Staying relevant at your company

By: Aminat Saliu Musah

You’ve landed the job of your choice and you’re finally moving up in your career path. You were hired because you stood out; you showcased your passion and ability to get the job done and you’ve aptly justified your presence in the company. So, what’s next? How do you stay relevant?

While you might be an expert in your field, many people tend to get too comfortable at work. Staying relevant goes beyond observing your daily duties, it also requires a set of soft skills. Three of these skills have resurfaced time and time again from online researching and speaking with professionals. Listed below are the quick, but useful, skills that will help you build a credible and long-lasting career. While these pointers may seem obvious, they are often challenging for an average individual. However, mastering these skills will help boost your career significantly.

Ask questions

An old Chinese proverb states, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” Asking questions in the work environment fosters collaboration and interaction between the parties involved, and portrays you as an innovative thinker. Asking questions broaden and strengthen ones understanding of a subject matter, leading to better intellectual discoveries. This tends to be beneficial to both the individual and the company, so don’t be afraid to raise your hand and get noticed.

march 20 post

Don’t be a wall flower

Contribute to the discussion during meetings; however, don’t forget to constantly research your company. Being able to join in meaningful conversation requires knowledge about current trends affecting your company. Educate yourself. Learn how your role fits into the bigger picture and understand the roles of the people you work with. This will add to the value you bring to the table and will earn you a shot at growing with the company.

Attend company social events

A lot of people shy away from socializing, let alone socializing with coworkers. It is definitely tempting to skip company social functions, however, it isn’t only your coworkers that will be in attendance. As mentioned in this article, it is likely that you don’t have frequent interaction with most of the people at the event. This is a great opportunity to make moves that will upscale your career, so ditch the inebriated coworkers and make your way to the people who call the shots. I should add that knowing who will be at the event beforehand will better prepare you.

Listed above are just three tips, however, there are endless opportunities to grow within the company and to be better at what you do. Remember, many successful people strive to do well outside of their comfort zone; break out now and reap the benefits later.

Below are a few websites I found interesting; they elaborate further on how to stay professionally relevant and what it really means to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone.

6 Tips for Remaining Relevant Professionally

The Science of Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone (and Why You Should)


Edited by Monal Mehta.

Career planning before graduating from your Ph.D.



The following is an article review of “Research your career options well before graduation” by Beryl Lieff Benderly.

Scientists are well trained “to not only collect useful career planning information but also … to reflect on what [they] find and apply it to [their] choices.”- ReSearch: A career guide for Scientists.

One of the many concerns Ph.D. students have is finding a job after graduation. We have always heard that if one decides to a get a Ph.D. it is to go into an academic career, however, this is not the current reality. We have many options besides academia. Many students do not feel comfortable discussing career paths outside of academia to their mentors, but we have reached a time whereby there are not enough academic jobs for every Ph.D. graduate. There are a range of other areas to apply your  trainingsuch as a pharma or biotechnology company, medical affairs, medical writing, law, and regulatory writing. There are many job opportunities for Ph.D graduates out there, but it is really important to research these options and keep an open mind.

Beryl Lieff Benderley, a Science Careers writer, reviews the book ReSearch (Evans, Lundteen, and Vanderford, 2017); this book discusses the transition process of going from a Ph.D. student to a career professional andhe questions that need to be addressed before starting the process of career hunting. Beryl begins her review by noting that from the moment we start graduate school, it is necessary to set a plan to identify your strong and  weak skills- such as bench or writing skills- in order to be able to identify a career path suitable for you. Waiting to do this until the  last few weeks of your graduate career could add to the stress of research life. To structure your post-graduation planning, Beryl discusses four steps to build one’s career: 1) identify your  interests and skills, 2) learn about the job market and understand necessary skills requirements, 3) take the steps to fill in knowledge and skill gaps for that particular career, and 4) identify employers or job openings that you would like to apply for and prepare the necessary documents. If you are not sure on how to start this process, you should ask for guidance from your peers, mentor, or any other professor.

Another point Beryl discusses in her article is knowing when to send the right document to highlight your skills, the resume or the curriculum vitae (CV). CVs tend to be lengthy while resumes go straight to the point and show your interests and best features suited for a quick glance. Also, showing relevant experiences to the position you are looking for is important. So then, how does one get that “relevant experience”? She mentions that volunteer work, internships, outreach programs, and some fellowships are a great opportunity for this. Make sure toresearch all the options you have to build up your resume before graduating. Lastly, Beryl stresses that while researching career paths outside of academia can be tiring and frustrating, one should not lose confidence and stamina during the process. Always keep a positive attitude!

Thankfully, Rutgers has the iJOBs program which helps their graduate and post-doctoral students to maneuver their way around the job hunt process.  There are events on how to build a resume and a CV, career panels with current professionals in non-academic positions, and workshops on how to prepare for the job market. So where can you go from here? Make a plan and take advantage of the resources and tools Rutgers has to offer! It isn’t only about becoming an expert in your research area, it is also about learning and understanding the skills, experiences, and expertise that will drive your future career.



Bridging the gap between Industry and Academic collaborations: Implementation of Good Clinical Laboratory Practices

This post was written following the iJOBs Workshop: From Bedside to Bench and Back: regulatory requirements for collaborations between pharma industry and academia, on February 27 by Damir Hamamdzic, PhD.

Throughout the past decades, expansion of academic-industry partnerships has become a more prominent feature in the broader landscape of partnerships within biomedical innovation. Some of the benefits of this type of scientific collaboration are: (1) pharmaceutical companies are outsourcing their Research and Development (R&D) to academic institutions as an opportunity to cut cost (2) access to groups of experts in the different areas, which represents a competitive advantage for the participating companies; and (3) the desire and the impulse of scientists to participate in entrepreneurial activities.

The pharmaceutical regulations put great emphasis on manufacturing their products using practices and processes that ensure high levels of safety and efficacy in every step. These standards ensure the secure and effective products for patients. Dr. Damir Hamamdzic, compliance administrator at the Office of Regulatory Affairs at Rutgers University, explains that though the potential value of academia-industry collaboration is generally apparent, all stakeholders need to recognize that research activities must be conducted in a manner that adheres to the principles of sound scientific methods and ethical requirements while, at the same time, acknowledging the missions and responsibilities of the involved institutions. One way to do this is the academic implementation of Good Clinical Laboratory Practices (GCLP).
Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) regulations and Good Clinical Practices (GCP) regulations are well established as regulatory requirements for pre-clinical and clinical studies, respectively. However, a remarkable gap exists between collaborating institutions, especially since universities generally do not target FDA submissions when conducting their studies. GLP is designed to protect scientific data integrity, and to provide the regulatory agencies (EPA, FDA) an auditable record of open-ended research studies (OECD 1998). On the other hand, GCP is an international ethical and scientific quality standard for designing, conducting, performing, monitoring, auditing, recording, analyzing and reporting clinical trials that involve the participation of human subjects.

GCLP provides a bridge between GLP and GCP, and more importantly ensures the reliability and integrity of data generated in analytical laboratories. It is a framework in which organizations can base to develop facilities, systems and procedures that guarantee the laboratory work and results fulfil the GLP and GCP expectations.

The workshop concluded with an interactive activity to identify potential problems on five scenarios. For example, one of the scenarios presented that a laboratory’s protocol stated that their experiments will be performed in accordance to GLP regulations and guidelines. In this case, this statement was wrong because in reality the university, or the specific lab, is not monitored by federal agencies, following the appropriate regulations. Some other general points discussed after analysis and evaluation of these were focus on quality of facilities and instrumentation, proper transportation and storage of materials (ex. plasmids, cell cultures), personal qualifications, certification of protocols and reagents, good recompilation of reports, training records and data backup.

There are many opportunities for industry–academia collaborations in different fields -genomics, biomarkers, animal models, for example. Being conscious and understanding the proper requirements and regulations to enhance these partnerships is crucial.

Junior Editor: Eileen Oni
Senior Editor: Aminat Saliu Musah

SciPhD 2018: experiences of fellow Rutgers iJOBS bloggers

This past month, Rutgers once again hosted Dr. Randall Ribaudo and Larry Petcovic, the co-founders of SciPhD. SciPhD is a 36-hour training for scientists who are interested in the transition from academic careers to non-academic careers. The course typically takes place over two weekends during the month of February. During this workshop, attendees go through different workshops, team/business building experiences, networking experiences, and much more! If you are interested in a more detailed breakdown of the four days, read about it in a past iJOBS article here. Other articles on SciPhD can be found here and here.

Taking a different turn this time, I want to give you the experiences of individuals who have attended SciPhD themselves. I attended SciPhD in February 2017 after a recommendation from a past lab mate and Rutgers iJOBS blogger, Myka Ababon. I was a little skeptical when signing up, it was a huge time commitment and I typically don’t enjoy being at school on the weekends. However,

I decided to bite the bullet and registered for the program… and I’m truly glad I did! I learned a lot about how skills I am currently gaining during my PhD, communicating, working in a “team” aka lab, mentoring, etc., could translate to a career in industry. Randall and Larry went through the process of reading a job advertisement and creating a targeted resume. This might sound naïve, but before attending SciPhD, I would never have thought it necessary to tailor a different resume for every job posting.

SciPhD wasn’t only about transitioning from academia to industry. There were activities in which we learned how to manage a small business. Participants were split into groups and had to decide which research endeavors to fund, and what would be the most lucrative and beneficial for the business. Over the course of several hours we were taught team building, and had a mock experience on what it might be like to work as a small factor in a business. Overall, I enjoyed the SciPhD workshop and found it very beneficial in terms of how to apply for future jobs. Luckily, participants were given a comprehensive handbook on everything discussed which can serve as a reference for years to come.

Two of our iJOBS bloggers, Maryam Alapa and Fatu Badiane Markey, attended SciPhD 2018 and were willing to share their experiences. I was interested in knowing what both women found to be the most beneficial part of the SciPhD program. Fatu found that charting and mapping a job application to help with putting together a resume and cover letter were the most beneficial. She also mentioned that completing a self-assessment helped her in evaluating how to best interact with colleagues who have different personalities. On the other hand, Maryam mentions the interview questions were an eye opener for her. She states, “the questions forces you to dig deep and answer based on the profession of the interviewer; so the same question may be answered in different ways based on who’s interviewing you.” Both women found beneficial aspects of SciPhD in helping with finding a future career.

As I mentioned previously, the goal of SciPhD is to help scientists transition from academia to industry, so I also wanted to know if participants believed attending SciPhD would set them apart from other interviewees. Fatu said, “I feel very confident about putting together an excellent resume and cover letter for my future job applications. I now know the right words to use and how to use them.” I felt the same way. I had attended prior resume-building workshops, but SciPhD delved deeper than any other. Randall and Larry were focused on how to build the best resume each time based on what the job posting was looking for. They went into great detail on how to dissect each posting, looking for key terms on what would be important to include in ones’ resume.

What we really want to know is: is this 36-hour workshop really worth it? Myself, Maryam and Fatu all agree that yes it is. Maryam explained that she would definitely recommend SciPhD to other students, as it will help them think outside of the box of academia and learn how companies function and what they are looking for in a candidate. Overall, Maryam believes that “It seems like a long commitment but it is definitely worth it. I can imagine drawing from some of my SciPhD experience to answer questions in an interview. You learn so much, from resume writing to team exercises to learning how to run a company.” Fatu had similar positive feelings. She states she would “100% recommend this workshop to other students; SciPhD gives you all the skills you need to transition into the real world from a life that was spent in the lab.” She further adds, “Randy Ribaudo and Larry Petcovic from Human Workflows, LLC come from an academic background and this adds strength and credibility to what they are teaching in the workshop.” These testimonials show how strongly participants of SciPhD are in support of the program.

In addition to Fatu and Maryam, other participants, such as Anna Giarratana (SciPhD ’17), have shown me the same positive outlook on the program. It might be a large time commitment over two full weekends, but it is very beneficial! It is a worthwhile experience if you are able to attend. It is important to mention that the program is free for Rutgers students!! If you want to read even more testimonials, or are interested in general information please visit the SciPhD website.


sciphd1  SciPhD 2018, images provided by Janet Alder

Edited by: Emily C. Kelly (Jr editor) & Maryam Alapa (Sr. editor)


How to Prepare for the Industry Job Market

By Huri Mücahit

Edited by: Tomas Kazsa, Maryam Alapa, and Eileen Oni


The following blog post was written after attending the iJOBS Seminar: How to Prepare for the Industry Job Market

For many Ph.D. students, a career in the pharmaceutical industry is considered to be the ultimate goal. However, the job search and application process can be more daunting and lengthy than we would like. With the seminar, “How to Prepare for the Industry Job Market”, iJOBS provided an opportunity to meet with Human Resources (HR) representatives and discuss the best ways of applying for jobs at small and midsize pharmaceutical companies, such as Hengrui Therapeutics, Post-Translational Control Therapeutics, Amicus Therapeutics, and Adello Biologics.


One of the most important tools that we have when searching and applying to job postings is social media, especially through professional sites like, LinkedIn. A strong LinkedIn presence is just as important as the application itself. Many of us assume that our profiles are great, however, there are several practices that set apart successful applicants from unsuccessful applicants. These include having a professional photograph or creating a robust profile using specific keywords that highlight your experience. Small changes like these can aid HR recruiters when investigating your application. According to Karen Koubek, the Director of Human Resources at PTC Therapeutics, applying to online job listings has a low rate of success because of the high level of competition. Thus using your LinkedIn network can help you find and contact someone who works within a company’s HR department and will express your desire to work for their company through a personalized message . While many representatives are often busy, you must catch their interest in the first several lines of the message and provide them with quick access to your CV and application. While this entire process might seem uncomfortable, iJOBS has recently partnered with 2Actify to teach graduate students the necessary skills for online networking (see the article on the 2Actify workshop for more information!)

Another valued practice is to use a personalized cover letter for each application. Although you might feel that a single “one size fits all” approach enables you to apply to many companies, this method is often detrimental as hiring companies see this as a lack of effort (read: laziness) and thus, a lack of interest in their company. As Lori Daigle, the office manager at Hengrui Therapeutics states, it is best to first conduct research on each company you are applying to and then tailor your cover letter towards the position you are applying for. Not only does this reaffirm your interest, it also presents a highly valuable opportunity to use several short paragraphs to tell your story providing a “human” aspect to the very dry representation on your CV. In addition, considering that the first person to look at your application will not be a biologist, your cover letter and the language used within it becomes even more important.


If you are looking to immediately transition into industry, the key to making yourself stand out, according to Kurt Andrews, Senior Vice President of HR at Amicus Therapeutics, is to highlight your current level of expertise. Job postings will list the skills and training required for the respective position, as well as the number of years of experience in the field. Sarah Holmes-Klotz, the Senior Director of HR at Adele Biologics, informed us that many perfect positions for new Ph.D. graduates list 0-2 years of experience required. If the job posting states that a BS/MS is preferred but you are interested in working for the company, you can email the HR department. These positions can be a good fit for recent PhD graduates and provide an opportunity for further growth within the company. Certain careers, such as those in medical writing and regulatory affairs, do not require previous industry experience and are willing to hire new Ph.D. graduates.


Ultimately, when looking to transition into a position in the pharmaceutical industry, it is helpful to follow these tips; market yourself using your LinkedIn profile, stand out by directly messaging HR representatives, and put in time and effort to create a thoughtful application. The benefit of applying to a smaller company such as those represented in this seminar, is that these companies offer on-the-job training and mobility within departments, so that you may gain experience in multiple fields. If you are interested in learning more about the companies, visit the iJOBS events page for more information.

Science Education: A Series Of Informational Interviews Exploring Teaching At Different Educational Levels

Interview 3: Science Education at High School

Samantha Schlachter

I spoke with Ms. Heather Potts, a high school science teacher, for my final informational interview. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the growing push for IB/AP biology courses, and the ability to award college credits, has led to a growing demand for high school educators with advanced degrees. Ms. Potts talked extensively about the best ways to prepare for teaching at this level since state certification is required in order to find employment. She also offered some resources to make the process of preparation, and job search as streamlined as possible.

Background: Ms. Heather Potts started her teaching career as an undergraduate studying Animal Science at Rutgers University. She went on to earn two masters’ degrees, first in Biomedical Science from Rutgers University and then in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Her advanced degrees in both science and education allowed her to obtain her teaching certificate and she is currently a high school science teacher in Wayne NJ. In addition, she recently began an adjunct position at the local community college.

Steps to prepare: Preparing for a teaching career can begin as early as during undergraduate studies, where a bachelor’s degree in education prepares you for the certification exams (PRAXIS) for teaching. For people with advanced degrees (MS/Ph.D.), an “alternate route” exists where you can demonstrate mastery of a subject and earn a certificate of eligibility (CE) that allows you to accept a high school teaching position. This route also provides both informal and formal education training. To take advantage of the alternative route program, there are several steps that you must take:

  • Complete the necessary 30-credit hours for the subject of interest and have a minimum 3.0/4.0 GPA (an advanced degree typically guarantees this requirement).
  • Take the PRAXIS II subject test for the subject you are interested in teaching.
  • Meet the basic skills requirement, satisfied by either taking the PRAXIS: Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading, Writing and Math, or scoring in the top 1/3 percentile of the GRE/SAT for the year that test was taken.
  • Personal Hygiene requirement (usually met with a general biology course or answering a 35 question true or false quiz at the county office of education).

All the necessary documents should be submitted to the NJ Office of Licensure and Academic Credentials for review. If all the requirements are met, a CE will be issued and you can search for employment as a teacher. Employment with CE includes enrollment in the provisional teacher program that pairs novice teachers with a more senior mentor who serves as a resource during the first year. Additionally, there is a formal requirement for a minimum of 200 hours of education training arranged by the institution. Successful completion of the first year, and formal training requirements results in a standard teaching certificate.

**NOTE: Having an advanced degree like a MS or Ph.D. can be favorable, not an over-qualification. Particularly now as many high schools push for college overlap (college credits while in high school). Many top grade school districts seek MS/Ph.Ds.’ to lead their advanced programs and help design courses/curriculums that will give their students an edge. Having a teacher with a Ph.D. at the high school level allows for college credits to be awarded, if the appropriate bridge program is in place (AP/IB). So, the demand is there, it just may take some searching for the right school system.

To get a better idea of curriculum at the high school level visit:

Job search: Ms. Potts’ job search was admittedly very convoluted. While applying for teaching positions she was working at a camp, and had limited access to resources. This forced her to be more creative than just a simple internet search, so she printed a map of all the counties in NJ, and contacted local schools about possible employment. Although Ms. Potts found a position that suited her she doesn’t recommend searching for jobs this way as it was very time consuming. Instead, she recommends using the website NJHhire to simplify the search. Many school districts post their job openings directly on their websites or on the Board of Education’s website, which are also great resources when job searching. Teachers who know they will be leaving (i.e. retiring) are asked to notify the district by April, so she suggests starting your job search then. Check frequently as jobs are posted anytime from April to September for the coming school year. The process is straightforward and includes an application, an interview, and, hopefully, a job offer. During the process, it is important to emphasize any teaching experiences you may have, and your ability to interact with, and motivate students.

Typical day: A typical day involves teaching various periods throughout the day, planning lessons and also attending the necessary meetings/events for faculty. The school schedule allows for adjunct teaching, coaching, mentoring, and course development in the afternoons or evenings.


Pros Cons
1)     Student light bulb moments!2)     Spending the full academic year with the same group of students allows you to develop a rapport and watch them grow, which is very rewarding.3)     Schedule allows for work-life balance, additional employment and time to engage in extra-curricular groups like mentoring, coaching, adjuncting, etc. 1)     Motivating high school students can be extremely daunting. Unlike undergraduate institutions where students elect to take a course, at this level they are forced and many may have little to no interest in science.2)     Discipline is challenging and you need a thick skin to work with high school aged students.3)     Hardships/empathy. Students at this level are still at home, and many have challenging home-lives that they must balance in addition to school, which can be difficult to watch.


Parting advice:

  • The beginning is always the hardest, but you will settle in. They say the 5-year mark for teaching at this level is the make-it-or-break-it point, you will know by then whether it is the right fit or if it is time to move on.
  • Be open minded when looking for teaching positions, there will always be a greater demand for Chemistry teachers than Biology teachers, so don’t limit yourself.

Major takeaways for navigating your way to a successful teaching career

After speaking with three education professionals about their job search and careers it was easy to identify some common threads in each of their journeys. All three certainly had a passion for learning and passing on their knowledge. They were all genuinely excited and eager to develop their science course curriculum and share it with their students. All three educators mentioned how rewarding the “lightbulb” moments are regardless of what grade level you are teaching, and how all the hard work that goes into course development pays off time and time again. It was hard not to be inspired to consider teaching more seriously after each interview.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to talk with Dr. Baralt, Dr. Mujica and Ms. Potts. Their candor and information was the catalyst for me to start focusing on my own goals. Besides working hard to finish my degree, I have also re-connected with some old connections within my network; I have reached out to professors that I worked closely with during my undergraduate studies. I made sure to update them on my progress, and softly remind them that I will be heading into the work force soon. I also enrolled in the 2018 American Society of Microbiology’s Best Practices in Curriculum Design, Teaching and Assessment course, to get some formal education on the skill sets needed to be a successful educator. I hope to step outside the lab to seek out more hands-on opportunities, whether it’s through a TA opportunity, adjunct teaching, or getting involved with my local school system to tutor high school students.

Declining interest in academic careers: A 2017 study examines what might be the cause!

In September 2017, Michael Roach and Henry Sauermann examined the declining interest in academic careers; published in PLOS ONE . One might assume that this decline is due to a difficult job market, however, the authors found that the majority of graduate students who lost interest in academia had other reasons. The question was examined using a longitudinal survey that followed 854 Ph.D. students, in the natural sciences and engineering, from 39 U.S. research universities. The study examined students who had recently begun their Ph.D. program and then followed them to determine if their interest in academic careers had changed three years later. The specific question that was asked is “Putting job availability aside, how attractive or unattractive do you personally find each of the following careers?” Options were a range of research and non-research careers inside and outside academia.

3.1 article                                                                          (Roach & Sauerman, 2017)

There were two main results. First, the study found that majority of students (80%) had an interest in academia when they started their Ph.D. studies, however, that number falls to 55% within 3 years. Surprisingly, approximately 25% of students lose all interest in academia. Of all students, 15% were never interested in an academic career while only 5% gained interest in an academic career. Thus, the authors pointed out that the declining interest is not a general phenomenon and is not influenced by the job market. Roach and Sauermann associated the decline to the misalignment between students’ evolving preferences for specific job attributes, and students’ changing perception of their own research abilities. I found this very surprising; prior to reading this article I would have attributed the decline in academic career interest solely to the difficult job market.

Interestingly, early in their programs, students expected that about 50% of graduates in their fields would obtain an academic position but this perception significantly decreased over time. Students were also asked questions such as “When thinking about the future, how interesting would you find the following kinds of work?” The choices were: basic research, applied research, or commercialization. As expected, students who lost an interest in academic careers had a significantly decreased preference for basic and applied research and increased preference for commercialization. The survey also asked students to rate their research ability relative to their peers; students who remained interested in a faculty career had higher levels of self-reported ability. The authors also state that many of the students reported a lack of information about non-academic career options. Roach and Sauermann believe that internships may be more effective than simple workshops or information sessions. They also praised programs such as the National Institutes’ of Health’s BEST program, which promotes programs that broaden Ph.D. training. [If you’re reading this from Rutgers University, you’re in luck! It is one of the 17 institutions in the country that was awarded a BEST (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) grant from the NIH Common Fund. Read about BEST programs here:]

The idea that all Ph.D. students are interested in academic careers is no longer accurate. Surprisingly, even among the Ph.D. students interested in academic careers, more than half of them also had an interest in industry careers. Dr. Nathan L. Vanderford, a professor at the University of Kentucky, states, “the job market doesn’t inform students’ career decisions as much as a growing understanding of what an academic career entails.” Overall, the study suggests providing more information and training for PhD candidates about the job opportunities both in and outside of academia. This will allow trainees to make more informed decisions as they prepare for their careers.

There are many varied career options for scientists, and while an academic career is a great option, there are many other choices for students to consider. This study can provide useful information for those who might feel pressured into an academic career, or might not know about other options. Along with scientific training, it is important to educate yourself on the available opportunities after graduate school. If you go to an institution with the NIH BEST program, take advantage of it! If you don’t have a BEST program at your school talk to someone at the career office, which is focused on helping graduates find job placements and opportunities. Don’t be afraid to network with those around you to learn about more possibilities!

Edited by Tomas Kasza and Maryam Alapa.

Science Education: A Series Of Informational Interviews Exploring Teaching At Different Educational Levels

Interview 2: Adjunct at an Undergraduate Institution

Samantha Schlachter

For my second informational interview, I was interested in learning more about adjunct teaching at primarily undergraduate institutions and community colleges. I have often heard that this is one the best ways to gain hands-on classroom experience, especially for those who haven’t done much teaching. To learn more about this profession, I spoke with Dr. Patricio Mujica, an adjunct professor at Lehman College. Dr. Mujica explained that there are a number of pros to being an adjunct professor, most notably for novice teachers, because the curriculum is usually well defined and already established. He also emphasized that the flexible schedule for adjuncting is a great way for graduate students to “test the waters” even before they complete their thesis work.

Background: Dr. Mujica is a recent graduate of Rutgers University. He obtained his doctoral degree under the direction of Dr. Walter Durán and studied the mechanisms of vascular hyperpermeability during inflammation. During his time at Rutgers, Dr. Mujica gained teaching experience (in addition to experience he had in the classroom prior to enrolling in graduate school), as a Teaching Assistant for the Introduction to Biomedical Science course. Following his doctoral work, Dr. Mujica went on to accept yearlong post-doctoral fellowship at Albert Einstein University, studying the cellular mechanisms of vesicle trafficking and epithelial polarity. He recently returned to Dr. Durán’s lab to finish up some work for an upcoming publication and also preparing for a full-time job in academia. He hopes to transition into an academic position that contains some component of a research project in addition to teaching. His extensive molecular research experience coupled with exposure to teaching in the classroom setting has recently earned him a position at Lehman College as an adjunct professor of Anatomy and Physiology.

Steps to prepare:



Job search: For Dr. Mujica, searching for an adjunct position was not too difficult. An advanced degree is sufficient to qualify to teach at most community colleges/undergraduate institutions, and teaching experience is not always required. These types of positions are posted approximately 3 months before a new semester begins (so plan accordingly!). Since adjunct professors are viewed as non-permanent there is often a high turnover. In addition, adjuncts are less expensive to hire compared to a full-time position so the demand is fairly high. Searching through individual institution hiring web pages is one of the best places to start. There are also some broader websites available for adjuncts looking at public/private institutions such as HigherEdJobs, which can streamline the job search. Once you identify a position that is of interest, the application process is not too lengthy or difficult. In a very short window of time, Dr. Mujica was able to submit a CV, schedule an interview, and receive a notice of hiring and a class start date.

Typical day: Working as an adjunct gives you a great deal of flexibility with your schedule, ideal for either graduate students or for people who wish to supplement the income. You can, for the most part, dictate the schedule of teaching by determining the number of course/lab sections you are willing to take on. The main exception to this flexibility is that the university dictates the course offerings per semester. Most adjuncts seek to teach evening and weekend hours, therefore, it is often challenging to find an available course offering in the most sought-after time slots. Many people seeking adjunct positions will teach at multiple colleges to fill their availability and make the most money. Dr. Mujica teaches a lecture and laboratory course for Anatomy and Physiology leaving himself time during the weekdays to work on both course preparations (which is quite demanding!) and the necessary experiments in the lab.

Pros Cons
1)     Very rewarding to see students grasp a difficult topic.2)     Flexibility in schedule for course development, work-life balance and additional employment opportunities.

3)     Excellent opportunity to try teaching/gain experience.

4)     Course materials are usually provided by the university, so there is an existing foundation to build on.

1)     Pay is low compared to full time positions.2)     Employment hinges on student feedback/surveys (often times only the students with strong, negative feelings respond, which is not an accurate representation of the majority).

3)     Fast paced – a lot of work to do (preparing lectures/modifying course work/etc.) in a short period of time.

4)     Opportunities for career growth are few: colleges prefer to pay for adjuncts over full time (adjuncts receive lower pay, no benefits) and when full time positions are posted a good adjunct is not automatically considered as a candidate.


Parting advice: To graduate students considering teaching, don’t wait – start adjunct teaching ASAP to get some teaching experience on your CV!

Science Education: A Series Of Informational Interviews Exploring Teaching At Different Educational Levels

Interview 1: Teaching at an Undergraduate Institution

Samantha Schlachter

My career interests within science have varied widely over the years, including a little bit of everything from clinical science to the bench. Aside from knowing that I wanted to study science, the other common thread to my vast interests has been the opportunity to teach. I enjoy being in a classroom setting, from being a TA throughout my undergraduate and graduate careers, to working briefly as a K-8 substitute teacher. My overarching interest in education recently prompted me to seriously consider teaching as a career path. Pursuing a career in science education, however, varies greatly in scope, content, and difficulty depending on the grade level; with pros and cons at every stage. To understand these grade-level differences, and identify the best fit for my own personal interests, strengths, and qualifications, I was introduced by Doreen Badheka (Program Director for Special Projects at SGS-Newark, responsible for overseeing Career development for PhD students) to three science teachers who were willing to discuss their careers.

  1. Melissa Baralt, a full time faculty member at Berkeley College
  2. Patricio Mujica, an adjunct professor at Lehman College
  3. Heather Potts M.Sc., a high school science teacher with the Wayne Board of Education

I will summarize each of my interviews in separate blog posts to provide others who are considering teaching as a possible career path with greater insight into education across different grade levels.

In my first informational interview with Dr. Melissa Baralt I was interested in finding out more about opportunities in teaching at primarily undergraduate institutions. Full-time teaching positions in this setting are highly coveted, and in her workshop hosted by Rutgers SGS, she provided some helpful job search suggestions and gave details about the demands and expectations of being in the role of professor. 

Background: Dr. Baralt began her academic career after graduating from Montclair State University, and completing an NIH-bridge MS-PhD program at UMDNJ (Rutgers University). She completed her doctoral dissertation project on DNA damage and repair mechanisms on Fanconi Anemia, in the laboratory of Dr. Muriel Lambert at the Pathology department. She expanded upon her doctoral research with a post-doctoral fellowship at Georgetown University. Nearly a year into her post-doc she realized that she had lost her interest in research (this realization hit her while sitting at the biological hood where the thought of designing and performing another experiment was too much to bear! Enough was enough!). She then decided on a career change and turned her efforts to teaching undergraduates.

Steps to prepare:



Job search: Dr. Baralt’s motto when it comes to job searching is, “your network is your net worth” – meaning that if you build a large network you automatically increase your chances of knowing someone who is looking to hire. For her, this was the main gateway into her current position. Although other resources were available, Dr. Baralt leaned on her network of college professors/advisors to get accepted into the NIH bridge program. She also networked extensively to find people who would support her Ph.D. graduation in a timely fashion. She maintained contact with her cohort from graduate school to get information about post-docs/adjunct positions, and when she was ready to transition into full-time teaching Dr. Baralt reached out to all of these existing networks. Although she had minimal teaching experience it was not seen as a negative since having a Ph.D. can infer that you are well-prepared for a job. When applying, she simply focused on how working with undergraduates in the laboratory setting presented her with teaching opportunities. Also, publications from your Ph.D. are also not necessarily required for teaching undergraduates, unless you are applying to research institutions. Her interview process for these positions was straightforward, and her best advice was to be yourself, be nice, and be flexible (particularly about the subject matter you are being considered for). Of course, you will want to be clear on your strengths/ weaknesses/ interests/ qualifications, teaching philosophy statement, and do the homework on the institution/position.

Typical day: Once you accept a position, Dr. Baralt warns that there is a steep learning curve until you find a teaching rhythm. Additionally, most colleges/universities work from a specific textbook to ensure the necessary curriculum is met and the publisher often provides ample resources to build a foundation for lectures. Dr. Baralt teaches 16 hours a week with most of her classes scheduled in the evening (allowing for plenty of time to visit Chuckie-Cheese with her young son during the week). She uses the rest of her time to complete the necessary prep work, identify new ways to motivate students (i.e. integrate new technologies), and also adjuncts at a few other universities for course variety and extra income.

Pros Cons
1)     Flexibility in schedule for course development, work-life balance, additional employment and time to engage in extra-curricular groups like coaching or publishing on philosophy/pedagogy.2)     Course development is fun. As the professor, you get to structure (within reason) your courses to your strengths.

3)     You get to explore and integrate with new technology and different teaching methods, as well as update your courses to stay current and interesting.

1)     Pay is not as high as some other professions which have similar advanced degree requirements.2)     Full-time tenure track positions are difficult to come by (but if you are open to non-tenure track positions there are more opportunities, and you never know where your connections will lead you!)



Parting advice: Dr. Baralt left us with three main pieces of advice for finding opportunities at a primarily undergraduate institution.

  • Your network is your net worth – so make connections, be nice to everyone, and don’t burn bridges (make sure to use your network when you start job searching).
  • Be your own advocate – whether it is during your Ph.D., or when you start teaching, don’t be afraid to reach out to people who will help you achieve your goals.
  • She also jokingly reminded us that we are trained in a laboratory setting for such a lengthy amount of time that we lose awareness of our people skills. So, when working with students we should be aware of not only the course content, but also of the people we are teaching — so take advantage of opportunities that help sharpen your people skills.

Biotech Incubator: Bench Ideas to Business

The following blog post was written after attending the iJOBS site visit to the Biotech Incubator: CCIT located in North Brunswick on 7th Feb 2018.

At the event:

Janet Alder, iJOBS program director; Lenzie Harcum (host), CCIT manager; Frank Bedu Addo (guest), CEO and President, PDS Biotechnology; Jeremy Pronchik (guest), Scientist, BioAegis, PhD students and Postdoc scholars from the Rutgers University(audience).


Is your Ph.D. research project based on an innovative idea that can be commercialized? Are you looking for a right place to take your academic lab work to a business-oriented space? Starting your own biotech company poses logistical challenges such as finding the lab space and having to do without the institutional support of a research university. Biotech incubators play a critical role in the early stage of a biotech company. They provide affordable lab spaces and core facilities, which helps reduce the cost of starting a biotech company independently. As a matter of fact, a start-up in an incubator is four times more likely to succeed than an entirely independent start-up. It is definitely great to know that new biotech companies can get the support they need at the initial stage of development.

One such resource is Commercialization Centre for Innovative Technology (CCIT), a 50-acre research park that lies in the heart of New Jersey’s research corridor. This biotech incubator is part of the New Jersey’s economic development authority (run solely by the government fund), thus occupants of the space get incentives such as low interest financing, tax incentives, affordable lab space and access to the public and private investment community. CCIT houses different sized companies, which are grouped into three different tiers. The first tiers are the large companies, second tiers are the growing companies and the third tiers are the incubators (about 8 employees). Startup companies have to go through the application process in order to get the incubator space. The majority of CCIT applicants are from the ex-pharma personnel and only a handful from academia e.g. Visikol. It takes about one year to prepare an application for a space at CCIT and that includes creating a team and finding investors. Incubator spaces are rented on a yearly basis and are extendable for up to five years. Companies in the incubator have access to a conference room, NMR, autoclaves, and dishwashing facilities. CCIT not only provides lab spaces but also provide access to consultants from the local pharma community. The consultants provide the CEOs one-on-one advising and services include feedback on the individual company, accountant’s advice, etc. However, CCIT does not provide equity/fund to the companies and does not help with the grant application to the funding agency.

Protein Delivery Science (PDS) biotechnology, a tenant at CCIT incubator space, is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing a novel drug for cancer immunotherapy. Their CEO, Frank Bedu Addo, was an international student at University of Pittsburg and had a long career in the biopharma industry. He started as a scientist, later became a director, and then transitioned to the business development executive. The advantage of being an ex-pharma employee is the experience gained in drug development and having the pharma network. Frank was able to build a team of experienced ex-pharma professionals, which includes a chief scientific officer who was involved in the development of almost 20 drugs. Finding an investor was not a smooth process; his initial attempt was not successful but, luckily, he was referred to an investor who was an old-acquaintance with a high net worth. PDS partnered with other pharma giants for its phase II clinical trial, which otherwise would cost the company 5-10 million dollars. The preclinical studies are outsourced through collaborations with academic labs. Thus, PDS biotechnology is great example of how experience, network and strategic planning can help in the growth, and success of the company.

For a Ph.D. student who is looking for a career outside of academia, these incubators could be your next work place for a career in research. As the companies in this incubator space are made of small teams, one will learn many other aspects of building a biotech business. An example of such can be found in Jeremy Pronchik, a scientist who works for BioAegis Therapeutics. Jeremy studied lasers as a biophysics graduate student but he currently participates in clinical work at BioAegis and has been involved in many of the team’s brainstorming meetings. These incubators are an opportunity to learn about the different areas of a pharmaceutical industry in a short time-frame. The small size of such companies allow you to take on different responsibilities, which is often not the case in large pharmaceuticals.

If you are someone who has a novel therapeutic idea and the entrepreneurial spirit to build a biopharma business, here are the take home messages from the visit:

  • Create a small team (maximum of 7 or 8 person).
  • Include experienced pharmaceutical industry personal in the team, if possible.
  • Find investors, angel investors, knock on doors and network, network, network.
  • To save money, outsource some of the work, collaborate, and create partnerships.

If you are interested in starting your own biotech company, reach out to CCIT biotech incubator to transform your innovative ideas to future products and help create new jobs.


This post was written by Sangeena Salam.

Edits and suggestions that contributed in this post were made by fellow bloggers Tomas Kasza and Maryam Alapa.