iJOBS Simulation: Introduction to patents and how to be a technical specialist

patent law



By Emily C. Kelly-Castro

On October 2, 2019, I attended the iJOBS Simulation: How to be a technical specialist. So, what does it mean to be a technical specialist you ask? A technical specialist works closely with patent lawyers to advise on specific patents. A patent lawyer will examine an invention, guide an inventor through the patent application process and help an applicant get a patent for your invention. So, you might ask yourself, what is a patent and why is it important? Based on the definition given by the Webster dictionary a patent is a written document securing for a term of years the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention. What makes an invention patentable? The invention must:

  • Encompass “patentable subject matter”
  • Be useful
  • Be new
  • Be non-obvious
  • Be supported by a written description of the invention, written by any person skilled in the art, and show the best way to do it.


This session was directed by two technical specialists, Victor Ghidu, Ph.D. and Thomas H. Walls, Ph.D., along with Shean Johnson, a legal staff recruiter. Victor Ghidu, Ph.D. is currently an associate at Morgan Lewis law firm while Thomas Walls, Ph.D. works as a Patent Attorney for Bausch Health. Shean Johnson is the Director of Legal Staff Recruitment for Elm & Broad Recruiting Solutions. For more information about the speakers, you can check out their bios on our iJOBs event webpage.

During the first part of this session, participants directed questions at each of the guest speakers. Here I will discuss some of the questions asks and a brief summary of what their collective responses were.

  • What are some of the skills you look for when recruiting a technical specialist?
    • The applicant must have a clear understanding of the technical background of a patent or a field, whether it is in engineering, pharmacology, or in the biochemistry field.
    • A prospective technical specialist should have a willingness to be trained.
    • Being able to “talk nerd”. It is important for technical specialists to have the ability to communicate the science written by a Ph.D. or MD to a lawyer and to a public audience.
    • As a prospective technical specialist, you will need to educate yourself about topics outside your field of expertise. Some topics might not be within your technical field, but because you are the specialist you will be expected to learn about the topic and communicate your knowledge to the patent lawyer.
    • You should be able to write a proper, organized document using the correct language that describes the invention. It is important to find opportunities to improve your writing ability while completing your Ph.D. before seeking a position in technical writing.
  • Is there a demand for technical specialists in the biological/health field?
    • Right now, there is a high demand for technical specialists with technical expertise in electrical engineering, molecular biology, and physiology.
  • Could you explain the interviewing process?
    • Getting an interview is already a big step. When you get called for an interview you may be asked to discuss your research work, get quizzed on technical questions on your field, and demonstrate that you can communicate using appropriate technical language. The type of interview you get depends on the company, but you should be prepared for any of these scenarios. It’s also important to convey why you want to work in patent law.
  • How would you describe the workload for a technical specialist?
    • It depends on the type of law firm you work for. It would be really hard to tell you will be strictly working a “9 am to 5 pm” shift. It all depends on your workload and organization. Sometimes you will have to put in extra hours whether it is extended work nights or during the weekends. Small law firms are usually based on productivity, while large law firms get billed by the hour.

During the second part of this session, Victor and Thomas discussed two patent cases: a drug method case and a chemical compound case. A method patent doesn’t cover something physical or tangible, it covers the steps that need to be performed to complete a process. On the other hand, a chemical compound patent will cover either the chemical name or the chemical structure, or both. This comprises a core chemical structure with several optional chemical groups that may be attached to the core structure.

The first case discussed was about isobutyl gaba, or commercially known as Lyrica, and its derivatives for the treatment of pain. This is method case, where it describes how this one compound can be used to treat different types of pain. The patent was first filed in 1996, approved in 1997, supposed to expire in 2017, but it was extended until June 30, 2019, due to granting pediatric exclusivity.

The second case was about a γ-aminobutyric acid analog and its optical isomers. This is considered a chemical compound case, where you patent the whole compound, for any type of use. Having a compound patent weighs more than a methods patent because it covers a broader description when it comes to patenting an invention.

In both situations, a technical specialist will be responsible for studying in detail the invention that is desired to be patented. They will translate the science to the lawyer and work closely together to write up the patent document for the researcher’s invention.

This was a great event to learn about being a technical specialist in a patent law firm and how patents work are applied to scientific inventions. Personally, I was not aware of this type of opportunity as a researcher. Through this workshop, I learned that there are more ways of communicating science in environments outside of academia. If you are passionate about communicating science to a diverse audience, you should consider pursuing a career as a technical specialist.


If you want to listen again to this session you can check out the podcast and the slides at our iJobs events webpage.

Junior Editor: Eileen Oni

Senior Editor: Tomas Kasza

iJOBS Simulation: Equity Research

Written by Monal Mehta

On September 25th 2019, Rutgers iJOBS held an Equity Research Simulation event. Two individuals, both from Guggenheim Securities, LLC, came down from NYC for the evening to give students more insight on what an equity research career might entail. The first speaker, Charles Zhu, Ph.D., is an Equity Research Senior Associate covering small- and mid-cap Biotechnology stocks with a focus in oncology. Before obtaining this position, Dr. Zhu worked as a biopharmaceutical market access and strategy consultant at The Dedham Group. Dr. Zhu is a Rutgers Alumni, with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University – New Brunswick! The second speaker, Anvita Gupta, Ph.D., is an Equity Research Associate covering Rare Diseases and Gene Therapy cap names in the Biotechnology sector at Guggenheim Securities. Before this position, Dr. Gupta earned her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from New York Medical College in 2018, followed by a Credential of Readiness certification in Business Analytics, Economics for Managers and Financial Accounting from Harvard Business School Online.





Before the simulation, iJOBS attendees were able to ask Dr. Zhu and Dr. Gupta questions about their careers. One of the initial questions was “What is equity research?” Dr. Zhu described the field as a team of analysts and associates that evaluate publicly traded companies, such as biotechnology companies, in order to give a pitch to investors, wealth managers, hedge funds, etc. that might have funds to put into stock. Other than Guggenheim Securities, there are many other firms, including Evercore, Bank of America, etc.! Dr. Gupta then went on to describing the interview process. “The interview process started with a phone interview, followed by an in person interview with the analyst and a co-worker, which was then followed up by an assignment requiring me to create a slide deck on a drug for a particular diseases… in total there were about 6 rounds of interviews, but after about 3 rounds you knew where the interviews were headed.” Dr. Zhu also shared his experiences, and wanted guests to know that as an interviewee you should have an idea of what equity research is, demonstrate you can act and work fast, but that it is not super important to know finance – the science is more important, and the financial knowledge will come while doing the job.

It is also important to know that an entry level position has the official title of “Equity Research Associate” while a more senior position is the “Analyst.” If you get hired as an equity research associate you will have to complete 4 licensing exams (on topics such as finance, compliance, regulation) within the first year of working. Until you pass all exams, you are not granted authorship on notes, cannot talk to clients, and cannot speak publicly. So, it is very important to complete and pass all exams! Dr. Zhu described the exams as time consuming to study for, however if you put in the effort you should be able to pass. As a final note on the job description, both speakers mentioned they get to the office very early each day, 7 A.M., or 7:10 A.M. at the latest, and are expected to work ~12-hour days. While this seems daunting coming from a graduate school-work day, there is no weekend/after-hours work, and the job comes with a 6-figure salary!

After the initial Q/A session, we moved on to the simulation portion of the evening. Here, the goal was to compare 2 cancer drugs targeting Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST), from two different pharmaceutical companies, Deciphera Pharmaceuticals and Blueprint Medicines. We were given press releases from both companies on their drug, Ripretinib from Deciphera, and Avapritinib from Blueprint. We were then asked to compare and contrast the two drugs and answer the following questions.


Dr. Zhu explained that often when two competing companies release similar drugs, he will have to write up reports explaining what happened, and the potential impact of the drugs on stocks. This can be a very fast paced field. He went on to give us an example, “One morning I missed my bus from Port Authority, and my co-worked had just texted me about a press release that had been dropped at 7 A.M., there was no time to waste so I had to run all the way to the office. By 8 A.M. had the report sent to my boss for his revisions! When news hits, it is important for us to get the report out as soon as possible.”

This simulation lasted about 40 minutes and gave us insight into the little time that might be available for a report to be written up. As someone who is not in the cancer field, and is not used to reading about drug reports, the simulation was not easy. We had to decode clinical and drug related jargon to figure out which drug might be the best, and lead to the most market success. While challenging, it was a very stimulating and exciting to work under “pressure” to get a report out.  If you missed the event and would like to recreate the stimulation on your own time, you can follow these links to get the information on both drugs: Avapritinib and Ripretinib.

Overall this was a very interesting stimulation. We, in the audience, were able to ask questions about what equity research entails, and participate in an activity allowing us to determine if this field might be one to look into while hunting for jobs. In my opinion, the amount of job opportunities available to a Ph.D. scientist can seem endless at times, so attending iJOBS events covering different careers can be helpful when trying to narrow down the list. If you are like me, and haven’t narrowed down your career interests, consider attending iJOBS events to get more knowledge. To find a full list of iJOBS events, click here, the page is updated regularly so check back often!


Junior Editor: Jennifer Casiano-Matos

iJOBS Career Panel: Data Science

By Janaina Pereira and Tomas Kasza

“There is a sea of data and it might be useful to learn how to sail on it.”

In the past few years, we have generated a gigantic amount of data. Technologies such as next-generation sequencing, digitalization, cloud computing, and even smartphones have provided a massive amount of data. This data has become more and more accessible. If you stop and think about what you did today, you may find that you have contributed many drops into this sea of data. The picture you have posted on social media about your lunch, the review that you have written about a new favorite restaurant, your opinion about that new trending cosmetic on a survey or even the digital form that you filled out in a doctor’s appointment. All of these data points can be very useful to answer different questions, you just have to learn how to use them. For instance, the picture you posted on your social media account can be used to help identify faces or food. Data science is a field that uses specific strategies to find meaningful information in big data.  As data generation has increased over the years, the need for a professional to extract meaning from data has arisen in companies across diverse industries. Therefore, data scientists have become experts with in-demand skills. To learn more about this growing field, iJOBS recently promoted a panel about this subject, where data scientists with different backgrounds discussed their career paths.

Image source: https://resources.whitesourcesoftware.com/blog-whitesource/bigger-data-bigger-problems-three-major-challenges-in-big-data-security

The event started with a quick talk from each one of the speakers about their respective career paths and backgrounds. The first speaker was Dr. Ariella Sasson, a Senior Research Investigator at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in computational biology from Rutgers University. Her Ph.D. work was focused on the technical and analytical aspects of Next Generation Sequencing. At BMS, Dr. Sasson often develops pipelines and storage solutions for genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics from preclinical and clinical datasets, work that allowed her to develop expertise in how to extract information from big data.

Next was Dr. Yodit Seifu, a Senior Principal Scientist at Merck, who holds a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Toronto. She started working on oncology in the pharmaceutical industry and over the following 19 years has built up an impressive background in data analysis for Phase I-IV clinical trials and registries. Currently, in her role at Merck, she is responsible for providing statistical support to the Safety and Risk Management group.

Image source: https://bvijtech.com/big-data-future-of-big-data/

Then we heard from Dr. Matthew Koh who works at Bloomberg as a Machine Learning Engineer.  He holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Before changing careers, Dr. Koh participated in the Insight Data Science Program in 2017, which helped him to achieve his position at Bloomberg.

Finally, we heard from Dr. Alexander Izaguirre, a Chief Data Officer and Sr. Assistant Vice President at New York City Health and Hospital. Dr. Izaguirre holds a Ph.D. in viral immunology from Rutgers University and started his career in academia as an assistant professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Later on, he transitioned to an IT leadership position at New Jersey Medical School and Executive Director of the Office of Information Technology at Rutgers University. In 2013, Dr. Izaguirre founded his own start-up called “Aprenda Systems,” which is focused on solving data challenges between payers, providers, and hospitals through the use of big data. Throughout his career, Dr. Izaguirre has received many awards on technology and innovation.

Data, the next Frontier

In the second part of the event, we listened to how a diverse set of panelists had found themselves at the forefront of the data frontier. Several of the panelists had obtained their Ph.D. before the data revolution had been kicked off. Now they find themselves leading teams to try and extract meaning from the seemingly endless and vast data sets that are being generated. Most of the panelists had graduated a decade or more before this panel occurred, so they described their current management and hiring problems. Shockingly, the panelists reiterated how coding experience, while appreciated, was not required on an application. Employers are in search of passionate employees who have a desire to seek out training themselves.

There was a noticeable sigh of relief from the audience when the panelists said how programming experience was not required. Many of the audience members were afraid that coding would be a prerequisite to applying for a job as a data scientist. The panelists explained that while employees could be taught the necessary programming skills, those same employees could not be taught how to be passionate about data and data analysis. The panelists did mention, however, that there is a coding interview for some jobs, but the test can easily be passed with basic programming training. The panelists also mentioned a website called HackerRank, which posts several common coding interview questions to help interviewees get practice for the coding interview.

Potential Training resources

I have found, as the panelists described, that there are many online resources available to help train and familiarize anyone who would like to learn to code. For those that would like to get started in data science before applying, the panelists suggested visiting several different online teaching websites including coursera, EdX, and datacamp. In addition, they also suggested completing projects, basically taking a data set and extracting meaning from it. The panelists said that completing practice projects works best when you experiment around and challenge the practice data set with insightful questions. The main two programming languages discussed were python and R. Dr. Matthew Koh described how he uses python almost exclusively at Bloomberg, whereas the other panelists used R. The software environment R has useful libraries with complex built-in functions, so you do not have to be an expert code writer to solve data science tasks!

Specific questions:

After the panel discussion, we broke into small groups where we had the opportunity to ask questions to each of the panelists individually. These are questions that were asked to Dr. Koh and Dr. Izaguirre.

Q (Audience): Is there any computational model-building in industry data science jobs?

A (Dr. Matthew Koh): There is very little in biomedical sciences, but there is some in the finance industry. Computational models are less common within biomedical sciences because they are not applicable yet to any model systems whereas building computational models is applicable to financial markets.

Q (Audience): What are the hours of a typical data scientist?

A (Dr. Alexander Izaguirre): That depends on the boss or who you work for. For some bosses as long as you get the work done on time you can show up whenever. For others, it seemed like 9-5 was mandatory. There also seemed to be a lot of meetings to go to but that’s typical for any job.

Are you a potential data scientist?

From the panelist’s comments, data science careers are plentiful, and employers are hiring inquisitive minds to work on extracting meaning from large data sets. The panelists were handing out business cards and clearly looking for potential employees. There is no denying that a fresh Ph.D. who enters data science will make much more than other potential industry jobs. Our panelists came from a diverse set of backgrounds that did not necessarily include computational training; this suggests that there are diverse paths leading to a career in data science. Read some of our other blog posts about data science to find out if it is the right field for you!

Junior Editor: Brianna Alexander

Senior Editor: Monal Mehta and Tomas Kasza


iJOBS Networking: BioPharma Networking Group and Alumni with Current Trainees

By Tomas Kasza

The BioPharma Networking Group (BPNG) held a networking event between current and former graduate trainees in Piscataway, New Jersey on September 10, 2019. It was a great opportunity for current graduate student to get acquainted with industry professionals, industry careers and create networking bonds. The iJOBS blog caught up with several of the attendees to hear them tell their stories and experiences. These attendees included: Camille English, Vaidhyanathan Mahaganapathy, Vinam Puri and Ning Chiang.

Q1. Graduate students have diverse reasons for attending networking events, can you let me know what your interest in attending the event was? Was there a specific area you were interested in and did you find you could get the answers to your career questions?

Camille: “No specific area, I wanted to see what was available to me outside of academia. I didn’t get all the answers, but I wasn’t expecting to. It was my first time at one of these.”

Vaidhy: “I was interested in knowing the companies that are attending such events and establishing contacts with people from different industries. These contacts might come in handy when I graduate. Also, I wanted to know the types of companies I would be better suited to, given my skillset and I was able to get some idea from two recruiting consultants at the event.”

Vinam: “I am planning to graduate next May but am looking for opportunities to start work in January, which is why I thought the NJBP networking event may be a good event to attend. I went in with interest in Scientific/Medical Affairs and also got exposed to other roles like that of Shekerah Primus, who recently started role of the NGS Study manager at Genewiz. She is a Phase-4 iJOBS trainee who shared her career path and her experience as an iJOBS trainee.

Ning: “I went to the event because I am currently looking for a job, ideally a research scientist position. I would like to grow my network and get some advice on job searching strategies, especially about position selection, resume writing and interview skills. People were very willing to share their experience, either from applicant’s or recruiter’s viewpoint.”

Q2. Many iJOBS events discuss the importance of networking in a diverse set of fields. Did you find it easy or difficult to network? Did you find that the industry scientists in attendance were approachable?

Camille: “It wasn’t too difficult to network. I spoke to people from different career sets: chemist to admin assistant. I ended up speaking to people for a long time, so didn’t meet a lot of new people probably 4 or 5. I actually met someone who works on the same floor as me, but just knew in passing; we chatted and I found out we have similar issues dealing with graduate school. Yes, people were approachable.”

Vaidhy: “I definitely found them approachable, given that they showed up to a networking event knowing eager students will be looking to talk to them.”

Vinam: “I did not find it difficult to network, however I did notice that it took some time for the industry and academia groups to interact. When it got from intra-group to inter-group discussions, it was more helpful. I also found that staying till the end of the event was useful in order to connect with everyone.”

Ning: “Since I am an introvert and super shy, I always find networking a very difficult task. I know networking is important, so I force myself to talk to strangers during networking events. The industry scientists I have met were all very friendly and easy to approach. It was mostly my own mental obstacle that hinders me from being proactive. It takes a lot out of me after each networking event – I feel drained every time.”


Q3. Was there a new career that you discovered and are looking into further? What did you learn from attending?

Camille: “Maybe: Medical communications consulting. This was just a job listing, I want to look further into what this career entails.”

Vaidhy: “I did not find a new career, rather I established contacts with industries I might consider working for in the future.”

Vinam: “I had almost stopped looking at Project Management roles, but because of Shekerah’s experience, I have started looking into it again. I did not discover any new careers but refreshed an old one that I had started feeling may not be for me.”

Ning: “I was formerly avoiding contract jobs because my goal was to find a full-time permanent position. However, I have talked to an attendee who has been doing a lot of contract jobs, and she said she learned a lot and it was worth it. Therefore, I probably will also consider contract job as an alternative.”

Q4. Would you recommend networking events such as these to other graduate students?

Camille: “Definitely!”

Vaidhy: “I would absolutely recommend graduate students to attend such events. I was a bit under-prepared for the event as this was my first attendance but in future, I look forward to attending similar events with business cards printed out.”

Vinam: “Yes, I would. You never know where you meet someone that can lead to a pivotal moment in your job search. I can give you an example of an interaction that I was not expecting at this event. In a chat with the Executive Team Lead and NJBP Host, Mr. Anil H. Vaidya, we discussed in detail about the application process and how to use the NJBP chapters to my advantage. Anil also took the time to explain in detail, the resume tailoring process and I think that was helpful.”

Ning: “Yes, I would love to! However, I would suggest them to prepare some questions in mind to ask like I did. This way could make the most out of this great opportunity.”


Whether you are looking for an industry mentor or your next job, take an opportunity to network at the BPNG events! As you can see 4/4 graduate students recommend it! Our panel of interviewees advise coming to networking events prepared with questions to ask potential contacts. It is also important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and try to encounter professionals within industry as Vinam suggested. Several of the attendees discovered new career areas while others rediscovered job potential in places they thought were closed to them. Whether you are looking to expand your network, get career advice, or find a new job, the iJOBS networking events are a great place to start!

Junior Editor: Emily Kelly

Senior Editor: Monal Mehta

FDA’s role in expediting the development of novel medical products

By Huri Mücahit


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as the name suggests, is the primary regulatory organization for food and drug safety, including biologics and medical devices. However, surprisingly, the FDA regulates much more in the name of protecting public health, such as cosmetics, veterinary products, and tobacco products. The range in regulatory jurisdiction speaks to the long history of food and drug regulation that came about in response to the highly unregulated nature of medicine production in the early 1900’s, resulting in the death of 22 children due to contaminated vaccines. Since then, several laws have been passed requiring the licensing and inspection of food and drug manufacturers, as well as mandating the demonstration of not only safety, but also efficacy of a drug. Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., Director for Biologics and Research Evaluation, discussed the FDA’s history and approval process in this iJOBS seminar.


Of particular interest to Ph.D. students in the health sciences, is the FDA’s role in promoting the development of products that address the public’s unmet medical needs. The agency addresses these needs through several factors, such as extracting user fees for each application examined, so that performance metrics can be placed on the FDA to ensure timely review. In addition, to further facilitate drug and biologics development, sponsors of the applications, which are typically pharmaceutical companies, can ask for OrphanDesignation, apply for Priority Review vouchers, or apply through any of the expedited development programs. As the first category suggests, the Orphan Designation covers treatments for rare diseases affecting less than 200,000 people, and it features tax credits, 7 years of market exclusivity, and user fee exemption. Priority Review vouchers can be applied for neglected diseases of the tropics, rare pediatric diseases, and for medical countermeasures. This option ensures the review process will be completed within 6 months rather than the standard 10, however, the sponsors must demonstrate significant improvement in safety or effectiveness. Additional programs targeting treatments for serious conditions, like Fast Track, Accelerated Approval, or Breakthrough Therapy, may offer advantages such asrolling reviews in which the committee will review components of the application as they are prepared, approval based on surrogate endpoints, or extensive guidance from the review committee. Finally, sponsors can also be granted the Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy Designation (RMAT), if they provide cell therapies, tissue engineering products, or human cell and tissue products.


While the FDA has many paths to approval for new treatment applications, the agency naturally follows a standard process to ensure safety and efficacy of the treatment. This might include an initial information meeting between the FDA and the sponsor to go over the application procedure and provide guidance on the types of studies required prior to clinical trials. If the results look promising once the necessary pre-clinical trials are conducted, a manufacturing process will be developed, keeping with Good Manufacturing Practices. A second meeting might then be scheduled to propose Phase I trials and protocols, which, if approved, will be used to generate data for further review. Upon proving that the treatment has the potential to address an unmet need, the FDA will assign a specific designation, such as RMAT or Fast Track, and review the additional data produced from Phase II and III trials, as well, as manufacturing protocols. Finally, after a series of informal, mid-cycle, and late-cycle meetings, an advisory committee consisting of experts within the field will meet to grant or deny approval. This committee may also require post-marketing studies to be conducted to further test the safety of the treatment. If the sponsor fails to complete these studies, the FDA has the authority to rescind approval.


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For Ph.D. students interested in working with the FDA, those within epidemiology or biostatistics fields have the highest chance for employment immediately following their defense. However, to be a hired as a regulatory reviewer or research reviewer, post-doctoral research associates are preferred. Additionally, since the laboratories and the majority of offices are housed in the main facility in Silver Spring, Maryland, these positions are only available at this site. If the applicant wishes to remain local, there are inspector positions available throughout the country. The FDA also provides internship opportunities for interested students from a variety of backgrounds, including undergraduates and post-docs.


Overall, the FDA is a crucial agency in aiding the development of drugs and biologics and ensuring safety and efficacy of these treatments. Given the sheer number of drug applications received, Ph.Ds. have a wealth of opportunities for employment in reviewing these applications or conducting lab work within the FDA. Ultimately, these opportunities provide a medium to enact significant change and guide the path for new treatments.


Edited by: Jennifer Casiano-Matos and Monal Mehta

This blog post was written after attending the iJOBS Career Seminar: Jobs at the FDA on June 13th, 2019.


iJOBS StrengthsFinder workshop: Putting our strengths to use

by Vicky Kanta

Finding a job that perfectly matches our personality is a difficult task. Graduate students and postdocs are constantly surrounded by a multitude of career choices. However, what makes this search even more complicated is that many of us are not even aware of our innate abilities. For this reason, a recent iJOBS workshop helped us find and familiarize ourselves with our individual strengths.

The workshop was led by Dr. Susanne Killian, Senior Associate Director of the Graduate Student Career Development center at Princeton University, and Amy Pszczolkowski, Assistant Dean of Professional Development at the Princeton Graduate School. Both Susanne and Amy have extensive experience in career development training for students and faculty. At their current positions, they help students with their individual career plans and assist them with finding exciting career opportunities.

This workshop was based on StrengthsFinder, an online questionnaire by Gallup, based on the self-help book by Donald Clifton and Chip Anderson. It is based on decades of research in social work and positive psychology and has been extensively used in corporate settings as well as higher education. StrengthsFinder asks a series of questions about what is important to us, what we like and dislike, and how we would react in different hypothetical scenarios. Through these series of questions, it assesses our innate strengths (called “themes”), which are things that occur naturally to us, without any effort from our end. Some example of “themes” are Communication, Context, Analytical, Focus, etc. All of them are associated with certain characteristics that are explained in detail in the book and online.


An important distinction from other personality tests is that StrengthsFinder is not a skills assessment. In a neat example by Susanne, we can liken these “themes” to the experience of writing with our dominant hand; it is effortless and natural. If we then try to write with our non-dominant hand, we will definitely need to put more effort, but with practice we can get better – this is similar to our acquired skills, which we can slowly master but do not innately have.

Why is it crucial to know our “themes”? As Amy put it, “if we are not using our natural skills, then we may not be satisfied and fulfilled as a person.” Also, what makes a successful team is the ability to match people with different “themes”, who will complement each other and achieve things much more efficiently. Even though we may have an idea of our strengths, it is important to self-assess using these tools because most people may not assess themselves accurately. Furthermore, if we don’t know our strengths, we may not use them as often. Feeling like you are not using your best abilities can lead to frustration and feelings of inadequacy, so we should always ask ourselves how we can put our strengths in action.

All of the attendees had the opportunity to take the test before the workshop, so we all had a list of our top 5 “themes”. However, the interesting part would be to understand what these “themes” actually mean. At first glance, some of the “themes” were surprising; many of us got “Relator” in our top 5, even though we all agreed that graduate students and postdocs are rarely social beings. This is why it is very important to read the description of the “theme” because it may be entirely different from what we have in mind. In fact, “Relator” means having few, strong relationships, without necessarily being an extrovert. As we went through our lists, we explored some of the common elements, as well as some unusual findings. Susanne and Amy have done this workshop with many student cohorts, and said that some “themes” are always present among Ph.D. crowds, no matter the discipline. Some of these skills are “Learner”, “Input”, “Context” and “Analytical”. On the other hand, a few “themes” are almost never present in these groups, namely “Self-assurance” and “Woo”, which are usually associated with confidence and influence on people.

After this interesting discussion, we engaged in a few exercises where we had to stand up and answer a question by placing ourselves somewhere on an imaginary continuum between two extremes. For example, Susanne described a scenario where we had to go into a room full of strangers and meet everybody. The two extreme options were “Absolutely” or “No way”. It was no surprise that many of us crowded in the “No way” corner! This exercise showed us that people are usually grouped based on their top “themes” and that some “themes” often go together. For example, “Discipline” usually goes with “Focus” and “Consistency”. We then had to work on a very challenging writing exercise, where we had to think of times when we were “at our best”. It soon became obvious that this was not an easy task, but it highlighted the importance of reflecting on such times and thinking of how our strengths were put in use.

At the end of the workshop, Susanne and Amy made sure we have a good idea of our strengths and taught us how to put them in use. As Ph.D. students and postdocs, we are often too harsh on ourselves. However, we should always remember that we are already very accomplished people, among the 2% of the population holding PhDs! Thus, focusing on the actions that give us fulfillment will help us find balance in our lives. A dream career may not be easy to find, but our strengths may guide us closer towards it.

This post was edited by Maryam Alapa and Tomas Kasza

iJOBS Site Visit to McCann Health – part 2 of 2: The People

by Helena Mello

This is a follow-up post to the article: iJOBS site visit to McCann Health – The Industry, wherein I explained the company’s structure.

The second part of the site visit to McCann Health was a panel discussion with 7 current employees who enlightened us about their paths to getting a job at the company and gave advice to those considering joining a healthcare advertisement firm. The panel was moderated by Roshan Rahnama, VP of McCann Managed Markets.

Ms. Rahnama started by asking Senior Consultant John Denton what was the most interesting aspect of his career at McCann. Denton noted that the company has always been supportive of his desire to transition from one position to another, which was essential for him to experience the breadth of positions at McCann. McCann’s first Strategic Marketing Fellow, Jacob Martin, PharmD, was asked to explain his role and work routine. At the time of the visit, Dr. Martin has done eight-month rotations at each of the three McCann Health agencies that are specialized in different areas of the healthcare market. Despite having a scientific background, Dr. Martin mentioned that he enjoyed learning about the marketing side of healthcare advertisement – especially the creative aspect. According to him, “Creativity is a lot about asking the right questions on behalf of our clients”. Fellows are expected to leave the program with “a broad range of applicable business and clinical skills via a diverse learning experience in pharmaceutical marketing strategy”. If you are in a PharmD program and think that a role in Strategic Marketing might suit you, click here to learn more about the Fellowship.

Medical writers Myka Ababon, PhD, and Whitney Winter, PhD, hold degrees in the biomedical sciences but their paths to McCann have been fairly different. I was pleased to hear both of their stories and confirm that there is no right path to starting a career as a medical writer. There are diverse ways in which one can get started. Dr. Ababon obtained her Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology from Rutgers University and is a co-founder of this blog. She learned about Medical Communication by attending iJOBS events and improved her writing skills by writing for the blog (learn about her transition here). Dr. Winter completed her Ph.D. in Immunology, from University of Melbourne, Australia then did a postdoctoral training at Monash University, Australia. Just as Dr. Ababon, Dr. Winter also improved her writing skills while in academia. She worked for a number of years as a freelance science writer. Both panelists agreed that this was fundamental for them to get their feet into the medical communication world, and urged the audience to develop their writing skills – and make sure all the materials sent out, like a resume, are proofread (“no typos!” Dr. Ababon emphasized).

We learned about Medical Communication Strategy, from Jenny Cardozo. Jenny is the Account Director for a subgroup of McCann Health, CMC Affinity, which focuses on medical communication solutions. She explained that her role is to bring “strategic ideas into execution” by managing a multidisciplinary team comprised of social scientists, medical writers, designers, and more. Read my first post about McCann if you want to learn more about strategic medical communication.

To round up the session, the speakers were asked to share a piece of advice for those planning to join the healthcare marketing world. The President of McCann Echo, Jesse Johanson, pointed out that those that join a healthcare marketing agency through their science background have to be open to the marketing side of the organization. In other words, you are going to use your scientific knowledge to support a marketing strategy. Other panelists also mentioned that internship opportunities are a great way to transition to medical writing in order to (1) develop the skills necessary for a full-time position in the industry, and (2) experience the day-to-day activities to assess if it is something you can see yourself doing. The panelists also shared some valuable tips on the interview process and preparation for the job market:

  • Get familiar with the healthcare landscape: read government-related news, regulatory affairs, be up-to-date on pharma industry, product launches, and more.
  • Study the company.
  • Network and have informational interviews with professionals in the field.

I hope this, and the previous, post have helped you understand a bit more about the healthcare marketing landscape! If you see yourself working at a company like McCann, consider joining our blog to improve your writing skills! We are always looking for new writers to bring in a new perspective.

This article was edited by Eileen Oni and Maryam Alapa

iJOBS Workshop on Patent Law and Intellectual Property

by Vicky Kanta


One of the most rewarding aspects of being a scientist is inventing new things. Indeed, often enough scientific inventions are so important that the inventor’s rights need to be protected. But how exactly does that process take place? This is where a recent iJOBS workshop comes in, which provided key knowledge on intellectual property and patent law.

The invited experts were Elysa Goldberg, PhD, JD and Brian Cocca, PhD, JD. They are both part of a team practicing patent law for the pharmaceutical company Regeneron. As their titles indicate, Elysa and Brian hold both a doctorate and a law degree, something that is very rare among scientists, but also fundamental for their profession. In fact, most biotech companies require candidates to hold a JD and a PhD to be hired in similar positions. Their law degrees made them highly competitive in their current jobs and able to actually practice law instead of just working as patent consultants.

Their paths to their current jobs are fairly similar: while in grad school, they both realized that they loved science, but did not enjoy practicing it in the conventional “bench” way. In fact, the aspect that they most enjoyed was communicating and writing about science, as well as collaborating with people with similar technical minds. They were exposed to patent law while in grad school and quickly found their dream job in that. Thus, they decided to enroll in law school after their PhD and specialized in intellectual property rights and patent law. After years of working in private practices, they joined Regeneron where they currently work on patents regarding genetic and bioinformatic discoveries.

Before delving into details about patent law, Elysa and Brian compared their jobs to other related fields, such as tech transfer. The unique component of their jobs is that they are actual attorneys, i.e. they represent their clients in court proceedings over patents. That makes their field fundamentally different than tech transfer, where it is more about science communication and analyzing the novel components of an invention to make it more “sellable” to a wide audience. They emphasized that their job requires the same scientific method and meticulous analysis skills as most PhD jobs, but with the extra component of being deeply knowledgeable about the laws of patent writing and enforcing.

Patenting inventions and protecting the inventor’s rights has been an important concept for a very long time. In fact, even Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution contains a “patent and copyright clause”. There are 4 categories of intellectual property:

  • Patents: This is the process of securing the “right to exclude” someone from copying your work without permission. It is important to note that a patent contains details about the nature of the work and how it is performed but protects it in case someone claims it as their own.
  • Trademarks: These can be words, symbols, sounds associated with a product that should not be used in any other context. As an example, most company logos are trademarked and cannot be copied by any other brand.
  • Trade secrets: This is a category that includes proprietary information under lock and key. A great example is the Coca Cola recipe which is secret and highly protected.
  • Copyrights: They are protecting original work such as writing, music, films, etc. Even a PhD thesis is automatically copyrighted as soon as it is made public.

Most intellectual property cases are what we call “self-policing”. Thus, it is essentially up to the owner to enforce them, usually in civil courts. The only exception is trade secrets, which fall under the criminal category of corporate espionage.


Elysa and Brian gave some important tips about obtaining a patent. They emphasized the importance of novelty. In fact, disclosing any information about the patent topic before filing an application may affect the outcome. Since patent applications take a very long time (up to 18 months!) this means that the inventors cannot present anything about their work publicly, such as in social media, or even scientific conferences.

Intellectual property (IP) is the cornerstone of every business. Anyone looking to invest in a new product will ask the inventors about their patent status. Thus, consulting with IP lawyers is very important for all startups and new businesses developments. An IP lawyer will advise their clients on whether they have sufficient grounds to file for a patent and also about the potential pitfalls of the application.

To get some hands-on experience in IP law, Elysa and Brian split us in groups and engaged us in a role-playing exercise. In this fun case study, we were the inventors of a new type of chewing gum and had to find the “hook” for our new patent application. How is our product unique? What makes it different than our competitors and what are its characteristics? We quickly thought about our gum’s flavor, texture, long-lastingness and other similar things. Although it sounds easy, we quickly found out that our wording would matter a lot: we needed to make sure that our scope was not too narrow, so that competitors could easily infringe on our patent. On the other hand, we could not get too broad with our terms, because then we would lose the novelty aspect. Finding that balance spot proved complicated, but Elysa and Brian made sure that we realize the important take-home message: crafting a smart, well-worded patent application can help a company become very successful and push away competitors from doing something similar.

At the end of the session, we all left with a better idea of what it means to be a patent attorney, but also got important tips on how to deal with novel inventions and take advantage of intellectual property to maximize our potential profit. Thanks to Elysa and Brian, we now know that patent law is a very interesting career choice that requires bright, talented scientists like many iJOBS trainees.


This article was edited by Emily Kelly Castro and Helena Mello.


Flip your Classroom – Effective Teaching Techniques

By: Shekerah Primus

To teach effectively, you must use Active Learning techniques. This was the main point I learned during the iJOBS sponsored Effective Teaching Techniques workshop, which was conducted by Dr. Diana Glendinning, a highly popular professor in the Neuroscience and Cell Biology department here at Rutgers.

Active learning flips the traditional style of learning. In traditional classrooms, learning is passive; the professor uses the majority of classroom time to teach information by lecturing. In contrast, an active learning classroom requires students to study materials before the class, while classroom time is primarily used for problem-solving and application of the information learned via the study materials. Therefore, in active learning classrooms students learn by doing an activity.

Edgar Dale's cone of learning


Research shows that active learning is more effective because this method facilitates the learning process.

Learning is constructed through the creation of a mental model; therefore, the more activity that goes into the creation of that model, the clearer it will be. This also explains why learning is improved by students learning together—Cooperative Learning—which involves students discussing the material and teaching each other. Since the active learning technique flips the traditional style of learning, classrooms that use this method are known as Flipped classrooms.

Components of a Flipped Classroom:

  • Preparation
  • Pre-test readiness
  • In-class problem-solving with facilitation
  • Integration/resolution
  • Feedback

Preparation: This component refers to the instructor’s role preparing study materials for students, as well as the student’s role in studying the material at home to prepare for in-class activities. It is very important for the instructor to prepare materials that are clear enough for students to grasp, and to be available before class if students have questions regarding the material. Study materials should be multimedia; a mixture of text, audio, video and interactive content ensures that different learning modes are facilitated. It is also important for students to prepare well, as pre-class readiness will be tested before the in-class activity.

Pre-test readiness: This component is meant to ensure that students prepare for class.  Readiness Assurance Tests (RAT) are given before the in-class activity. Readiness assurance tests should be individual (iRAT) and team-based (tRAT). Using both forms of RAT ensures that students who are less well-prepared benefit from the discussion that occurs during the team-based test. The iRAT and tRAT should be graded.

In-class problem-solving with facilitation: The in-class activity helps to shape the nascent mental models that students construct as their understanding of the material grows. Therefore, it is very important for instructors to create challenging activities that will support and test students’ models. Choose clinically important cases or questions that are relevant to real-world activities. It is also very important for the instructor to understand their role as a facilitator: build a non-threatening learning environment, spend more time listening and observing than talking, and try not to answer questions; instead, guide students by asking questions that synthesize discussion.

teacher is not the sage


Integration/resolution & feedback (on the learning process): This component is very important as it is a way for instructors to ensure that students understood the main take-home points of the lesson. Instructors should always save some time before the end of class for feedback, to resolve any problems, and to clarify concepts that remain unclear. If necessary, do a mini-lecture to wrap-up main points. This step acts as a validation of the mental model that students have created. Additionally, the instructor receives immediate feedback to gauge the success of the activity and can begin making changes if necessary.

To give us the active learning experience, Dr Glendinning prepared a group exercise to simulate the Team-Based Learning (TBL) technique. First, we were put into groups. To ensure diversity in each group, we were divided based on our fields of expertise.

You want to have diverse groups, never allow students to just work with their friends!

Next, she gave us some time to read the material—this is typically the preparation that students would do at home. Then we took the iRAT and tRAT, followed by the team activity, which consisted of a set of real-world cases. We used the reading material to discuss and solve these problems. I must say that the discussion during the tRAT and problem-solving activity highlighted our diverse thinking styles and helped me build a better mental model.

Other flipped classrooms include:

  • The Jigsaw— this technique is geared toward small groups and puts emphasis on peer teaching.
  • Problem-based learning – a case-based learning style that is also geared toward small groups. Students study real cases. This style is used extensively in medical training.
  • Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) – this style is geared toward large groups. It uses feedback from students based on activities done between classroom meetings. The instructor uses this feedback as a guide to focus subsequent classroom meetings particularly on areas of misunderstanding.

Through my experience, I realized that active learning helps in developing other essential skills by providing opportunities for students to practice good communication, accountability, and teamwork skills. In addition, it offers the benefit of sharpening the life-long learning skills of reasoning, synthesis, and the application of learned concepts.


This article was edited by: Jennifer Casiano, Deepshikha Mishra & Monal Mehta


iJOBS site visit to McCann Health – part 1 of 2: The Industry

By Helena Mello

In this post, I will share some highlights from the iJOBS Site Visit to McCann Health in New York City. McCann Health is a global marketing company with more than 60 offices worldwide, and is a leader in strategic communications for the healthcare world. Several big pharma and biotech companies rely on McCann’s services to bring their products to life and engage with their audiences. Broadly speaking, McCann’s market is part of the Medical Communications world. However, as I learned at the event, strategic medical communication goes beyond just talking about the science behind a product in a compelling and accurate way. It requires an understanding of human behavior towards health issues, comprehension of the target audience, and much more.

Executive Strategy Director Daryl Somma brought up that simply understanding a disease is not sufficient to explain it. In order to develop a communication plan for disease X, one needs to think “what is it like to live with disease X?”. Moreover, the target group for a particular campaign must be well studied: Do they [the target group] carry the disease? Do they provide care or treatment for patients with it? Or perhaps they live with someone that has the disease. All of these aspects must be factored in when developing pieces of communication for a particular product. In this sense, the strategy team consults with a diverse set of professionals, ranging from social scientists to PhDs trained in immunology and other areas.

In terms of Medical Strategy, there are three focus areas: 1) Healthcare Marketing, in which customers are – usually – pharmaceutical companies looking to launch products; 2) Promotional Medical Education, in which the target audience is key opinion leaders in a given field; and 3) Publication Planning, which helps translate clinical trials and other important findings into meaningful and coherent reports. Regardless of the area, the goal is to develop innovative ways to promote medical and scientific information. For that, McCann seeks employees that are not only well versed in scientific content, but also extremely creative. Some of the top skills they look for are excellent writing, presentation, and the ability to translate complex information. Importantly, as a marketing company, McCann wants its employees to be able to demonstrate why they are the best agency to launch their clients’ products.



Creativity and strategic planning are essential to deliver reliable and compelling advertisement.

In conclusion, in order to be competitive for jobs in medical communications, it is imperative that you (1) develop your writing skills (perhaps by joining our blog!), (2) exercise your interpersonal skills (teamwork and diversity are key for creativity in this area), and (3) think as a marketer (yes, you are going to launch products!). It is not too late to start working on those skills, and if you think McCann might be the right place for you, send them your resume!

In my next post, I will explore careers within McCann Health. I will write about the panelists that talked to us, and how they transitioned from various backgrounds to the biggest healthcare marketing company in the world.

This article was edited by Andrew Petryna, Monal Mehta and Paulina Krzyszczyk.