Life After Graduate School: Career Topics for Graduate Students and Postdocs:

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Life After Graduate School: Career Topics for Graduate Students and Postdocs:
Life After Graduate School:
Career Topics for Graduate
Students and Postdocs:
Biotech/Industry or Academia?
Searching for Jobs
What’s the Future?
• Note that unemployment rate among Ph.D.s
is very low- 1.6% in 1997
• 1/3 of all Ph.D.s now work in industry
• Broad training is increasingly required
• Other skills you learn in grad school are
increasingly important to your future
– Communication skills- esp. writing
– Ability to work in a team
– Use of information technology
• Systems Biology
Postdoctoral Jobs
Factors To Consider When
Choosing a Postdoc
• You are choosing the field you will be
starting your own lab in- make sure there is
growth opportunity (ie a niche for you)
• Small labs vs big labs- each have
advantages and disadvantages- visit both
• Designated job or freedom to explore?
• Industry or academia?
• Aim high!
Searching for Postdocs
• You should leave your institution in
order to grow
• Identify three to six labs, in
geographic areas you would consider,
who work on topics of interest to you
– Funded investigators (check CRISP)
– Productive investigators (check PubMed)
• Don’t just respond to ads!
Searching for Postdocs
• Send a CV and a cover letter to these labs
with an approximate time frame for Ph.D.
– Start a year ahead
– Remember that few actually graduate on time
– Aim high- very good labs, not just a job
• You will most likely be asked to interview
– If you cannot interview, arrange to meet the PI
or members of his lab at a meeting
• Be persistent!
Choosing a Postdoc
• Staying in the same field as your grad
work provides continuity: you already
know the field as well as some of
your future reviewers
• Choose a change in technique or
system/organism but not both
• Get broad training but also specialize
in something specific
Postdoc at NIH?
• Advantages
– Good financial resources and state-of the art
– Good intellectual resources: synergy
– Stimulating metropolitan area
– Salaries higher than elsewhere
– No grant writing
• Disadvantages
– Physical crowding
– No grant writing- difficult to prepare for
• Guide to find mentors:
The Postdoc Cover Letter
• No more than ½ to 1 page
• Describe your current area of research in a
few sentences
• Describe what you would like to learn
• Ask to be considered for a position
• Say when you will be ready
• Remember the postdoc market is excellent:
you will most likely have many offers!
– Having 1-2 publications will increase the number
The Curriculum Vitae
• Provides a clear record of your educational
and research accomplishments
• Standard format includes:
Your name and the DATE!
Personal information (contact address and info)
Educational history
Honors and Fellowships
Teaching Experience (if appropriate)
Grant and research support (if appropriate)
The Curriculum Vitae, II
• Membership in professional societies
• Invited lectures (if appropriate)
• Research and Publications
• Some formats list only the publications followed by the
• Others intersperse this information with a concise summary
of what the work showed
• Optional
• Personal interests (biking, fishing) (no)
• Techniques mastered (PCR, immunocytochemistry) (yes)
• References (at least three, up to five)
Letters of Recommendation
Thesis advisor - mandatory
Prominent faculty member in Dept?
Any faculty you have interacted with-?
Ask referees if they can write a
positive letter; if you have any doubts,
then do not use the referee (some
fellowships require top scoring)
Interviewing for a Postdoc
• You may be asked to give a talk (50%)
• Ask other lab members what the PI’s
style is
– Know your own style- hands-off?
• Find out where former lab members are
• Don’t ask about salary: it will be in your
After the Interview
• Send thank-you with a time frame for your
decision if you already have an offer
• Make your decision; involve your committee
members if you have questions
• Let the other places know RIGHT AWAY
(you are taking a spot away from someone
• Plan to write an NIH postdoc grant 9
months ahead if you are a US citizen or
have a green card
Negotiating a Postdoc
• If there is a job you want and you have not
heard yet, but you do have other offers,
tactfully contact the PI/institution and
explain that you need to make a decision
• Most likely you will then receive an offer
• It is unusual to request more money for a
postdoc: generally the PI pays what he/she
can afford/thinks is competitive with the
others in the lab
Postdoc Salaries
• Formerly: $28,260 for entry-level postdocs, rising to $44,412
for those with at least seven years' experience.
• New NIH guidelines Mar 1 2004: start at $35,568; 3 yrs is
$43,428; 7 years experience is now $51,036 (it will take up
to 5 years for source grants to catch up!)
• Note that at NIH staff fellowships often pay more: there is a
big range depending on source!
• Equipment, technical assistance, professional travel, or “any
other activity directly related to the Fellow's research” may
also be supported by some sources
Postdoctoral Training Grants
• You need to show you will experience
professional growth
– Go to another institution
– Learn other techniques or a new field
Postdoctoral Training Grants
• Identify a postdoctoral mentor
– One year or more before anticipated graduation
– Be proactive- most people are looking for fellows
– Submit your proposal well before moving
• Success elements - in order of priority
Your mentor’s reputation (pubs, grants,status)
Your own accomplishments (grades, pubs)
Training plan (courses, techniques to be learned)
Research plan (clear, doable)
• There are 3 deadlines a year-Jan 10, May 10
and Sept 10 for Kirschstein 416-1 awards
Postdoctoral Training Grants
• Project
– Should be doable and limited
– Should provide training expertise
– Need not be extensive
• Your qualifications
– Recommendations extremely important
• Top 5-10%
– Grad school GPA 3.0 and above
– Publications (1-2) and presentations (2)
How Long Should It Take
To Write?
• It’s only 10 pages- give yourself one month
– Get forms from NIH.gov
– Discuss ideas with future mentor and read papers
– Write!
• Make sure PI will be in the office to do his/her
• In the last week, focus full-time on proofing etc.
• Remember institutional deadlines (mentor’s)
precede NIH’s
Writing a Successful Proposal
• Background and Specific Aims
– Must persuade reviewer of need for work
• Experimental Design
– Must persuade reviewer of your ability to think,
anticipate problems, design experiments
• Less is more- do not propose 5 years of
• Have 3 people read and critique your
Postdoctoral Funding
[email protected]
NIH individual grant
NIH training grant
Many, many other sources- disease-related
– AHA and ACS are the largest
NIH research training opportunities
National Academies' report
Howard Hughes Medical Institute http://www.hhmi.org
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation http://www.sloan.org
Burroughs Wellcome Fund http://www.bwfund.org
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation http://www.rwjf.org
Other Postdoc Resources
• See COSEPUP document:
– http://www7.nationalacademies.org/postd
• National Organization of Postdocs
• There are currently 40,000 postdocs!
and Industry
What are the salaries? Note
different scales
Advantages and
Disadvantages of Biotech
• Advantages
– Higher salaries-perhaps twice if postdoc (6070k); also many other perks- stock options,
bonuses etc
– Well-equipped facilities
– Focused work environment
• Disadvantages
– You may find an interesting phenomenon and not
be permitted to explore it, if it is not relevant
to company goals
– You must put your group’s interests ahead of
your personal interests: teamwork effort
Hiring Trends in Industry
• Multidisciplinary training very useful
– Molecular biology and business
– Chemistry and law
– Life sciences and programming
• Conversely some specialized areas are hot
– Proteomics, genomics, drug discovery, medicinal
– Industrial specializations such as formulations,
product development and process scientists,
clinical project managers, regulatory affairs
• Systems biology
Biotech or Industry?
• Note that some industrial companies are
giant pharmaceutical or chemical
companies and others are startups with
20-60 employees
– How will you fit into existing culture?
– Can you live with insecurity of small company?
• Biotech companies are smaller but risk is
3,000 firms were polled in 2003
Increase of 12% in hiring
90% have 500 or fewer employees
Most located in six states
See US Dept of Commerce Report
– www.technology.gov/reports/Biotechnolog
Biotech Jobs
• Market is tough in years when venture
capital is low
• Use every resource to locate positions
– Networking; meetings; online sites; journal ads;
• Make sure you are a match for the job
before applying
• There is no substitute for the personal
• Many companies create positions in
December to hire in January
Applying to Biotech, II
• Do a postdoc in biotech if you think you
want to work in biotech- it makes you more
competitive to have industry experience
(ask about advancement)
• Make contacts within the company at
meetings if possible- ask people who come
to your poster (and go to theirs!) about
opportunities at their company
• Finding a good biotech job at the Ph.D.
level is equally difficult as finding an
academic position!
The Biotech Resume
• Is different than the academic CV: 2-3
pages, not 5-6 -even for mature scientist
• Use key words- technologies you have used
• Relate your accomplishments, not your
skills- use brief, 25-word descriptions of
how you put the “key word” items into
• Must persuade that you have the abilities
that will help achieve corporate goals:
• Short and snappy! No publications, posters,
abstracts, no personal interests
What is an
• A way you helped your previous
organization make money
• Or save money- increased efficiency,
cost reduction
• Developing something new or
– Advanced a research program, a
breakthrough, a new product, a new line
of research or technique
Improving the Resume
• Use action-oriented verbs such as
“established, directed, managed, increased,
created, launched, trained, instituted,
• Forget “assisted, helped, served”-and
“responsible for”
• Use specific numbers when possible- dollars,
number of people supervised, papers etc
• See Science jobs website for other tips
The Biotech Cover Letter
• Customized for each job
• 3-4 paragraphs
– First one specifically states how your
experience fits the particular position
– Second one lists your accomplishments
– Third thanks the addressee and says
that you will either call or wait to hear.
Example: Industry Experience Required!
My client is a recognized leader in the development of novel enzyme products for a
multitude of industrial applications. With 50/50 support from two of the largest, most
respected biotech & pharma companies, this Joint-Venture is sure to continue its growth
and client base. Located in the beautiful southern California coast, this opportunity will not
be around long!
You will be responsible for the design, implementation, and management of all research in
the arena of enzyme application. Focus will be on products and services for identified
industries, and you will oversee said research milestones and delivery in contracted 3rdparty laboratories. Accurate and timely documentation of results, monitoring activities,
and setting project guidelines and goals will be required. The researching and assembling
of all relevant information for development of new product and service concepts in a
variety of industries will also be performed.
PhD in biochemistry (or related field) with 6-8 years of industry experience. Proven
experience with applicable, related research is a must! Familiarity with and knowledge of
enzymes, biocatalysts, and process optimization as they apply to industrial fields is a plus.
Now is the best time to join this proven leader in industrial enzymes -- if this sounds like
you, please send you resume/CV (as an MS Word document) to (Please use the application
form below) and let's talk!
Interviewing for Biotech
• Prepare: read everything you can about the
company you are visiting/ do mock
• Review the annual report, pubs of people
you will meet
• Be guided by the ad: be prepared to say
how you fit their qualifications
• Show enthusiasm for the work
• Give seminar, meet people all day long
• No second interviews (usually)
Biotechnology Career
• http://www.accessexcellence.org/AB/
• http://recruit.sciencemag.org/featur
• Many job sites connect to companiesbig pharma
• Pfizer site has a lot of tips
Academia Has Many
• The scientific questions you answer
are your own and are not related to
company goals
• You can grow at your own pace
• 1 grant or 3 grants; 1 technician or 10
• You are your own boss in many waysyou decide hiring, travel, reviewing
responsibilities etc
• Opportunity for subsidized travel
Academia Has Disadvantages
• You must be self-supporting in terms of
dollars and ideas
• You are essentially running a small company
without having been fully prepared for some
of the skills involved (human resources,
financial management, lecture preparation)
• You must be good at multi-tasking:
teaching, research, administration,
reviewing -so that all demands are balanced
Finding Academic Jobs
• Science magazine
• Contacts from meetings, colleagues,
your mentor
• Bulletin boards
• University
• Organization websites (ASCB)
• Job bureaus at meetings
Cover Letters and CVs for
Academic Appointments
• The CV is similar to the postdoc CV but
includes talks; teaching experience; and any
grants obtained. Should be detailed!
• The cover letter is more generic than for
biotech- states your intent to apply; your
accomplishments; and a few sentences
about your area of work
• Unique: 1-3 pages of your planned research
program (or teaching philosophy for
teaching positions) is attached to CV
Interviewing for a
Faculty Position, I
• Be prepared- know interests of faculty who
will interview you; find potential areas of
mutual interest to talk about
• Give a good seminar (introduction! Future
• You will meet with 10-20 people in 2 days
– If not science talk about shared equipment,
quality of life issues
• Meet with other newly hired faculty
• Be extremely tactful with everyone; no
Interviewing, II
• If you are in the top few you will be
invited back for second interview
• You should have list of needed
equipment /resources ready (core
• You will meet more people outside the
Department as well as inside
• Informal offer may be made that day
or more likely afterwards in writing
Negotiating a Faculty
Position, I
• Negotiations for permanent positions will
include many different aspects
– Salary (median salary for Assistant Prof is
currently is 70K); med schools pay more than
undergrad institutions
– Space (800-1200 sq feet)
– Startup (ranges from 150K to 300K)
– Equipment (shared or all yours?)
– Teaching (# contact hours per year- 15-20
eventually at a medical school; more at an
undergrad institution)
– Committee/administrative responsibilities
Negotiating a Faculty
Position, II
• Salary is not everything- benefits can
vary greatly
– Subsidized home purchase/loan rate
– Subsidized health insurance
– Retirement benefits
• Soft vs hard money guarantees- what
% of your salary do you have to
provide? (0% to 100%)
Research Assistant
• Not tenured
• Can be lab “lieutenant”
• Advantages
– Someone else writes the grants and has
the pressure
– You can do independent science
• Disadvantages
– Pay; Recognition; Security
Clinical Appointments
• More common these days
• Can be tenured
• Advantage: clinical departments can
generate revenue for your research;
pay better
• Disadvantage: do not want to be
isolated from other
What Does Your Ph.D. Mean?
• You have a broad knowledge of current
scientific knowledge with a
specialization in one area
• You can research a problem and design
and implement a solution independently
• You are a motivated worker
• You have developed communication skills
• You have developed organizational skills
• Therefore, you are competent to
perform a wide variety of jobs besides
Alternative Careers for Science
Ph.D.s (besides research)
• Law- patent, tech transfer
• Finance- business experience helps
• Sales and Tech Support-most companies hire
• Journalism -freelance or staff
• Teaching -small colleges
• Public policy (science)
– AAAS, other organizations
• Administration (NIH, NSF, many other
private and public organizations)
• ASCB Life Sciences Job Hunt Booklet
– (order free from ASCB site!)
• Science Jobs website:
Good Luck!
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