Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Grumbling post docs, industry, and options

So last post I put my words in Bills mouth.

Bill was good enough to reply and put his own words in his own mouth in the comments.
Yeah, that's a pretty good interpretation of what I was saying. To be fair to some grumbling postdocs, though, it isn't necessarily simply a matter of knowing one's options, as there are lots of experienced postdocs who would love to work in industry (at least from what I hear). But they are trapped because they can't get a job there either. So I can understand their anguish.
He had previously asked, offline and when he was asking if this site was me (CAUGHT!) about this same subject. Essentially "how do I get in to industry bench". Many do an academic post doc knowing they don't want to be there, is essentially Bill's point (and...his dilemma).

Way back at the beginning of this blog, I talked a bit about this. Now, I have actually asked a bunch of people stuff and have a 1/2 way coherent thing to say on the matter.

Much to my surprise, ALL of our directors at the R+D level did academic post docs. About 1/2 of them did 2. All of the people right below the directors did at least 1 (and sometimes 2, although many fewer of them). I was, bluntly, blown away. This has taken awhile, as I started asking people at other companies. N kept increasing but the percentages didn't change. They all do academic post docs.

On the business side, I found that for those with Ph.D.'s the number of postdocs was many fewer. No 2's that I ran in to, and maybe 1/3 of the folks with even 1. Most of us, myself included, totally skipped that step.

We have one friend who did an industry post doc, so I don't really know how you score her. She essentially was working in industry, but becuase she called herself (and was in a program that called her this) a postdoc -> she got paid less. I didn't really understand how that worked for her. Totally understand how it works for the company!!!

SO - To stay at the bench you have to do postdocs. Who knew? (well a lot of people....)


Dr J. said...

That´s pretty much the advice I was given as well...that a postdoc is required because you are only hired if you are an expert (or at least highly adept) at 1) a technique useful to industry (assays, crystallography) or 2) a specific indication (cancer, diabetes).

Another way is to try and get an internship. I did that straight out of my PhD and went to the specialist group for my technique in a large pharma company for 6 months. I was paid (although not quite postdoc wage it was pretty close), I got to know how it worked in industry and, more importantly, I got to meet a lot of the industry scientists in my field in Germany. My name was known and I garnered some industry experience, while not spending too long out of academia (so that I could return to a good postdoc position). And that was worth it´s weight in gold.

Deepak said...

I was told the same thing, although I was among the lucky few who managed to make the jump without doing one. Probably cause I could write code at a time where scientists with programming skills were not so common.

yes said...


This was a huge help for me as well when I got out (without the postdoc). Writing my own software was "weird" for a biologist at the time. I don't think it is looked at as weird anymore.

...wonder what is weird now? Probably something I should know for my day job.

Bill said...

Yes, I labored through grad school with the delusion that, once I grabbed that elusive PhD, I'd be rewarded with a job in industry in which I could contribute more directly to helping people (as well as get paid like a normal human being). I started looking for a job about 6 months before graduation. I got one interview, they liked me but didn't have a postdoc program and of course I wasn't qualified to be a scientist. I was told by some companies straight out "we don't hire people without a postdoc". So I was in effect forced to do a postdoc, although I do enjoy what I'm doing (mostly), and get to work on very cool human disease stuff. I have heard of a couple of people who were hired by companies right out of grad school, one as a postdoc and the other I'm not sure. But for the most part, those of us graduating are funneled right into the academic postdoc pipeline.