Life Scientists:Looking for a Job? Consider the Cannabis Industry

Posted in BioBusiness, Career Advice

According to a recent article, the 2013 to 2014 US market for legal Cannabis (medical and recreational) grew 74% from $1.3 billion to $2.7 billion. Industry analysts predict that the legal marijuana industry is (and will continue to be) the fastest-growing industry in the US over the next 5 years with annual revenues topping $11 billion by 2020.  And, as the industry grows so will employment opportunities. At present, salaries associated with various job functions in the Cannabis industry range from $50,000 to $90,000. As many businesses that support the Cannabis industry continue to grow, the competition for qualified employed will intensify and salaries will concomitantly rise. Currently,, there aren’t enough trained job candidates to fill the many job openings at Cannabis companies. I am sure that many of you who hold graduate degrees in the life sciences are wondering why I am pitching jobs in the Cannabis industry.

First, traditional jobs for PhD-trained life scientist are getting scarcer and the election of Donald Trump suggests that this trend will not be reversed anytime soon.

Second, consider that growing and cultivating marijuana and extracting cannabinoids (the pharmaceutically active molecules in Cannabis buds) require a background in laboratory methods, chemistry, biology and in some cases plant science. For those of you who may not know, the medical Cannabis market is focusing almost exclusively on cannabis extracts and vaporization of these extracts (rather than smoking) is the preferred delivery methods. This suggests that those of you with backgrounds in biomedical engineering and medical devices  can leverage your expertise and skills to obtain jobs in the delivery side of the cannabis industry.  

Third, the expansive growth and sheer economic size of the Cannabis industry suggests that other jobs that require a life science background are likely to emerge. These include quality control/assurance jobs for strain identification, diagnostic jobs to determine THC levels/intoxication, molecular biology and bioinformatic jobs to continue to explore and unlike therapeutically relevant molecules from the Cannabis genome and synthetic biology jobs to increase cannabinoid yields and reduce production costs. Finally, there is currently a dearth of qualified job candidates with scientific backgrounds to fill entry level grow and extraction jobs in the Cannabis industry.

At present, the industry is mainly dominated by long time Cannabis growers, people who use marijuana on a regular basis and some moxy business people/investors who see an an enormous upside for the Cannabis industry. Put simply, now is the time to get in on the ground floor of an industry that is exploding and will ultimately become a legal multibillion dollar a year industry. While I’m sure that neither you nor your parents/family envisioned a career in Cannabis, the jobs are there and ripe for the picking (pun intended).

Until next time…

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

Why Many Scientists Have A PR Problem!

Posted in BioEducation

I apologize in advance for this rant but I have been participating in an almost six month long thread on LinkedIn discussing whether or not PhD-trained scientists lack the social discipline and knowledge necessary to favorably interact with the lay public. Not surprisingly, a majority of participants contend that most PhD-bearing life scientists lack social graces to the point where they come off as being aloof, condescending and enamored with their own intelligence and projects that they choose to work on.

While I tend to generally agree with this characterization, I contend that the lack of social discipline exhibited by many graduate students and postdocs is not a result of personality defects but can likely be attributed to the attitudes and behaviors learned from their mentors and PIs. Put simply, graduate students and postdocs would likely learn to behave differently in social situations if they were trained differently by their PIs and mentors.

Now: the reason for the rant. In yesterday’s Science Times, there was an article about a Princeton-based writer, Jeffrey Eugenides, who decided to write a novel using a life sciences researcher as its main character. Mr. Eugenides, who previously wrote a well received novel entitled “Middlesex,” does not possess a scientific background nor has he spent any time in a research laboratory. In fact, despite living in Princeton a bastion of life sciences research, he had no friends or even acquaintances who were scientists. His closest connect to science is his wife, an artist who spent a winter in Cold Spring Harbor (but not at the research center). Nevertheless, creating a main character who is a scientist required that he do a lot of internet research to learn about scientific research and what makes “scientists tick.” To that end, he read peer-reviewed yeast genetics papers to better understand the focus of the main character’s research—yeast mating genetics. It took him many years to collect the information necessary to write the novel. And a scientist—whose research laid the foundation for work described in the novel—was astounded that Eugenides got it exactly right!

Because Princeton University is home to one of the world’s leading yeast genetics programs, Eugenides decided to chat with yeast geneticists actively engaged in basic research to get an idea of what actually goes on in a research laboratory. To accomplish this he turned to one of the world’s leading experts on yeast geneticist at Princeton to ask for help. Although the geneticist thought that Eugenides needed an explanation of the research described in the novel, Eugenides simply wanted to spend a day in his laboratory and interact with “real” scientists. After hearing this, the geneticist handed Eugenides off to his laboratory manager and left the lab.

When interviewed for the story in the NY Times, the geneticist quipped “I never heard of the book, and I don’t remember talking to the guy.” Taken at face value his comments are not intentionally pejorative or demeaning. But, they do suggest an air of arrogance, indifference and most importantly disinterest. I suspect that this is because the visit had little to do with the geneticist’s work and, in the end, there was not much in it for him—so why waste his time?

Sadly this is exactly the attitudes and behaviors exhibited by many scientists. Is it any wonder why many lay people think that most scientists are arrogant, self absorbed and indifferent when it comes to social graces? Although the scientist mentioned in the post is world renown in scientific circles, he did not come off well (to me anyway) in the article. That said, he created a PR problem for himself.

While in the past it was convenient for academicians to “live in the ivory tower” the recession, an increasingly lousy job market for PhD-trained scientists and the advent of social media suggests that we have entered into a new age. Like it or not, social skills are absolutely required for gainful employment in today’s world. I think it is time for academics to realize this and change the way in which they train their graduate students and postdocs.

Until next time….

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


Got Biology? This List Does!

Posted in BioEducation

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed important biological, genetic or other life sciences information quickly? Sure, you can Google the topic but it takes time to wade through all of the search results until you find the right one!

Carol Brown from sent me a list of the “100 Best Reference Sites for Science Students.” The list contains information for chemistry, environmental science and even geology.  I extracted the life sciences websites from the list and posted them below.  

  1. Biology Online: On this site you can post questions in a forum, look things up in a bio dictionary, and read all kinds of informative articles and tutorials.
  2. Everything Bio: Check out this resource to find a glossary, textbooks, images and a range of other online biology tools.
  3. Life Science Dictionary: Try out this dictionary to look up life science terms and identify their meanings.
  4. Molecular Biology Glossary: Students of molecular biology will appreciate this valuable research tool.
  5. National Biological Information Infrastructure: Want to know and read about the research being done in the life sciences? Check out this site.
  6. Biology Reference: You can look up loads of helpful biology terms in this online encyclopedia.
  7. Biology Nation: From finding the best biology grad programs for looking up biology terminology, this site is a one-stop resource.
  8. Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology: Search through this online dictionary to refresh your memory on the parts of the cell.
  9. BioScience: With a dictionary, encyclopedia, links, software, and custom search tools, you’ll find more reference material than you could ever need on this site.
  10. All Experts: Biology: Have a biology question you just can’t seem to find the 
  11. Amino Acids Repository: Use this site as a reference on amino acid properties alone and in proteins.
  12. Table of Standard Genetic Code: This site is a great reference when trying to remember which part of DNA goes where.
  13. Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms: Don’t know how to say a particular term? No worries, this glossary will tell you and more.
  14. Human Genome Acronym List: Don’t have a clue what the ASHG is? This site can help you look it up.
  15. Genetics Resources on the Web: Search through this site for the best genetics resources the web has to offer.
  16. National Human Genome Research Institute: This site offers a number of helpful educational resources for students young and old.
  17. Genetics Virtual Library: Search by organism or topic to find the genetic information you need to do your homework.
  18. Genetics Home Reference: Those studying genetic disorders will appreciate this quick online reference for conditions.
  19. GeneTests: Even if you’re not in medicine, you’ll be able to find interesting and compelling information on this site.
  20. Gene Cards: You’ll find a collection of concise information on just about every gene out there on this site.

While I can’t vouch for the quality of the  list, it looks to be pretty informative.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Studying!!!!!!



A Big MOOve–The Cow Genome is Sequenced

Posted in Career Advice

The long sought after cow genome has been sequenced. Heralded as a milestone in animal genetics, unraveling the cow genome will provide scientists with “tantalizing clues to explain the essence of bovinity.” Two papers describing the results of the project will appear in today’s issue of the journal Science. 

The cow who donated its DNA for sequencing was a Hereford named LI Dominette 01449 and is one of the estimated 94 million bovines in the US. The project, led by researchers at National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was a gargantuan effort that spanned six years and involved more than 300 scientists from 25 countries and cost only $53 million. Based on sequence analyses, cows haver 22,000 genes as compared with 20,000 to 25,000 for humans. Some of the other findings include: 

  • Cattle and humans have about 80 percent of their genes in common

  • The organization of human chromosomes is closer to that of domestic cattle than to those of rats or mice, which are often used in lab tests of drugs intended for people.

  • Cattle chromosomes, like those of humans and other mammals, contain segmental duplications, which are large, almost identical copies of DNA present in at least two locations in a genome.

  • In domestic cattle, there are duplications related to immunity, metabolism, digestion, reproduction and lactation. Such duplications in humans have been related to a variety of disorders.

Researchers hope that elucidating the bovine genome will help them find ways to improve milk and meat production, develop new strategies to treat and prevent diseases and to reduce the carbon foot print of cows that release large amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Great news to receive on National DNA Day! 

Science rocks.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!