My Story: Taking the Path Less Traveled

Posted in Career Advice

I had always liked science but by age 10, I had already decided that I wanted to be a veterinarian. However, after seeing the film Ben Hur at age 11—during which two of the main characters who have leprosy are miraculously cured—I fantasized what it might be like to be able to discover cures for infectious diseases. As corny as it may sound, the movie convinced me that my true calling in life wasn’t veterinary medicine but microbiology. Nevertheless, I attended Cornell University as a pre-veterinary medicine undergraduate with a dual major in animal science and microbiology. During my senior year at Cornell, Dr. Brooks Naylor, my food microbiology professor at the time, invited me to do a senior research project in his laboratory. After several weeks in the laboratory I was hooked and knew that graduate school and not veterinary medicine was in my future.

I entered graduate school in 1974 and did my PhD work in Bob Deibel’s laboratory in the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the pathogenesis of Salmonella gastroenteritis. Because Bob was Chairman of the Department and a food microbiology consultant, he wasn’t around much. This forced me to become self reliant and an independent investigator very early in my scientific career. Interestingly, when I started graduate school, my goal was to earn a PhD degree and teach microbiology at a small liberal arts college.  However, after three years at Wisconsin, I decided to eschew a career as a science educator in favor of becoming a tenure track faculty member at a prestigious research institution.

I received my PhD degree in 1981 and chose to do a postdoctoral fellowship with Stephen Morse in the Department of Microbiology at Oregon Health Sciences University where I investigated the pathogenesis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae the causative agent of gonorrhea. After two years in Stephen’s lab, I realized that the field of molecular biology had finally taken off and I needed to develop molecular biological skills to compete for my coveted tenure track faculty position. In 1984, I joined Howard Shuman’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City where I studied the molecular pathogenesis of Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires Disease.

In 1987, after spending three more years as a postdoctoral fellow, my newly acquired molecular biology training coupled with a respectable publication record helped me to land a tenure track faculty position in the Department of Microbiology at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine. I spent the next seven years feverishly doing laboratory research, teaching medical and graduate students, publishing papers and mainly writing grants to establish an independent research program on the role of lipopolysaccharide in the molecular pathogenesis of Legionella pneumophila. While I was a productive researcher, who regularly published and was recognized on several occasions for teaching excellence, I failed to consistently win grant support to run my laboratory. Consequently, in 1994, I was denied tenure and forced to leave academia—an emotionally devastating event that that ended a life-long dream of becoming a world class research scientist.

Luckily, at that time, the American biotechnology industry had finally hit its stride and I landed a job as a scientist at a New Jersey-based biotechnology company where I managed an antibacterial drug discovery program. My time in industry—which lasted only two years—provided me with a firm understanding of the business side of science and perhaps, more importantly, convinced me that industrial research wasn’t for me. This, coupled with a yearning desire to teach again, prompted me to successfully apply for a job as Chairperson of Biology at a local community college. While a good idea at the time, I quickly realized that while I still loved to teach, administration wasn’t my strong suit and I left the community college job after a year.

Unfortunately, by 1998, I had effectively exhausted most traditional career options for scientists with PhD degrees and I desperately needed a job—mainly because I had a wife and three young children to support. Fortunately, while working at the community college, I successfully helped several professional recruiters place new hires into jobs at biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. This prompted me to seriously consider professional recruiting as a career option and in early 1999 I landed a job as a recruiter at a local recruiting firm.  As a new hire I had to attend recruiter school for six weeks. Surprisingly, this training would prove to play a pivotal role in many subsequent decisions that ultimately helped to shape my career.

After three successful years as professional recruiter, an Australian biotechnology company recruited and hired me as a science and business consultant to help guide their antibacterial drug discovery program. The new job led to an almost four year stint as an independent management consultant advising private and publicly-traded biotechnology companies on business, scientific and financial matters.  Also during this time, I decided to indulge my own entrepreneurial fantasies and in 2001 I founded BioInsights Inc (www.bioinsights.com), a bioscience education and training company. In 2003, Abe Abuchowski and I founded Prolong Pharmaceuticals (www.prolongpharmaceuticals.com) a drug delivery company with two drugs in early stage clinical development. Unfortunately, the rigorous demands of running BioInsights and starting Prolong ultimately led to the demise of my consulting practice and by 2004 I was forced to consider another career move.

Luckily, in 2002, I had begun to write for several biotechnology industry trade publications. Although I wasn’t getting paid to write, it enabled me to hone and polish my writing skills. In late 2004, a medical communications expert who I knew suggested that I take a stab at medical writing. At the time, I didn’t know much about medical writing but I quickly learned that it pays well and medical writers are always in demand. I took her advice and landed my first medical writing job in 2005. Since then, I have worked at a variety of medical communications agencies and pharmaceutical companies preparing manuscripts, posters, slide presentations and other work. Currently, I am freelance science and medical writer, blogger (www.biojobsblog.com) and social media enthusiast who, along with Dr. Vincent Racaniello started an online social network site for bioscientists called BioCrowd (www.biocrowd.com). Also, my colleague Mike Dudley and I recently launched a medical devices company called Artemes Technologies Inc. (www.artemestechnologies.com) that is developing a novel drug delivery device for lyophilized protein-based drugs.

Unlike most scientists, my career path has taken many unexpected twists and turns. I never intended it to be as convoluted as it has turned out to be. Nevertheless, I believe that my unusual career trajectory has transformed me into a more well-rounded scientist than I would have been if I had been able to pursue my intended academic career. In retrospect, I attribute my career successes to solid problem solving skills, an unrelenting desire to continue to learn and an unwavering choice to take risks. Finally, and perhaps most important, I learned that there is no right or wrong career path in the life sciences—only the one that you choose for yourself!

Until next time…

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

 

Live From Shanghai, China: The 1st Sino-British Cell Death and Disease Symposium

Posted in BioEducation

Recent progress in cell death, stem cell biology and cancer research has created a new paradigm of research direction, shifting from pure analytical approaches toward a more translational one with animals and patients. The purpose of The 1st Cell Death and Disease Symposium to be held in Shanghai,China onMay 8-9 2013 is to create a forum for the interaction among scientists from China and other parts of the world. It will also provide a platform for development of collaboration.

This year’s symposium is the 4th installment of a series of Sino-British workshops and symposia on cell death. Presenters include scientists from China, England and Australia. Unlike previous conferences, this one will stream live on the Internet for those who are interested in real time viewing.  Vcasts of the symposium will also be available upon conclusion of the event.  For more information about the conference, presenters and agenda please click here

Live streaming in China is still very much in its formative stage. Therefore, those of you who are interested in paid access to a live video stream for the meeting or paid access to vcasts, please contact me via .  Please indicate in the subject line of the message if you are interested in the live stream or the vcasts.

Please note that registering for the conference online does not grant access to live or archived vcasts. This is a special feature offered by BioInsights, Inc in association with the conference organizers.

Until next time…

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

Attention: All Science and Medical Writers–BioInsights Launches the BioWriters Forum

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Medical/science writing is increasingly becoming popular among PhD life scientists are having trouble finding traditional laboratory-based, research jobs. The transition from laboratory research to writing is not an onerous one; especially if you like to write.

As many of you may know, I am a freelance medical/science writer who entered the field about 10 years ago.  Because most freelancers work from home offices, the lack of communication with others can be overwhelming at times. Consequently, many of us subscribe to e-mail-based listservs which allow us to stay in touch with other writers and frreelancers. Most of these medical writing listservs are run and maintained by the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). In order to access and participate at the listservs, you must be an AMWA member which costs $145 or more per year.

While the AMWA forums are very popular, AMWA officials assiduously monitors them and at times, restricts some of the content that can be posted. For example, members of the ‘freelance business only listserv’ are strictly prohibited from posting jobs or alerting others to potential freelance opportunities. AMWA officials contends that these posts are inappropriate and disruptive. However, the real reason for the prohibition may be that AWMA operates a separate, fee-based service that allows freelancers to hawk their services.  In other words, allowing  users to mention freelancing gigs or job opportunities on ‘freelance business only’ listserv, could potentially jeopardize an additional AMWA revenue stream.

Occasionally, freelancers like me break the rules (go figure) and mention "hot" jobs or employers who may be looking for writers. I do this because, as a freelancer, I am painfully aware that my success as a freelancer is contingent upon my ability to maintain a regular, ongoing stream of freelance gigs. Unfortunately, the AMWA officers who monitor the listservs (many of whom are not freelancers), don’t understand this. Consequently, repeat offenders– like me–have been threatened with financial sanctions and possible expulsion from the listserv.

Because I don’t like feeling oppressed and being told what to do, I decided to create my own forum where freelancers can freely exchange information, post jobs, alert others about potential gigs and jobs and generally have an open and ongoing discussion about medical and science writing.  To that end I launched the BioWriters Forum about two weeks ago. The forum is hosted by BioInsights, Inc and is sponsored by BioJobBlog and BioCrowd. The forum is free but membership is required in order to participate. Please check it out and join if you like.

For those of you who decide to join, please feel free to send me any ideas, thoughts, suggestions, kudos, kvetches etc, that you may have.  Enjoy!

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Freelancing!!!!!!!!!

Employers

 

Jobseekers Beginning to Favor Social Networking over Online Career Sites to Find Jobs

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Online career sites like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and Yahoo Hot Jobs have gotten so big and over subscribed that they are no longer useful to most jobseekers. Many career development experts have discovered that the large career sites tend to overwhelm jobseekers because of the enormity of job possibilities that appear on them.  Unfortunately, this seemingly endless supply of job opportunities frequently induces jobseekers to spend too much time applying for online jobs and not enough time exploring non-internet based job possibilities. While applying for online jobs is facile and may be emotionally-gratifying, it usually doesn’t culminate in many face-to-face interviews or job offers for that matter. This is because most online job applications are screened by software programs looking for key words or phrases and, if your resume doesn’t contain them it will not be reviewed by a human. Further, many of the openings posted on job boards are actually placed there by recruiters and contract employment agencies—not actual companies seeking to fill positions. Often times, recruiters post expired or fictitious job descriptions on the boards to “pad” their candidate databases with qualified applicants who can be used for future job orders. Finally, sometimes unscrupulous people/companies place false or misleading ads on the big job boards. Unfortunately, these people have no qualms about taking financial advantage of job seekers who may be desperate or “down on their luck

The declining usefulness of the big online job boards has given rise to smaller career sites like Indeed.com and Simply Hired.com which are driven by powerful search engines and permit jobseekers to customize job searches based on industry, geography, salary and job availability. Other companies like BioInsights.com and OneScience.com have built niche job boards that specialize in industry-specific job listings (in this case pharma and biotech). While these new careers site are more focused, easier to navigate and frequently yield better results than the large job boards, they too can be exploited by recruiters and unscrupulous would-be employers. 

The growing popularity of social networking sites represents an important paradigm shift for jobseekers and employers. Belonging to popular social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook or Plaxo allows job seekers to cast a wider net by taking advantage of the contacts or connections that their “friends” may have at various companies and organizations. Further, it is not uncommon for people within a network to pass on resumes or put in a good word to hiring managers on behalf of friends or contacts from their network who are seeking employment.  However, it is important to also point out that recruiters and contract employment agencies have also recognized the potential and power of social networks. Recruiters and HR specialists now routinely troll social networks (particularly Linked In and Facebook) for qualified candidates and don’t hesitate to contact “qualified candidates” whether or not they are actively looking for a job. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, hiring managers and recruiters are becoming increasingly reliant on social networks to screen and gather personal information about job candidates to assess their suitability for certain jobs. According to a 2006 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, recruiters use social networking sites 23 per cent more than they did in 2006 to verify resumes, screen applicants and fill vacancies. Also, the study found that possible negative information posted on social network profiles—personal views, alcohol or drug use, sexually-oriented pictures or social commentaries— have a greater impact on hiring decisions than any positive information that may also appear on job seeker profiles.

The growing use of social networks by job seekers to find employment and employers and recruiters to screen job applicants has profound implications for people who belong to these networks. With this in mind, if you currently have profiles associated with your legal name on social networks like Face Book, MySpace or Linked In, I strongly recommend that are completely devoid of the following: 1) sexually suggestive or explicit photographs, 2) posts or photos depicting excessive alcohol or drug use, 3) any rants that you may have posted about your boss or a current place of employment and 4) personal information about your age, marital status, children or sexual orientation. Also, if you are actively involved in a job search, it is a good idea to upload a short bio or resume to your profile and to post any bonafide recommendations or career award and honors that you may have received. However, if you find the prospect of having to sanitize your MySpace and Facebook profiles unpalatable, then I suggest that you remove your name from your current profile(s) and replace it with an alias (your friends will still  know who you are) and build another profile with your real name for professional use only.   

We live in a highly competitive, constantly-changing world where even slightly negative perceptions about a person may mean the different between employment or not. Ironically, while the Internet allows greater freedom of expression, it also permits people with decision-making powers to more easily scrutinize our daily activities and gain greater insights into our personal lives. Consequently, the onus is on jobseekers to regulate or control what prospective employers may learn about them online. Put simply, the success or failure of your career may literally be in your own hands. That said, the next time that you update your Facebook or MySpace profiles take a moment (before you hit the “send button”) and ask yourself whether or not the new information “is going to help or hurt my career?”

Until next time…

 

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