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From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

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From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby C.Y.P. » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:42 pm

I got my bachelors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry last summer. When I graduated I looked mostly for work at pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms, universities, hospitals, non-profit research institutes, etc. There were plenty of jobs available, but almost none for new-grads with only a bachelors; I applied at well over 300 places and go no call backs or offers or anything.

I then discovered the world of Quality Control and actually got a job fairly quickly. I'm now a QC analyst for a vitamin manufacturer. The vast majority of my work is microbiological testing, but I have some opportunity to do biochem and molecular bio at my job; I'm on this project to evaluate the cost, accuracy and speed of testing products for microbial contamination using ELISA's and VIA's vs standard plating and cell culture. I do simple acid-base titrations to test some products and prepare extractions and solutions for the senior chemists.

Still, I still would like to do biotech or pharmaceutical research one day. Would biotech/pharm employers be impressed by my general lab/industry skills or is vitamin QC just too radically different? A lot of job postings for biotech/pharm say things like "must have 2 years experience in RT-PCR" or "must have 3 years experience in mammalian cell culture" or "must have 5 years experience in X-ray crystalography and protein structure analysis." I don't get to do anything near that advanced at my job.
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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:06 am

The supplement industry is going through some rigorous upgrades in systems and processes, and you'll likely have opportunity to move quickly upwards. However, if you wanted to leave, you'd find positions in pharma because they do much of the same mundane testing. Your goal may be a 2-step process, however. Step one: Get a job doing similar mundane testing in a pharma environment. Step two: Transfer internally to the R&D groups in the company.

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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby P.C. » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:09 am

Congradulations you got a job, but like most college graduates in recent years, you got job in a field where you are overqualified
or slightly out of kilter with your BS training. Personally I have nieces and nephews who attended Ivy League and near Ivy League colleges and business schools out east. My siblings, myself and the nieces and nephews have a hard time explaining to my over 75 yr old parents why these youngsters cannot get any job more than a secretary job. They put up 25,000 each for all the grandchildren.. but for what? Retail and secretary jobs and with over 100K debt each?????
Welcome to the wonderful world of misdirections and lies told to you by your elders.
Working hard and getting good grades do not necessarily offset the dirth of jobs and the increasing competition. I suppose this is where networking and who you know helps the better job seekers.
There was a recent article in the NY times about the thousands of Chinese college graduates in the same situation. Do not despair, do not quit any jobs out of fustration... but do study the global and national trends. Which are there are no frealing jobs ( relative to the number of graduates).
Survive and do the best you can from where you are.

Be careful what you wish for.
If you are going to move, do not stay too many years in the QC world. It may be mundane, now, but it may be more stable with somewhat less competition, as hinted by the article about the ACS study and suggestions to rachet down the PhD overproduction. Do not overlook more interesting roles in that field as your career develops.
The suggestion by D. Jensen looks sound, because you have to bridge the transition one industry to another and then to different technologies.
Last edited by P.C. on Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby C.Y.P. » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:54 pm

That sounds like a good idea, but like I said, I personally don't get to do a lot of highly technical, cutting edge stuff at my job; just routine microbio and simple chemistry. However, I still read research journals on PLOS ONE and NCBI and so fourth and like to keep up with current, cutting edge research topics.

Even if I don't get to do it hands-on personally, can I still list knowledge of these techniques along with my lab/industry experience on my future resume?

Maybe something along the lines of...

Knowledge with the theory, application and practice of current biochemistry and molecular biology research techniques (Ion Torrent sequencing, protein-stapling, site-directed electron spin labeling, etc)
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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby J.B. » Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:33 pm

NO. Absolutely under no circumstances should you list a skill that you don't have hands-on experience with. It's a guaranteed way to end your interview prematurely if you get caught. These days employers are savvy to candidates' tendency to embellish their skill set and will frequently quiz you about your technical proficiency.

I agree with Dave's suggestion, you may need to start out with a lateral move into pharmaceutical QC, then move internally to a more R&D based position. Keep in mind that PC is also correct, the job stability for R&D scientists is MUCH more volatile than it is for QC analysts.
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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby C.Y.P. » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:31 pm

J.B. wrote:NO.
I agree with Dave's suggestion, you may need to start out with a lateral move into pharmaceutical QC, then move internally to a more R&D based position. Keep in mind that PC is also correct, the job stability for R&D scientists is MUCH more volatile than it is for QC analysts.


Perhaps; instead of R&D, what about QC for companies that make molecular biology and biochemistry related products? Not just drugs, but things like, say, PCR primers, plasmids, medical ELISA kits, enzymes for industrial processes, etc?

My resume is currently divided into two sections; the first is focussed on my education in various topics related to molecular biology and biochemistry that I learned in school (as well as specific lab assignments we did).

The second is focussed on what I've done personally in my career. Unfortunately, my career involves mostly microbiology and very very simple molecular bio and biochem.

I wouldn't dream of trying to sneak it into the career-experience portion of my resume. All I'm asking is, what can I do to demonstrate knowledge of more advanced molecular bio techniques to potential employers?
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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby J.B. » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:25 am

Sure, you can look into QC in a variety of areas besides biotech/pharma.

I don't know if having a section on techniques you learned in school is going to get the message across that you want. If you learned a very advanced or esoteric skill or graduated from an extraordinary program, then it might help. Putting the stuff you learned in microbiology or organic chem lab won't stand out because every other person with a science degree has done that stuff too. And I don't care if you read every book in the world about HPLC, if I plop you in front of a Waters and tell you to run a sample for me, you couldn't do it. Theory is not a substitute for hands-on experience, and that's why putting stuff you read about doesn't help you either.

Ultimately, I think you're looking at this the wrong way. You're trying to build up your resume through artificial means to get an interview, where they'll probably be let down when they discover you don't actually know as much as your resume suggests. What you should be doing is selling the knowledge/skills you have and using the interview to let them know what your full potential is. Having QC experience is a very good asset, you have a leg up on a lot of people out there. Don't short sell yourself, be confident about what you have to offer and build your resume around that.
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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby C.Y.P. » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:55 pm

Would you ever suggest taking a job that pays less if it gave you an opportunity to learn new skills, or for industrial experience in a field that's more closely related to what you want to do?

While biotech/pharma R&D and QC positions for fresh grads with only a BSc. are few and far between, I've been finding clusters of Production Technician and Manufacturing Associate positions around the country.

For example, I found a position for a Manufacturing Associate at a California biotech company; the job calls for operating large scale industrial fermenters, liquid cell culture vats and chromatography devices for the manufacturing and purification of cellular products (enzymes and proteins mostly).

It pays a lot less than what I'm doing now (about 30%) but it's more in line with my major and what I want to do (biotech lab work). Do you think it's possible to segue into lab work from positions like those?
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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby P.C. » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:50 am

HR and hiring managers will look at a large dip in your salary history as a problem with you as the problem. At least that is what I have been told is the way they think about that kind of move. It might be wise not to take your next job with a pay cut. I think the fact that the jobs are advertised is informative (lowballing or through recruiters or contractors.). The better paying positions are not advertised. It might be more renumerative if you started a cover letter resume campaign and a networking campaign directly to hiring managers.
Networking via face to face contacts or voice to voice is said by the moderator of this forum (and many other job placement experts), a well acknowledged expert on networking, to be the most effective means to self advancement.
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Re: From vitamin quality control to biotech/pharm research?

Postby C.Y.P. » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:20 pm

P.C. wrote:HR and hiring managers will look at a large dip in your salary history as a problem with you as the problem.


How would they know what my salary is? I don't report it on my resume. Are you supposed to do that? I've never heard of people putting their salaries on their resumes.


It might be more renumerative if you started a cover letter resume campaign and a networking campaign directly to hiring managers.
Networking via face to face contacts or voice to voice is said by the moderator of this forum (and many other job placement experts), a well acknowledged expert on networking, to be the most effective means to self advancement.


That sounds much, much easier said than done. I'm a recent undergrad from Connecticut. How am I supposed to get a high-quality employer's HR exec whom I've never met in another state to 1) see me face-to-face and 2) know/care about me enough to network with me?
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