Season 1 Episode 7

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Grace develops cures for neurological diseases. As a senior scientist at a large pharmaceutical company, she works with a team of talented scientists—splitting her time between running experiments at the bench, writing publications, preparing presentations, and training and overseeing other scientists with the common end goal of making discoveries to improve the lives of patients. 

As her PhD defense drew closer, Grace’s main concern with her next step was leaving her options open. She figured an academic postdoc position would give her the opportunity to either stay in academia or transition to industry when she was ready. After several interviews where she couldn’t find a good fit, she applied to a postdoc position in industry on a whim and never looked back. 

In this episode of Translate Your Training, Grace helps clear up the misconceptions of working in a large pharmaceutical company as an industry scientist. We discover the differences between a postdoc in academia and a postdoc in industry, and the importance of highlighting all relevant skills on your resume when applying to industry positions. At the end of the episode, Grace shares tips on how to land a job as an industry scientist and provides advice to graduate students who can’t see the finish line.

Main points and take-aways from this episode:

  • As a senior scientist at a large company, 50% of the time is spent doing benchwork and the other 50% is spent writing publications, making presentations, and training other scientists. Tasks are varied depending on the day and week.
  • Working in industry is very team oriented, and teams are structured very similarly to how academic labs are structured. 
  • Academic postdocs are not necessary for transitioning into an industry scientist position.
  • Some large companies will hire freshly graduated PhDs for a postdoc position where you have the possibility of generating publications in a relatively short amount of time—leaving the door open for returning to academia if you desire.
  • Industry postdoc positions have a fixed time period and focus on getting you prepared for the next step in your career.
  • Large pharmaceutical companies have the benefits of having lots of resources, but it might mean slower career advancement. 
  • Large companies in the biotech industry are constantly changing. You have to be open to adapting to change when working in this industry.
  • All of the skills that you gain in graduate school are applicable to a job as a scientist in industry. 
  • Use the opportunity in graduate school to give polished presentations about the story you want to tell with your research to hone your presentation skills for industry and other non-academic jobs.
  • When hiring in industry, they are usually looking for a very specific skill set. Make sure that you highlight all of the applicable skills from the job listing in your resume.
  • If you want to get into industry, try to get experience doing drug screening assays or using new technologies.

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