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Best way to get back to academia

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Best way to get back to academia

Postby Eduardo » Thu Apr 23, 2015 8:12 am

Dear,

My concern is kind the opposite of what is discussed here. Here is my situation:

I am a plant molecular biologist and finished my PhD by mid-2011. Late in that year, when I was about to leave for a postdoc overseas, a big multinational company in the field offered me a job in my home country to work in a Regulatory Lab. Basically, at that time, I accepted the job because the money was good, but the job was pretty much routine (no research at all) and the most of the time I was unhappy with my position.

After 3 years working in that company, another big multinational company offered me a job position in Regulatory Affairs (office environment, no lab anymore) which I prompted accepted, looking for changes and better career opportunities. Right now, I have been in this position for 6 months and despite I am good at it, I am not feeling motivated and always think about getting back to academia.

I realized that money is not important as I thought. My lifestyle is very simple and I don’t have a wife or kids (definitely I will not have kids), and I end up saving pretty much everything that I make. When I was at grad school, I had no problems working long hours or on weekends, I was happy about it. Now I am always waiting for the weekend.

My plans are to get back to academia by finding a postdoc position in US, but here are the difficulties:

I have only two papers (both as first author, published when I was at grad school), one in a medium journal and one in a good journal. I have tried to apply for a couple of postdoc positions and have no response at all. Since I am 33 years old (4 years since I finished my PhD), how difficult could be finding a postdoc position? I do not have many contacts and will rely on applying for positions posted online. My desire is to do 4-6 years of postdoc and then apply for a biotech industry position.

How difficult would that be? What are your thoughts?
Eduardo
 
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Re: Best way to get back to academia

Postby WG » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:25 am

My desire is to do 4-6 years of postdoc and then apply for a biotech industry position.


I am not in biotech but I will comment on the above. That does not sound like a good plan. Most people spending that long in a postdoc have difficulty transitioning to industry jobs. I think you would have to have some very good contacts or working in collaboration with industry, and if it was the latter then you can just transition to industry earlier.

With regards to going back to research I have heard of people volunteering but the success of that would vary based on one's specific situation. It sounds what you really miss is research. Take stock of your skillset from before and what you have been doing in regulatory affairs and see whether you can find opportunities where you are now. Maybe there are think-tank organizations you could look into that would provide the challenge you are looking for. If you are really set on getting a postdoc then your best bet is networking, most people will wonder why you are making that transition anyway. So you have to also put together a good pitch and show what value you can bring to the lab.
WG
 
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Re: Best way to get back to academia

Postby Rich Lemert » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:28 am

First, I think you need to clarify in your own mind what your objectives are. You say you want to get back into academia, but then you end with the following comment:

My desire is to do 4-6 years of postdoc and then apply for a biotech industry position.


The way I read this, your goal is to get back into research. Academia is simply the path you think you need to take to accomplish that goal.

If this is the case, your question should really be "how do I get from where I am today into a research position?"


My second concern is with this statement:

I do not have many contacts and will rely on applying for positions posted online.


You're already at a disadvantage because your background, as described, is pretty mediocre and generic. You haven't presented anything here that would make a potential PI sit up and take notice. The only way that's going to happen is if you actually talk to him/her and convince him/her of your potential value. That's NOT going to happen by 'responding to ads'; it's only going to happen by letting them get to know you - i.e. by actually talking to them.


Finally, your work history so far appears to be very 'reactionary'. You accepted the jobs you've had since graduation simply because the opportunity was there, with little apparent thought on how they would fit with your long-term career goals. To be fair maybe you didn't know what those goals were at the time. The point is that you either need to decide what you want and figure out how to get there, or you have to settle for jumping around from one unsatisfying job to the next.


My suggestions:

1) Determine what your goals are - both short range (say 5 years out) and long term. Do you want to carry out research, or do you want to direct it?

2) Determine how to get to where you want to be. Don't, however, fall into the trap of settling into a single path before you've determined what alternatives are available.

3) Implement a specific, step-by-step plan, and commit to putting in at least an hour a day into carrying it out.

4) Things will be easier if you can leverage your current skills and responsibilities. Figure out how you can make your RA experience a benefit to a research position.


Personally, I'd forget the postdoc route unless it turns out to be absolutely necessary. You're already in industry - you have contacts that you wouldn't have been able to imagine as a postdoc. Use those contacts to get into an industrial research position if that's what you want. (And by 'contacts' I don't mean people on your rolodex. You have research scientists either within your company or contracting to it; find them and pick up the phone!
Rich Lemert
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Re: Best way to get back to academia

Postby PG » Mon Apr 27, 2015 6:24 am

You did get a very good reply from Rich. Adding to that reply. If you are in a finacially safe position you may want to consider looking at biotech startup companies or at least companies that are very early in their life. These companies sometimes offer less job stability than others but may instead offer opportunities that doesnt exist with larger companies and competition for positions is also often at least slightly less intense.

I have worked for startup companies in which R&D, QC and regulatory have been somewhat mixed within the responsibility of a single group. A company that has a similar setup may welcome your knowledge and skillset while at teh same time allow for you to take at least a step towards working with R&D in a biotech company setting.
PG
 
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Re: Best way to get back to academia

Postby Eduardo » Mon Apr 27, 2015 7:39 am

Thanks WG, Rich, and PG for insights.

You are probably right. The postdoc route is going to make everything more difficult. Besides, it is not guaranteed that I will have a good postdoc experience.

I will wait a little longer and try to use my current position in favor for my next move.
Eduardo
 
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Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:38 pm

Re: Best way to get back to academia

Postby PG » Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:00 am

I think that not going the postdoc route is a good decision. However there is no need to wait for anything. Instead I think that you should use the advice from Rich and get started on this as soon as possible. Networking takes time and effort so my advice would be to spend that one hour / day thinking about what you want to do and how to acheive those goals and at the same time talking to people. In addition to that networking may actually result in a job offer some time in the future it is also a great way of getting information about the type of questions that you have. Start talking to those scientists that you are in contact with about your interest of moving into research and get their advice on how to get there.

Rich Lemert wrote:My suggestions:

1) Determine what your goals are - both short range (say 5 years out) and long term. Do you want to carry out research, or do you want to direct it?

2) Determine how to get to where you want to be. Don't, however, fall into the trap of settling into a single path before you've determined what alternatives are available.

3) Implement a specific, step-by-step plan, and commit to putting in at least an hour a day into carrying it out.

4) Things will be easier if you can leverage your current skills and responsibilities. Figure out how you can make your RA experience a benefit to a research position.


Personally, I'd forget the postdoc route unless it turns out to be absolutely necessary. You're already in industry - you have contacts that you wouldn't have been able to imagine as a postdoc. Use those contacts to get into an industrial research position if that's what you want. (And by 'contacts' I don't mean people on your rolodex. You have research scientists either within your company or contracting to it; find them and pick up the phone!
PG
 
Posts: 1023
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm


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