NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 14 – Research Scientist, Industry

April 30, 2012

This is the fourteenth in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Michael Abram

Current position: Research scientist, Gilead Sciences, Inc.

Location: Foster City,CA

Time in current position: 11 months

Postdoc: Fidelity of HIV-1 replication with Stephen Hughes at NCI-Frederick

Day-to-day: I work in clinical virology. It’s about 50 percent scientific research, filling in knowledge gaps about HIV drugs that are soon to be FDA-approved or have recently been approved. My research focus is on understanding mechanisms of action and resistance to these drugs, and how they work in combination as antivirals. The remaining half of my job involves nonclinical regulatory work, such as contributing to new drug applications to the FDA and providing clinical virology support on Phase III studies for drugs that will soon be approved. This latter part of my job involves assessing resistance mutations that may be arising in human subjects and determining the effectiveness of these drugs compared to the current standard of care.

It’s always a balancing act. Spending time on one thing usually takes away from another. But while there never seems to be enough time, and there is frequently a sense of urgency to some responsibilities, I am really enjoying my job. No day is the same. I have brought new insights and fresh perspective, which is one of the qualities they were looking for. For the most part I’m allowed creative freedom in my position when around me there is a lot of repetition.

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Summer Programs to Build Your Resume and Advance Your Career

April 23, 2012

With summer come multiple opportunities to strengthen your resume and advance your career.  Whether you are at the NIH or somewhere else, summer programs provide valuable experience in mentoring, administration, management, and teaching.  Regardless of your career aspirations, these are key components to your resume or CV.  We have highlighted a few summer programs, workshops, and events for trainees at the NIH that we hope you will take advantage of.  If you are not at the NIH, contact your career center or postdoc/graduate student office to find out about similar programs offered at your institution.  The list can still be used as a guide for what you should be looking for. 

  • Mentor a summer intern – Ask your PI or research mentor to let your supervise a summer intern.  The interns here at NIH are bright and enthusiastic.  They can bring new energy and sometimes even new insights in to your projects.   Mentoring also gives you experience in supervising others, managing resources and people, and teaching. 
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NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 13 – Educational and Career Development Program

April 16, 2012

This is the thirteenth in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Mary Litzinger

Current position: Manager of educational and career development programs, The American Association of Immunologists

Location: Bethesda, MD

Time in current position: 6 months

Postdoc: Tumor immunology and immunotherapy with Jeffrey Schlom at NCI

Finding a path: I did preclinical research as a postdoc at the NIH. I was actually there for so long—7 years—that I was promoted to a research fellow, an employee position. While I was there, I always knew I wasn’t interested in pursuing the research end and becoming a PI. I enjoyed science, but I was disenchanted with doing all the nitty-gritty details. I started thinking about non-bench positions like scientific journals and science policy.

Set yourself apart: While I was a trainee, I attended a lot of the career events held by OITE. Something that came out of many of the speakers was that a lot of scientists want to move beyond the bench, so you have to set yourself apart by showing why you want to make that transition.

I became involved with a science policy discussion group at the NIH. It was only a couple of months old. The leaders of the group had been approached by someone at AAAS who was interested in putting some of the discussions on their MySciNet website. I had an interest in getting some writing credits that weren’t scientific journal articles, so I got involved in posting material on the blog. I know that set me apart when I applied to jobs. It’s important to do as much as you can, even though it can be difficult to find the time.

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Take Advantage of Every Situation: Elevator, Hallway, or Office

April 9, 2012

As scientists, we are familiar with giving talks.  We can give a meeting talk of ten minutes, a group meeting for 30 minutes or a department seminar of an hour.  We make our slides, we prepare notes, we practice and then we stand before our audience and present our work.  This process is not that much different than talking about yourself, but the data changes to:  Who are you?  What do you do?  What are your research interests?  What are your career interests?  Now the trick is, can you do it effectively in 30 seconds?  What about two minutes?  Now, can you expand it enough to fill 10 minutes?   

An elevator ride takes about thirty seconds.  If you find yourself on an elevator with someone you would like to make a connection with, why waste that time?  An “elevator pitch” fills that thirty seconds with an introduction to who you are.  Give your name, where you work, what you do and what your research interests are.  Also, it is good to mention why you want to meet this individual.  Are you a fan of his/her work, or interested in working for the same company?   For example:  You are in an elevator and Dr. Francis Collins (Director of the NIH) steps in.  You can say, “Dr. Collins, I love how you can write songs about science.  I’m Jane Doe, from NIXX.  I recently mapped the gene responsible for finger dexterity in guitar players and would love to continue my research as a PI at the NIH.”

You might find yourself walking with someone between sessions, or in a hallway.  This gives you about two minutes to make an impression.  While compared to thirty seconds it seems like a lot of time, it will still go by quickly.  You still need to be concise.  Still include the content from the elevator pitch, but be a little more personal and detailed.  What about their work are you a fan of?  Why would you be a good addition to their company?  Is there something about them personally that you admire?  What one accomplishment of yours do they really need to know about?       

If you were successful with your 30 second talk in the elevator, or your two minute stroll you may get invited for a longer conversation while getting a cup of coffee.  This is where you can provide more details about your expertise in a particular field.  Elaborate on your project and how you see it moving forward.  Or, discuss your career desires.  If you want to join their company, you need to know why. Be specific and be unique.  Everyone wants a good paying job with benefits.  Why are you uniquely qualified to join their company or institution?  Also, have prepared one or two thoughtful questions about the person or company. 

These short networking speeches need to be delivered concisely.  Write out notes for each one.  Decide ahead of time what you will say if you find yourself in one of these situations.  Then, just like you would with your scientific talk, practice it with people you know.  Get their feedback and practice it some more.  Then start taking advantage of every situation you find yourself in, regardless of how much time you have. 


Making Connections at A Scientific Meeting or Conference

April 2, 2012

If you have been following our career development calendar on the blog, you know April is the time to plan your 2012 meeting or conference attendance.  If you are relatively new to this experience you should watch our web tutorial on attending a scientific meeting.  Whether this is your first or fiftieth conference you probably are prepared for science, science and more science.  And while the science is the main reason your boss is sending you, it should not be the ONLY reason you are going.  Conferences and meetings are great places to build your network and expand your connections.  However, it doesn’t just happen.  Here are a few tips to help you build a strong network at a conference.

Before the meeting:

  • Make a list of the people you want to connect with.  There are certainly science people you want to meet, but be sure to think about making career connections. If you want to go into industry, you need to look for people in industry.  If you want to work in a specific region or city, look for people from those locales.   Make sure there are at least 5 new people on this list. 
    • Go through the conference guide and highlight the names of people you would like to meet, your boss may be useful in helping you identify people of interest.
    • Set up meetings before hand with with those you have met before and want to see again.
    • Ask your adviser and others who are also attending the conference to introduce you to people they know.

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