One way to break into the industry, he advised was to become a medical writer or to work at a publishing house. More and more pharmaceutical companies are now moving the medical writing and publishing in-house rather than hiring medical writing firms. As scientists-in-training, graduate students have plenty of experience in writing manuscripts as well as funding grants which can be leveraged in this particular field. He also made it clear that employees are not pigeon-holed at Ferring, and that lateral trajectories for employees are not only possible but even encouraged!

Last on the panel was Dr. Benjamin Billips, (Director, MSLs) who works in the field of medical affairs. An interesting note for graduate students interested in medical affairs is that Ferring is one of the few companies that hire fresh PhDs for the position of an MSL (Dr. Billips himself was hired for the position without prior experience). When asked if the inexperienced MSLs get proper training or are expected to learn on the job, Dr. Billips made it clear that Ferring invested in its employees and allowed them sufficient time to learn not only about the specific therapeutic area but also to watch and learn from the interactions of other experienced MSLs. However, he did stress the importance of being able to showcase one’s ability to distill complex scientific principles into succinct takeaway messages, which is a crucial skill one needs to develop as an MSL.

The informational and interactive panel discussion was followed by a brief tour of the on-site labs by one half of the group while the other half interacted with the panel members and enjoyed some  drinks and refreshments. For those of you who are gastronomes, it is vital for me to mention that Ferring’s bistro is managed by a Michelin-starred chef!

The afternoon came to a close with students and panel members exchanging business cards before iJOBS attendees returned to Rutgers. While this was the first visit of graduate students and post-docs to Ferring, Suzanne Volkert, the director for talent acquisition mentioned that it would not be the last and that Ferring was looking forward to creating more ties with academic institutions in the future.



What can you be with a PhD? An impactful research mentor

I attended a two-day workshop called “What Can You Be With a PhD?” (WCUB) on November 4-5, 2017. This article is published as the second in two-part coverage of the “Teaching and Education” panel during WCUB.

What exactly can one do once they are deemed an expert in their respective field? The answer to that question turns out to be: many things! WCUB brought together active scientists, teachers, and professionals in a series of panels designed to give you an insider’s look at non-research university academic career paths.

During WCUB, I sat in on three sessions exploring three different career paths. Two of them were related to the academic sphere, “Teaching and Education” and “Government Jobs,” while the third was a departure from the academy, “Non-Research Industry Jobs.” Here, I present highlights from the “Teaching and Education” panel. As the two essential elements of this job are teaching and research, I will present information from those topics, focusing on research in this section. However, the panel went over many other topics ranging from the interview process (a day with everything from research feasibility talks to impromptu lectures in front of students) to work/life balance (expected, but those first three years are going to be demanding).

The panel members were: Dr. Victoria Ruiz (also our moderator), Dr. Jessica Allen, Dr. Nathan Lents, and Dr. Matthew Marcello (a Rutgers alumni!).

Research matters

Having attended a small college myself, I have always valued the quality of education I received there. The combination of a nurturing environment, excellent teaching, and ambitious collaborations allowed to me achieve a dream that I never planned for. Yet, coming to a research university presented me with the rather bizarre line-of-thought that valuable research does not occur at the college level. Though the stakes of research are not at as high as at a research university, the outcomes are nonetheless impressive. As Dr. Cech, Professor at University of Colorado, Boulder, Nobel laureate, and benefactor of a small college education, details in his article: Science at Liberal Arts Colleges: A Better Education?, Small liberal arts colleges produce a disproportionate amount of eventual PhDs on a per capita basis when compared with research universities. Top scientists educated at small liberal arts colleges include, Dr. David Baltimore, Dr. David P. Corey, Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna, and Dr. Katherine L. Friedman.

This impressive and truncated list of names suggests that it is no accident that choice of education matters. Therefore, when thinking of a teaching career at a small college, be aware that the standards for your research training are not any lower than they would be at a research university. As Dr. Lents succinctly put it, “Do a post-doc and make it good.” Dr. Ruiz wholeheartedly agreed. For her 5-year post-doc, she chose the best lab she could and did the best work she could. This may seem like a tall order considering the amount of teaching experience needed to secure such a position, but as demonstrated by the venerable panel members, it is completely attainable. There are certainly positions for those who want nothing to do with research- look for “lecturer” positions in this case.

Work hard during the grad school/post-doc years and train in the cutting edge to be able to teach your future students (check!). Then, once you have secured that cushy small college position, relax and forget about the push-to-publish that has haunted you for the past decade. Right? Wrong. Faculty at small colleges still have publication requirements. Publication requirements will vary from university to university, from one publication a year (this includes reviews and book chapters) to two peer-reviewed articles over five years. A big difference is that where you publish is less of a factor. Moreover, publication in a pedagogy journal often counts towards fulfilling these quotas.

Building a research approach that yields publishable results is something that all of us have been trained in to some extent. Still, having that research totally depend on undergraduate hands is enough to make some of us break out in a sweat. Yet, at small colleges, that is exactly what is required. Your research matters to the extent that it is accessible to your undergraduate student population. As Dr. Lents pointed out, there are “many different kinds of institutions. Higher echelon places will have more money and more resources.” The higher the echelon, the higher the chance you can continue working with mice. Small colleges often do not have the resources of facilities to maintain a vivarium, so Dr. Marcello suggests to figure out in advance how much it would cost to run the experiments you want in the model organism you have access tomodel that you have access to. This has the added advantage of being prepared for interview questions about the feasibility of your research plan, which Dr. Marcello underscored was of tantamount importance.

Almost hand in hand with research is funding. NIH grants are available to undergraduate research programs. The NSF also awards equipment grants to these kinds of institutions. Though the competition is just as high, the pressure to obtain these grants is reduced as the university pays your salary- not grants. However, research costs are also reduced. Undergrads typical perform research on a volunteer or for-credit basis, and the university provides a small dollar amount for each student in the lab. For those cases when your expertise is in an area that really does rely on an innovative, and likely expensive, piece of technology, Dr. Ruiz said, “Collaborate! When you are applying, present your network as a strength and confirm that you can access facilities when you move to the new school. Maintain your ties.” Dr. Allen even said that at one of the institutions at which she interviews, collaboration with a larger university was expected.

A professional staff of scientists (including technicians, grad students, post-docs, and staff scientists), millions of dollars in funding, and the newest research tools are a few things that are not commonly found at small colleges. However, with a little bit of creativity, you may be surprised what your own innovation and the untapped ambition of an undergraduate student population can do to advance your research. As in the classroom, teaching and collaboration are at the heart of successful undergraduate projects. If you think that these two elements are inextricable, then a teaching and research position may be for you.