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Interning in Tech Transfer

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Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby P. Lues » Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:17 am

Hi everyone,

I'm close to the end of my PhD and I have just landed a part time job at my university's tech transfer office as a "consultant" but in reality it's more of an intern arrangement. I've asked for no more than 20 hours per week because I'm still very busy with my thesis and I'm submitting a paper also. The contract ends in December and I don't know if it is possible to turn this into a more long term arrangement. For now, I'm operating under the assumption that this is part time and temporary. I'm doing it for the experience as I've always been interested in a tech transfer career. Until recently, I just assumed that I should do a postdoc to expand my skills. But after talking to a lot of people, I'm started thinking about skipping the postdoc. Does anyone have good advice on how to make the most out of this? How common are such arrangements? Is it worthwhile to ask them for a permanent position here or is it better for me to invest in a postdoc and come back to tech transfer in a couple of years? I especially would like to hear from people with PhDs who have worked in tech transfer, licensing, patent law or business development and are familiar with the career path.
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby PG » Fri Sep 21, 2012 7:03 am

If you do a postdoc what do you want to do next? Try to always think at least one and preferably more steps ahead. Where do you want to go? If you want to work with tech transfer and are able to secure a position in that field already now I cant see any reason for why you would want to turn that down and do a postdoc instead.

The only thing a postdoc can do for you is to help you secure your next position. If you can do that anyway I would recomend not doing a postdoc. In theory you dont even have to finish your thesis before taking on a full time position if that is what you want to do (in most cases I would recomend completing your PhD).
Personally I joined a biotech company before I completed my PhD with an agreement that I would be allowed to complete my thesis on company time (although not as the first thing I would do).

Of course there can be other arguments for doing a postdoc as well such as if you want to work abroad for a couple of years but from a career point of view doing a postdoc will almost never help you acheive anything else than getting your next position.
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby Ana » Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:51 am

For what I've seen in PhDs that end up working in those fields you listed there is no such thing as a "career path".

If your plans relay so strongly on you being able to land a permanent position at that TT office I would begin by clarifying with them whether such a plan is feasible at all. Then you can revisit that plan. As PG says if you want to get into TT and can get into TT now there is no obvious reason for you to do a postdoc (and no guarantee you would have such TT work waiting for you afterwards).
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby P. Lues » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:51 pm

I have spoken to them about a permanent job here, and they said they have been short staffed for months, so they maybe able to give me the same position with more hours (to make it full time). So it would be an hourly consultant position and I would still be an independent consultant (with no benefits). Is it still worth it?
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby PG » Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:29 am

It is impossible to state how long a certain position will last and what impact it will specifically have at your future career options.

Generally going away from the bench to another full time position will mean that your chances of getting a good postdoc (with funding) will go down. On the other hand as stated before if you are aiming at a career in tech transfer having a full time position as independent consultant in tech transfer is going to provide a high value experience for pursuing that type of positions in the future. The main question is going to be if the position that you are offered now will last long enough for you to secure a more permanent position in the area of interest.
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby David Taylor » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:34 am

If you're convinced you want to move into tech transfer, I don't think a postdoc is necessary. Continue with your part time position, network broadly (go to the AUTM conference, make connections outside of your university), and set up as many informational interviews as you can.

Don't assume you'll get a job at your current university. Don't limit yourself to jobs at your current university.

In this job market you need to be smart about your search. Cast a broad net and be flexible in location. Use your time now to create a focused resume. Explore where this career track can take you. Do you want to be a patent agent? Do you want to get a JD and become a patent attorney? Do you want to stay in a university setting, or do you want to look into the USPTO or elsewhere?

Your internship places you in a much stronger position than many others who will be vying for similar positions in tech transfer. Take advantage of the experience.
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby P. Lues » Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:58 am

David - I am not planning on going to law school, but I have considered a technology/biotechnology MBA program such as http://www.business.ualberta.ca/Programs/TheAlbertaMBA/DegreePrograms/TechnologyCommercialization.aspx or http://www.foster.washington.edu/academic/tmmba/Pages/TMMBAHome.aspx

Ideally, I will work in tech transfer for some years (5-10) then transition into the private sector as a licensing executive or business development professional (with or without an MBA). But I'm probably being naive as I haven't researched that far into the future. Up until recently, I was thinking I would have to do a postdoc, so even university tech transfer is a big jump for me. First I would like to secure this position.

As for AUTM conference, it is a bit costly but I will try to attend.
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby RGM » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:21 pm

If you know what you want to do, I would pursue that instead of a postdoc. I would ask other PhDs who are in tech transfer about their career path and see if their postdoc was helpful, and if so, why/why not. I'd be really surprised if it did help them in their daily responsibilities beyond just knowing more science.
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby PG » Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:10 am

Usually (not always) doing an MBA will be more useful once you have a few years work experience. In that scenario doing an MBA also shows commitment and real interest to a specific career path. In contrast doing an MBA directly out of school is often interpreted as " I want a career in which I can make as much money as possible" rather than a specific interest in a field.
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Re: Interning in Tech Transfer

Postby P. Lues » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:22 pm

If you know what you want to do, I would pursue that instead of a postdoc. I would ask other PhDs who are in tech transfer about their career path and see if their postdoc was helpful, and if so, why/why not. I'd be really surprised if it did help them in their daily responsibilities beyond just knowing more science.


I have spoken to a few PhDs in tech transfer (well just 3) but it wasn't very helpful. The 2 that did postdocs seem to think that postdoc is essential and the one that skipped it told me it would be a waste of time. And their decisions were based on how quickly they wanted out of the lab. I didn't want that to be the deciding factor. I enjoy lab work and I'm willing to put in another couple of years of training, but only if it will help with my career. I don't want to do a postdoc if it's not going to be useful to my future. I already feel like my PhD was somewhat overkill. A month in on the job and everything I've done so far has had nothing to do with my PhD training. I've only used what I learned during my BSc. Of course I probably lacked the maturity to do this back then. I didn't even know what tech transfer was at that age.
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