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Monday, January 11, 2010

Life Science Careers - Questions from Soon-To-Be Graduates

With the tremendous uncertainty regarding today's economy, students are understandably concerned about their job prospects and the overall availability of career opportunities - regardless of the sector they choose to join.  Those with the greatest concern are the ones closest to graduation.  During the course of my education and career development, I had many opportunities to meet with career counselors and mentors to develop strategies for my long term success.  I am eternally grateful for the solid advice that was extended to me.  Indeed, it is largely because of the dedication of those individuals who provided their time and expertise to encourage young and enthusiastic science students that I decided to write this blog.

Last week, I was invited to participate as a mentor in the career networking session of the CSU Biotechnology Symposium.  The goal of this program was to educate students pursuing degrees in the life sciences about the varied career tracks that are available to them.  In all, there were 18 tables able to accommodate up to 10 students each in 4 rotations. Topics covered at each table were:
  • Finding a job in today's economy
  • How to apply/interview
  • Medicinal chemistry
  • Clinical trials management
  • Intellectual property management
  • Discovery research
  • Biodevice product development
  • Quality and regulatory affairs
  • Product development
  • Business development
  • Engineering
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Medical marketing
  • Cliical laboratory sciences
  • Health IT
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Bioinformatics
  • Start up a company
Those of you who follow this blog will recognize that I routinely highlight topics, skills and career opportunities in almost all of the above areas. With respect to the career mentoring session, I was asked to participate at the medicinal chemistry table and, along with a long-time colleague, had the opportunity to address a wide array of questions from some very bright students eager to contribute to all facets of the life sciences industries.

Questions Asked by Life Science Students

I was truly impressed with the questions asked at the mentoring session. These questions, paraphrased below, reflect the ongoing discussions encompassed by this blog.   The questions raised, organized by topic, are:

Questions About Medicinal Chemistry
  • What is medicinal chemistry? (Answered 3/7/10)
  • Do medicinal chemists participate in the testing of compounds?(Answered 3/7/10)
  • What is a typical day like for a medicinal chemist? (Answered 3/7/10)
  • How does molecular modeling influence medicinal chemistry?(Answered 3/20/10)
  • How does natural product research relate to medicinal chemistry?(Answered 3/20/10)
  • How can natural products be matched to enzyme activity?(Answered 3/20/10)
  • What is the impact of small protein design? (Answered 4/14/10)
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of biologics vs small molecule drugs? (Answered 4/14/10)
Questions About Career Paths
  • How did we decide upon our career paths? (Answered 1/25/10)
  • What are the differences between academic and industrial careers? (Answered 2/16/10)
  • Is there more competition for academic positions in this economy? (Answered 2/16/10)
  • Can you describe your industrial experiences and career path?(Answered 1/25/10)
Questions About Employment Opportunities
  • What will industrial employment opportunities look like in the next 5 years? (Answered 5/15/10)
  • What is the future of in-house dedicated medicinal chemistry programs? (Answered 5/15/10)
  • Are opportunities available in pharma/biotech for people with experience outside of the life sciences? (Answered 5/15/10)
  • Are part time opportunities with tuition assistance available in pharma/biotech companies? (Answered 6/3/10)
  • For new hires, what degrees are more valuable - organic chemistry or medicinal chemistry? (Answered 6/3/10)
  • Is there job security in the life sciences? (Answered 6/3/10)
  • What are the trends in outsourcing? (Answered 6/3/10)
Questions About Relevant Knowledge and Experience
  • How important are analytical techniques (NMR/HPLC/MS/etc.) for new hires? (Answered 7/26/10)
  • What opportunities exist for BS/MS level chemists in this economy? (Answered 7/26/10)
  • What are the requirements for an entry level chemistry job?(Answered 7/26/10)
  • How do supervisors interact with BS/MS level chemists in the lab? (Answered 7/26/10)
  • How can I learn more about molecular modeling? (Answered 7/26/10)
While some of the above questions were addressed or touched on in previous postings, most present opportunities to share insight in areas highly relevant to our continually evolving job climate.  Future blogs will address each of these questions in turn.  Furthermore, it is my hope that those of you following this blog will add your voices and opinions thus enhancing the breadth of insight provided herein.

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