From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

February 2013
« Jan   Mar »
Graduate School Decision. Leave with MS or stick it out for at least two more years?
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 5:05 pm

As we look at what is happening in the employment situation
for recent graduates we are hard pressed to advise people
who are
   not highly enthusiastic in their work,
   not thrilled with the discovery world of science,
   not very pleased with working in their research group with
their current adviser
to slog it out to earn their Ph.D. in whatever technical field.  They
ask is it better to leave with an MS.

Most agree the pleasure in working in science needs to be
balanced with knowing ourselves, our values and goals, and
our current situation.

Several people have approached me asking for help to make
career decisions.  After an informal process to explore their
cultural influences (individualistic vs. group identity) and preferences,
without revealing personal details, here are some thought
processes to help them ask good, meaningful questions and

The choice(s) we make are more emotionally driven than logically
arrived at.  Here is what one fellow and I have discussed.

  My adviser set up a meeting to review my recent
experimental data tomorrow.  He has been busy and we have
not met for three months.  So, I asked if we could also talk about
my career goals and graduation expectations at that time. 

Was that too much to ask?  Should I have set up another time?

  It is always good to have a meeting where
everyone has a vested interest in holding sharing information.
Don’t change it now.

It is good to have:
   -an agenda, and make it balanced (his issues and your
   -a time limit (60 minutes, including enough time to cover your
needs) and
   -a brief one page summary of each major topic-
*your results,
*a proposal for what you need to do to finish your MS (write up
your results, write papers, give presentations,
finish experiments
up to an agreed upon date),
*submit your academic degree paperwork on time with his signature (do
you have a draft already?)
*ask for his support in helping you find your next position (contacts,
“good letters of reference) and
*support for however number of months you will be “in school” with

You need to be an advocate for your family’s case

Please think about saying specifically what you wish to cover on
your agenda right at the beginning before going into the details. 

Undecided:  Thanks for your advice, as it was very helpful.

I felt well-prepared, as I had an outline with all of the points that I
wanted to cover and highlights of each.  The data/lab part review
went fine, as expected.

When we discussed my career part, I basically laid out my
concerns about the job market and my marketability as an MS
vs. PhDvs. PhD with post-doc and then talked about my interest
in industry over academia.

His response was basically that I would be doing useless bench
work in industry with an MS and that I should consider a PhD/
post-doc, if I wanted to get anywhere in my career.  However, he
has little to no experience with industry.

He said that in order to finish within the next 1 1/2  - 2 years, I would
need to work 12+ hour days in the lab, then write all night at home
and not take any weekends or holidays off.  He said that my life
should be “hell” and that I should be willing to compromise
relationships or do whatever needed to get my degree.

I am nearly positive that I really need to leave with my MS, as soon
as I can get a job offer and finish up the necessary lab work. 
Staying on that that long, only to be forced into a post-doc, what I
do not wish to do, sounds awful.  Yes, I may take a pay cut with
an MS and have “wasted” several years deciding what to do, but I
think that a more “normal” job (not a lead researcher job) will fit
what I want out of my lifestyle.

1 comment
Entrepreneurs. 6. Culture and Valuation
Filed under: Position Searching, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 12:54 pm

Over the last few months, due to the recognition
of the role of start-up companies in a tough economy,
we have done serious research into critical elements
of a ‘going on your own’ or ‘joining an emerging
enterprise’ career path.

Our series topics include:
1.  iEconomy and patents, noting “standard essential”
patents and other emerging patenting tactics
2.  Interactions with Venture Capitalists, noting the
role of the elevator pitch and other success factors
3.  Hiring priorities for emerging companies, noting
understanding the culture and company story
4.  Starting a company on your own, noting important
first steps to consider– attorney
5.  Disruptive innovations and different kinds of
support in an emerging enterprise.
6,  What works in making initial contact with start-up
companies, note “warm introductions” and multiple avenues
of contacts through committed networking

This entry highlights two topics brought up in the
Accelerators blog that are commonly overlooked
by entrepreneurs, namely, the importance of company
and determining the valuation of the
In the rush to get the business moving, whether it is
product or service into customers’ hands for use, it
is important to define your core values and traditions
in the early months and days.  In successful firms, you
will find a certain “vibe” in every person you meet which
has a direct impact on outputs and raising of funds.

The value of your firm is not what you think it
should be, it is what others, often experts in
the market dynamics, are willing to offer.  It is,
first of all, a negotiation which centers on trust,
not winning and losing.  There is major caution
in how you go about working with people who
are, often, very experienced.  It can not hurt to
involve mentors and trusted colleagues who have
experienced different negotiating styles.

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Trends in Technical Careers. 4. Bridging the gap between academic research and practical outcomes R&D
Filed under: Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 4:13 pm

At a technical meeting recently, I attended a
Special Interest Group forum on the Barriers
to Academic Drug Discovery– cultures, constraints
and motivations.  Discussions like this define academic
and industrial government working space and tactics.

Whereas as
Pharma-industry and            academia prefers
government seek

quick kills‘,                               longer term horizons,
                                                    exploring in depth
portfolios,                                 research for the next
                                                    grant [initial results showing
timelines &,                               personal discovery and
competences                               reputation

efficient innovation,                   intellectual leaps.
Striking stories where unexpected, quantum leap
discoveries in academic labs have led to incredible
commercial leaps. like Thomas Brock and Hudson
Freeze’s 1969 discovery of Thermus aqauticus Taq,
a bacterium in the hotsprings of Yellowstone.  Its DNA
polymerase has uniquely evolved to survive Yellowstone’s
hot springs.  This enzyme is the prototype for Kary
Mullis’s polymerase chain reaction that has transformed
modern life from legal systems to advanced therapies
for diseases.

Discussion covered journal publication, but too often
      contains unrealiable data, only successes get into
      print, when failures might be even more valuable.
Reliable databases with common easy to manipulate
     formats was another forum topic.


1 comment
How do you make an Initial Contact with a Start-up
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 8:44 am

A tremendously thought provoking question came from
an attendee at a recent workshop:

Dan,… “we met and talked last weekend at the University
of Pittsburgh during the “Job searching for chemical
professionals” workshop.  I plan to graduate with an MS
in organic chemistry at the end of this semester and am
looking for jobs with small biotech and start-up companies.
You gave me good advice on how to follow the venture
capital money to find new jobs, and I was hoping to
follow up with you and get some more advice on how
and when to approach these opportunities.

My concern,” he continued in the email, “is about whom
I should contact, and when.
“  He described what he has
learned about a company with growth plans from <10
to 15-25.  “I don’t know how to contact anybody with the

Should I send to VCs asking to be referred to any of
the upcoming positions?

This may apply to a larger audience, so please let me
share the response.

While I do have an inkling, I contacted people who know
directly about recruiting [Shirley Condra] and working
in small VC funded start-ups [John Podobinsky

From John:
-checked ABs Linkedin profile.  It needs to be refreshed.  Add
more about his thesis topic, additional skills and a photo.
-strong pedigree for the field, has he spoken to their career
services/placement offices?  Is he part of alumni groups?
-Suggestion:  Find a “warm introduction” [rather than a “cold
contact” though someone connected to the firm] to each
opportunity.  Does he know someone there or a previous
employee?  Does his adviser (someone in his network) have
any connections?  How about alumni from his group?
- some venture capitalists have websites and he ought to apply through
them directly.  Recruiters often work for small firms.
- Incidentally, J does have a website and if he has skills they
are seeking people with skills in cancer immunotherapies
[Again, a “warm introduction” can be an advantage, through a
referral or networking.]
- is he focused on a location?  I can offer leads for some specific
areas…(SF, SD, Boston, NJ, TX…]
- is he presenting a poster at NOLA ACS or attending the career
fair?  It is a huge upcoming opportunity.
- Brush up on presentation and interviewing skills simultaneously,
so when the next step happens, he is ready.”

Shirley offered some terrific advice:
first,use Linkedin as a source.
  does anyone at the company have a profile?
  articles regarding VC will list appropriate individuals, who have
Linkedin profiles
   send an “invite” on Linkedin in a nice personalized note expressing
interest in their company and industry.  Don’t ask for a job in an invite!
   continue to constantly expand your network
second, explore local industry specific networking events through
Linkedin.  I highly encourage this.  Sign up for specific groups in
Linkedin, attend periodic [can be monthly] meetings, and find out
about start-ups, etc.
third, I recommend having business cards with them.  Vista
( offers a cost-efffective product.  A person
might list their specialization on the card, that can be handed out
at networking events.

fourth, be sure to check out all industry-specific websites that list
job openings.  Surprisingly, a number of companies use Craigslist,
Door64 and other unrelated sites.  Check Forbes’ list of best
cities where biotech congregates.
fifth, ALWAYS have a good rapport with university professors and
campus counselors
.  Many times, these individuals can offer a
wealth of information.
Finally, pay attention to “consequential strangers”, who are people
you meet and have something valuable to offer.”

Watch-outs. 41. Future of abundance, Better bosses, Family snags and Privacy
Filed under: Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 3:06 pm

It seems like things will change ever so slowly
from where we are to a better future. 
One place to look for where our futures may
improve to is given by Peter Diamondis, who sees a
future of abundance, not cut-backs and less optimism. 
While not often cited midcareer people might benefit
from a piece on being a better boss in a second link.
A third link speaks to something that will happen to
nearly half of us about dealing with and planning for a
future without our spouses.
Finally, it is interesting to see new apps that we might
look for, when privacy might be an issue.

Worth every second of viewing/listening and even
perusing his book, Diamondis features eight areas
that will “take off” biotechnology, AI, robotics,
digital manufacturing, computational “cloud” systems,
networks and sensors, nanotechnology in a number of
unexpected areas.  He talks about cultures that will bring
these innovations about.

SOURCES:  Heidi Grant Halvorson WSJ 1-2-13
Joann Lublin, WSJ WSJ 2-9-12
Practicing your job, targeting your message and knowing
when to ask for assistance are some items to think
about and apply.  Much worthwhile content in the
Halverson piece for mid-career professionals.  Joann
Lublin offers advice like we see in the Undercover boss
series on network TV .   Also, weight and self-improvement
plans are proposed.

SOURCE:  K Greene, WSJ 2-2-13 What a tangled web
we leave
This piece got me to think about my own affairs–
separate written records of records, have both names on
critical items, usernames and PW for online accounts.
-”Quit claim deeds”
- names on paper stock certificates
- joint account planning
-”inherited IRA”

SOURCE:  Heard, WSJ 2-16-13, P. B16
Look for new apps to be adopted by the big
social media sites.  Less revealing public
records of our activities apps worth considering, like
Snapchat which has photos disappear after viewing.

1 comment
Alternate Careers. Laboratory Science and Automation
Filed under: Networking, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 1:52 pm

There is a natural bridge for chemical society members to
be jointly involved with other entities.  So many links are
common and there is so much to learn from them and
share with them.

Two noteworthy organizations and their web presence are:

Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening
   - strong presence in drug discovery, including drug
discovery testing (library management, screening,
assay development, datamanagement, automation, etc.),
system integration and
miniaturization technologies.

SLAS has a presence in
clinical diagnostics, consumer products, drug development,
food and agriculture, forensics and security, and energy and
petrochemical segments and in the disciplines of
bioanalytical testing, biological sampling techniques,
pharmacological testing, informatics, molecular
diagnostics, process analytical technology and
scientific imaging technology.

LabRoots  2 
  - molecular biology, life science, anticancer, genomics
and genetics, pharma, biotech, laboratory automation,
microbiology, biochemistry informatics and a whole
host of related subjects.
  - companies

comments (0)
Information known about each of us. 1.
Filed under: Legal matters, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 3:53 pm

An interesting question was provided to me about
privacy concerns:

To what extent is it acceptable for a company to
get access to private information on job applicants?
(Facebook fields, relatives, like&dislikes, etc.)

While I am not an expert, it is important for us
to have some ideas on what is known about us.
We see TV programs that show us that our cell phones
tell our location, also, who and how often we have
spoken with people.  Our computers and computer
history files tell where we have been, log-ins and
passwords, purchasing history and quite a bit more
when we “peel back the onion.”

Much of this can be made accessible with permission.

Facebook and other social networks give other insights
into our behaviors and tendencies which can be protected
to some extent by going to the control panels of our
We do have some measure of personal control.  However,
once a document or webpage is in the public domain, it
is hard to remove.

A very interesting blog entry provides what the government
knows about each of us: 

1 comment
Interviewing Distractions. Sweaty palms
Filed under: Interviewing
Posted by: site admin @ 1:31 pm

At a recent networking workshop D. Darling suggested
one thing a person could do if their hands were moist
before a handshake introduction would be to hold
a cold (presumable with condensation on it) drink
and apologize for the moisture.

More to the point, how can we professionally deal
with moist hands in these possibly awkward situations?
First, understand the fundamentals.  There are two
types of sweat glands
  - apocrine which respond to stress and can emit lipids
and proteins that interact with bacteria
  - eccrine which respond to heat and exercise and
emit mostly salts in perspiration

So, the common stimuli are stress, heat and vigorous
exercise.   We all realize weight gain can be associated
with more profuse sweating, as well.
1.  Be conscious of ambient conditions and move to cooler
parts of rooms or space or where there is good circulation
and shade.
2.  Know the little things that allow evaporation from your
hands that will cool them. 
   If your hands are in your lap, lay them be palms up
   Visit the restroom before entering a room or being
introduced and run cool water on your hands and dry them
3.  In preparation for a higher profile, pressure event,
do what you enjoy that reduces stress.  I commonly like
to do a long run.
4.  During an interview, don’t hesitate to take water
It will cool you and it also keeps your throat moist.  As
with many people a dry throat is a ‘pressure signal’ that
is connected to stimuli for perspiring.
5.  Avoid warmer drinks and caffeinated beverages, as
caffeine seems to increase heart rate.
6.  Consider carrying a dry cloth in your pocket that you
can use to eliminate moisture on your hands by reaching
in moments before.
7.  Although I have not heard of anyone using it, foot
can desiccate your hands quickly.

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Entrepreneurs. 5. VCs, Angels, Disruptive innovations
Filed under: Job Offer (Situations), Legal matters, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 9:53 am

Those individuals who desire to go off on their own,
join a smaller emerging venture or split off from
an existing organization or university are part of
a group called entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs often have a different “value proposition”
than existing organizations.  Disruptive technologies,
Christensen notes, separates existing and entrpreneurial
ventures.  Their markets and customers are different
and they expect that the advantages and cultural norms
will take hold over time. 

traditional classes in universities           MOOCs
brick and mortar retailing                        Internet commerce
manned military fighters                         unmanned drones

An entrepreneur is a class of innovator who can lead,
build strong functional teams and understands how to
motivate and sell ideas.

It might be useful to explore the nature and roles of
angel investors or groups and venture capital VC organizations.
A business management view reveals SIX stages:
 - seed funding, often by angel investors [will say more]
 - start-up funding for market assessment and product
 -  early production and sales funding
 -  working capital funding for product refinement and
new market introduction
 - expansion funding
 - bridge funding to “go public”
Interestingly, certain VCs can focus on different segments,
localities and industries. The amount of help, time
frames and expectations can be different and depend on
each situation.

Angel investors take large risks of possible significant
gains, for example, 20x to 30x gain over 5- to 7 years,
in a win-lose venture.  Angel investors or  groups need
to be accredited by the SEC.  Many will seek confidential
and proprietary information as part of due diligence.
The entrepreneur must formalize and monitor
confidentiality (as non-disclosure agreements are not
the norm).