Industrial positions are often the description I hear
from PhDs and post-doctoral fellow. Honestly,
these professionals seek a position as a scientist or
engineer in business. That means ironically that
they need to project a profit motive or problem
solving motivation in their background and interests.
More and more chemists at universities
are filing inventions and working with
their university technology transfer offices.
A thoughtful article by B. Halford
(C&EN 5-25-09, p. 39) addresses
both the benefits (financial) and
responsibilities (awareness, recording
in notebooks and inventorship details)
of graduates and post-doctorals, in
addition to professors, in becoming
knowledgeable about patenting,
the patenting process and its significance
in the commercial world in light of the
1980 Bayh-Dole Act.
The article wisely points out that this
could be well worth the effort.
(in addition to listing patents on your List
of Publications, Patents and Presentations.)
This is another in a series of entries on post
doctoral studies as a step in careers in
Two notes of interest are brought out for your
attention. The first is a link to a broad discussion
about the pros and cons of doing a post-doc
as a step before obtaining an industrial position.
It complements previous discussions in this blog
about careers in pharma 1 2 , non-profits,
industrial R&D and academic careers.
The second note is part of a response to a
member who is nearing the end of a post-doc
at a Research 1 university and wishes to go
into an academic career. She has not found
success yet and has discovered her previous
teaching experience at a non-US institution does
not translate to experience at a US institution.
Her work has explored some new areas of
biotech but not produced many publications till
this point. Since she is keenly focused on an
academic career, her next option is to consider
academic post-docs which focuses on the many
elements of teaching chemistry. My suggestion
“There are teaching post-docs that will enable you
to separate you from others looking for academic
positions. They can be found at Boston University,
Trinity University (San Antonio), University
of Georgia, University of New Hampshire and
Tufts University. Look at each one to learn what
their expectations are for teaching, course
development, educational research, etc.”
A recent article was forwarded to me from ScienceCareers.org on careers for post-doctoral scientists
(”Careers for Postdoctoral Scientists: Beyond the Ivory Tower by Peter Gwynne; http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/previous_issues/articles/2006_10_27/careers_for_postdoctoral_scientists_beyond_the_ivory_tower
The article points out what one might anticipate as
one moves from an academic position to an industrial
one. It is not only for post-doctorals but for most
scientists in general. Let us focus on post-docs.
It is true that people with post doctoral experience
have a “leg up” on those without when applying for
industrial positions in certain fields, like pharmaceuticals
and biotech. Where the role of a post-doc can vary
from group to group, generally positions are more
research leadership oriented. This can involve
“supervising” some staff in the universities.
However, it is a general observation that this is not
like the supervision one needs to do in industry.
Many post-docs interviewing for industrial roles
wish to be a supervisor or a group head, when,
in fact, they have not had the breadth and depth
of supervision training that is required for industrial
roles. They have, for the most part, only had
some sense of technical leadership.
More often than not post-docs bring this mindset
into interviews and are surprised to discover their
post-doc role not being considered as managerial
In fact, when a post doc succeeds in being asked
to join a firm, it is quite possible that a supervisor
is assigned to assist in the transition to bring the
post-doc up to a fully contributing staff member.
It is not becasue of any lack of skills, it is because
of the difference in culture, pace, realities, and
practices. The Gwynne article introduces some
of these, using “quote bites” from a group of
The article points out two strong suggestions for
post-docs who wish to enter the industrial job market.
(1) strongly consider doing several informational
interviews with people who have done a post-doc,
interviewed and started an industrial position to learn
what it is like and if they like it. Consider this even
before doing a post-doc!
In other words, do a bit of long term career planning
three to five years out in time.
(2) have a good idea what it is like to work in your
selected companies. Prepare by, for example, using
your post-doctoral mentor for learning what the
company is like.
(A general observation is that post-docs don’t
make use of an extremely strong ally, their advisor,
enough when going for positions.)
For those who can take advantage, there is a useful
workshop offered at national ACS meetings that gives
a sense of many important things a recent new hire
should know early in their career. It is
“First Year on the Job.”