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Switching focus for industry

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Switching focus for industry

Postby Michael Smith » Wed Feb 23, 2005 1:09 pm

I'm starting the process of looking for my 1st postdoc. I'm leaining toward the industry side of science, but have been told that my research focus on a risky neuroprotective compound probably isn't what industry is looking for and I should market what skills I've acquired. My perceived problem is that a majority of my thesis work has utilized only a very basic technique, albeit a novel one I had to spend quite a bit of time working the bugs out and validating. I've learned some other advanced applications in the last 4 years, and I'm very experienced in various chromatography techniques from my previous life in a hospital lab. I'm wondering if it's a good move would be to emphasize my knowledge of techniques, even though the PhDs that use them seem to be organic chemisits, and my backgroud or degree isn't even close to that?
And when people say they change fields of study, how dramatic are these changes? For example, are they changing from studing plants to working on cancer, or are they more subtle, like going from cell culture to whole animal models but still within their original area of focus?
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Switching focus for industry

Postby Lora » Wed Feb 23, 2005 1:42 pm

"...research focus on a risky neuroprotective compound probably isn't what industry is looking for..."
Look around. Sometimes, large companies will be looking for just the *weirdest* things. I spent a summer/fall of my undergrad degree doing animal behavior research on squirrels, something I thought would be utterly worthless except as a first-author publication for use in grad school applications. As it turned out, lots of pharma companies were hiring behavior researchers for memory-improving drugs that were relevant to tracking memory patterns in rodent models. You just never know.

"a majority of my thesis work has utilized only a very basic technique...I'm wondering if it's a good move would be to emphasize my knowledge of techniques"
What industry managers really like to see is the ability to deal with a steep learning curve, because there are always new techniques you'll have to learn. The knowledge of various techniques is thought to be a marker for this ability, but you can demonstrate it in some other way, perhaps?

"when people say they change fields of study, how dramatic are these changes?"
Let's see, ay my last job, we had a MechE who ended up doing EE and ChemE, a ChemE who ended up doing microbiology due to his biofilm chemistry background, a physicist who worked on microbiology projects, and microbiologists doing ChemE and protein chemistry, all working on the same project. Some had similar foci (redox protein chemistry or biofilm remediation), others did not. It depends more on the size of the company or your working group--if you're working for a small company, they will need you to be more flexible than a large company.
Lora
 

Switching focus for industry

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Feb 23, 2005 2:53 pm

Michael,

If you are a biologist who has mostly done chemistry, I would put your emphasis on the postdoc into something that is applied biology. In other words, something that has industrial relevance, but closer to your discipline. The problem with being a biologist in a chemists clothes is that you will not be accepted by the chemists, and you won't get hired by a company doing biology research.

Have you looked at doing a good industry postdoc? (See Ken's posts on this forum). They are a bit hard to find, so how about a good postdoc in academia that will be in a lab which is "connected" to industry, and in a field that can take advantage of the techniques you've learned, but take you back to center?

Dave
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Switching focus for industry

Postby David M » Wed Feb 23, 2005 6:18 pm

Lora,

I have always admired your posts.... but today's reply sounded something related to me.

Just curious to know the place you worked. I am a ChemE with biofilm background now working in protein chemistry....wanting to switch back to fermentation.

Anyways, back to the thread.....Yes, its definitely possible to change fields dramatically. I would also say that its very easy in academia than in industry but of course, you can move to industry once you get some experience in the new field.

David M
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Switching focus for industry

Postby Lora » Wed Feb 23, 2005 7:09 pm

David--

Email me, we might know some people in common!

Lora
Lora
 


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