The NESACS Blog
From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development
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03/30/13
Trends in Technical Careers. 5. Superbugs and Evolution proofing
Filed under: Position Searching, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 8:37 am

The drug discovery business is in an “arms race” against
nature, Andrew Read describes in a TED talk I enjoyed
this morning.  However, this business treats the hard
reality of evolution  as “someone else’s business”.

C&EN has to its credit trumpeted the great advances
in Pharma and Biotech with therapies, vaccines and
improved hygiene regiments.  My sense is it loses sight
of the bigger battle in the multi-disciplinary world of
infectious diseases

We all have at some point experienced and followed
Alexander Fleming’s 1945 recommendation to take the
full dose of antibiotics to eliminate all of the bacteria
it targets.  The current day problem is that a new drug
resistant breed of bacteria have evolved which can not be
treated by current therapies.  [See a blog item talking about
Prof. Read’s focus.]

Interestingly, two factoids:
More people die from drug resistant bacteria than from
automobiles.

Medicines, despite recent C&EN described advances,
drive evolutionary “pan-resistance”.

As scientists in a multi-disciplinary world, we need to
open our eyes to this problem and proactively attack
our common enemy
– bacteria.
- identify and isolate CRE infected patients
- take necessary hand-washing and infection spreading
precautions and enforce
- measure changes in species and in their populations
- use current therapies more wisely [reduce over uses]
- study what works  [ie, malaria therapies]
- evolution management

ACS needs to join forces with other disciplines and
understand how we can support smart therapy deployment
and participate scientifically in evolutionary management.

1 comment
Graduate School Decision. What to do with my PhD?
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:45 am

It seems quite strange to me, being an industrial scientist-
manager-researcher, turned semi-academic, to hear my
colleagues talk about alternate careers in industry as going
to the “dark side,” so to speak.  It is a common attitude many
students and post-docs speak to me about.  [Their PIs often
say, if you go into industry or government or commercial
fields, you will not be able to follow your passions any
longer.  Your life will be dominated by profit-loss-risk
and your motivations will be “less-pure.”]

To give it legs, my colleague R. Bretz [an academic] shared
a blog piece about NIH offering “non-academic career
training
” for PhDs and Post-docs.  One of its pillars
is the writing of C. Fuhrmann as she relates to the biomedical
field
.  [but it seems many academics ascribe to this line of
thinking.]

Perhaps wiser perspectives on the matter of choice of
career paths, in many scientific, engineering and technology
fields are offered in the comments section of a “harebrained
scheme for science curriculum training
.”
People should resist the temptation of the “path of least
resistance” of going to grad school because I got good grades
in courses and seemed to like the free flow of ideas in an
academic setting.  They might want to take up, as we have in
certain programs, a realistic self assessment and tactical
action plan of exploring different career paths
.  It is more
than
“have you thought about going into business or consulting?”
   2   3   4 

It puts students in the self imposed position of asking themselves
without recrimination and with data of likely outcomes in terms
of life span paths, what does it mean if I earn my PhD in
biochemistry or physics or electrical or computer engineering?
In the view of academic career paths, it means needing to do
a post-doc or two over the next three to five years.  Then, tirelessly
working to develop your application package before similar
challenging grant-seeking applications, with tighter and tighter
funding scenarios
.
In the view of industrial career paths, there are different challenges
many of which are hard to predict.  Thus, the uncertainty dilemma.
Nonetheless, we have been trained in our careers to reduce
uncertainty by experiment and gain perspective by asking good
questions and make progress despite challenges and uncertainty.

Government service positions can be assessed, yet often involve
doing a post-doc in a government lab.  It seems to be a combination
of academic tenure process and willingness to change directions
as in industry. 

There are other entrepreneurial routes that should be explored and
paths not defined because they have not existed before and we will
be developing them.  Again, this is what the graduate degree program
has been teaching us if we have been paying attention.

Thanks for sharing, Rich.

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