Summer Reading for Science Graduate Students (and Maybe Postdocs!)

Posted in Career Advice

It is officially summer (July 4 was this past Tuesday) and things have slowed down as most people take their vacations during the summer months. Invariably, recommended summer reading lists have appeared in print, in podcasts and on radio shows.

One book that may be an interesting read for science graduate students (and possibly postdocs) is a novel entitled “Chemistry” by Weike Wang.  I heard about this novel on an NPR radio show during an interview with its author.  While I have not read the book (I’m on the downside of my  career and no longer an academic), a recent review of the novel suggests that it may be helpful for science graduate students who may be struggling with career options and future career choices.  As I mentioned above, it may be a good read for postdocs but they may be too far down the career rabbit hole to benefit from it.

The reviewer, Beryl Lieff Benderly (a professional freelance science writer), offered the following critique:

Though Wang doubtlessly does not intend her debut novel as a treatise on the ills and failings of scientific training at high-powered research universities, she poignantly highlights many of the issues that make that process so trying for so many ambitious and earnest young people. Among them is the “common knowledge … that graduate students make close to nothing and that there are more PhD scientists in this country than there are jobs for them,” Wang writes. In addition, there’s the lab member who “strongly believes that women do not belong in science because [they] lack the balls to actually do science.” And these aren’t even close to the most serious of the protagonist’s challenges.

Further she offers:

Wang clearly wrote this book as a character study, not as an academic analysis of the grad school experience. Still, I suspect that reading it could prove useful to academic officials interested in improving grad students’ often difficult lot. The protagonist appears to receive essentially no meaningful help or guidance in her travails from anyone associated with her university, and officials might do well to consider why this is so and what services could have proved useful.

I’m sure that many of you identify with the premise of the novel and may have even experienced some of the universally-recognized  ”ills” and “failings” of modern scientific training. That said, while reading the novel may bring back bad memories or make you think about your difficult current situation, it is always helpful to read about others who have shared your experiences and are intimately aware of your current plight. If nothing else, it helps to remind you that you are not alone and perhaps, more importantly you are not crazy!

Enjoy the book and your summer!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting.


How to Improve Employment Opportunities for PhD-Trained LIfe Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz

I recently wrote an article that discusses nontraditional career options for PhD life scientists and ideas about how more jobs can be created for these individuals in the the life sciences industry.  The article entitled Nontraditional Career Options for PhD Life Scientists appeared in the May issue of Life Science Leader (LSL). I have been writing for LSL , a B2B publication for life sciences executives and scientists, since its launch two years ago.

Bit and pieces of the article have appeared in various blog posts that I have written over the past few years.  I hear that the article has been well received! 

Just sayin’….

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Reading!!!!!

On Becoming a Project Manager in the Life Sciences Industry

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Project management (PM) is growing as a career option for life scientists. This is mainly because life sciences companies have begun to realize that team projects with professionally trained PMs at the helm (as compared with research scientists lacking in PM skills) are conducted more efficiently and cost effectively.

Because of the “newness” of the PM option, in the life sciences industry, there is no formal training or a direct pathway to become a PM. However, Bruce Fieggen, Vice President of Project Management and Training at QPharma— who has over 25 years of experience as a project manager (and trainer) in the life sciences industry—offers some ideas and insights on how to become a PM.

On Becoming a Project Manager in the Life Sciences Industry

By Bruce Fieggen

By now you have probably worked as a team memberon several projects and may be thinking that a career in project management may be right for you. So, how does one become a project manager in the life sciences industry?

The best first step is to obtain some formal training in project management (PM). There are many courses designed as evening programs, university classes or three day workshops. You can take them in person or online. While some of these training options may not be as comprehensive as others, it will help interested persons to determine whether or not a career in project management may be right for them. Once you have obtained some formal training, the next step is to take an honest look at your personality. Are you an extremely introverted person who feels uncomfortable talking with others on a regular basis? Do you fear speaking in public? Are you a good listener?  

If the answers to these questions are a resounding “no” or maybe, then PM may not be a good career choice. However, if the answers are yes, then volunteer to run a small project or a sub-project of a larger team effort. Be prepared to learn from the mistakes that you undoubtedly you will make. And, also be prepared to do other people’s work in order to get your small project finished on time! Once you have exhibited some aptitude as a PM, you may be asked to take on larger projects and if you are successful you may be on track for a lifelong career as a PM.

People become successful project managers from almost any discipline or field. In my almost 25 years as a PM (and PM trainer), I have seen PMs hail from jobs in R&D, manufacturing, marketing, purchasing, engineering, quality, and regulatory affairs. No particular group produces better PMs than another. That said, all successful PMs:

  • Are great communicators and know how to listen
  • Know the process of managing projects and can show you the schedule, scope and budget at any time
  • Are rarely at the extreme introverted end of the extraversion – introversion continuum
  • Understand how to motivate people to work for them when they don’t actually report to them
  • Implicitly understand that the project (not their egos or kudos that they may receive), takes precedent over everything else

To learn more about a possible career as a PM, I highly recommend that you join and attend monthly meetings at a local PMI chapter. Network with fellow PMs and learn from them. Pretty soon you’ll be in the thick of things and understand what being a PM is all about! 

Please check out my Round Table Project Management blog for additional information and feel free to contact me.

Until next time…

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


Its Official: Health Informatics is One of the Hottest New Career Options for LIfe Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz

I don’t want to brag but I have been touting career options in health informatics and health information technology (HIT) for the past year or so. Today, I came across a post by CareerBuilders declaring health informatics and HIT are the hottest new career trends to hit the market in recent years. 

As the drive towards digitizing medical and healthcare records continue, there will be literally thousands of job opportunities for people with the right skill sets. Getting a nursing degree is one of the steps to achieve a great career in health informatics!

Health informatics will put technology in place that provides hospitals and other health-care providers with access to an electronic network of vital patient information such as like medical histories and prescriptions. The information age finally meets healthcare administration.

The facts
The health informatics initiative won’t succeed unless employees — that’s you! — bring the specialized skills needed to build and expand the network. All other pieces are in place:

  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes $20.6 billion to help providers drive adoption and development of the IT infrastructure needed
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects health information management employment to grow nearly 18 percent by 2016
  • The BLS projects a need for more than 6,000 new professionals each year through 2014 — but only 2,600 graduates have entered the field this past year 

Your opportunity
To succeed, health informatics (HIM) will demand a wide variety of specialized positions across IT and health care. It will engage conventional experience from both areas — such as registered nurses and LPNs/LVNs, or IT implementation specialists and IT project managers — if you’re looking for a new twist on your current career.

But new positions will also thrive in this hybrid field. Look for new HIM job titles in your next job search, like health IT professionals, HIM coders, HIM medical records professionals and various health informatics specialists, including trainers, researchers and analysts.

Get online to check out the job titles mentioned above and listed below for related descriptions, and see if you might need any additional training to meet requirements: 

- Telemedicine clinical professionals

- Chief nursing information officers

- Clinical IT liaisons 

Again, getting a nursing degree is one of the steps to achieve a successful career in health informatics

Health-care administration
- Medical and health services managers

- Document scanners

- Data entry clerks

- File clerks

IT specialists
- Senior programmers

- Senior clinical analysts

- Database analysts

- Developers

- Business analysts

- Software engineers

- Data integration specialists

Not too shabby of a list! In a previous blog post I identified a variety of training options for people interested in pursuing careers in health informatics and HIT. Check it out!

Until next time….

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


Health Information Technology: The Next Frontier

Posted in BioJobBuzz

In a previous post I lauded health information technology (HIT) aka health informatics as a possible new career choice for scientists with life sciences PhD degrees who also have a proclivity for software development and data base management. Shortly after I posted the piece, I happened to read an article in a local publication about a NJ-based company called the MISI Company that is at the forefront of the HIT field and developing software to help digitize American healthcare records. 

I invited Dave Roth, an MISI executive, to share his views on the future of HIT and what ought to be done to insure that e-medical records are appropriately and successfully created. BTW, for my bioinformatics and genomics friends, MISI is looking to hire a few talented men and women who are interested in HIT careers.

HIT: The Other Missing Link

by Dave Roth

Health information technology (HIT) is hot. There’s every reason to believe that HIT will play a major role in the reforms envisioned for our health care system. From President Obama announcing $5B in grants to aid medical research, to bioinformaticists developing tools for predicting genetic predisposition to diseases, to software developers working on electronic medical records (EMR) systems, HIT is a burgeoning field. What concerns people like me – read: people who are users of technology rather than the developers of it – is that all this HIT talk seems to have very little mention of us in it.

Not long ago, I wrote an article called The Missing Link in Healthcare IT: The Consumer. In it I pointed out that none of the current government definitions being proposed for "meaningful use" of electronic medical record (EMR) systems define meaningful from the healthcare consumer’s perspective. I also noted that whatever rules the government establishes for receiving stimulus money for the development of HIT solutions, none of them will exclude technologists from collaborating with consumers in the development of their solutions. I posited that technologists would be doing us all a favor if they would stop to consider for a moment how their systems will affect the consumer’s experience of health care services.

I was encouraged when David Goldhill, in his cover story in the September 2009 issue of Atlantic Monthly, How American Health Care Killed My Father, wrote, “[A] guiding principle of any reform should be to put the consumer, not the insurer or the government, at the center of the system.” Goldhill’s prescription for a better health care system begins with advocating for the consumers of services and focusing on how to get the best outcomes for those consumers at a reasonable cost. He was channeling the views of many people, such as Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger, who believe consumer-driven health care is the only reform that will truly be meaningful.

The growing visibility of the consumer in this debate has gotten me to thinking there is real opportunity in the HIT job market for another missing link: Consumer-centric Health IT Developers. It is a rare developer who brings to his/her craft an appreciation of the importance of understanding who you are developing for. Rarer still is the developer who is aware of and employs tools and techniques for capturing end-users’ feedback during the development process. More often than not, user-centered design (UCD) is considered a luxury that burns up time and precious dollars. This misconception is largely the result of development teams typically waiting until they are too far into the development cycle before engaging with those who will be using their creation. Inevitably, problems are discovered with the usability or utility of the system that will hinder adoption. But the problems are discovered too late to be fixed by the target launch date and/or within budget. Users/Consumers become the enemy in this scenario.

There is another way. HIT technologists should understand how and why to engage their target audience at the beginning of the development process, long before anything is actually developed. They should begin by understanding who they are developing for, what these people are looking to accomplish, and how they can best help them accomplish it. Using such techniques has been shown to actually reduce downstream development work and increase adoption. I believe technologists schooled in the techniques of consumer-centered design will be central to any successful, long-term health care reform.

Dave is Vice President and  heads MISI Company’s Experience Design (XD) group – a group of strategists, experience architects, visual designers and technologists whose mission is to help ensure the success of every interaction between a business and its target audience. His career spans 30 years and includes award-winning work in documentary and corporate film/video, print advertising, and interactive software application development for computers and the Internet. Dave is a Stanford University grad, a SF 49ers fan and a member of the Single Malt Scotch Whiskey Society.