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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby TF » Thu Jan 27, 2005 4:31 pm

I am essentially in my final year of school and should be graduating with my Ph.D neurobiology at some point over the summer. So I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about what I want to do with myself. I have come to the conclusion that I would not make a very good bench scientist. However, I still enjoy dealing with science issues and working with scientists.

I'm not sure if anyone here would be able to help me, but, does anyone have any advice on how to go about making the transition from hardcore bench work to something like regulatory affairs, science writing, medical liaison, etc? I have been perusing many different job and company websites and it seems that every position requires some experience in industry. Even the entry level positions!

It almost seems like I am forced to stay in research even though I know it wouldn't be good for either me or science!

Am I alone in here?
TF
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of....

Postby Andrew » Thu Jan 27, 2005 5:01 pm

I think science will survive. You may be able to get your first job away from the bench, but its not too likely. Most likely, you'll have to spend a couple of years doing lab work before you can lateral out into some other area. you'll probably survive the experience too. See the thread below "infrequently discussed opportunities in science", or something like that.
Andrew
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of....

Postby MPB » Thu Jan 27, 2005 5:06 pm


There was a thread a couple of weeks ago on science and medical writing. The short answer is that there are jobs in medical publishing, marketing, and advertising if you have good communications skills and if you live near New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or Chigago.

MPB
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of....

Postby Ken » Thu Jan 27, 2005 5:07 pm

I would suggest an industry postdoc. You'll kill two birds with one stone by getting your postdoc done, and getting industry experience.

Plus, there is MUCH less bench science. I spend much of my days coordinating the bench science that is performed on my behalf by the various core facilities; I end up doing much less of the "hands on" stuff personally.
Ken
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of....

Postby TF » Fri Jan 28, 2005 9:26 am

I appreiate the help everyone has given. I may look into the marketing thing. I just hate doing experiments. If I postdoc I don't think I will be able to avoid doing this. The other issue is the postdoc itself. If I go to industry, I will be stuck doing e-phys, which I am just not cut out to do. I interviewed for a post-doc at a large pharm company and I definitely would be doing experiments. In fact, the post-docs at said company are apparently the people responsible for doing the "pie in the sky" research that the regular employees can't do. Now not all companies are like this, I know, but, having no molecular experience, I find it very difficult to even find openings for e-phys post-docs in industry.

If I stayed in academia, I would leave e-phys and my current field of pain research, and try something molecular, dealing with psychiatric illness. However, I know from experience I am not good at learning experimental procedures on my own. I have a feeling many good labs would just tell me to do basically get to work and learn stuff on my own. I basically don't feel prepared for an academic post-doc. Besides, what good lab is going to hire someone who has no aspirations top continue on to being a professor, or at the very least their own laboratory in industry? I don't think very many.

Hmmmm, I may just work at Walmart instead. The pay is probably about similar to what I make now as a grad student and it's about as tedious as well! I probably should not have gotten a Ph.D, but I do really enjoy the concepts and information of science. See ya at the check out counter in your local grocery store!

TF
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of....

Postby John E. » Fri Jan 28, 2005 11:29 am

TF,

Wow, are you negative. Personally, I believe this will hold you back in life. I have the same scenario as you . . . Did my PhD, now in 2nd year of PDoc, but believe that I can move into tech transfer and make a VERY good living away from the bench. I'm excited and happy about my prospects, and I'm going to the AUTM (tech transfer) Meeting in Scottsdale next week. Three interviews lined up!!

What you believe is what you get. See you in Wal-Mart? No way!

John E.
 

How do I get out from under the choking grip of....

Postby Doug » Fri Jan 28, 2005 11:42 am

One thing that I believe is still true is that even if you take a job that is bench-oriented, if you perform well you will almost necessarily have to move into management of some sort. It's not worth a company's nickel to have a PhD at the bench when a lab tech with a BS earning substantially less can do the same thing. So if you hate bench work, but enjoy, say, designing experiments and organizing/managing people and projects, go for a bench job and work to progress away from the bench.
Doug
 

How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby MPB » Fri Jan 28, 2005 12:17 pm


In addition to the jobs I mentioned in marketing and publishing, medical societies often hire people who have advanced degrees in biological sciences. For example, I know someone who got a PhD in molecular biology who decided he didn't want to post-doc. He ended up getting a job for someplace like the American Diabetes Association or the American Heart Association. A lot of universities also have continuing professional education departments (continuing medical education, for example), and these places also hire people with advanced degrees.

I'm always baffled when I hear people with PhDs in the life sciences say "I guess I'm going to end up at Wal Mart." There are a lot of alternatives to bench work for someone with a PhD. They do require some creativity and effort to identify and persue.



MPB
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of....

Postby TF » Fri Jan 28, 2005 12:17 pm

John,

Yeah, I know that I am pretty down on the situation. But I don't really see myself being hired by anyone. I look on all these company and job websites and everything I see asks for people with experience in industry. For example I saw a couple of regulatory I positions, which as I understand it is a very intro level regulatory affairs level. They want people with experience in industry and with the FDA! No one goes to school for something like reg affairs, so it just seems almost impossible to get a good job outside of hardcore academics. The other problem none of the profs at my current school have any expertise in anything other than academic research so it is hard for me to know HOW to make the transition.

I have been a productive grad student by most people's stds, but I just find it difficult to know how to turn my bench accomplishments into something attractive to people removed from such work.

Maybe you can share some of your experience with me. I am probably 6-8 months away from graduation so I am just starting to look into things, see what my options are, and bounce ideas of people's heads. Could you explain to me what tech transfer actually does? I think I have an idea, but I would like to know from someone who is actually trying to move into the field. How did you become aware that such an option was viable for you?
TF
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of....

Postby TF » Fri Jan 28, 2005 12:27 pm

Doug,

Thank you for the reply!

I see what you are saying about moving away from the bench stuff being part of the natural progression of things. BUT, you are also supposed to be the expert in that area as a result. It's kind of a trade off, which to most people is natural. For me I am currently being trained as an e-phyisologist. The level of analysis that I currently do is pretty easy, but to be honest, I don't have the math abilities to continue with it. If there is dyslexia for math, I have it. I can grasp the general concepts and conclusions, but most of the finer details required to do the work I just can't understand. And the things that I can understand, unless I do it everyday, I will loose an understanding for.

I can't really help my natural inclinations and weaknesses. I think experimental design and analysis of data is very interesting. I have done quite a bit as a grad student, but I still feel that I am HORRIBLY inefficient in lab. I don't think the lab environment is really for me. I like a defined goal. I like a defined outcome. I like a defined reward. Such things aren't always known in much of science.

I don;t know, I guess I'm just frustrated with how things are going. I mean I should be happy with where I am. I have accomplished some stuff, and the work isn't terribly difficult. But I just wish I could have a more dynamic role in something that I feel compfortable with, something that will allow me to accel. I don't think lab science is that area.
TF
 
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