iJOBS Virtual Career Panel: Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health

by Helena Mello

When scientists think about Johnson & Johnson, the company is usually viewed as the pharma giant that has been in business for over 130 years. While accurate, PhD students and post-doctorates don’t tend to recall the hundreds of products made through J&J’s Consumer Health Division. On May 4th, the iJOBS program hosted a virtual career panel with employees in this sector of J&J, so we could learn more about this exciting and promising scientific area.

J&J Consumer Health

The rapid flow of information in the internet era has caused profound changes in the health care system. Patients have become proactive towards monitoring their health status accessing health and wellness-related information. This change has led the traditional health care industry to convert from a sick care market to a consumer-driven health market. The consumer health sector, although not focused on patients, has adapted to accommodate the evolving needs of consumers by changing marketing habits and developing cutting-edge product formulations. From mouthwash to sunscreen and skincare products, scientific innovation is at the core of new product launches. With that in mind, it is easy to understand why STEM graduates are highly suited to hold jobs within the consumer health market.

Although all six panelists come from STEM backgrounds and received graduate school training, not all of them held post-doctoral positions before moving into industry. In fact, J&J and other pharma companies often offer post-doc programs, which can ultimately lead to full-time job positions. Dr. Daphne Meza, who holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Stony Brook University, became a post-doctoral fellow in skin biology in 2017 and now holds a Sr Scientist position at J&J. In contrast, Dr. Kyle Saitta, who holds a Ph.D. in toxicology from Rutgers, has joined the company this past February as a Sr Scientist at the toxicology group shortly after defending his thesis.

Despite holding similar degrees, the way the panelists got into J&J varied greatly. Dr. Jin Seo, a Principal Scientist, learned about an opening when a friend forwarded her a LinkedIn job posting. She applied through the platform, and after a series of phone and on-site interviews, landed her first job outside of academia. On the other hand, Dr. Julie Bianchini, also a Principal Scientist and a New Jersey native, reached out to her east coast network after getting a Ph.D. degree from Stanford University. Dr. Bianchini connected with hiring managers and was invited for interviews, to which she carried one printed slide summarizing her Ph.D. work and how her expertise could fit into the job description. Similarly, Dr. Kyle Saitta landed his current job through his connection with a J&J employee and Rutgers alumnus that had graduated from the same program as him. Although the pathsto finding their current position differed, all panelists had the same advice in terms of job search: study the company you are interested in, do informational interviews, and nurture your network.

One common question posed to industry professionals is how does it differ from the academic environment. The answers usually come down to three points highlighted in this panel: timeline, independence, and teamwork. In academia, there is a considerable amount of flexibility in project length and deadlines; whereas in industry, timelines are more rigid and enforced. The working day is a typical 9-to-5, and one “must learn how to work within these hours,” said Dr. Bianchini. Deadlines are critical since other groups rely on your data to move the project forward. Likewise, in order to make sure that the project is running smoothly and in a timely fashion, project management is essential. Whereas in academia supervision tends to be more casual and prioritize aspects such as research independence, industry professionals are assigned to a manager that is held responsible for the team’s success both in accomplishing professional growth and project goals. Finally, industry projects are comprised of several groups within the company. From conceptualization to marketing and beyond, there are experts at every step of the way to make sure the products are perfect. This environment promotes the exchange of information at a fast pace and makes sure each individual is contributing their expertise.

Because of the strong team collaboration, panelists highlighted skills that will help you stand out while pursuing a career at J&J Consumer Health. Attention to detail, ability to learn quickly and a genuine interest in learning new tasks are considered strong assets. Ph.D.s are trained to cultivate these skills; therefore, they contribute not only as highly technical individuals but also as team players. Since the technical aspects of consumer health may not exactly match your academic training, you should be able to articulate your technical expertise in order to show how to apply your knowledge to a new scientific field.

A doctoral training provides a base to start a career in the consumer health arena. If you are considering this path, make sure to keep in mind the differences between industry and academia, prepare to get exposed to the field through networking, leverage your connections by letting them know your goals and performing informational interviews. This article covered some of these aspects, and you can find more detailed information about networking, career moves, and interviews through other iJOBS blog posts. I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to comment below if you have any questions!

This article was edited by Janaina Pereira and Tomas Kasza.

iJobs Event: Merck Virtual Career Panel

By: Samantha Avina

should I stay or should I go? photo courtesy of Science Magazine 2019 Robert Neubecker
should I stay or should I go?
photo courtesy of Science Magazine 2019 Robert Neubecker

Ph.D. students are often unsure of what jobs “in industry” entail.  More often than not transitioning from academia to industry work is kidded about as going to “the dark side” of research with an unknown agenda. However, what the jesting really masks is the lack of understanding that pertains to what happens on the other end of a critical component of a global research approach. Streamlining into industry research is frequently viewed as a daunting task with students unaware of how to market themselves or build networks that position them for diving into a thriving field that has become an increasingly advanced and rewarding career path.

On April 7th, iJobs hosted a virtual career panel focused on Merck & Co. Pharmaceuticals that highlighted the variety of career possibilities within Merck and differences between academic vs industry research. The panel had a variety of Merck associated speakers that discussed a variety of topics including:  the job types at Merck, transitioning from academia to industry, and marketing yourself to stand out during the application process for potential employers like Merck. Additionally, panelists gave virtual attendees their perspectives on the current job market amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and how to focus on preparing for career advancement as a PhD candidate during this difficult time.

The panel was comprised of five employees of Merck from different divisions of the Merck company at different stages of their career. David Rossi, an associate Principle Scientist, works on mechanical and particle engineering for tablet and capsule production with a focus on innovation for his team. David has been with Merck since 2007 after earning his degree in Chemical Engineering from John Hopkins University. David laid out the scope of Merck’s presence in the tristate area with locations in Rahway, Kensington, and WestPoint to name a few. Each campus location serves as a different branch of the Merck company including research development, manufacturing and supply, human health, animal health, and global support functions. He described the broad abundance of job opportunity at Merck that ranged from research on vaccine development and clinical trials, to regulatory writing and maintenance of Merck supply chain. The variety of panelists from these different divisions showed not only the vast potential career opportunities for Ph.D. holders, but the diversity of Merck employees who emphasized the reoccurring theme of Merck providing opportunities that were able to progress into solid career developments.

For example, Dr. Francis Insaidoo who has been with Merck since 2013 shared how he became involved via the MRL postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program. The program aims to provide a post-doctoral experience in a commercial pharmaceutical setting that will prepare graduates with the tools, knowledge, and network they need to be successful. Of course, those who complete their post-doctorate degree at Merck have a high likelihood of a job offer in their Research and Development teams. Dr. Insaidoo works on biologics purification, specifically antibodies and proteins, and attributes the beginnings of his career as a scientist at Merck to enrolling in the MRL post-doc fellowship.

Merck virtual career panelists  with some students on zoom meeting
Merck virtual career panelists with some students on zoom meeting

For others like Dr. Shara Dellatore, her journey of transitioning to industry started with coming to a crossroads of deciding what to do after attaining her Ph.D. in material engineering from Northwestern University that ultimately led to her scientific career starting at Merck. Dr. Dellatore who currently serves as director for Vaccine Immunogenicity, described her experience of starting as an associate principle scientist and working her way up to her current director position as a constant learning experience and a rewarding one at that.

“At first I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I felt like I had never been in industry setting and thought about having a career to be more connected to patients. Ultimately, seeing the next part of the research process was something that I could achieve through Merck”

“At first I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I felt like I had never been in industry setting and thought about having a career to be more connected to patients. Ultimately, seeing the next part of the research process was something that I could achieve through Merck”, Dr. Dellatore said about deciding to go into industry. Toward the end of the virtual panel she homed in on how working in industry differs from academia in your ability to work and communicate in a group setting to achieve a set goal. “While the science that you have done qualifies you, you need to convey your ability to work with and prepare for team and collaboration and problem solving”, she said in regard to working in industry.

It was exciting to see a diverse group of panelists from Merck that came from different backgrounds while contributing greatly to the Merck teams. Danila Giacone, a Rutgers University Alumnus who has been with Merck for the past 8 years, is currently a senior scientist under the Analytical and Research Development Department. She described her journey as one of hard work with the ultimate intention of breaking into the industry field. Danila shared with the panel that she is a dreamer, and that although she does not hold a Ph.D. degree she was able to get her career going in this field by building on her biomedical engineering master’s degree background, accumulating fellowship experiences, and networking. When the panel began to discuss job prospects during the current pandemic, Danila was very open about how the hiring process is still very much ongoing and that current events should not hinder potential applicants from trying to get their foot in the industry door. “I post or share positions in my or my colleague’s department, we are hiring and there are positions out there”, Danila said about current job prospects during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Applicants can expect an interview day type of experience that involves a lot of interacting with different interviewers that can go into the late afternoon with dining and continuous use of people skills.

After the panel finished taking general questions facilitated by Dr. Janet Adler, the entire group was split into different “rooms” virtually where students were able to interact with panelists more one-on-one style. Many students had questions about the actual application process to a company like Merck and more specifics on difference between academic benchwork vs industry benchwork. The application process for Merck described by panelists had a similar structure to what many Rutgers students have experienced on recruitment day. Merck interviewers focus a lot on learning about applicants and how they would integrate into the team. Applicants can expect an interview day type of experience that involves a lot of interacting with different interviewers that can go into the late afternoon with dining and continuous use of people skills.  Following the interview, generally the company will get back to you a few weeks later. Again, a similar approach to the Rutgers Ph.D. interview day.

“The pace is very different with many projects going on at once, so you wear different hats and attack things at different levels”

The general consensus amongst panelists on differences between academia and industry was that it depends on the role you play. “The pace is very different with many projects going on at once, so you wear different hats and attack things at different levels”, said Dr. Dellatore. Importantly, they concurred that the Ph.D. serves as the strong foundation for the skills needed to be successful in this field.

“Don’t let the current situation deter you from finishing, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and there will continue to be openings, keep pushing forward and progressing to the end. Virtual interviews are still being conducted during this time!”

Students on the precipice of graduation asked questions about the job market during COVID-19. Panelists assured students that Merck is still very much hiring during this time and that scientists from all fields are in high demand. “Don’t let the current situation deter you from finishing, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and there will continue to be openings, keep pushing forward and progressing to the end. Virtual interviews are still being conducted during this time!”, said Dr. Matt Metzger, a Rutgers Alumnus and current Merck Associate Principle Scientist. Additionally, students interested in getting an idea if industry would be a good fit for them were encouraged to apply for student internship opportunities offered by Merck. Furthermore, Rutgers has a summer internship partnership with Merck where students can see if industry is a good fit for them.

In conclusion the iJobs virtual career panel with Merck was an informative and educational discussion amongst panelists and attendees who were interested in learning more about industry research. The panelists’ ability to discuss their own experiences of their careers in industry gave students a real perspective on the abundance of job types available in industry and a much better understanding of what industry work entails. In addition, career development experiences described by Merck employers highlighted the many opportunities Merck specifically provides provided for employees.

Senior Editor: Helena Mello

Junior Editor: Monal Mehta

Medical Communication and Science Writing Virtual Career Panel

By: Gina Sanchez

On March 31st, the iJobs program hosted a career panel in Medical Writing and Science Communication. In this program, we were able to hear from three Rutgers Ph.D. graduates and one more individual at various stages of their careers. Attendees were able to get the points of view of the panelists regarding how they learned about Medical Writing, what their job activities include, the application process, and their favorite aspects of the field.

A common thread between the panelists was that they had “enjoyed the benchwork, but enjoyed writing it up and communicating it to others more,” as stated by Dr. Ina Nikolaeva, Scientific Director at ProEd Communications. Benchwork is the crux of research for many of us, but it is still critical that any findings are communicated in a way that others who may not be in our field can understand. On another note, Dr. Brendon Fussnecker, Senior Director of Flywheel Partners, had a bit of a unique take on the question of “why Medical Communications?”. For him, he had mentioned that he values the business side of things. He echoed some sentiments from the “SciPh.D.” workshop (which you can learn more about here and here), such as being able to target your pitch to different people within departments, namely talking to Human Resources versus talking to Account Management. The ability to know and understand your audience is vital.

So, what is Medical Writing? The specific day-to-day activities of each panelist varied, but they focused on a common thread: taking datasets and interpreting them to present to a broader audience. Dr. Apoorva Halikere, Associate Medical Director from P-value Communications, gave a brief overview of her general day. In essence, she receives datasets from clients and determines the best way to compile the data for presentation purposes, makes slide decks, and makes promotional pieces for her clients. These materials can be for primary care physicians, specialty physicians, or sometimes for patients. Being able to communicate across diverse audiences is a significant skill to have in this field. Some other responsibilities that she mentioned included assisting in the organization of advisory board meetings, which brings together specialists for their thoughts on the compound that they are working on with a client.

Typical breakdown of time in Medcomms. https://medcomms.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/kapoor_01.png?w=450

The work-life balances for each panelist were a bit different, but all seemed to agree that it was manageable. Dr. Nikolaeva mentioned that it is a learning process and could depend on the work culture of each company. Therefore, Dr. Fussnecker stated that it can be a tricky question, but it is valid to ask what is the company’s work culture while you are in the application process. Everyone has a different preference and works better under different environments, so it is important to factor this into your decision as an applicant.  Dr. Halikere also mentioned that it is possible to work remotely. This may not be an everyday thing (unless during a pandemic). Still, if you show that you are capable of being productive at home and you also have a good relationship with your boss, it is something that can be negotiated.

The major benefit of having such a diverse panel is that we were able to learn about the application process from many different angles, anywhere from someone newly-hired to someone at late career stage. Dr. Lorenz Loyola, Rutgers alumnus of 2019 currently working as a Medical Writer for Wedgewood Communications, was able to give us insight into what we likely will experience in a few short months or years. He mentioned that it can be tricky to apply for an entry-level position as it is competitive and that there are times of the year that it will be “easier” to apply for a job as cycles clients are off-loaded. He attended iJobs events and ultimately used LinkedIn to help him find his current job. The process included meeting with many people within the company, then performing a writing test. He said that their “goal is to check your potential to be trained to become a good medical writer for their company.” Dr. Fussnecker felt that being in a program like iJobs would look very good on an application because it shows that you have had exposure to many different career options and likely have established a network that could assist you in this career path. Furthermore, experience in all types of writing is recommended by him.

Medical Writing is a unique field, and experience writing primary research articles, review articles, a blog, or even your cover letter shows him that you are flexible in your writing skills, which is a major perk in this field. He also noted that it is important to show that you can work on a team. Many companies divide their employees into smaller groups that each tackle a different client project, so being able to work in a team is essential. Dr. Nikolaeva described the diverse types of writing tests that she has heard of or personally experienced. You may have one week to write a lengthy piece, one day to write an abstract, or summarize data in 2-3 hours. What they are looking for is potential, not perfection. You are expected to produce a detail-oriented, polished piece with proper grammar, flow, and structure that tells a story. She also went on to note that there is “not a lot of room for ego in this field,” as this is a client-based field. You are commonly put in the acknowledgments section of any papers produced, but not a primary author. That being said, you have some room to argue your points with clients, but it is ultimately not your piece.

Helpful skills to have. http://www.impactpharma.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/skills.jpg

One of the final topics discussed at this panel was the panelists’ favorite aspects of being a Medical Writer. Dr. Fussnecker enjoys what many people outside of the field would dislike. He loves how dynamic the job is. As a Medical Writer, you are constantly changing fields and expanding your knowledge base. He also really enjoys the problem-solving aspect of the writing process. Dr. Nikolaeva personally enjoys communicating with the clinicians, as they are the ones on the front lines battling the disease that you are working with and producing materials for.

This panel was very insightful and allowed us an up-close view of an emerging field that had seemed so elusive in the past. MedComm is an expanding field that Ph.D.s are highly-qualified for. In this career, you work with the skills you learned while earning your doctoral degree in order to produce pieces that will ultimately help to communicate the findings of one group to a broader audience. This career path will always challenge you to learn new subjects, and I feel that that is one of the most valuable outcomes of being a scientist.

 

Junior Editor: Janaina Pereira

Senior Editor: Helena Mello

Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics: Regulating the Power of Gene Editing

By: Samantha Avina

On Friday February 21st the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics in collaboration with the Rutgers iJobs program hosted the CRISPR Governance Workshop to discuss the current issues in developing policy to regulate genome editing. The objective of this workshop was to encourage open discussion about the use of genome editing technologies and give students insight into potential careers in science policy.

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR) technology is a novel biotechnological tool that allows direct editing of a gene of interest and which has been utilized in biomedical research and diagnostic tools.

The ability to make such changes to the human genome has stoked contentious debate amongst politicians and scientists regarding if and how this technology could be applied as a therapeutic agent.

Debates predominantly focus on whether CRISPR technology should be used to make germline genomic edits that pass from generation to generation.

At the Eagleton Institute of Politics workshop, science and policy experts were invited to speak as voices on different sides of the debate. Keynote speaker Dr. Jonathan Moreno, renowned bioethicist and Professor of Ethics at The University of Pennsylvania began the workshop by giving an overview of the ongoing debate and how similar issues have been treated in the past.

photo courtesy of mayoclinic 2016
photo courtesy of mayo clinic 2016

“We need to have science diplomacy with other institutions internationally and domestically,” Dr. Moreno stated when discussing the recent backlash to Dr. He Jiankui’s genome editing experiments in 2019. Dr. He’s controversial work resulted in two human embryos born to term in China with permanent deletion of the CCR5 gene in an attempt to reduce susceptibility to HIV. His work was publicly condemned by the scientific community who demanded a moratorium on human genome editing with CRISPR technology and led to major public outcry.  Dr. Moreno went on to discuss how the ability to regulate genome editing technology needs to be present in both authoritarian and democratic institutions, where it was previously thought scientific discovery thrived predominately under a democratic system.

“To flourish, science needs democracy as the lifeblood of good science…are we sure we can say that now?, Dr. Moreno stated concluding his talk his talk.

After Dr. Moreno’s talk, Drs. Patrick Hill and Wise Young of Rutgers University both gave lectures on the potential of CRISPR use in the future. With dissimilar perspectives, their talks and the following panel discussion gave attendees a glance into the heart of this controversial debate. Dr. Patrick Hill, an associate professor from the Rutgers School of Planning and Public Policy stressed the importance of a prudent approach to CRISPR use stating, “Just because we can utilize this technology doesn’t necessarily mean we should…editing is not new, this is different in degree but not kind.”

Alternatively, Dr. Wise Young from the Rutgers Center for Collaborative Neuroscience argued in support of CRISPR use in germline editing and proposed that there is no intrinsic difference between molecular, pharmacologic, or genetic therapy. While Dr. Young condemned inappropriate use of the technology, he noted that people are bound to start trying to use CRISPR. He explained that this will happen despite policy makers and the implementation of proper use checkpoints to regulate the technologies use in a safe and effective manner. “I don’t think memorandums are good”, stated Dr. Young, “We shouldn’t be afraid of genetics. We will have a lot of safety nets to make sure things don’t get out of hand.”

Following the speaker lectures, an open panel was formed where attendees could interact with the invited speakers and ask questions involving science policy and CRISPR regulation.

Rutgers faculty and students asked questions ranging from what the extent of science communication should be, to how to minimize CRISPR off target effects and who decides what will happen with this technology in the future.

Guest speakers had an array of responses ranging from pragmatic and opportunistic utilization of the CRISPR gene editing tool, to conservative and prudent approaches to its use.

Members of the Rutgers community were also able to participate in an interactive science policy exercise and allow their own opinions to flourish in round table discussions. The exercise focused on the example of CRISPR engineered gene drive constructs that result in the reduction of disease vector mosquito populations.

photo courtesy of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sourced from Hammond and Galizi (2018)
photo courtesy of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sourced from Hammond and Galizi (2018)

Specifically, the gene drive is constitutively expressed and passed down vertically through generations resulting in the sterilization of subsequent progeny to reduce or completely terminate the mosquito population. Just as in the panel discussions, attendees had many factors to consider when determining if gene drive use was ethical, environmentally sustainable and controllable.

The CRISPR regulation of gene editing workshop held by the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics in collaboration with the iJobs program gave students insight into the incredible world of science policy and all the complexity it entails. At this workshop students had the opportunity to grapple with the issues of CRISPR currently at the forefront of this contentious debate. This event demonstrated to students that science policy is a critical crossroad of regulation and scientific advancement. Those interested in shaping laws to regulate genome editing and other biotechnology inventions will find a career in science policy delightfully exciting and rewarding!

Junior Editor: Brianna Alexander

Senior Editor: Tomas Kasza

SciPhD: Preparing Scientists for Professional Careers

Written by Xuyuan Kuang

The Four-Day SciPhD Program led by Larry Petcovic and Randall Ribaudo, closed up on February 2nd where 40 PhD students and post-doctoral associates received certificates of the program completion supported by the Rutgers iJOBS program. Among 40 participants, most of them are from Rutgers University New Brunswick Campus or Newark Campus, and the rest are from Princeton University, and Rowan University.

The course covered a wide range of activities including lectures, group discussion and interview practices. Lectures included the topics: communication skills, leadership, networking, negotiating, and financial literacy. Additionally, on the evening of third day, a VIP reception created networking opportunities for trainees to discuss career options with professionals.

The program first helped participants to realize the requirements of business and social skills in a job advertisement. It clarified the differences between scientific methods and business process, and emphasized the most important competencies for entry-level positions in industry were strategy, communication, and excitement. Attendees participated in self-assessment to understand the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI describes people’s preferences for interacting with others (extraversion or introversion), gathering information (sensing or intuition), making decisions (thinking or feeling) and organizing their lives (judging or perceiving). Knowing MBTI about oneself and others could help the basis for building up communication skills.

In the communication courses, Larry and Randall introduced several techniques to develop emotional and social intelligence which are necessary for career development. The “3 m&ms” technique was a technique to use each m&m to ask questions during a conversation, which helps to understand an issue better. Larry and Randall reminded the trainees that switching from expert to learner is the most powerful technique to control and limit the cognitive bias. Briefly, learner mode means not being negative or defensive, arguing any point, pointing a finger or talking louder. Being a learner is beneficial when one needs a deeper relationship with the person or audience who one interacts with.

Moving forward, the training session about leadership was titled ‘Developing your people’ . The course talked about how to establish collaborative relationships that enable others to succeed, by being sensitive to their level of competence and independence for essential tasks. Three principles of effectively managing teams were introduced including clearly defined goals, using appropriate encouragement and praising success, and providing necessary criticisms with empathy. Using the knowledge of MBTI also helps to develop a targeted approach to provide needed support to people.

During the discussion of networking, a number of tips on preparing business cards and editing a LinkedIn profile were introduced by Larry and Randy. For example, one needs to pay attention to the material of a business card is made from, so a receiver can write on it with pen if necessary. Further, job seekers can use LinkedIn to get badges for skills in addition to skills certified by co-workers. When talking about the leadership, team performance tools such as brainstorming, priority matrix, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis as well as process mapping and value added analysis, was explained and practiced in the program.

Last but not least, distributive and integrative negotiation strategies were proposed in a topic covering “negotiating with the hiring manager.” Distributive negotiation involves haggling over a fixed amount of value—that is, slicing up the pie, while integrative is often referred to as “win-win” and typically entails two or more issues to be negotiated. It often involves an agreement process that better integrates the aims and goals of all the involved negotiation participants through creative and collaborative problem-solving. I learned to find salary information on websites and by job title, and to think in terms of a 3-year horizon when selecting a career.In addition, I was taught that during a negotiation it is best to try to avoid getting defensive.

The training about financial literacy includes lecture and teamwork of participants. After learning the basic income statement financial terms, students were assigned to be mimic employees in different companies or organizations including bank and drug investment or development companies. The financial procedures include buying and selling a company, and merging and getting loans from a bank.  Goals were set to increase revenue, net income as well as earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization (EBITA) with certain amount of cash. The financial procedures with banks, nonprofit organization and companies, motivated trainees to better understand the financial state of a business.

Lastly during the VIP reception SciPhD attendees had the opportunity to talk with previous SciPhD trainees and Rutgers alumni, which include scientists in industry, medical communications and non-profit sectors.When I discussed with professionals in different fields, they shared their day-to-day routine, and mentioned the challenges they confronted within their position. Moreover, they talked about how SciPhD and other iJOBS events or trainings helped them in their career. From what they said, I realized SciPhD could be a start to change my way of thinking and communication.

Apart from the 40-hour program, the software Flamingo, a new online web application was provided to certified trainees aiming to help them select a career, identify and develop relevant business and social skills, and prepare targeted resumes for free.

For me, SciPhD has been the most helpful workshop I have attended to handle job interviews and understand business procedures. It has given me a new angle to think about communication. I feel confident in creating a resume for any job.I am not only aware of my personality better but also fearless to enhance my business communication. I now have a clearer sense of how to effectively explore career options.

Junior Editor Samantha Avina

SciPhD: Preparing Scientists for Industry Careers

Sciphd

Written by: Maria Ibrahim

Are you interested in learning about a variety of possible careers after completing a  Ph.D. or post-doc? Do you want an insight on how to brand yourself for a job interview? Do you want to know what leadership skills are necessary to be an effective employee? If the answer to these questions is yes, then I highly recommend the SciPhD (The Business of Science for Scientists) workshop. The four days (36 hours) workshop is a “must attend” iJOBS event!  Additionally, SciPhD is an NIH endorsed career development program which focuses on helping participants become competitive and successful as professional scientists, regardless of an academic or industry setting. The SciPhD certification program provides a “hands-on” method by encouraging participants to work together on their business skills.

Over the past two weekends, at the Newark and Piscataway campuses, I joined other eager participants who wanted to gain business and social skills. The topics covered in the workshop include: the business of science, successful communications as a scientist, six leadership styles, developing your people, negotiation and finance, and building effective teams. However, the workshop is not limited to that, it also includes a comprehensive portfolio that provided a review of everything taught in the class. Also, each certificate program attendee received a free subscription on Flamingo, career couch and job analytics web tool.  Flamingo provides help on tracking job listings, identifying critical skills, and developing a tailored resume targeting a specific job. Through all the interactive and team building exercises, I left SciPhD with a LinkedIn profile filled with new connections.

Day 1

Larry and Randall, the coordinators, started with a brief introduction about themselves and the goals of the workshop. They asked us to describe our expectations and what we hoped to learn in these four days. I really enjoyed learning about the many different job opportunities available to Ph.D.’s. The possibilities are truly endless, and it was such a breath of fresh air to have Larry tell us that we are not overeducated or overqualified for our dream jobs. Lastly, to learn successful communication as a scientist, we took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)  personality test to understand different communication styles. I’ve attached the link to the free MBTI test so everyone can find out their communication style!

http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

Day 2

Continuing from day one, the topic of the second day was emotional and social intelligence. Larry stated that during interviews most Ph.D.’s when asked a question are quick to respond with an answer. However, that probably isn’t in our best interest because it can come off as aggressive in a non-technical conversation. Larry’s resolution was simple, pretend to eat m&m’s, this allows for a clear and comprehensive answer to the question in a non-aggressive manager. Thus, helping with our soft social skills that will help land that perfect job!

Day 3

The day started with a leadership exercise that involved managing a company, co-workers, and customers. Without providing too much information, teams work together to mimic a business environment. Though it is not similar, the concept of management and social interaction is important in having a successful company. After the activity, we worked together on a research proposal to understand finance and performance. As a group, we created a process map to increase the flow of our research proposal. This budgeting exercise transitioned into the most anticipated topic of the seminar, negotiating as a scientist. The key point was that negotiating is an exercise of social intelligence and communication skills. Randal kept repeating the phrase, “Never negotiate just your salary! Always negotiate your total compensation package!” I learned how to ask for a sign-on bonus, medical benefits coverage, educational assistance programs, student debt assistance, and equity opportunities. Overall, this was the densest part of the workshop, but the most beneficial. The day ended with a VIP networking session with professionals from a variety of companies from medical communications to more traditional Pharma companies answering questions and interacting with the participants.

Day 4

The two topics remaining were financial literacy and strategic project management for scientists. It may seem daunting to end with these challenging topics, but Larry always has a plan. To tackle financial literacy, participants were divided into ten groups that included venture capital firms, pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit organizations, and banks. The goal of the exercise was simple, integrate and reinforce all the previously learned subjects from the workshop to achieve financial goals set for each group. My newly acquired scientific and business skills were used to negotiate and communicate opportunities to complete the exercise.

The last topic was project management, which scientist practice every day in their careers, yet few scientists realize this. The key concept and implementation of project management are similar in parallel to the scientific method. They further emphases the overall goal of the workshop, which is using our scientific training to target professional careers outside of academia. In the workshop we learned and experienced processes that are parallel to a business lift-cycle. The workshop ended with all participants receiving their well-earned certifications and enjoying the new friendships that they have made.

Conclusion

Throughout this workshop, I learned how to tailor a resume, understand the parallels of business management in science, and be confident in my previous experiences when applying for a job. Additionally, I can now add SciPhD to my toolbox when I’m ready to leave the lab and join the workforce. This workshop is highly recommended for a reason so definitely check it out!

https://sciphd.com/

cert

Junior Editor: Janaina Cruz Pereira

Senior Editor: Monal Mehta

iJOBS Career Panel: GlaxoSmithKline

By Janaina Pereira

On November 11th, the iJOBS program hosted an event focused on the global company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). With this panel, we had the opportunity to hear from panelists holding different positions in the Human Genetics and Functional Genomics Departments about their projects and career paths in computational biology, genomic statistics, and genetics at GSK.

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GSK is one of the world’s leading healthcare companies with the vision of helping people to “do more, feel better, and live longer.” The company has over 95,000 employees across the globe, and last year delivered around 3.8 billion consumer healthcare products, 2.3 billion medicines, and 770 million vaccine doses. The company is well known for its vaccines, consumer healthcare and pharmaceutical products, which include the first vaccine for meningitis B called Bexsero, and expert recommended brands such as Sensodyne, Parodontax, Poligrip, Voltaren, Panadol, Otrivin and Theraflu.

The event started with Dr. Alison Acevedo discussing her career path as a Computational Biologist at GSK. Dr. Acevedo is a Rutgers alumna; she finished her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, within Androulakis Lab in June 2019, and started working at GSK in July 2019. Her Ph.D. work focused on computational and statistical methods to analyze high-throughput genetics data, and she has used these techniques to analyze cis-regulatory data for targets across therapy areas and identification/characterization of cell lines at GSK. Dr. Acevedo also discussed her hiring experience in the company. She was first contacted by a GSK recruiter through LinkedIn to apply for the company Future Leaders program. The Future Leaders consists of a trainee program in which you can rotate within three departments to increase experience and gain first-hand knowledge in the field. The program is offered in different countries and covers diverse areas such as business operations, sales and marketing, manufacturing and supply, and research and development. Unfortunately, Dr. Acevedo was not selected to participate in the program. However, she had cultivated a relationship with the GSK recruiter that led to the opportunity to apply for the Computational Biologist position in the department of Human Genetics. Important advice alert “be[ing] kind to your recruiter” as they can contact you about different job opportunities. She also mentioned that the hiring process consists of three phases: a phone interview with Human Resources, a technical phone interview with your potential manager, and an onsite interview (consisting of a presentation and a series of meetings throughout the day). Dr. Acevedo precisely explained how the company is encouraging the employee’s career growth by offering in-house training, the opportunity to participate in a variety of related-field conferences, and by offering a “10% Program” in which the employees can spend 10% of their time in a project of their interest.

Next, Dr. Dawn Waterworth, Senior Director of Human Genetics Department at GSK discussed her career path. Dr. Waterworth did her Ph.D. in Human Genetics from the Imperial College of London, held a Postdoctoral position in the same area at UCL, and worked as an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University. In 2002, Dr. Waterworth transitioned from academia to industry through a position as a director at GSK, leading the genetics projects for cardiovascular, metabolic and dermatological diseases in the drug discovery and development department. Dr. Waterworth holds an outstanding curriculum, which includes being recognizing as the top 5% of scientists in GSK and author of over 150 publications. She focused her presentation on the projects being developed within different teams in her department, which include genomics analytics and computational biology, applied genetics, genomic data strategy and pharmacogenomics team focusing on target identification and validation. She also mentioned that the group is interconnected and the members can experience working in a variety of fields from immune system diseases to infectious diseases. She finished her presentation discussing a case study of GLP1R (a target of albiglutide), which gave us an idea of the importance of working as a group to answer real questions.

We next heard from Dr. Diptee Kulkarni, the Genetics Therapy Area Head at GSK. Dr. Kulkarni is a licensed physician with a Ph.D. in cancer molecular biology and genetics from Rutgers University. Before joining GSK, Dr. Kulkarni was a Postdoc, as well as a Research Teaching Specialist, both of which were at Rutgers University. Dr. Kulkarni started her presentation talking about her group, which is focused on genetics in oncology. She briefly presented some examples of how genetics is applied to cancer drug discovery and development such as identification of oncogenic somatic BRAF mutations to medicine and identification of drug safety and efficacy by using genetics approaches.

The last panelist was Dr. Johannes Freudenberg, Director of Computational Biology Department at GSK. Dr. Freudenberg started his career as a computational scientist and later on did a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics at the University of Cincinnati. After he fished his Ph.D., Dr. Freudenberg worked as Research Associate at the University of Cincinnati and later as a Research Fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Eight years ago, Dr. Freudenberg joined GSK as a Scientific Investigator and now he holds the position of Scientific Director of the Computational Biology department and is a GSK Fellow. Dr. Freudenberg started his presentation talking about the Computational Biology group, which is responsible for supporting the company’s drug discovery pipeline. Dr. Freudenberg walked us through the pipeline steps from target identification to the clinical trials and mentioned the contributions made by the Computational Biology group to the pipeline, which includes the use of machine learning and AI (deep learning) technologies. He finished his presentation with examples of recent projects in computational biology, such as meta-analysis of the human gene expression in response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection and lung microbiome studies.

After the panelist presentations, we had the opportunity to ask them questions about the company and industry, in general. I was impressed by how the audience had come prepared for this panel. Some of the audience members had already applied for a job position at GSK and others came with their printed resume on hand.

 

Image source: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/31-things-you-should-remove-from-your-resume-immediately
Image source: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/31-things-you-should-remove-from-your-resume-immediately

 

I have selected some discussed questions to share with you that I believe are important for a career at GSK and industry as a whole.

Audience: What is the difference between Future Leaders and the Fellow program?

Dr. Waterworth: Future Leaders is a smaller program than the Fellow program. The idea behind the Fellow program is to include 5% of the GSK R&D scientists and you have to be a GSK employee before applying to the program.

Audience: Which skills should I improve during my Ph.D. that can be important to apply for a position as computational biologists, statistical geneticists or geneticists at GSK?

Dr. Acevedo: Most of the skills I used during my Ph.D. were carried on to my job position. However, you can improve some of your skills in R and Python, get familiar with available databases, and have a good knowledge of high throughput screen approaches as well as pathway analysis approaches. The computational tools and databases that you used during your Ph.D. can be skills that you can carry on to your future job position.

Audience: Are you looking for people that work with plants, for example?

Dr. Kulkarni: The things that we are looking for are the tools that you are using to answer your question in the plant field, for example. The questions are not that important but the skills that you have developed to answer those questions are really important and are the things that we look for on a candidate profile.

Audience: Is it important to have a Postdoc experience before applying for a job at GSK?

Dr. Waterworth and Dr. Freudenberg: It is not extremely necessary. We, for example, came with different experiences: some of us worked as post-docs but others didn’t. GSK is hiring people for different position levels.

Audience: Is it difficult to transition between careers or departments in the company?

Dr. Freudenberg: It is not difficult to transition between careers or departments in the company as GSK offers plenty of opportunities to work in collaboration with other departments.

Audience: Which skills can be learned in academia that could help with the transition to industry?

Dr. Waterworth: Communication skills are key skills in industry. You have to be able to talk about your idea and project to a diverse audience.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed participating in this panel. I not only learned about the GSK global company but about the industry field in general. I enjoyed listening to the panelists and I absorbed their advice coming from experiences in different career stages, from the directors to the recently hired employee, everyone had contributed with extremely important information. I will certainly take their advice on my path on transitioning from academia to industry. I confess that after this panel, GSK is on my list of the top dream companies to work for.

If you want to have the whole experience, please check out the podcast of the event.

 

This article was edited by Huri Mücahit and Helena Mello.

 

Non-profit Sector: Where Do the Ph.Ds. Fit?

By Samantha Avina

When the idea of non-profit organizations come to mind it is most often associated with thoughts of fundraising and philanthropic work for the better of humanity. Although accompanied by these great attributes, non-profit work doesn’t automatically call attention of the lone Ph.D. candidate doing niche specific benchwork. So, how does the idea of the non-profit sector and their increasing need for Ph.D. holders go hand in hand? With that in mind, on November 6th, iJobs hosted the non-profit panel event at the Rutgers Piscataway campus. Panelists from different non-profit organizations gathered to discuss Ph.D. recruitment in the field and what skillsets these organizations are searching for during the hiring process. As the trend of Ph.D. holders looking for non-academic jobs continues to increase, those in the non-profit field are casting their recruitment net to Ph.D’s now more than ever.

Panelists, Dr. Sean Sullivan and Sarah Sprott, came as representatives of The Helmsley Charitable Trust , a self-funded non-profit organization dedicated to supporting research efforts in a variety of health disparity fields. Dr. Sullivan is the Senior Program Officer for the Type I diabetes project at Helmsley. He described his desire to help others in combination with wanting to explore careers outside academia as attributes to his change of career path. “Non-profit was not something I initially thought about but seeing how I could directly help people when I talk to top researchers and companies and find out new research projects that directly help people, that’s the fulfillment I get at Helmsley”, said Dr. Sullivan.

non profit buzzword stock photo
Image source: https://www.nonprofitexpert.com/about/

Human resources manager Sarah Sprott, who is directly involved in the hiring process at Helmsley, emphasized the important skillsets Ph.D. students attain through their training that make them desirable candidates that thrive in this field. “What we are really looking for in the hiring process are skillsets that show us you can speak confidently and answer unexpected questions while presenting information in a clear, concise, and professional manner. We try to see how you can bring a different perspective to the team with the breadth of knowledge that we know Ph.D.s have”, said Sarah.

As the trend of Ph.D. holders looking for non-academic jobs continues to increase, those in the non-profit field are casting their recruitment net to Ph.Ds now more than ever.

These professional traits are sought from Ph.D.’s not only at large non-profit organizations like Helmsley, but across all organizations even at the grassroots level.  Panelist Dr. Alycia Halladay, who is the Chief Science Officer at the Autism Science Foundation (ASF)  and Rutgers Alumni, has worked at different non-profit organizations and agrees Ph.D. holders are highly sought candidates in her field. More than solely emphasizing desired skillsets, Dr. Halladay drove home the importance of Ph.D. students taking advantage of different opportunities that may arise during their training that can pave the way for more career opportunities in the future. “Always seek opportunities to work with other people whether its joining a committee, doing a collaboration with another lab, or writing a grant…you don’t know where it will lead you and those things will really make your application stand out”, said Dr. Halladay when asked how she got involved in non-profit work.

“Always seek opportunities to work with other people whether its joining a committee, doing a collaboration with another lab, or writing a grant…you don’t know where it will lead you and those things will really make your application stand out”

ASF is a smaller non-profit that depends primarily on donors to fund its initiatives unlike Helmsley which is self-funded, and this brought up another series of topics on the panel regarding job security and salary. Each panelist had different responses to these topics but concluded across the board that things like job security and salary depended on highly variable factors including the size of the organization and your experience when entering the job market.

November 6th, 2019 iJobs Non-profit Panelists (From left to right): Dr. Sean Sullivan Helmsley SPO, Dr. Alycia Halladay Autism Science Foundation CSO, Dr. Jane Adler panel moderator, Sarah Sprott Helmsley HR manager.
November 6th, 2019 iJobs Non-profit Panelists (From left to right): Dr. Sean Sullivan Helmsley SPO, Dr. Alycia Halladay Autism Science Foundation CSO, Dr. Jane Adler panel moderator, Sarah Sprott Helmsley HR manager.

In Helmsley’s case, because they are self-funded and have great investment teams that ensure monetary investments continue to increase, job stability is relatively a non-issue including benefits like paid maternal and paternal healthcare. At smaller organizations, such as ASF, who are relatively new and depend primarily on donations, each project and the allotted resources set toward that project are determined at the beginning of every year so that project funding is not a major area of concern but can still vary from year to year. Salaries for Ph.D. holders in the non-profit also vary with an entry level position ranging from 65-80K a year depending on experience garnered during your training including publications, post-doctoral positions, and prior industry experience.

The non-profit panel event lasted approximately an hour and a half with the first session focused on moderated questions directed toward the panelists and the second portion focused on an interactive activity. In the interactive portion audience members broke off into groups to discuss a prompt of questions formulated by the panelists meant to simulate situations often presented to those in the non-profit sector. These questions touched on different components of non-profit work ranging from ethical conduct vs donor interests, to handling of misconstrued scientific information streamlined to the public. By giving the audience the opportunity to simulate handling these situations, the audience got an even better understanding of the communication, professionalism, and networking skills needed to be successful in the non-profit sector. These are skills that Ph.D.’s candidates have literally been trained for.

Salaries for Ph.D. holders in the non-profit also vary with an entry level position ranging from 65-80K a year depending on experience garnered during your training including publications, post-doctoral positions, and prior industry experience.

The non-profit  career path  has been a hidden gem of the Ph.D. job market that has not been promoted to the same extent as professorship or industry, yet often leads to a fulfilling and successful career path. As the era of non-academic Ph.D. careers continues to gain momentum, organizations like Helmsley and ASF are actively seeking Ph.D. holders to apply for project design and leadership positions because their training, regardless of the field, has enabled them to succeed in these positions.

Sometimes we forget, through the monotony of failed experiments and constant deadlines, that our time as a Ph.D. is more than just an accumulation of technical skills but is an actual degree in being able to think critically, manage time effectively and solve complex problems in any environment. So, if you are interested in using your skills for a greater cause with direct impact on people this may be the career path for you and the job market will be waiting for your application with open arms.

This article was edited by Emily Kelly Castro and Helena Mello

iJOBS site visit: Wiley Publishing

by Helena Mello

Founded in 1807, Wiley Publishing (then John Wiley and Sons) is a worldwide company with over 1600 journals published. On October 28, 2019, the Rutgers iJOBS program visited Wiley’s New Jersey site to hear from a variety of employees on the publishing industry and where the company stands within it. There are two main areas within Wiley: research and Education (Wiley Education houses the For Dummies series!). The visit was focused on the scientific publishing side of the company and I will share my impressions of the site visit in this article.

It is quite common to question oneself about a career outside of academia. “What about all the laboratory training I have got?”, “Am I still going to be a scientist if I leave the lab?”, or “Can I even do something else?”. These doubts are part of the reason we have the Rutgers iJOBS program along with the iJOBS blog. The goal of iJOBS is to expose graduate students and post-doctorates to non-academic careers that need scientific experts. In that sense, it was pleasing to learn that the employees at Wiley feel very much in contact with the even though they are not in academia.

Most editorial roles within Wiley maintain a close relationship with scientific societies, particularly those that partner with the company for their journal publications. Some examples are the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Microbiology. These societies rely on Wiley’s 200+ years of publishing experience to advise on whether to make their journals open access or to obtain understanding of their audience. In addition to the societies, the editors at Wiley are always in contact with external editors, i.e. researchers that serve in the peer-review process. These individuals are principal investigators and post-doctoral researchers in academia. These relationships contribute to what the editors described as “a strong feeling of being part of the scientific world”. Moreover, it is typical for the publishing houses to attend society meetings. At these meetings, they can network with their collaborators, and also keep an eye on the original research that may be featured within their next issues.

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We heard from six employees about their career paths before and within Wiley. While all of them hold PhD degrees, their fields of expertise ranged immensely: from Neuroscience to Anthropology and French Literature. In that sense, it seems that the roads taken to the publishing industry were not the same. Some had pursued internships or freelancing opportunities while in graduate school, others had stumbled into publishing sometime after finishing their studies. In essence, the industry welcomes people from various backgrounds, which also contributes to the collaborative environment all the employees have described.

Interestingly, all of them have held a handful of throughout their careers in publishing, e.g. Associate Editor, Editor-in-Chief, Publishing Director. This indicated to me that the company has solid professional development plans while allowing for in-house mobility. In fact, while most graduate degree holders would search for jobs within editorial teams, there were other teams that hire graduate degree holders at Wiley. These are: Portfolio Development, Research Analytics, Technology and Web Platforms, and Sales. All of these areas benefit immensely from individuals with a science background and a passion for communicating science.

In summary, if you would like to explore career opportunities away from the bench but still remain in close contact with science, a career in publishing might be for you! I hope this post has helped you understand a bit more about this industry and that you enjoyed the read!

This article was edited by Jennifer Casiano-Matos and Tomas Kasza.

What can you be with a PhD? A Science and Technology Career Symposium: Part 1

by Rukia Henry

What can you be with a PhD (WCUB) is a career symposium that is held biennially. It is supported by the New York Regional Consortium of Schools, in association with Nature Careers. The two-day event is held to facilitate panels of professionals that can engage in active discussions around traditional and alternative careers that students can pursue with a PhD degree. The panel discussions ranged in varying topics and had professional representatives from organizations in business, government, academia, and the public and private sector. This is the first post in a four-part series that will cover the sessions that I attended at the two-day symposium.

WHAT CAN YO U BE 

Day One, Part 1: Careers in Bioinformatics and Genomics

The panellists for this session included Dr Issac Galatzer-Levy, VP of Clinical and Computational Neuroscience at AiCure, Dr Zachary Kurtz, Scientist at Lodo Therapeutics and Dr Jonathan Scheiman, Co-Founder and CEO of FitBiomics. The moderator of the panel was Dr Jim Hayes, Field Application Scientist, and Clinical Bioinformatics at QIAGEN.

There is a genomics revolution occurring in our present generation that has taken off extraordinarily. We are now able to generate and analyze unprecedented amounts of data in diverse fields of science and research within a short period of time. This has given us the ability to progress, especially in the biomedical field, by sorting, processing, and analyzing huge data sets of patient information, which has helped us to tailor targeted and precise medical treatments. The fields of genomics and bioinformatics have become closely related to each other, and with this new technological tool, scientists are now readily able to transform genomic information that will move the medical field forward.

Scientists and graduate students in training can benefit immensely from the opportunities that the computational and bioinformatics field has to offer. Especially students who mainly conduct research in a laboratory setting where chemical and biological matter is processed, the ability to transform the data produced and make meaningful connections with consortiums of similar data is made possible with bioinformatics.

Is a Post-Doctoral Appointment Necessary for a Career in Bioinformatics?

The panellists discussed ways in which they were able to transition from a wet lab to bioinformatics and computational positions.

In order to facilitate the transition into the bioinformatics job market, the importance of obtaining post-doctoral training was discussed. Two of the panellists, Dr Issac Galatzer-Levy and Dr Jonathan Scheiman, both held post-doctoral appointments. Dr Galatzer-Levy first went into academia, and in addition to his position at AiCure, he currently holds an adjunct professorship at Columbia University in the Department of Psychiatry. He noted that at the time of obtaining his Ph.D., he initially did not consider a career in bioinformatics or computational biology. However, it soon became clear the plethora of benefits and advantages the emerging field has to offer.

Dr Scheiman, however, noted that he obtained his postdoctoral degree more recently than Dr Isaac and while in his appointment, he likewise saw the great benefit of this tool and decided to co-found FitBiomics. FitBiomics is a biotech company that utilizes next-generation sequencing to analyze the microbiome of athletes to identify, analyze and isolate novel populations of bacteria that can be transformed into probiotic supplements. Dr Scheiman obtained his PhD in the field of medical oncology. Both Dr Scheiman and Dr Issac received PhD training in the natural and medical sciences and were both able to successfully transition into careers in Bioinformatics and Genomics.

The consensus among the panellists is that, while a postdoctoral appointment is deemed important for a career in academia, you can increase your skills in biology or genetics, thereby setting yourself up to be proficient and an expert in your research field. Besides, you can go into a postdoctoral appointment with the interest to start your own company, and you will have the opportunity to develop, optimize and license a technique that you can later transform and be of relevance in the field of Bioinformatics and Genomics. Mainly, what you develop as a post-doc can be used to build and develop a company of your own, or translate that into the bioinformatics sphere instead of starting your own lab, an advantage Dr Scheiman saw and employed.

Dr Kurtz was the only panellist who did not complete postdoctoral training, having completed a PhD in Microbiology and Systems Biology and NYU School of Medicine. Part of his graduate school training, however, involved computational analysis of the gut microbiome.

Nonetheless, one disadvantage that not completing a postdoc appointment may pose is the level that you enter the job market. Candidates with just a PhD degree usually end up with entry-level positions, while the ones who have completed a post-doctoral training may be propelled to a level 2 scientist in a company.

Getting a Job in the Genomics and Bioinformatics Market

As discussed above, while postdoctoral training may be more beneficial for a career in academia, you can use this time of training as an opportunity to increase your skills in molecular biology as well and gain more experience in computational biology. Having a background in bioinformatics can most definitely make you more competitive and marketable.

To gain such experience, you can begin by learning how to use and be proficient in R and Python programming languages. According to Dr Scheiman, “you should know enough to be dangerous.” In addition, it is important that while learning these languages, you gain the valuable skill in being proficient in analyzing large data sets. You should be able to build a model where data can be continuously translational to the real world. And how can you accomplish that? Most of the panellists advised taking advantage of training videos on YouTube and free content on the World Wide Web.

Dr Kurtz recommended that graduate students should also consider learning how to perform cloud computing and sign up for Amazon Web Service, a platform that trains you on computing and managing massive databases online and in the cloud.

Handling Imposter Syndrome in the Bioinformatics World

Most of the panellists were trained in ‘wet lab’ and had degrees that are not in Bioinformatics or Computational Genomics. One topic discussed was dealing with imposter syndrome as you navigate a field where you did not earn professional training. The resounding advice that all the panellists shared was that “everyone  is making it up as they go.” It is crucial that you become well versed and trained in your area of expertise, and with your valuable training and knowledge, you are actually at an advantage. It is important also to know that you learn something new every day, and no one knows everything.

Being trained as a scientist in an academic setting may help you to develop valuable skills that may prove useful in non-academic working environments.  Most scientists are trained to be critical thinkers, and you become well versed in making and executing plans. While most experts in the bioinformatics world may only know what is in their world, you bring the perspective of being able to be a liaison between the service being built and offered, and the customers and target audience the service is provided to. According to Dr Galatzer-Levy, never let the IT team try to speak with the customers.

This post was edited by Janaina Pereira and Helena Mello.