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Know When to Change Directions

Know When to Change Directions

Career Story by Candice Harder, PhD, Associate Study Director of Genetic Engineering Technologies at The Jackson Laboratory

I was a postdoc at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) for only about 18 months. Into the second year of my training, I decided I did not want to stay in academia and become a principal investigator.  I immediately began to consider the next move in my career.  In addition to its research department, the JAX sells mice for use in scientific research.  Because my husband Jeff was still working as a postdoc, I started reviewing job postings at JAX.    

Invest in Your Interests

Invest in Your Interests

Career Story by Jeffrey Harder, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow at The Jackson Laboratory

In 2006, I made a big career change.  I left a great job, where I helped run a small business, to become a graduate student in biomedical research.  In truth, the job had been a detour.  After undergrad I was to be a research assistant in a biology lab.  The summer before I started in the lab, I wrote custom software for a friend’s business.  By summer’s end, I went all-in with the business. The job wasn’t for me and five years later I needed a career change.  After this unusual start, I have really enjoyed my career in biomedical research.  However, working outside of academia I learned a couple things about my work life that are important to my happiness and career development. 

Fitting (Pounding) a Square Peg into a Round Hole: My Transition from Commercial Manufacturing to Academia

Fitting (Pounding) a Square Peg into a Round Hole: My Transition from Commercial Manufacturing to Academia

Career Story by Rick Lawless, Director of Industry Programs at NC State University, previously Sr. Director of Manufacturing at Wyeth Vaccines (now Pfizer)

In the early 1980s, the goal of almost every college student was to graduate and go to medical school.  I was a little different – it was dental school for me.  Since the University of Michigan had no pre-dentistry major, I had to declare a real major.  I chose microbiology (Good Choice #1) because the mouth is full of microbes.  Around that time, biotechnology was getting lots of press and the demand for graduates with genetic engineering skills was growing.  All that sounded pretty exciting to me – much more than dentistry, so I dropped the dream of drilling teeth and immersed myself in biotechnology (Good Choice #2).  Unfortunately, I found bench science boring.  Chemical engineering caught my eye.  Having progressed far into the microbiology program, I stayed with the micro major and added a second major with a concentration in biochemical engineering.  After 6 years of undergraduate studies, okay grades, and no money, I needed to get a job. 

Scientist to Business Executive – An Unexpected Journey

Scientist to Business Executive – An Unexpected Journey

Career Story by Michael Krupp, CEO at Xfibra Inc., previous Senior Vice President at Chugai Pharma USA, and previous Director of Licensing & Development at Pfizer Inc.

When I entered my graduate education in biochemistry at URMC I expected to pursue a career as an academic researcher teaching and doing grant supported basic science research in biomedical sciences.  I completed my Ph.D. and went off to the Department of Physiological Chemistry at Johns Hopkins for three years of postdoctoral research.  Everything I heard from my advisers and mentors pushed me to seek an appointment at a University as an Assistant Professor.  It was then that reality set in – (1) there were very few openings that were sought by many outstanding candidates and (2) opportunities in the pharma industry were plentiful and the work was interesting.  This was my first career pivot!

Medical Affairs - Do You Have What It Takes To Succeed?

Medical Affairs - Do You Have What It Takes To Succeed?

Career Story by Yuriy Shapovalov, Medical Science Liaison at Biogen

When I made the decision to move from academia to industry, the biggest question that entered my mind was “Would I be a good fit for this environment?”  A career in the medical affairs division of a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company is one of several opportunities available to Ph.D. graduates who contemplate a move from the bench.  But like with many of those choices, at the time I did not have much information about what medical affairs was and whether people like me had succeeded there before.  My academic mentor suggested that I talk to somebody who actually worked in a medical affairs role and who could share their experience.  And that is how my journey began in finding a first job in industry.