GCA starts off the Fall 2018 semester with a Networking Social!

posted Nov 11, 2018, 1:00 PM by Julie Bettke   [ updated Nov 19, 2018, 8:40 AM by Alexandra Weinheimer ]

On September 20th, graduate students from a wide range of departments came together in the Wang Center Chapel for a chance to network with a fantastic panel of 5 SBU alumni.

We were joined by:

Melody Goodman, B.S. (Applied Math and Statistics, SBU), Ph.D. (Biostatistics, Harvard)

·       Melody is currently an Associate Professor at NYU and CEO of Goodman & Associates LLC.

Chris Czura, Ph.D. (Molecular Microbiology, SBU)

·       Chris is currently the VP for Scientific Affairs at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health and is Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Advisor to Sanguistat, Inc.

Christine Veloso, Ph.D. (Psychology, SBU)

·       Christine is currently Co-Director of the Science Technology Entry Program (STEP) and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) at SBU.

James Nesteroff, Ph.D. (Condensed Matter Physics, SBU)

·       James is currently a systems engineer at Northrup Grumman Corporations.

Tomasz Bakowski, Ph.D. (Biomedical Engineering, SBU), Founding Member of GCA!

·       Tomasz is currently a Life Sciences Strategy Consultant at Acsel Health.

The event began with the alumni telling the group about themselves and their career paths. Then they all discussed how important networking has been throughout their careers. Following this, the graduate students had the opportunity to speed network with the alumni in small groups.

The take home message: Network! Network! Network! All the alumni stressed that networking has been instrumental throughout their careers and have helped them in achieving their career goals up to this point. Therefore, as you push through your graduate programs, always make sure to network. Talk to as many people as you can and follow up with them whether it be through an email or connection on LinkedIn. You never know who may be there in the future to help you get that dream job!

We look forward to inviting these alumni back for future events!

Keep an eye out for more information about our future events by following us on Twitter and Facebook!

Twitter: SBU_GCA

Facebook: GraduateCareerAssociation


Upcoming Career Development Events

The 2018/2019 PhD Career Ladder Program groups have begun. Please contact phdcareerladderprogram@stonybrook.edu for more information.

Fall 2018

November 13, 3:00 – 4:30pm, Wang Center Room 201: The Informational Interview: Investigating careers while expanding your network. Presented by Alfreda James and Kathleen Flint Ehm.

November 14, 11:00am – 12:00pm, Humanities 1008: The Humanities Institute hosts Stacy Hartman The Portable Humanities

November 15, 4:00 – 5:30pm, Wang Center Lecture Hall 1: SBU Postdoc Spotlight. Learn about the latest discoveries at Stony Brook through engaging short talks by postdoctoral scholars.

Spring 2019

February 7, 2019, 7:00 – 9:00pm, SAC Ballroom A: Mark your calendars for a great event we will be hosting entitled Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid, Decision to go to Grad School: An Evening with Adam Ruben. For previews check out his website: http://adamruben.net/

March 29, 2019, 10:00am – 2:00pm, Wang Center Lecture Halls 1 & 2, SBU 3 Minute Thesis Competition. 

Careers in Intellectual Property Management

posted Feb 2, 2017, 6:54 PM by wendy.hom@stonybrook.edu   [ updated Feb 2, 2017, 7:06 PM ]

On January 20, 2016, the Graduate Career Association hosted Dr. Ece Auffarth, a Stony Brook alum (PhD Molecular Genetics and Microbiology 2003) to talk about careers in intellectual property. Currently, Dr. Auffarth is the Intellectual Property Manager for Ludwig Institute’s Technology Licensing Team. 


As IP Manager, she visits all their branches and meets with inventors/investigators to see what they are doing on a day-to day basis and works to send manuscripts before they are published. She enjoys the tech transfer world over working in an IP firm because she can deal with law and interact with investigators/commercial entities in licensing their IP.

She stressed that not every scientific finding (e.g. mechanism of action) that is helpful, may be an invention because it doesn’t translate to something that can be protected under US patent law. If an invention can be protected, they prepare a document called the invention disclosure statement where they distill the invention from manuscript/summary from inventor and interface with outside law firms to explain to the lawyers/patent agents what the invention is. By the time invention is introduced to lawyers, they have very little to do; all they have to do is prepare the technical language/writing of the claims. 

To get a patent, it needs to show novelty and be non-obvious (needs to have inventive sense). Patent examiners have technical expertise to determine this and their role is to define prior art (what is out there). Non-obviousness is not as easy to determine.

What are claims? 

They are very important in patent applications; claims = fence that protects your IP. Patents restrict other people from using your technology for 20 years. This does not give you ownership of the technology; it simply restricts others from using or commercializing that you are claiming your property for a restricted amount of time. After 20 years, it is given to public domain.

What is the difference between a patent agent and an attorney?

A patent agent is a registered professional with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. PTO) and have the right to communicate with the U.S. PTO and foreign PTOs. They can file and prosecute applications, but if there is any litigation about infringement on patent (e.g. lawsuits), they cannot litigate that case in a courtroom. Attorneys can litigate the case. 

Do changes in law affect tech transfer world?

They do! An example is for a diagnostic test. The questions she brought up were - Should they apply for a patent protection? What makes it different? 

The field of IP law has changed in the last 15 years and it is harder to get patents due to recent case law. You cannot patent something that is in nature (e.g. isolated gene even if it isn’t in your body) and it is very hard to patent diagnostics (e.g. Myriad Genetics). Since it is that much harder to get patents, companies and academic institutions are reluctant to spend money on patent applications that will not past muster. In general, there is not a lot of activity in the field, especially in the field of science (but it isn't the same in engineering). This slow down in science is due to the selectivity of applications and there is not a lot of eagerness to hire people with degrees in molecular biology. Back then, some firms used to pay for some law school. Those cases are more rare now as time goes on.

Going back to the diagnostic test, it must have a treatment modality to it, which is the extra step in the patent application. The scientist has to show that it works, which requires back and forth with the scientist to validate the diagnostic test. Once the provisional patent application is filed, the inventors can add additional data in that year. The patent needs to be very focused and this is very difficult because its hard for scientists to be focused on that specific thing (specific experiments). The technologies that go through Dr. Auffarth's firm use their firm's fund and not NIH funding so there is more room to focus on specific experiments. With NIH-funded research, it is harder to be direct in experiments, which is something to think about as a scientist. 

Her Career Path and Work/Life Balance

Towards the end of her PhD, she knew that she wanted to consider alternative careers to the bench so she spoke to her advisor. She decided to pursue an internship at a law firm because at the time firms were interested in scientists because of the technology going on in genetics. She bypassed the step from a law firm to a tech transfer office because it was irrelevant in her situation. At the firm, the goal is 1800 billable hours a year, which usually is for first year lawyers who are very young and very eager. It was hard after a while because she wanted to start a family. As a result she took 3-4 years off to take care of her kids and then decided that she wanted to be in an academic setting. There are not a lot of tech transfer offices within the NY area so there are not a lot of jobs. She eventually took a position in NYU as project manager to manage a multi-institutional consortium funded by the Gates Foundation, where she dealt with contracts between institutions, funding from foundation to institutions, and material transfers. Here she actually was losing money by working because she had to pay for daycare for her children but it was worth it because she had to start somewhere to move up. She stayed at NYU for about a year before finding an opportunity at Albert Einstein's tech transfer office. Her current position is a 9-5 position.

In terms of work-life balance, for some people if they are compensated very well, they can justify the hours. Working in IP is very technical and very repetitive. When she started at the law firm, she had to get the work and that began with getting face time with the partners and people that are your seniors to be able to get them to trust you so that you can bill those 1800 hours. She did her internship at the law firm for 2 years. It certainly was a different lifestyle and some people could be happy with it.

Is the patent part a requirement for tech transfer offices? Any tips on studying for the exam? International students?

She took exam in 2005-2006 and stressed that it is very dynamic at US PTO so guidelines/requirements change. Look for updates/regulations on U.S. PTO website. She took a PLI review course, which is not required but she didn’t have energy or discipline to study on her own. At the time, the test was multiple choice and tested your the knowledge of the NPEP manual, which has every single guideline that an examiner follows when reviewing application. You don’t need to know everything and the manual available during test so you need to know where to find the answers. The manual itself is very big and very specific and technical.

She mentioned that passing the exam doesn’t make you a good patent agent. Being a good patent agent is being able to write a good patent application – describe invention in the context of claims. Claim language construction is what makes a good claim. Read a lot of claims. Take an object. Put it on the table. Write claims to define it so that when someone reads it, they know what you are claiming; understand point of novelty in what you are claiming.

She highly recommends getting an internship and even working with a lawyer for no money for a time to get experience with the U.S. PTO. You get experience not only writing patent applications, but also get office interactions. For instance, you claimed with your fence, but your fence is too wide so afterwards the fence will get smaller. An examiner’s job is to show that the fence is too wide. Someone else already claimed it; so you have to narrow it down.

For her she was able to take the exam as a non-citizen but after getting a green card, she had to show that she was a resident in order to get the registration number.

Do check the U.S. PTO website for the legal, technical and scientific requirements for taking the exam. There are no huge hurdles for taking the exam but getting the registration number is a different story with different requirements. 

What skills are required for her career? How can students find transferable skills that she does as a PhD?

Writing and speaking well are the most important in any job search. The more you write, the more you start thinking. She says that any type of writing is extremely helpful. Being able to edit over and over again is very important. Those are the low resolution suggestions. 

High resolutions she had was that you have to be in it, to be able to find opportunities. Really keep your eyes open and ask around even if the opportunity is not paid. Getting your foot in the door is extremely important in getting yourself known in an institution or in a company, IP law firm, industry. 

Also keep connections alive because your graduate friend from 20 years ago may be the CEO of a company. She did not say to be opportunistic but keep in touch up with them because you never know. 

Enjoy what you do. If you really don’t like what you do, maybe it is a sign to pivot a little bit and find something you like doing.

If you were hiring someone, for an internship, what do you look for?

She was never been in the position to hire someone but she agreed with internship firm's approach of interviewing everyone that they receive a resume from. Seeing someone is very important. If you have the time, it is important to meet face-to-face with the person. Be approachable and again speak well. Knowing what you don’t know is a huge asset. Being upfront and honest, and your interest are very important. Again, internships are important because it gives the employer an idea of what you are interested in and how much of your free time you put into it.

Aside from the internship route, are there other entry level job titles that fresh PhD can go for besides full internship in places like IP offices, or tech transfer offices?

The job titles depend on the industry and if it is at a law firm. Some examples: at a law firm, scientific advisor, patent specialist; and in industry, project manager. The employer decides if you meet their technical requirements of the position.

She offered more advice and is a big advocate of cold calls because if you can present yourself in a very presentable way, then it doesn’t hurt. Be proactive and the more you apply, the more chances you have. She also mentioned that if you are very entrepreneurial, you can work as a consultant at a start-up company. At a start-up, you won’t be paid as much but it is a high risk, high reward type of situation. 


Straight out of graduate school with a PhD, you could make around $70,000 as a scientific advisor. Some patent agents make six-figure salaries when they stay longer. 

One thing she enjoys and one thing she finds challenging.

She enjoys being at the interface of things and being able to interact with investigators because some of them are very eccentric and different and with interacting with IP lawyers, who are very technical oriented. It is nice to be able to explain to them, be the interface, intermediary of what the invention is. She loves the licensing process, which can be very long, but can bring funding to your institution. 

A challenge is to know that an invention has a small chance of being a therapeutic. Out of 1000 discoveries, perhaps 999 won't be developed because either it does not have enough funding, or it is not interesting enough. But if there is one and if you can get it in the hands of someone that can raise the funds to develop it, then that invention has the chance in becoming a successful therapeutic. You have to commercialize it. 

Ever wondered what a career in intellectual property management is like but missed GCA’s event on January 20th? Check out these resources:

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 

Careers for Scientists in the Patenting World

Pursuing a Career in Science and Law

Careers in Intellectual Property… and Making the Transition

PhD Career Guide in Law (also good for non-technical PhDs!)

Swapping the lab for the law (older article 2003)

Careers in Technology Transfer and Business Development

PhD Career Guide in Tech Transfer

Transferring Skills to Tech Transfer

Innovation: The big idea of technology transfer

And don't forget, Stony Brook University has it's own tech transfer office: http://research.stonybrook.edu/otlir.

Interested in alternative careers? Look out for emails about GCA's events! 

Have a suggestion for a career event? Email us at sbu.gca@gmail.com.

GCA kicks off the start of the 2016 Fall semester with a Social Networking Event!

posted Sep 25, 2016, 5:42 PM by wendy.hom@stonybrook.edu

On Friday afternoon about 60 graduate students mingled together in the Wang Center’s Chapel over sparkling cider and snacks. This is one of the many chances students could take a break from their research and classes to meet others from different departments and interests.

The Graduate Career Association was joined by Lyl Tomlinson who represents SBU SPADE (Scientists for Policy, Advocacy, Diplomacy and Education), Ilana Heckler and Wendy Hom from the GCS (Graduate Chemical Society), Yang Liu from the Consulting Club, and Meredith Walters from the MBA Association.

In addition to giving a brief overview of what GCA and the other organizations present do to help graduate students, GCA’s Samia Mohammed was on site to take professional headshots for all attendees.

Please join us for future networking and career opportunities!


More information:

GCA’s peer-led PCLP (PhD Career Ladder Program) had their first meeting Wednesday, 9/14 at 5:00PM and will meet once monthly. Contact: phdcareerladderprogram@stonybrook.edu.

SBU SPADE invites everyone to their community forum on The Opiod Epidemic on Saturday, 10/1 from 4:30 – 6:30 PM at the Wang Center Theatre. Register online at opiodepidemicforum.eventbrite.com. Follow SBU SPADE on Facebook and Twitter!

GCS invites everyone to join them Thursday, 10/20 at 4:00 PM in Chemistry 412 for a student-invited speaker Dr. Dalibor Sames (Columbia University). They will be present at the NY Hall of Science for ACS’s National Chemistry Week Sunday, 10/30 and will be hosting the Research Day Photo Contest Friday, 11/4 in the SAC Building. Email: gradchemsociety.sbu@gmail.com and like SBUGCS on Facebook.

The Consulting Club meets every Wednesday at 6:00 pm in Life Sciences Building room 350 to go over case studies. Learn more about consulting at http://consultingcase101.com/list-of-consulting -firms/.

The MBA Association at SBU represents graduate students and alumni of the Stony Brook University College of Business and meets in Harriman Hall 111 from 1:00-2:20 PM (no date has been selected yet for the first meeting). They will host a networking event at Port Jeff Brewery on 9/23 at 5:00 PM and a Business Job & Internship Fair at the SAC Ballrooms on 9/30 from 12:00 – 3:00 PM. Email: mba.sbu@gmail.com, Facebook: @SBUMBAAssociation, Twitter: @STONYBROOKMBAA. All members must be matriculated and registered students of the SBU College of Business.    

2nd Annual Introduction to the PhD Career Ladder Program Recap

posted Sep 25, 2016, 5:29 PM by wendy.hom@stonybrook.edu   [ updated Sep 25, 2016, 5:31 PM ]

This past Monday, the Graduate Career Association presented its 2nd Annual Introduction to the PhD Career Ladder Program (PCLP), which was founded by Nadia Jaber, Ph.D., and Jennifer DeLeon. During this afternoon session, just over three dozen attendees learned about how peer mentors could help them explore careers outside of the university, beyond academia vs. industry.


The PCLP meets once a month for about two hours and each meeting is focused on a different task/assignment. Participants come together for round table discussions and share resources for career development.


Some key takeaways:

1. You are responsible for your own future. You need to do some legwork to explore different careers and be accountable for your goals. PCLP supplements your Ph.D. training.

2. Time is valuable. 3rd and 4th year graduate students are the target of this program but it is never too early to start planning ahead. And 5th year+ students have to hit the ground running!

3. PCLP is geared towards graduate students in all fields. This program has been modified to maximize help for students in all fields not limited to STEM. The two main goals of the program are:

·       to help students identify career goals

·       to help students prepare for those goals

4. PCLP is an invaluable resource available to you right on campus. This multi-step interactive program will be accompanied by workshops and seminars sponsored by the Career Center, IREP, and the GCA.


Save the date!

The 1st meeting will be on Wednesday, September 14th from 5-7pm in room 301 of the Wang Center.


Please email phdcareerladderprogram@stonybrook.edu if you have any questions!

Careers in Regulatory Affairs Webinar Recap

posted Mar 17, 2015, 1:56 PM by Nadia Holden   [ updated Sep 30, 2016, 2:15 PM by Alexandra Weinheimer ]

by Nadia Jaber

The Graduate Career Association hosted Patrick Finigan on March 6th 2015 via Skype to talk about careers in regulatory affairs. Dr. Finigan is currently a Chemistry Manufacturing and Control Associate at Genzyme/Sanofi.


How did you transition out of academia?

Patrick earned his PhD from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in 2011. While working for his PhD, he realized that he wanted to explore beyond academia. He adopted the principle “chance favors the prepared mind”, and thus started participating in “extra-curricular” activities. He took the Fundamentals of Bioscience Industry Program at Stony Brook, where he was introduced to various aspects of the pharmaceutical industry. He also joined the Bioscience Enterprise Club at CSHL (the equivalent of the Graduate Career Association) and learned more about alternative careers. He was interested in regulatory affairs, so he organized two seminars on the topic. He attended events at the New York Academy of Sciences, and participated in numerous career development exercises.

After completing his PhD, Patrick worked as a postdoctoral fellow for a few months until he applied for a global regulatory affairs internship at Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, an international pharmaceutical company. He received the (paid) summer internship and got a formal introduction to the field of regulatory affairs. Patrick was able to extend his internship for 1.5 years, making a place for himself at Bayer. When there were no full time positions in RA available at Bayer, he sent his résumé to a friend at Genzyme, which helped him land his current job. He reminded us that personal contact is very powerful during the job search.


What is Regulatory Affairs?

The field of regulatory affairs (RA) deals with laws and regulations regarding pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) turns laws into enforceable regulations, and gives companies guidance on how to follow these rules and regulations. The RA department of a company ensures that the research and development side of the company is following these FDA regulations. A regulatory affairs associate acts as a liaison between these two contingencies. A major goal of the regulatory affairs department is ensuring patient safety during drug development and clinical trials.

Regulatory affairs actually encompasses a subset of specialties. For example, clinical RA deals with filing applications for clinical trials run by the company. International RA ensures that a product made in the US follows regulations in other countries. Patrick works on the chemical, manufacturing and control (CMC) side of RA, which ensures the quality of manufactured products. This involves regulating the strength, identity, purity, and potency of the product.


What does a CMC associate do?

In order to get FDA approval of a product, the company has to describe its strength, identity, purity, potency and quality. If the company wants to scale-up production of the product, it still needs to demonstrate these five characteristics. As a CMC associate, Patrick helps the researchers develop protocols to measure these characteristics. He also helps them troubleshoot when unexpected issues in experiments arise. Patrick’s experience in molecular biology research is particularly crucial for his success in these aspects of the job.


What is the lifestyle of a CMC associate like?

The starting salary for an RA associate is around $70,000, and working hours are typical (9am-5pm). As you move up, both the salary and time commitment increase. The entry level position in RA at Genzyme is called an “associate”, but titles can change at different companies.


What can students do now to prepare for a career in RA?

Patrick’s number one answer for this is: GET OUT OF THE LAB! Gain new experiences, skills and contacts by participating in different opportunities nearby. He advised us, “If you want a non-academic job, the worst thing you can do is have a great academic CV.” Think about different ways you can show that you are more than an academic.

One of the simplest things you can do is reach out to professionals in the field and ask for an informational interview or to shadow him/her for a day. You can also volunteer and look for internships at Bayer and elsewhere. Getting industry experience will be very important for breaking into the field. Also consider taking a business course or applying for the Fundamentals of Bioscience Industry Program on campus.

Although certifications for regulatory affairs exist, Patrick suggests saving money by simply reading the regulations (300 and 600) to become familiar with them. He believes that companies care more about hands-on experience than these certifications.

Since RA involves a lot of group work, communication and persuasion are two important skills to possess. Think about ways you can enhance and demonstrate these skills to a potential employer.


Can international students go into RA?

Many of the biotech and pharmaceutical companies with RA divisions are international. Thus, an international student could work overseas in the same position. In addition, some companies will sponsor non-citizens.


Where are RA jobs geographically located?

The main hubs for RA are located in New York, New Jersey, Boston, and the San Francisco Bay area. There are also smaller divisions in North Carolina, Seattle and San Diego. Abroad, RA jobs can be found in Europe and China.

Diversify your Career Options Recap

posted Feb 13, 2015, 7:07 AM by Nadia Holden   [ updated Sep 30, 2016, 2:15 PM by Alexandra Weinheimer ]

by Nadia Jaber

On February 5th 2015, the GCA hosted a panel event aimed at introducing graduate students to a variety of career options. The panelists included Steven Isaacman, CEO of PhD Skincare; Zach Marks, co-founder of Oystir; and Damon Love, oncology medical science liaison at Eli Lilly. The discussion flowed from networking to skill-building and back. Here are a few highlights.

How can I explore my non-academic career options?

Dr. Isaacman suggests using LinkedIn or Monster, two job posting websites, to explore your options. Check out the postings and what their requirements are. If you’re interested, find someone in that same job and ask for an informational interview. He admitted that as an undergraduate and graduate student, he found people with a career he was interested in, called them and said “I want to do what you do!”. He landed multiple internships and gained extensive experience this way. Dr. Isaacman stressed another big tip – write better emails! The professional you are contacting is probably willing to help you out, but their time is their most valuable resource; acknowledge this, and keep your emails concise. Be clear about your intentions and your background.


Should I tell my advisor I want a non-academic career?

The panelists all agreed – YES. Although there is a lot of pressure for us to stay in academia, you have to look out for yourself and do what’s best for you, even if that means you may “disappoint” your advisor. Dr. Love points out that if they are turned off by your non-academic interests, then they aren’t the right person to advise you anyhow. Consider finding a career mentor outside of the academic setting. On the other hand, your advisor may have some experience and connections that could be useful to you. The only way to find out is to have that conversation. Dr. Isaacman recommends being upfront about it, and very early on in your graduate studies; you don’t want to mislead him/her, either. The alternative is being stuck in a career that you aren’t satisfied with.


What skills are desirable for non-academic jobs?

Each of the panelists had varying opinions on this question. Dr. Isaacman values problem solving, writing, presentation skills and salesmanship for his budding business. He argues that PhD students have extensive experience in sales – we have to sell our research and ideas every time we write a proposal, grant, paper, give a talk or explain a poster. Channel these skills if you want to enter the business world.

On the other hand, Dr. Love said “soft skills” like affability and creativity are important for every field. Any employer wants to know that you will be a good co-worker and teammate. This will come across in your interviews and references.


What’s your advice for a graduate student trying to network?

Dr. Love had a number of good tips. First, start on LinkedIn. Make sure you have a stellar profile and it will get you the exposure you’re looking for. Once you’ve connected with people virtually, meet them in person at networking happy hours, conferences, NYAS meetings and so on. You can also ask to arrange an informational interview with him/her, which is a great way to network and educate yourself on a particular career path. When you are networking in person, simply try to find common ground – your research, interests, hobbies etc. Think about what you can offer them as much as what they may be able to offer you. Also, don’t spend all your time in one corner; spread out and talk to as many people as you can.

Dr. Isaacman suggests networking in your immediate network – family, friends, classmates. If you explain what your ideal job is, chances are someone will have a connection. Try the “broadcast email”: describe your experience and ideal job, include your resume and send it to everyone you know. Your network can easily forward it to their network, and you’re reach has just become exponential. When asked about cold calling/networking (reaching out to someone you have no formal connection with), the panelists agreed you have nothing to lose, so go for it!

How can I make myself a good job candidate?

Dr. Love suggests finding a career mentor – someone who is a veteran in your field of interest, who can guide you along your career development journey. Ask him/her if they can suggest a number of distinct steps you should follow to break into the field. Also look to the resources we have here on campus, at the Career Center and IREP office. He also mentioned that if you want to do a postdoc, make sure it aligns with your final career goals (more advice on that here).

Dr. Isaacman suggests thinking about ways you can make yourself stand out from all the other applicants. You have to sell yourself – so make sure you are eye-catching! Mr. Marks suggests achieving this through your “extra-curricular” activities. Having experiences and interests outside of the laboratory/office will set you apart from other graduate students and makes you a more attractive candidate. They also reminded us to tailor our applications and resumes to the specific job position. Know everything you can about the company and make sure both of your missions and statements align.

Student Reflections: Dr. Ashleigh Pulkoski-Gross

posted Feb 10, 2015, 1:44 PM by Nadia Holden   [ updated Sep 30, 2016, 2:16 PM by Alexandra Weinheimer ]

Ashleigh Pulkoski-Gross is a recent graduate of the Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology graduate program at Stony Brook University. She completed her thesis on cancer biology in Dr. Jian Cao’s laboratory. She acted as a freelance writer during her graduate career and is now actively searching for a permanent medical or science communications position.

I was introduced to and captivated by the world of independent science research during my undergraduate and master’s studies.  Because I loved research, I moved to Stony Brook University (SBU) to pursue my doctorate in the Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology program. The experience I have had at SBU allowed me to grow as a scientist and gain professional experience. The beginning of my doctoral studies was similar to most other graduate students’ experiences; laboratory rotations, research, coursework, and teaching obligations took up my time and energy. However, I was also presented with multiple opportunities to edit documents produced by my advisor’s laboratory, such as grant applications or manuscripts. I applied for an F31 predoctoral fellowship and for a spot in the Chemical Biology Training Program, which is an institutional grant here at SBU; I maintained status as a CBTP fellow for two years. I also wrote several book chapters and assembled my own manuscripts and thesis. The writing opportunities I took during my graduate career were always welcome distractions. I never said no, even if it was not a topic I was totally interested in or familiar with. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about other areas of cancer biology and found it challenging and engaging.  
Even though I was enjoying my thesis research, I never pictured myself having my own laboratory and I began to struggle with that idea. In an effort to understand what my options were, I participated in as many career events as I could in order to educate myself about “alternatives”. I went to seminars given by alumni to learn about their experience in transitioning away from the bench.  I attended the career and networking symposium “Research Your Future” at SBU and the “What Can You Be with a Ph.D.?” (WCUB) event at NYU-Langone. I also joined the American Medical Writers Association to learn more about careers in writing.

What interested me most at WCUB was medical communications and science writing. I realized that I was skilled in writing and editing, and that I really enjoyed it. Luckily, a friend and colleague that I had met during my master’s studies was a panelist at WCUB, as she transitioned to medical communications at a healthcare consultancy firm (AXON Communications) after her post-doctoral training.  I was able to talk to her one-on-one about her job and my desire to move toward science communications. Several months later my friend contacted me to ask whether I would be interested in doing some freelance writing based on our previous discussion.  I did not even hesitate to say yes!  

As a freelance writer, I get a quick run-down of the big picture project from the company and am given the materials necessary to accomplish whichever type of writing is necessary at the time. Sometimes it is a manuscript for a primary research paper and other times it might be a summary of a particular field that a client requires for a meeting, amongst other documents. The ability to explore a variety of topics in different ways is what draws me to this profession. Currently, I accept freelance work as it comes to me, but I am also pursuing full-time positions for medical and science communications.  

I think that I was able to successfully complete these writing tasks because I have a good command of the English language, an eye for detail, and an interest in and understanding of the life sciences. The experience of writing certain documents, especially those as extensive as book chapters and grant applications, is certainly challenging. The sheer amount of material to be read in order to provide an accurate, current view of the field of interest can be daunting. My process for these kinds of projects includes generating and frequently modifying outlines and organizing my notes around those outlines. Perhaps what might be most challenging is adhering to deadlines. Some deadlines are longer than others, but either way a quality document has to be produced. Despite the challenges involved writing, overall I felt my experiences were positive and I learned something from each one of them.

My advice to current graduate students is to start exploring your options early, especially if you do not think you will pursue a more traditional academic track. Secondly, your friends and colleagues are your best resources for information and opportunity. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be confident about your ability to excel at new things and it will allow you to say yes to any opportunities that do come your way!

LinkedIn Tips Any Grad Student Can Handle

posted Sep 29, 2014, 10:47 AM by Nadia Holden   [ updated Sep 30, 2016, 2:16 PM by Alexandra Weinheimer ]

by Nadia Jaber

Let's talk about LinkedIn. I'm sure most of you signed up and made a profile months ago... and then never looked back. This is very unfortunate, because you are missing out on a lot of great things LinkedIn has to offer. Besides applying for jobs and networking, you can learn about various careers, improve your resume, learn about great opportunities, and have informative discussions. 

Check out these tips gathered from various resources. Then, take the LinkedIn challenge: spend five minutes a day for the next week improving your profile. Afterwards, log on once a week to stay active. I think the results will surprise you!

1. Fill out every part of the profile. This gives you more chances to provide information about yourself and your abilities, and for you to appear personable. Think of it like free food during seminar. Take everything you can get!!

2. Tailor every part of your profile to the job you want. Not the one you have (umm, student?). This is KEY. Even if you're really good at RNA isolation, no one at the editing firm you want to work at cares. Instead, focus on the skills and abilities your dream employer will drool over. Not sure what they're interested in? See tip number 13. Also, “be sure to include industry related keywords” says LinkedIn coach Sabrina Woods. If you want to show up in search results for a specific quality or skill, have those keywords in your profile, and have them often. 

3. Have a professional looking photo. This should really go without saying. Your LinkedIn photo should not be the same as your Facebook photo! It doesn't have to be a you in a suit in a professional head shot, but it shouldn't be you with your dog (unless of course, you want a dog grooming career).

4. Get creative with your headline. The headline is the description directly underneath your name in your profile. You probably have something like "Physics PhD student at Stony Brook University". That's terribly uninformative for an employer who wants to hire someone with great analytic and writing skills. Instead, go back to tip 2 and tailor your headline for the job you want. You can still include PhD student, but add some flair. For example, “Physics PhD student, Data analysis for large data sets”. You can actually get rid of the student title, since it will be displayed in the rest of your profile. “You can sell yourself, your stuff, and your services, all with a stellar LinkedIn headline” recommends recruiter Jenny Foss. Your headline is one of the first things people see, so entice them to read your full profile. 

5. Be as descriptive as possible. Don’t assume that everyone knows what a specific word means or the importance of the achievements you have. Even fellowships, awards and participation on committees may be foreign to employers in a non-academic field. And don’t be humble about it! Lay on the self-praise. Describe your thesis research in layman’s terms, especially if you are aiming for a non-research job. Doing so will also demonstrate your communication and writing skills. A 2-for-1 deal!

6. Add links wherever possible. This goes with number 5. For anything on your profile which may not be common knowledge (education program, fellowship or competition), providing a link will give viewers the opportunity to learn more about it. Consider adding links to publications, newsletters announcing your achievements, your lab's website, the event page for anything you participated in (think conferences, science fairs, volunteer work), and blog articles you wrote. 

7. Customize your public profile link. This is a very simple way to look more professional. Your profile link is located under your photo. When you sign up for LinkedIn, you'll get a link with a generic letter/number combo. While in edit mode, you can change the link from the generic into to your name. For example, www.linkedin.com/in/n45693 to www.linkedin.com/in/njaber/. You should then include your link in your CV, resume, email correspondence , business cards etc.

8. Humanize your profile. “Be personal. Your profile is not a resume or CV. Write as if you are having a conversation with someone. Inject your personality. Let people know your values and passions. In your summary, discuss what you do outside of work. You want people to want to know you.” writes William Arruda. An easy way to start this is to write in the first person. Instead of saying "won first place in design competition", say "I participated and won first place in the 2014 National Design Competition. It was an amazing experience meeting designers from around the world." Better, right?!

9. Browse other profiles. First look at professionals in your career of interest. Take note of the keywords they use, their headline, the skills they highlight, the experiences they have. How do they present themselves? Did they have an internship you could also apply for? What groups are they part of? Also take a look at the profiles of other PhD students who may be gearing up for the same position as you. How do they present themselves? Are they doing it well? See what you can learn and improve on.

10. Be active!!! Join groups, participate in discussions and update your profile and status often. Join groups that are related to your desired career. There are professional societies for almost all career fields, and they usually post relevant information including networking opportunities and job offers. Participating in discussions or starting a discussion gets you tons more profile views and the opportunity to connect with professionals. Use LinkedIn status updates to broadcast your recent achievements. On your homepage you can see the statuses of your connections - comment on them to build relationships and start discussions. Then you can use direct message for more in-depth discussions.

11. Send personalized connection requests. Especially for connecting with professionals you've never met, don’t use the generic connection request. It makes you look like a weirdo. Instead, add details about who you are and why you want to connect. Make your intentions clear! I usually say something like: "Although we don't know each other, I'd like to connect. I am a biology PhD and health communications student at Stony Brook, and I am exploring career options. I'd love to connect and learn about your career path. It seems exactly like what I am aiming for." Everyone likes flattery, and most people are willing to help poor, inexperienced graduate students.   

12. Find ways to stand out. This may be a little trickier, and something you can think about after you've taken the challenge. You can get creative with your headline, the layout of your profile, in your summary, and your point of view in discussions. Again, the idea is to entice people to click on your profile, be wowed, and hire you.

13. Find a job! Obviously this is one of the main functions of LinkedIn, but you can benefit from it in many ways, even before you are ready to apply for a job. Use the job search feature to learn more about jobs available in your field of interest - what skills and experiences are they requiring? what companies are offering the jobs? Save these listings so you can revisit them (you can save them on LinkedIn or take a web screenshot).  Follow the companies posting jobs that interest you and connect with people that work there (see number 11). Check frequently for new postings, as they come and go quickly. When you're ready to start applying, you can direct message your connections (*people you've actually communicated with) to let them know you are actively looking and to keep you in mind (be professional and personal).

Other sources:

PhD Profile: Dr. Rui Zhao

posted Jul 24, 2014, 7:59 AM by Nadia Holden   [ updated Sep 30, 2016, 2:15 PM by Alexandra Weinheimer ]

by Yang Liu

Dr. Rui Zhao is an alumna of the Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD program. Her thesis focused on spatial and temporal analysis of gene expression in living cells. She started considering her future career path in her senior years, and found her interest in regulatory affairs of the biotechnology industry. She now works in regulatory affairs at Bayer Healthcare.

How did you decide to pursue a career in regulatory affairs of the biotechnology industry? I started thinking about my career path in my senior years. Since we are not familiar with biotech industry and have little, if any, exposure to it during graduate school, I wanted to determine if I was more interested in that than academia. With this intention, I joined the Fundamentals of the Bioscience Industry Program (FBIP) at Stony Brook, which gave me the chance to learn about many aspects of biotech industry. The program sparked my interest in regulatory affairs, which aligns with my undergraduate degree in pharmacy.

Can you describe your current job? The regulatory affairs department deals with all the interactions between the Health Authorities (HA) and pharmaceutical companies. Our primary responsibility is to learn the current laws and regulations and to work with other departments involved in the company's R&D and manufacturing to ensure all aspects of our products are compliant with current regulations. As a global company we need to deal with worldwide HAs such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in the EU and Health Canada in Canada. We are involved in the whole process of drug development, including from Phase I to new drug applications (NDA), and achieving successful marketing permits. In other words, regulatory affairs is the last step of the development process in R&D, because once a drug reaches the HA and gets licensed, it is ready for marketing. We also work on successful licensure maintenance of drugs in the commercial phase to ensure continuous marketing of the drug.

How did you find your current job? I learned about an internship at Bayer Healthcare Global Regulatory Affairs from an alumna of FBIP. So I applied for it, got interviewed and selected. When the internship was over, the company offered to keep me on board.

What do you like about regulatory affairs? For me, regulatory affairs is very rewarding. I am directly involved in the whole product development process from Phase I to licensure and even to post-marketing maintenance of the licensure. My input impacts product quality and success of a drug. A successful new drug will significantly improve life quality for patients .

How did you prepare for a career in regulatory affairs? Can you give some advice to current students willing to join pharmaceutical industry? I taught myself about US regulations through preparation for the RAC exam while I was still in graduate school. The Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC) is issued by the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society, and is a well recognized certification for the regulatory profession in the US. Even though it’s not required for RA positions, many companies indicate that RAC is a desirable qualification. The more I learned about RA, the more I was interested in it. That’s why I applied for the internship to get some practical experience. Other important skills, like communication and leadership can be honed through student activities. My suggestion for current students is to learn more about non-academic careers and find your own "match" first, then to prepare yourself purposefully.
Do you think having internship experience makes a difference for non-academic job hunting? Yes, definitely. Internships benefit you not only by arming you with non-academic work experience, but also by figuring out if you truly like the field in just three months’ time.

How did you negotiate with your supervisor when you asked to do an internship? It’s up to how you communicate with your supervisor. I got my first internship opportunity from Bayer right in the middle of my thesis research and paper writing. My supervisor denied my request because I needed to stay in lab to finish things up. Even though I was very upset at the time, I think it was a very good choice looking back. My supervisor pointed out that if I did the internship in the middle of my PhD, all the industry connections I made might be lost when I returned to finish my degree. Then I asked if he would let me go for an internship after I finished my paper in the following year, and he said yes. So I worked really hard in that year and kept everything on track, managed to publish a paper in a high-tier journal and applied again for the internship. Finally, everything worked out.
What was the most challenging aspect of transitioning from academia into regulatory affairs? The most beneficial aspect of PhD training is our learning skills. PhD students have incredibly strong learning skills and analytical thinking capability. So learning the common procedures for my new position was not difficult. However, non-academic jobs emphasize soft skills, which will determine how successful you can be in the future. This includes how to express yourself clearly, how to communicate more efficiently, how to deal with politics, etc. It was more challenging to hone these skills and requires continuous improvement. 

For more information about regulatory affairs, visit: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/employment/8048/8048regulatoryaffairs.html

2014 Naturejobs Career Expo Recap

posted Jul 14, 2014, 10:02 AM by Nadia Holden   [ updated Jul 14, 2014, 10:09 AM ]

by Wahida Ali

The first annual NaturejobsCareer Expo in the US was held in Boston this past May. The one-day event consisted of hour-long workshops designed to advance the job search for graduate students and postdocs in the sciences, and booths of representatives from biotech companies and internationally recognized universities. Nature works hard to get knowledgeable speakers lined up, so if you go to the Expo be sure to attend the workshops. Some of the topics included how to network, perfecting your CV, and making the most of your career search. Another workshop given by an editor of Nature Genetics focused on how to write a high-impact paper.

Listed below is some relevant advice learned from the event.

1) Be prepared at networking events. If you are interested in a job with one of the companies attending an event, apply BEFORE going to the fair. Many of the companies have online applications. Once you have applied, meeting the representative matches a face to the name and gets your application attention. The same applies for any other networking event – do a little research beforehand to see which employers will be in attendance and what qualities they are looking for in a candidate.

2) Carry business cards.  This was heavily stressed. Not carrying a business card sends the message that you don’t care if the person you meet remembers you. It might sound silly to have as a graduate student, but you need to act like a professional in order to become a professional!  Put your name, university, graduate program, and your email if nothing else. They’re inexpensive; try Staples or Moo, or print your own.

3) Use your connections. Many people leave their network untapped because they don’t see someone in their immediate vicinity who can get them a job OR they’re too embarrassed/proud to use the connections they do have. A significant number of jobs come not from your immediate network, but your network’s network. Maybe your cousin’s wife works at your dream job and you never even knew it. When you’re searching for a job, don’t be shy about letting people know what you’re looking for. Likewise, career counselor L.Maren Wood even suggests writing an email describing your credentials and ideal job, and sending it to everyone you know. You’d be surprised what turns up.

4) Impressions are important. You don’t need to show up in a suit, but when you know you are meeting people that you’d like to impress, choose your clothes carefully. Make sure the impression that you’re sending is the one you would like to convey to potential employers. Likewise, make sure that your Facebook page is either entirely private or limited to only the things you would like potential employers to see. They actually do look you up!

5) Make your connections personal. Online applications are a lot like online dating. Just sending the generic, “Hi, I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network,” does not give someone a lot of reasons to connect with you. Most “higher-ups” are happy to add you provided a) they have actually met you or b) you have a valid reason to connect with them. Include that in your request and you’ll have a better chance.

6) Network, but genuinely. Many scientists are not comfortable with the idea of networking because they don’t make small talk well. The advice that I heard was to develop relationships with people you genuinely like. And keep in mind that people generally want to help because everyone who has a career today was in your shoes at some point. Most of them remember this and will do their best to help students with potential.

7) Recognize your “soft” skills.  As a graduate student, you have acquired a number of “soft” skills along with your technical skills, such as critical thinking and adaptability. Make a list of these soft skills. Realize that they are just as important as your technical skills and that they have value. A good potential employer will recognize these skills; so should you.

8) Don’t rule out a job because it isn't perfect. If you have a Ph.D. you can pretty much learn to do anything. This doesn’t mean apply for a senior statistician position if your Ph.D. is in biology, but maybe apply to an electrophysiology lab even if you haven’t done it before. Think about how your “hard” and “soft” skills (see #7!) can be applied in different fields. Thinking outside of your comfort zone will open up a flood of more opportunities.

9) Be optimistic. Everything will be OK. Yes, we are in a recession. Yes, the job market is pretty terrible right now. But there are jobs out there; you just have to work a little harder to find the right opportunity or you may need to create it. Just remember that you have all the necessary skills to do just that. There is a job for you.

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