BioTech Scientists through a Different Lens

When I was in grad school and pictured what a role in industry would look like, the first thing that came to my mind was a Research and Development (R&D) Scientist. My life as a grad student and as a postdoc revolved around benchwork, so that must be the case in industry too, right?

It really wasn’t until I started working at Promega that this image of a scientist in industry was completely turned upside down (in a good way). Here are some roles that a scientist can assume at Promega: Senior Scientist, Research Scientist, R&D Group Leader, Production Scientist, Technical Services Scientist, Product Manager, Strategic Marketing Manager, Client Support Specialist, Client Support Consultant, Clinical Technical Consultant, Field Support Scientist, Applications Scientist, Scientific Instructional Designer. The list can probably go on for a while, but it makes the point that there are a variety of interesting positions for scientists in the biotech industry.
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Meet Yaron Kidron, Principal Software Engineer and Member of the Spectrum Team

29160613_lPromega will introduce the Spectrum CE System for forensic and paternity analysis. Building this system requires the efforts of many people from many disciplines–from our customers who have told us their needs to the engineers and scientists building the instrument and ensuring its performance. Periodically we will introduce our Promega Connections readers to a team member so that you can have a sneak peak and behind-the-scenes look at Spectrum CE System  and the people who are creating it (of course if you truly want to be the first to know, sign up at www.promega.com/spectrum to receive regular, exclusive updates about Spectrum CE).

Today we introduce Yaron Kidron, Principal Software Engineer. Continue reading

Meet Andrea Chow, Sr. Director of Integrated Engineering and Member of the Spectrum CE Team

29160613_l Promega will introduce the Spectrum CE System for forensic and paternity analysis. Building this system requires the efforts of many people from many disciplines–from our customers who have told us their needs to the engineers and scientists building the instrument and ensuring its performance. Periodically we will introduce our Promega Connections readers to a team member so that you can have a sneak peak and behind-the-scenes look at Spectrum CE System  and the people who are creating it (of course if you truly want to be the first to know, sign up at www.promega.com/spectrum to receive regular, exclusive updates about Spectrum CE).

Today we introduce Andrea Chow, Sr. Director, Integrated Engineering. Continue reading

Broaden Your Horizons While Pursuing Your Doctorate—You Will Be Glad You Did

For this posting, I had promised to include some commentary on ACTION.

image credit: ComiCONNMitch via Wikimedia Commons

image credit: ComiCONNMitch via Wikimedia Commons

What can someone pursuing a doctorate in the biosciences DO during that time to widen the possibilities of employment in the future? In general, the process of obtaining the doctorate has been criticized for taking too long and not doing enough to prepare students for what they will do when they graduate. Considering these criticisms, it seems wrong to create additional check-boxes on the student to-do list leading up to graduation. Therefore, these things are not in addition to what is already expected, but are instead the same things that are already happening re-focused. Continue reading

She’s Going Soft! – A commentary on “hard” and “soft” sciences

scientific-methodThis week I gave notice that I would be terminating my employment at Promega. This was a very difficult decision as I have really enjoyed the past six years here.  While I am leaving Biotech, I will not be leaving science all together.  Over the past few years, I have used my research, analytical, and organizational skills to assist various non-profit organizations in the community.  My primary focus will be on reform of the criminal justice system and racial disparities.  Spreading the word about this decision has resulted in a number of responses (overwhelmingly positive) including the comment that I am going soft! This got me thinking about where the terms hard and soft science came from. Continue reading

Advice to Young Scientists: Obey the Passion

Do you remember what it was that first inspired in you your life’s passion for science? Was it collecting bugs, frogs or other creatures as a child? Or maybe that first chemistry set—the one that had your mother hovering behind you with a fire extinguisher. Perhaps it was a parent or teacher that first sparked something in you that never dimmed. Whatever, or whoever, it was that first kindled your interest in science, no doubt there have been times when you wished that someone would offer you some advice on how to navigate through the modern, rapidly changing world of science.

Written letterOn this past Saturday, I took a trip to my local library on a quest to get just exactly that. To be specific, I was going to check out a copy of Edward O. Wilson’s Letters to a Young Scientist (1). Although I haven’t had time to read more that the first chapter, the advice that he offers at the end of that chapter struck me as good advice to any young (or not so young) person:

It is quite simple: put passion ahead of training. Feel out in any way you can what you most want to do in science, or technology, or some other science-related profession. Obey that passion as long as it lasts. Continue reading

Networking for Scientists Part II: How to Get a Job (Hopefully)

Times are hard. Unemployment is high. Networking and maintaining job-relevant connections is more important than ever.  Employers literally get hundreds of applications for each job posting.  One of the most useful ways to make yourself stand out in a crowd (besides things like credentials and resumes) is to have a personal recommendation.  In my last post, I talked about the importance of making small talk (no matter how scary it seems!).  Here, we’ll take it a step further. Once you’ve met new people and added them to your contacts list and perhaps your social networking sites, how can you use these contacts to help you achieve your goals? Continue reading

Would You Remove Your Ph.D. Degree from Your Resume?

Let’s say that you just spent the last 8 years of your life earning a Ph.D. in biology, chemistry or physics, including 5 years devoted to graduate study (i.e., school) and 3 years devoted to postgraduate study (i.e., postdoctoral work). Let’s say that you are now looking for work outside of the academic realm, and perhaps even out of your field of study. Most corporations do not require a Ph.D. for entry-level positions. After a few interviews wherein you are asked why you are applying for a position outside of your educational level and realm of expertise, and after which you do not receive any job offers, you start wondering if perhaps you should leave your Ph.D. off of your resume. Does this sound crazy or just a case of career savvy?

For over a month now, I have been following a LinkedIn discussion about whether or not scientists should remove their doctoral degree from their resumes. The discussion, termed “PhD degree… include or remove from resume?” has 193 comments posted so far. This discussion is arguably one of the more popular discussions on LinkedIn, generating not only thoughtful answers and solutions but also some heated debates. Continue reading

An Interview with Ed Himelblau, Scientist and Promega Cartoonist

Self portrait by Ed Himelblau

Many visitors to the Promega Web site enjoy the Cartoon Lab, the repository of the creative illustrations of Ed Himelblau updated several times a year. Recently, I had a chance to gain some insight about the man behind the cartoons.

Sara Klink:Could you give some background information about yourself?
Ed Himelblau: I was born in Chicago but grew up in San Diego. I went to UCSD [University of California at San Diego] and majored in biology and minored in art. I liked molecular biology and working in labs so I decided to go to grad school. I went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison to get a Ph.D. in the Cell and Molecular Biology program. My first academic job was teaching biology at Southampton College in New York. After several years on Long Island, I moved to my current job teaching and doing research in the Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly [California Polytechnic State University] in San Luis Obispo, CA.

S.K.: Why did you decide to become a scientist?
E.H.: Playing in tidepools as a kid had something to do with it. As an undergraduate I thought working in a lab sounded cool. When I started working in a lab, I thought the work was interesting and the people were a lot of fun to be around. Then I started to appreciate what it really meant to do experiments and learn about how plants grow and develop.

S.K.: When did you first begin creating cartoons?
E.H.: My first cartoon was a blatant Peanuts rip-off created at age 7.

S.K.: How did you become a cartoonist for Promega?
E.H.: Promega conducted an intense international search to find that rare individual with the elusive dual talent of drawing silly pictures and northern blotting. (Actually, I called Promega and said, “I have some cartoons…will you publish them?” and Promega said, “OK.”)

S.K.: Can you tell us what came first: the scientist or the cartoonist?
E.H.: I am now, and will always be a scientist first and a cartoonist second…until the NIH starts giving out cartoon grants.

S.K.: How does the career path you took compare to what you thought it would be when you started graduate school?
E.H.: Honestly, it’s about what I hoped for. I knew in graduate school that I didn’t want to run a big lab and I enjoyed teaching. So I’ve always focused on jobs with a good balance between teaching and undergraduate research.

S.K.: Describe your current position at Cal Poly.
E.H.: My job is 50% teaching, 50% research and 50% teacher training…wait a minute!

S.K.: How would you describe yourself?
E.H.: Wildtype with 22 pairs of homologous chromosomes + XY.

S.K.: What do you enjoy about living in California?
E.H.: When I go swimming…outdoors…at 10am…on a weekday…in February, I’m reminded that I have a very nice job in a very nice place.

S.K.: What do you miss about Wisconsin now that you live in California?
E.H.: I loved living in Wisconsin and still visit often. Maybe this is a cop-out answer…but I really miss the midwestern-ness of it.

S.K.: Compare and contrast the dairy products from Wisconsin versus those from California.
E.H.: California has more cows and greater milk production. However, Wisconsin cows are more attractive.

S.K.: What is your greatest accomplishment?
E.H.: That would have to be my Olympic short track speed skating medal. Or possibly my mastery of traditional Amish quilting techniques. But the REAL accomplishment would be to finally break into the top 25 of molecular biology cartoonists…a very exclusive club.

You can view Ed’s most recent cartoon at Cartoon Lab and visit the Cartoon Lab Archives to see his full body of work for Promega. Many thanks to Ed for taking time to answer my difficult questions and letting us get to the heart of a scientist and cartoonist as well as sharing a self-portrait of his dual (dueling?) careers.

Thank you NOVA

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=graduation&iid=5371271″ src=”7/9/4/0/University_Of_Birmingham_ce0a.jpg?adImageId=8902543&imageId=5371271″ width=”234″ height=”332″ /]You could have knocked me over with a feather when, a couple of weeks ago, my sons came running upstairs with great enthusiasm to announce that they had both decided to go to college to study biology. They went on to regale me with facts about differentiation, developmental biology and genetics. This from children whose ambitions up until that point were to become a professional wrestler (#1 son) and to stay at home forever and avoid college at all costs (#2 son). Why the sudden change? Continue reading