“If I ever had the opportunity to try something new, or to try something different and exciting, I always gravitated towards that,” said Dr. Claire Le Pichon in her lecture for the virtual series An Afternoon with an NIH PI on May 21, 2020. During her talk, Dr. Le Pichon described her winding career path around the world, including a six-year postdoctoral stint at Genentech in San Francisco, California. She loved the team science approach in industry, each individual working toward a common goal. Dr. Le Pichon ultimately left industry to form an independent research lab (yes, that is possible!), but her time in industry clearly shaped her approach to science.
Dr. Le Pichon’s talk was an inspiration while planning this industry-focused issue. So much of scientific doctoral and postdoctoral training happens in academic labs that first-hand information about industry careers is often absent. We’ve reached out to three industry-track former fellows (Drs. Jeremy Weaver, Andy Krouse, and Medha Raina) for a special-edition “Former Fellow Follow-up” Q&A. You’ll also find several quotes from their advisor, Dr. Gisela “Gigi” Storz, about aspects of her mentorship style that help fellows find career paths that suit their personal desires and skill sets.
Career path selection can be a daunting endeavor, and industry is just one option among many for scientists. In our first book review, postdoc Dr. Amrita Mandal offers a synopsis of Next Gen PhD by Melanie V. Sinche, a popular book with examples and exercises for making a successful career transition following your postdoctoral studies.
Enjoy the rest of this jam-packed issue, including an introduction to Dr. Iris Hartley in “The Clinical Corner,” Dr. Anshika Jain’s “Rep Report,” a peek at Dr. Charly Guardia’s WebEx session about Argentina in “Life Outside Lab,” and several new announcements and events. Enjoy summer, everyone!
Your Editor in Chief,
Shana R. Spindler, PhD
Question or comments? Please contact our editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shana Spindler, PhD
In a first of its kind for The NICHD Connection, we are following up with not one, but three, former fellows who entered a career in industry. In this panel-style Q&A, Drs. Jeremy Weaver, Andy Kouse, and Medha Raina (all former Storz lab postdocs) answer pertinent questions about industry careers. But first, each former fellow will introduce themselves:
Jeremy Weaver, PhD
I worked in the lab of Dr. Gigi Storz, where I endeavored to identify new small proteins in bacteria and characterize their functions. I was at the NIH for just under four years, from 2015–2019. I now work as a research and development (R&D) scientist for Thermo Fisher Scientific. My primary responsibilities are to innovate and develop new products in the area of protein biology. Before our current pandemic, I spent most of my time at the bench.
Andy Kouse, PhD
I joined Dr. Gigi Storz’s laboratory as a postdoc in 2014 and left in 2019. While in Gigi’s lab, I studied small RNAs, which are similar to eukaryotic miRNAs. I was involved in projects to characterize their evolution, processing and function. Upon leaving Gigi’s lab, I joined the biotechnology company Paragon Bioservices, which is a subsidiary of Catalent Pharma Solutions. Paragon functions as a contract development company that works alongside clients and the FDA to research, manufacture, test and distribute vaccines and gene therapies. I work as an associate scientist in our Analytical Development department, where I develop and execute tests to ensure the quality of our gene therapy solutions at every step of the manufacturing process.
Medha Raina, PhD
I joined NIH in 2014 and was in Dr. Gisela Storz’s lab for almost five years. While in Gigi’s lab, my projects involved identifying and characterizing non-coding regulatory RNA that also encode regulatory small proteins. In 2019, I also joined Paragon. I work as an Associate Scientist III in the upstream process development department where I am involved in developing and performing analytical methods to support process development activities.
Without further ado, let’s kick-off our industry Q&A. Enjoy!
Thinking back to when you were postdocs, what questions were most important to ask about careers in industry?
“From the get-go, I say it’s important that fellows find the career they feel happy in and that fits their skill set. I’m happy whenever someone finds a career path that makes them happy! I am proud of people in my lab who are successful in industry, and so I talk about that as a success.”
~Dr. Gigi Storz on how she helps fellows feel comfortable talking honestly about career goals
I noticed a similarity in Andy’s and Medha’s responses and would like to follow up on it: For each of your respective companies, could you describe the different career paths available, and, if known, what skill sets might make a postdoc hirable for those different departments in the company?
“Postdocs learn a lot from former members in my lab, so I actively encourage current postdocs in the lab to talk to former postdocs. If former postdocs come back, they often have a meeting with the current postdocs. I think the lab network can really be a huge resource!”
~Dr. Gigi Storz on a realization she had since starting her own lab
It’s nice to see how many bench and non-bench options are available to scientists in industry. What are your day-to-day tasks in your respective roles? I also want to loop back around to some of the topics Jeremy brought up earlier, such as frequency and content of meetings, unexpected tasks, and co-worker rapport.
Earlier, Medha mentioned that she would have asked if postdoc length or the number of publications impacts landing a job in industry. What are your opinions on this?
If you have additional questions for these former fellows, please reach out to our editor Shana Spindler (email@example.com), and she can put you in touch with Andy, Jeremy, and Medha.
By Amrita Mandal, PhD
“I know what my PI does, and I don’t want her job…but I’m not sure what else is out there. I plan to go on the faculty market, but I’m not sure of my chances, so I guess I should have a plan B.”
If the first few lines from the book Next Gen PhD by Melanie V. Sinche resonate with you, then it should definitely be the next book you read. In a world where the line between an academic and alternate career blurs with each passing day, Sinche presents an unbiased reality check on current job prospects for science PhDs. This book is an important resource for PhDs, postdocs, and even undergrads who aspire for a productive career and meaningful life.
The book is divided into three parts, with the author providing step-by-step guidance—from identifying your interests to landing your dream job.
In part one, Sinche encourages taking the time to do self-exploration and to not rush into accepting a job. This includes considering the type of lifestyle you want and the people you would like to be surrounded by in your career. Next, she debunks commonly held myths about which skills are most important to employers. She urges readers to consider the ‘organic skills’ gained during scientific training, such as project management, data analysis, and oral and written communication. She explains how to translate ‘organic skills’ into ‘transferable skills’ catering to a specific job.
Part two presents a hard-hitting truth: being a postdoc is not a career goal and should not be a terminal step. This part of Next Gen PhD provides resources on how to best utilize a postdoc experience. Sinche profiles six individuals from varied professions, covering how they each made the transition to their respective fields. The book has important insights on how to network, set up informational interviews, and explore fellowship and internship opportunities.
In the third and last part of Next Gen PhD, the author offers insight into performing a job search, building your individual development plan (IDP), interviewing and negotiating, and most importantly, giving back to the community once you have made the transition.
The book ends with an important reminder: “You are the architect of your own career.”
Next Gen PhD contains many exercises and examples to help with a career transition. Overall, I find this to be an up-to-date, data-backed resource that can help science PhDs find satisfying career paths.
Inter-Institute Endocrinology Training Program (IETP) as a clinical fellow in 2017. Her research interests include rare metabolic bone diseases and disorders of mineral homeostasis—in particular, diseases related to aberrant fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) homeostasis. Dr. Hartley graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School and completed her internal medicine clinical training at the University of Maryland Medical Center.Iris Hartley, MD, joined the NIH’s
We asked Dr. Hartley a few questions about herself to get to know the person behind the degree. Introducing Dr. Hartley:
Where are you from, and what influenced you to go into medicine/research?
I was born and raised in Rockville, MD, so right down the road.
I decided to go into medicine because it is a career that would allow me to have a direct positive impact on others’ lives while also being intellectually challenging. I am the first physician in my family, so I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, but now I could not imagine having chosen a better career.
Why did you choose this particular line of research/medicine?
In residency, I found that I enjoyed non-procedural medical specialties most. I like to understand a patient’s disease and spend time understanding the underlying physiology. Endocrinology, with its pathways and feedback loops, was an obvious choice. I was ultimately drawn to bone and mineral research through my excellent mentors, and due to an interest in the fascinating rare bone diseases that are seen frequently at the NIH.
Why the NIH? What brought you here?
I have always been interested in pursuing research. Without a research background, however, it can be difficult to complete substantive projects during residency, unless you take a year off or pursue an MD-PhD. I really wanted to go to a program with significant protected research time and proven research mentorship, so that I could determine if this was the right path for me. The opportunities and mentorship at the NIH are unbelievable, and I am so glad that I ultimately made the right decision in coming here.
What is your most memorable experience so far while at the NICHD?
My most memorable experience involved taking care of a patient with metastatic tumor-induced osteomalacia. I wrote an expanded-access protocol to treat him with a novel therapy. I truly feel that I was able to extend his life and give him and his family the support they needed in a very difficult time. And by providing successful therapy to him, we were able to learn more about his underlying disease and mineral physiology in general, which will hopefully lead to improved future treatments for others as well. Treating this patient allowed me to experience the most gratifying parts of both medicine and clinical research.
Postdoctoral fellow Dr. Carlos “Charly” Guardia (Bonifacino lab) spoke about Argentina during the virtual Hispanic/Latinx Recognition/Appreciation Activity hosted by the WorkLife Enrichment (WE) Committee on June 10, 2020.
Charly offered several “fast facts” about his home country, including that Argentina has the highest rate of movie viewing in the world—an activity he too enjoys! He also revealed that he tried to learn tango. “But to be honest, it’s a little bit hard,” he admitted. After talking about popular Argentinian foods, such as dulce de leche and the Malbec wine produced in Mendoza, he spoke about Argentina’s politics and economy. Charly highlighted that Argentina was the first country in the Americas to legalize same sex marriage, but the politics of the country are still fragile and have a volatile history.
Neither of Charly’s parents attended college, and when it came time for him to make a career decision, he chose between his talents on the piano and his interest in science. For Charly, the allure of science won out. “The American dream is a reality, for me. With whatever talents you have or you can acquire, you can make it work,” Charly expressed at the end of his session.
POSTPONED: Annual NICHD Fellows Retreat
The 16th Annual Meeting for Postdoctoral, Clinical, and Visiting Fellows and Graduate Students for 2020 has been postponed until the spring of 2021. We will keep you posted!
Gain Programming Skills while Teleworking from Home
During this time of extended telework, the NICHD’s Bioinformatics and Scientific Programming Core (BSPC) is offering to help fellows gain valuable programming and data analysis skills. BSPC can provide several resources for learning the R programming language as well as develop custom learning plans using online resources to meet specific learning goals. If you are interested in programming and data analysis, please contact Dr. Ryan Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer Webinar Series: Job Searching and Interviewing during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Lauren Celano, MBA, CEO (Propel Careers)
Adapting Your Job Search Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Thursday, July 23, 11 a.m. – 12 noon
Lauren Celano will cover information to help fellows adapt their job search strategies and approaches due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lauren will cover the following topics: (1) how to improve and leverage your online presence for specific roles/positions and increase potential career opportunities, (2) how to prepare for and excel during virtual interviews, since almost all organizations have now moved to an online interview process, and (3) how to successfully initiate and conduct informational interviews to gain insights about potential career paths.
Tips to Navigate a Successful Virtual Interview Process
Wednesday, August 19, 11 a.m. – 12 noon
Lauren Celano will provide advice for how to prepare for and navigate a virtual interview process, since most companies are moving to virtual platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and WebEx during the COVID-19 pandemic. She will provide advice for tailoring responses, depending on the interviewer—HR representative, hiring manager, or direct colleague. This webinar will cover different scenarios, including one-on-one and group interviews, and interviews that require a presentation. Lauren will provide advice on questions you can ask during your interview and how to appropriately follow up after interview day. In addition, advice will be provided regarding how to evaluate and negotiate an offer.
Making the Most of Your PhD and Postdoc: How to Develop Career Relevant Skills in Academia
Thursday, September 24, 1 – 2 p.m.
This webinar will provide advice on ways to proactively build, develop, and enhance specific skills during your PhD or postdoctoral training in order to build transferrable skills that are valuable for your career. Lauren will provide an overview of skills useful for both research and non-research careers such as consulting, business development, communications, and medical affairs. She will also highlight ways to build transferrable skills such as collaboration, leadership, management, and presentation skills, as well as hard skills like budgeting, vendor management, protocol development, and writing. Additionally, she will showcase ways to highlight these skills on a resume so that organizations looking to hire you are aware of the value you bring to them.
Please email Ms. Monica Cooper (email@example.com) if you are planning to participate in any or all of these webinars.
PRAT Program Now Accepting Applications
Submission Deadline: October 2, 2020
Each year, NIGMS accepts applications for the Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program, a competitive fellowship program for intramural postdocs that provides research training in the basic medical sciences. This award provides three years of stipend support for intramural training in various research areas such as cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, computational biology, technology development and bioinformatics.
For eligibility and submission information, please visit the NIGMS PRAT website: https://www.nigms.nih.gov/training/pages/prat.aspx. The Office of Education is offering a virtual information session for NICHD fellows on Wednesday, July 22, at 10 a.m. to discuss the PRAT application submission. Please email Erin Walsh (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to attend.
Wednesday, July 22, 10 AM
Virtual Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program information session
The Office of Education is offering a virtual information session for NICHD fellows to discuss in detail how to prepare for this NIH application submission, and more importantly, provide you with some useful documents. Please email Erin Walsh (email@example.com) if you would like to attend.
Thursday, July 23, 11 AM – 12 Noon
Webinar: Adapting Your Job Search due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Lauren Celano, MBA, CEO, (Propel Careers)
In this webinar, Lauren Celano will cover information to help fellows adapt their job search strategies and approaches due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information available in the July Announcements. Please contact Ms. Monica Cooper (firstname.lastname@example.org) to register for this webinar.
Friday, July 31, 3 – 4:30 PM
Faculty Positions: Options Beyond the Traditional
Sydella Blatch, PhD, NIGMS
As graduate students and postdocs, we get a lot of exposure to research-based faculty positions, but what other kinds of faculty jobs are out there? Find out what it can be like for faculty at mid-sized and small universities, liberal arts and community colleges, and other kinds of faculty appointments at research-intensive universities such as lecturers and research professors. Discover ideas for what you can do now and ways to convey your skills in the job application. This seminar will be given by Dr. Sydella Blatch, a former associate professor of biology at a primarily undergraduate institution and adjunct professor at a community college and R2 research university. She is now a program officer in the NIGMS Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity.
Please contact Ms. Monica Cooper (email@example.com) to register for this virtual workshop.
Ongoing Events Around Campus
NIH-Wide Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) Events
For more information and registration, please visit Upcoming OITE Events.
NIH Library Training and Events
For more information and registration, please visit the NIH Library Calendar.
By Anshika Jain, PhD
As the current NICHD Basic Sciences Institutes and Centers (IC) Representative, I represent NICHD postdoctoral fellows at the Fellows Committee (FelCom) meeting every month and share the latest news with you here. Do you have a concern or question that you want brought up at the next meeting? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
FelCom welcomes the newly elected FAES co-liaison, Jennifer Panlilio. Elections for the new FelCom basic science chair will be conducted in August. I highly encourage our fellows to consider applying for this leadership opportunity. You are required to be an active member of the committee for at least six months before applying for this position. Please contact NICHD fellow Sara Young-Baird (email@example.com) with any questions regarding the position.
The NIH Child Care Board met last month and discussed the re-opening of child care centers operating at one-third capacity for the foreseeable future while promoting social distancing and practicing safety measures.
The National Postdoc Association (NPA) has created a repository of COVID-19 resources. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a COVID-19 resource you would like to share. Visit NPA’s website to view past NPA webinars as a members-only benefit. Remember, all trainees at NIH have NPA membership.
The Recreation and Welfare/Health and Wellness Committee announced 30-minute virtual fitness classes. For the schedule, please visit their Fitness-For-You website.
The Visiting Fellows Committee will continue to host more social events, including movie nights, quarantine talent nights, and a game night. Notifications will be sent out via email. Please reach out to the committee chairs, Vrushali Agashe (email@example.com) and Michael Buch (firstname.lastname@example.org), to join the English Conversation Club, hosted every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.
Stay tuned for more information from FelCom in next month’s newsletter.
Stay well and stay safe, everyone!