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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), and she can put you in touch with Andy, Jeremy, and Medha.
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