Considering a Career in Biomedical Data Science? What you need to Consider

December 4, 2017
data-science-blog-image-jodian-brown

Word Cloud Created by Jodian Brown using the generator found at https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/

Written by Jodian Brown, Ph.D., Computational Chemistry, IRTA Postdoctoral Fellow OD/OIR/OITE, National Institutes of Health

Data science – it is a field of study that has exploded over the past few years. Consequently, there is a lot of interest from our trainees. To provide tangible insights into strategies trainees can undertake to transition in this field, the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) recently hosted a panel workshop on Careers in Data Science and Computational Biology.

To some the field of data science may seem new, yet, a core group of scientists may oppose that notion. This core group includes, but is not limited to, computational biologists/chemists, bioinformaticians and even geographers. These professions have been harnessing computational approaches and power to make sense of scientifically-relevant data for decades. However, the exponential rise in smart technology (such as smart phones and smart cars) has been linked to a significant surge in the need for persons that can use computational approaches and power to efficiently use and analyze large amounts of all types of data. And from this need is born the term data scientist. Harvard Business Review dedicated an article centered on the role of this job in the 21st century.

A tangible percentage of this rise in generated data can be attributed to biomedically-relevant sources. Over the past two decades, advances in scientific tools and techniques (e.g. high-performance computer clusters, molecular structure elucidation, and genomic sequencing) have drastically increased the data and knowledge within the biomedical enterprise. Thus, at this juncture we need scientists who can integrate their scientific background and interests with computational tools and approaches to tackle these vast data.

What skills should you consider developing if you are interested in pursuing a data science career? During the Careers in Data Science and Computational Biology workshop four main pillars important to this transition in data science were identified as:

  1. ability to understand and employ mathematical and statistical approaches
  2. programming ability
  3. at a minimum, peripheral knowledge of computer architecture
  4. ability to effectively communicate your work

Translation of the above pillars into practical approaches may include taking mathematics/statistics courses (e.g. machine learning or deep networking) as well as learning programming languages such as Python or R. The next step after improving your mathematics and computer language knowledge is to find a project of interest that ideally is related to your research and use available computer resources to execute project. Often, learning about computer architecture may occur on the fly but it is strongly recommended that you commit to understanding the basics. Various computer platform, analyses and visualization software are freely available (watch video of workshop for some suggestions). Here at the NIH there is a number of resources that you may access. The NIH’s High-Performance Computing (HPC) team offers several free classes (which provides introductions to supercomputing in science and Python) as well as maintaining the HPC cluster that some trainees may access with the appropriate project and proper approval from supervisor (Note: PIs pay for such use). The NIH Data Science Mentoring program accepts applications from NIH individuals who want to mentor or be mentored in data science. For more information on this mentoring program (which needs mentors) you can contact Ms. Lisa Federer via her email lisa.federer@nih.gov or Dr. Ben Busby at ben.busby@nih.gov. Dr. Ben Busby is also a great resource for those with proficient programming abilities who would like to apply them to hackathon projects.

A noteworthy caveat is that skills listed above may be easier to acquire if you are earlier in your career (e.g., postbac and graduate student) as you may possess more time and/or flexibility with regards to your research responsibilities. In contrast, senior trainees such as postdocs and research fellows may have more time constraints and project responsibilities. Nonetheless, if you are a senior trainee or employee it may be amenable to construct data science projects that are directly related to your research. Furthermore, the application of user-friendly computer software is highly recommended if an extensive programming background is not present.

The landscape of data science is broad and the depth of skills involved will depend on the subspecialty. A researcher in data science may be responsible for generating, extracting, analyzing and/or visualizing data and/or developing the tools to do so. Most data scientist positions will often rely on more than one of these subtasks. Thus, as you begin to explore and acquire skills in the field of data science, you can determine your preference of being on the side that makes “biomedical sense” of the data or that develops the tools or both.

The panelists at the OITE-hosted Careers in Data Science and Computational Biology workshop provided great insights into the advantages of having data science skills whether you are interested in an academic or non-academic career.  In addition, specific tools that trainees can assess and use to improve their data science skills were highlighted during the panel discussion. A video recording of this workshop can been found here.

Finally, remember that there are other resources, including career counselors who are happy to talk with you about career exploration, are available here at the OITE. You can schedule an appointment with one of our career counselors via visiting this link.

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Where Do I Begin? Industry Careers for Scientists

February 13, 2017

One of the most challenging questions that developing scientists must answer is, “Should I pursue an academic or industry career?” For some, the pursuit of an academic career  is their path of choice.  For scientists who wish to pursue industry careers, the answer is more difficult to come by because they lack sufficient knowledge of how to pursue the variety of careers in industry.

This OITE Archives post will help scientists to answer this question by providing suggesting the following OITE Archives to begin gathering information about career paths for scientists.    To begin, read the following articles about moving from Industry to Academia and the Top 10 Myths about careers in industry discussed by guest blogger, Professor Brad Fackler.

Next, read through several of the recently published OITE Career Options Series blogs about popular careers for scientists. The information is still relevant and worth reviewing as part of your career decision-making process.

For those who have an interest in working abroad, here are several blogs that will open your eyes to career global opportunities for scientists

If graduate or professional school is needed as part of the pathway to an industry career the following posts will be helpful.

Will a Master’s Degree Get You Where You Want to Go?

Getting In: Everything You want To Know About the Graduate and Professional School Applications

We encourage you schedule informational interviews with NIH alumni and scientists employed in industry to learn more about how they made the transition.  Schedule an appointment with a career counselor to learn more about careers and how values, interests, skills, and lifestyle and how they factor into your decision.   Finally, attend our various career development programs such as the NIH Career Symposium to gather career information from NIH alumni help you make this important career choice.


Career Options Series: Science Education & Outreach

August 8, 2016

OITE’s Career Options Series will give you a snapshot overview of different career paths. The goal of this series is to help you explore a variety of different options by connecting you to new resources.  A large part of making a good career decision is done by gathering information about that field.  We encourage you to follow up this online research by conducting informational interviews with individuals in each field. Search the NIH Alumni Database to find alums doing similar work.


What is Science Education & Public Outreach? Picture of an ipad with arrow shooting out with eduational graphics

The field of Science Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) is an umbrella term that refers to the education and generation of public awareness of science and its relevant topics and methods. According to NASA, this encompasses increasing the general public’s understanding of engineering, technologies, and education, and engagement in improving the quality of scientific pursuits in these areas. Positions in E/PO arise in a wide variety of settings, including public and private primary and secondary education, zoos, museums, and both non-profit and for-profit companies and organizations. Hiring institutions typically hire candidates with bachelors, masters, or doctoral degrees, and a variety of skill sets are typically used, including science curriculum development, program management, teaching, research, and administrative work such as assembling educational material.

Sample Job Titles
Program Director/Manager OR Analyst/Coordinator/Specialist; Outreach Coordinator; Science Writer/Educator; Online Communications Specialist; Career Development and Outreach; Science Exhibit Developer; Teacher; Learning Coordinator; etc.

Sample Employers
Many universities and schools do science education and outreach, so those are great places to start. However, also remember to look at many professional associations as they often have a department dedicated to education and outreach. Additionally, consulting firms could be a place to make a contribution to this field. Just make sure the organization works with schools or agencies of interest to you.

 

University of Massachusetts Medical School
University of Maryland
SARE Research
Macfadden
George Mason University
Society for Science & the Public
Chemical Educational Foundation
Galapagos Conservancy
Mercy: The Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids
U.S. Department of Education
The Schott Foundation for Public Education
Burness
BCS, Inc
Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
Cognitive Professional Services Inc.
Savan Group

Many, many more! COMMENT below with organization suggestions.

Key Skills
– Communication skills, including: presenting as well as writing
– Teaching/Education
– Scientific/Media Writing
– Program Development
– Website Development
– Writing/editing
– Multimedia outreach/communication
– Publishing
– Web design
– Data analytics
– Program management
– Research methods and data analysis
– Interpersonal communication skills

Professional Organizations/ Resources
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Presidential Management Fellowship
IRACDA Fellowship/Grant
National Association for Science Teachers

How to Find Jobs
Higher Ed Jobs
Chronicle of Higher Education

OITE Resources
How to Series on Career Education and Outreach
Careers in Science Education and Outreach Handout


Career Options Series: Bioinformatics

May 23, 2016

Thank you to all who voted! According to the poll, the career path you wanted to see highlighted was Bioinformatics. The second runner up was Education and Outreach, so we will be highlighting that field next in the Career Options Series.


What is Bioinformatics?
The fields of bioinformatics and computational biology involve the development and application of tools to make biological discoveries. Bioinformatics is being introduced to high school students in biology classes. There are undergraduate, masters level and Ph.D. programs that train student in these fields. See the International Society for Computational Biology  (ISCB) for examples of degree programs in bioinformatics and computational biology. In addition, some people enter the field as a biologists and some enter as computer scientists/engineers. According to ICSB, a solid background in both biology and computer science is extremely helpful.

Sample Job Titles
Data Analyst; Systems Analyst; Informatics Analyst; Software Developer; Biostatistician/Bioinformatician; Computational Biologist; Research Scientist; Bioinformatics/Staff Scientist; Gene Analyst; Research Assistant/Associate; Biologics Database; Programmer/Administrator; Computer Analyst/Programmer; Molecular Modeling Assistant; Software Engineer; Post-doctoral Fellow; Research Scientist; Senior Scientist/PI; Professor/Assistant Professor; UNIX/Linux Programmer; Computational Genomics Specialist; Bioinformatics Specialist
* Information compiled via an Indeed search in the Bethesda area

Sample Work Settings
University laboratory/faculty; Nonprofit Biomedical Research Institution; Pharmaceutical Company; Information Technology (IT) service provider; Biotechnology Company; Government Agencies; Government Contractor

Sample Employers
The Jackson Laboratory
Sanofi
Abbott Laboratories
Digicon
University of Nebraska Medical Center
Medical College of Wisconsin
New York Genome Center
University of Rochester
Leidos
Memorial Sloan Kettering
ACGT, Inc
OMNITEC Solutions, Inc
GenePeeks
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Craig Venter Institute
Department of Health and Human Services
National Human Genome Research Institute

Potential Topics/Areas of Specialty

  • Sequence analysis
  • Gene and protein expression
  • Structural bioinformatics
  • Network/systems biology
  • Computer science
  • Software development
  • Database management/programming

 Key Skills
-Computer programming knowledge – Python, Perl, Ruby, or R http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791169/

-Basic knowledge of UNIX operating system http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000589

-Good communication skills
http://bioinfonecia.blogspot.com/2011/06/10-useful-bioinformatics-skills-to-have.html

-The ability to multitask

-A working knowledge of biology/genomics

-Data visualization skills

How to get started
Internships e.g., Summer Internship at NIEHS, NCI, NHGRI

Professional Organizations
International Society for Computational Biology
The American Medical Informatics Association

Additional Resources
The National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Human Genome Research Institute
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Biostars Message Board

 

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OITE’s Career Options Series gives you a snapshot overview of different career paths. The goal of this series is to help you explore a variety of different options by connecting you to new resources.  A large part of making a good career decision is done by gathering information about that field.  We encourage you to follow up this online research by conducting informational interviews with individuals in each field.

 


Career Options Series: Regulatory Affairs

April 13, 2016

OITE’s Career Options Series will give you a snapshot overview of different career paths. The goal of this series is to help you explore a variety of different options by connecting you to new resources.  A large part of making a good career decision is done by gathering information about that field.  We encourage you to follow up this online research by conducting informational interviews with individuals in each field. Search the NIH Alumni Database to find alums doing similar work.


What is Regulatory Affairs?Image of the words "Regulatory Affairs" with two figures holding a puzzle piece
A profession that functions to apply laws, regulations, and policies to the development, production, and sale of products within regulated industries, such as: food, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, energy, biotech, clinical, and health care products. Why is it needed? To make sure company businesses/products abide by applicable regulations, laws, and guidelines in every country where a product will be marketed.

Regulatory affairs requires expertise from multiple disciplines, such as: research science, physicists, life scientists, chemists, engineers, pharmacy, statistics, veterinary medicine, nursing, clinical medicine, etc.

Sample Job Titles
Regulatory Affairs Specialist, Regulatory and Quality Affairs Analyst,  Policy Manger, Scientist, Regulatory Affairs Associate, etc.

Sample Work Settings/Employers
Regulatory Affairs in the Federal Government:|
FDA
– FDA scientists review test results submitted by sponsors, so that the FDA can decide whether the drug is safe enough for clinical trials, whether the drug can be sold to the public, and what should go on the drug’s professional labeling.
USDA – Inspect food safety, and collect and analyze surveillance data of foodborne outbreak; conduct studies such as evaluations, like Child Nutrition Studies or Food Security Studies in response to the needs of policy makers and managers.
EPA –  Assess exposure, hazard and risk of chemical substances and/or toxic substances; assess risk of environmental pollutants, and develop biological indicators.

Regulatory Affairs in the Private Sector:
Industry – Gather data necessary for submission to government. Manage process of regulatory approval

Consulting/Regulatory Affairs Services – Provide evaluation of the best regulatory path. May provide outsources submissions and follow-up services.

Key Skills
– RA needs individuals with backgrounds in biology, chemistry, engineering, information technology, pharmacology, quality, toxicology, clinical sciences, writing and management
– Knowledge of science, regulations, and policy
– Verbal  and written communication skills
– Analytical and organizational skills, including the ability to evaluate potential product candidates and trials
– Project and time management skills
– Computer skills
– People skills, including the ability to mediate and find common ground among interested parties (research, production, sales, marketing, regulatory agencies, etc.) and gain consensus

How to get started
• Commissioner’s Fellowship Program (FDA)
• CDER Academic Collaboration Program (FDA)
• CATO Fellowship
• Trainings:
– The Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS) Online University
– NIH FAES Graduate School Classes (Look at current availability but previous relevant classes have     included Inside and Outside the FDA or FDA Regulation, Industry and Hidden IP)
– Master’s of Science in Regulatory Affairs programs
• Regulatory Affairs Branch (RAB), NIH, NCI

Professional Organizations
The Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS)
The Organization for Professional in Regulatory Affairs (TOPRA)
The Canadian Association of Professional Regulatory Affairs (CAPRA)

Additional Resources
OITE’s How To Series: Regulatory Affairs, including an archived video, slides, and more resources!

 

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Coming up in the Career Options Series, we want to know what you which work path you would like to see highlighted. Take a moment to vote below:


Career Options Series: Technology Transfer

February 22, 2016

OITE’s Career Options Series will give you a snapshot overview of different career paths. The goal of this series is to help you explore a variety of different options by connecting you to new resources. A large part of making a good career decision is done by gathering information about that field. We encourage you to follow up this online research by conducting informational interviews with individuals in each field. Search the NIH Alumni Database to find alums doing similar work.


What is Technology Transfer?

Cartoon image of a scientist throwing puzzle pieces to an administrator and then technician
Technology transfer is the sharing of scientific and technological advances from one enterprise, institution, or country to another for further development and commercialization in the fields of science, health, agriculture, industry, business, etc.

What can be transferred?
Technology transfer includes discoveries, inventions, innovations, and intellectual property like patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Tech transfer includes patenting and licensing.

Sample Job Titles
Licensing and Patenting Associate; Licensing and Patenting Manager; Technology Transfer Specialist; Technology Transfer Policy Specialist; Royalties Assistant; Royalties Coordinator; Marketing Coordinator; Monitoring and Enforcement Officer; Senior Licensing and Patenting Manager; Senior Advisor for Licensing; Senior Advisor for Intellectual Property Transactions; Senior Technology Transfer Policy; Advisor; Senior Royalties Administrator; Senior Monitoring and Enforcement Officer; Senior Expert Monitoring and Enforcement; Senior Advisor for Monitoring and Enforcement

Sample Work Settings
Government Agencies; Government Contractors; Universities; For-Profit Companies; Patent Law Firms, Trade Organizations, Non-Profit Organizations

Sample Employers
NIH Office of Technology Transfer (OTT)
University of Pennsylvania Center for Tech Transfer
Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM)
Licensing Executive Society (LES)

Key Skills
– Strong science background and understanding of the needs of scientific community
– Technology transfer knowledge, including: patents, IP, licensing, policies/laws, standard agreements and procedures
– People skills, especially the ability to deal with multiple constituencies while working as a member of a team
– Communications skills, both verbal and written
– Negotiation skills – in tech transfer, negotiations go around license agreements with inventors, owners, other parties, etc.
– Time and management skills

How to get started
• Fellowships/Internships in NIH OTT, NCI, NICCK, NIAID, NHLBI, etc!
• Patent Examiners (USPTO)
• Patent Agents/Attorneys (Law Firms)
Trainings:
– Technology Transfer courses/certificates (FAES)
– Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Technology Transfer Training
– Intellectual Property classes/programs
– Meetings (AUTM, LES)
– Other degrees: JD or MBA

Professional Organizations
American Associations of University Technology Matters
Licensing Executive Society
Alliance of Technology Transfer Professionals
Association of European Science and Technology Transfer Professionals
Technology Transfer Society

Additional Resources
OITE’s How To Series: Technology Transfer, including an archived video, slides, and more resources!

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Coming up in the Career Options Series, we will be highlighting the field of Regulatory Affairs.


Career Options Series: Science Policy

December 10, 2015

OITE’s Career Options Series will give you a snapshot overview of different career paths. The goal of this series is to help you explore a variety of different options by connecting you to new resources. A large part of making a good career decision is done by gathering information about that field. We encourage you to follow up this online research by conducting informational interviews with individuals in each field. You can check out our first career option guide on Public Health here.


What is Science Policy?Image of two green street signs with the word "science" on one and "policy" on the other
Science Policy falls under two areas: Policy for Science and Science for Policy. Policy for Science looks at developing and determining STEM education and R&D funding priorities and directions as well as establishing guidelines and regulations on the practice and conduct of science. Whereas, Science for Policy looks at informing and enhancing the development, decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and resulting programs and regulations.
– From the resource: AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships at http://fellowships.aaas.org/

Sample Job Titles
(Senior) Science Policy Analyst; Public Health Analyst; Director of Science Policy; Public Affairs Director; Program Officer; Health Science Policy Analyst; Public Health Analyst; Scientific Program Analyst; Science and Technology Policy Analyst; Policy Analyst Manager; Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs; Advocate, Administrator; Health Policy Advisor; Scientific Program Analyst; Policy Specialist; Government Relations Manager; Director, Research Programs Advocacy; etc.

Sample Work Settings
The majority (more than half) of these jobs are in non-profits followed by government, academia and then industry.

Sample Employers
American Institutes for Research
Department of Health and Human Services
Friends of Cancer Research
National Science Foundation
*Plus, many more! Do a “Science Policy” search on indeed.com to get a sense of employers who are hiring in this field.

Science Policy work involves:
• Assessing scientific data
• Writing briefs/memos (for internal audiences and external audiences like Congress)
• Communicating science to the general public, scientific audiences, lawmakers
• Coordinating volunteers, committee members, scientists
• Program management of seminars, coalitions, etc.

Key Skills
– Broad knowledge of science
– Knowledge of science policy
– People skills
– Communication, both written and verbal
– Analytical
– Project/Time Management

How to get started
Fellowships e.g., AAAS Science & Technology Fellowship
Internships e.g., science societies (generally unpaid)
Details e.g., NIH institutes; 1 day/week
Networking e.g., With speakers at NIH global health seminars
Volunteering e.g., Meet-ups like DC Science Policy Happy Hour Group
Additional education/degrees: Enroll in science and technology policy classes (GW and JHU offer a few)

Professional Organizations
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Chemical Society – Science Policy
Network of School of Public Policy, Affairs & Administration

Additional Resources
OITE’s How To Series: Science Policy
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
Office of Science Policy at NIH

Coming up in the Career Options Series, we will be highlighting the field of Tech Transfer.