Statisticians and "Big Data" Analysts in High Demand

Posted in BioEducation

When I was a graduate student back in the dark ages, I took an advanced statistics course and then briefly worked in a laboratory where statistical analysis of data derived from animal models of disease (in this case the guinea pig model of tuberculosis) were essential. After leaving that lab, I developed an appreciation for the power of statistics (when appropriately designed according the laws of parametric statistics) and actually used statistical analyses of in vitro data for my PhD thesis. Unlike me, most of my contemporaries never understood statistics and thought that statistics can be used to manipulate data to confirm any hypothesis put forth by an investigator.

Imagine my surprise when I read in today’s NY Times that statistics are one of the hottest new career opportunities in technology and related industries. This is because billions of bytes of data (aka "big data sets")are generated daily and someone (usually a statistician or a person with knowledge of some arcane statistical analyses) is regarded to tease out trends and interpret the data. Companies like Google, Facebook, as wells as marketers, risk analysts, spies and companies that engage in competitive intelligence are desperately seeking new employees who understand applied statistic, analytics and trend analysis.

According to a recent LinkedIn survey, from 2009 to 2011 the number of new jobs with titles related to analytics grew 53%. Unfortunately, there are not enough trained or qualified persons available to fill these positions at most of these companies. Because of workforce shortages, universities like Stanford, Harvard and North Carolina State (NC State) have created graduate programs to train students in statistics and advanced analytics. 

Ninety per cent of NC State advanced analytic students (a 10 month program created in 2006) annually found jobs. The average graduate’s starting salary for an entry-level job is $73,000. Stanford and Harvard statistics department graduates head to Google, Wall Street and in many instances bioscience companies and start with salaries of over $100,000.

Not surprisingly, competition for entry to these programs is getting fierce. NC State takes only 40 new students per year in its program (185 applicants last year). Moreover, this year, Stanford received over 800 applications for 60 openings in next’ years class; nearly twice the number of applications that it received three years ago.

Like it or not “big data” and analytics are de rigueur and persons with advanced analytics training may be the new rock stars. That said if you like statistics or love to look for trends in large data sets then a career in analytics may be right for you. Now, you have to figure out where to get the training.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!.


Health Informatics Career Resource List

Posted in BioJobBuzz

As I mentioned in numerous previous posts, health or healthcare informatics is one of the hottest and fasting growing sectors of the US economy. And, not surprisingly, career counselors and job prognostication experts are predicting job shortages unless more Americans are trained for these job opportunities.  To that end, William Hooper of HealthTechTopia sent me a link to a list of 25 online health informatics resource collections

Those of you who are interested or considering pursuing a career in the emerging health informatics field ought to check it out!

 Until next time…

 Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!


Some Advice for Life Sciences PhDs Seeking Alternate Careers

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Looking back on my career, I don’t think I would have done many things differently; except one. That is, I wouldn’t have listened as much to the advice of others who I thought knew (better than me) about what I should do with the rest of my life. Don’t get wrong, it is important to listen to what others think and the advice that they offer but—at the end of the day —the career path that you choose must be something that you like or perhaps even love to do!   This sentiment was clearly and cleverly expressed in a recent interview with Steve Hannah, CEO of the hugely popular satirical magazine The Onion.

When asked by the interviewer “What is your career advice to somebody just graduating from college?” He replied:

“Find what you really love to do and then go after it — relentlessly. And don’t fret about the money. Because what you love to do is quite likely what you’re good at. And what you’re good at will likely bring you financial reward eventually.

I’ve seen too many people who have plotted a career, and often what’s at the heart of all that plotting is nothing other than a stack of dollar bills. You need to be happy in order to be good, and you need to be good in order to succeed. And when you succeed, there’s a good chance you’ll get paid.”

At the conclusion of my ‘Alternate Career Paths: Taking the Path Less Traveled’ seminar, I always advise participants to “follow the advice of your heart.” Interestingly, this bit of wisdom was delivered to me via a fortune cookie that I had eaten after a great meal at my local Chinese takeout place while I was working as a postdoc and living in Manhattan. 

I still have the fortune and, while I didn’t appreciate or understand it at the time, it has become the credo by which I try to live my life. As corny as the saying may be, it has served me well over the course of somewhat circuitous and often times questionable career path. And, like Steve Hannah, I have always found that when I am passionate about something, and pursue it relentlessly, good things tend to happen. 

So, for what it is worth, those of you who may be thinking about alternate career paths I say: go for it. The worst thing that may happen is that it doesn’t work out or you may fail. But, the one thing that I have come to know is that I have learned more from my failures than I ever have from my successes!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


The Top Ten Fastest-Growing Career Options for Life Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz sent me a list of the  ten fastest growing jobs expected in the US from 2008 to 2018. While career options like skin care specialists (vocational training), physician assistants (MS), athletic trainers (BS), financial examiners (BS), dental hygienists (associate degree) and physical therapist aides (associate degree) appear on the list, the fastest growth and greatest need is for biomedical engineers (#1), network system and data communication analysts (#3), medical scientists (#5) and biochemists and biophysicists (#7).

 The Ten Fastest-Growing Jobs You Should Go To School For Today

With the exception of medical scientists (which require a PhD degree), bachelor degrees are required for entry level biomedical engineers, systems analysts and biochemists and biophysicists. While I am not convinced that there is a growing demand for more PhD life scientists, I think the other options listed are viable career choices especially in the area of health information technology.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!


Film Review: "Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist"

Posted in Career Advice

People frequently ask me why I decided to get a PhD degree to become a scientist. For the past 30 years, I have tried to explain to people why I decided to spend seven long years of “blood, sweat and tears” to attain that elusive degree. While anyone who has earned a PhD degree understands what drove them to do it, it is difficult to explain to others that the decision has little to do with career paths and salary considerations and is largely driven by passion— and perhaps more aptly—obsession. That is why Carole and Richard Rifkin’s film “Naturally Obsessed: The Making of Scientist”—an emotional and gritty film that follows the lives of three Columbia graduate students on their quest to obtaining their PhD degrees—is resonating with scientists, students and the public.

The film, which took five years to make and was launched in March 2009, follows the progress of three X-ray crystallography graduate students, Rob, Killington (Kil) and Gabrielle, who worked in Larry Shapiro’s laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center. Work in Larry’s laboratory focuses on elucidating the X-crystallographic structure of proteins that are thought to be involved in appetite control. While Rob, Kil and Gabrielle share a common goal—getting a PhD degree—they are very different people. Rob is a rebellious, boisterous, self-assured free thinker (who was thrown out of a previous laboratory) whereas Kil is a more staid, soft spoken pragmatist from the Midwest. Gabrielle, who returned to graduate school to pursue a PhD degree after a stint as a laboratory technician at a company, loves science but isn’t certain that she has the mettle to realize her dream. Each of them understands that time is of the essence and they work feverishly and unrelentingly  to insure that their competitors don’t beat them to the punch and publish first!

Despite their obvious personality differences, each is driven and obsessed with producing perfectly-formed protein crystals that are suitable for X-ray crystallography analysis. The film accurately and painstakingly depicts the inevitable emotional “ups and downs” of laboratory research, the personal struggles and the often difficult life decisions that are made when pursuing a PhD degree. In the end, Rob, Kil and Laura find their own career paths as scientists and perhaps, more importantly. come to terms with the decisions that they made during their journeys.

Carole, a documentary filmmaker, and Richard, Chairman Emeritus of the Sloan-Kettering Institute and founding Chairman of the New York Structural Biology Center, made the film to portray the “reality of doing science” and raise awareness about scientific research. The film emphasizes that science, like art, requires creativity, persistence and unyielding commitment and dedication. The Rifkinds interviewed many NYC-based academic laboratories before choosing Larry Shapiro’s laboratory as the subject of their documentary film. Larry’s laboratory was chosen because X-crystallography is visual (and lends itself to film making) and Carol had a hunch that “there was a story to be told there.”

During a recent interview with the Rifkinds, I mentioned that if I had seen the film as a high school or undergraduate student, I probably would have skipped graduate school. Carole responded and said, “Yes, the hard work and emotional challenges portrayed in the film might turn some students off but we wanted to portray scientific research the way it is and remain true to its realities.” She added, "while the film focuses on science graduate students it is also relevant and accurately reflects the trials and tribulations experienced by PhD students in the humanities and the arts.” 

One of the more troubling moments of the film for me is when Larry mentions that scientists, like artists, “represent the fringe of society.” The fact that a prominent, successful scientist views himself as different, and on the fringes of society, doesn’t bode well for the public perception of science or scientists for that matter. Another troubling aspect of the film is that Rob, Kil and Gabrielle are clearly being groomed for academic careers despite the fact that roughly only 10% of life sciences PhDs secure academic positions at the end of their training. I pointed this out to Richard and he said that he agrees that it is a troubling trend and that “alternate career options for PhDs is the subject of Carole’s  and his next film.”

Since it launch in March, the film has been screened at over 60 high schools, colleges, medical schools, professional science associations, government agencies and biotechnology companies. While the film may not be “right” for everyone, it is a must see for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and for members of the public who want a rare glimpse into the emotionally-charged and highly competitive world of scientific research. For those of you, who may be interested in arranging a screening, please visit the Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist website or contact Hayley

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!

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