In a recent Science Careers forum thread, contributor ARN, who has a PhD and five years of postdoc experience, is soliciting advice on interviewing at biotech firm — ARN is particularly asking about being interviewed by employees there with undergraduate degrees and several years in industry experience. "Is it common in industry setting to consider [someone with] an undergrad [degree] with 5 years experience as equal to [someone with a] PhD?" ARN asks. In response, contributor Ken says that in industry, "it is very common to be interviewed by people you will be working with at all levels." Commenter Dave Jensen adds that "promotion in industry work [is awarded] according to results and productivity — the pecking order isn't always ranked by degree level." While ARN acknowledges no intention of appearing "arrogant," DJM warns ARN to be wary of trying to break in to the biotech industry with a "degree-driven attitude."
As part of The New York Times' special issue on graduate school, Laura Pappano discusses how, as the master's degree appears to be "the new bachelor's" in many disciplines, academia has begun "to bend itself to the marketplace." In the STEM fields, she says, "the degree of the moment is the professional science master's, or PSM, combining job-specific training with business skills." Carol Lynch, director of professional master's programs at the Council of Graduate Schools, tells Pappano that degrees are being "professionalized." Lynch adds that "at some point you need to get out of the library and out into the real world. If you are not giving people the skills to do that, we are not doing our job." This trend, David King adds, reflects academic institutions' new approach to address a labor problem. "There are several million job vacancies in the country right now, but they don't line up with skills," says King, who directs the unit that oversees PSM degrees across the State University of New York system. "We are bringing the curriculum to the market, instead of expecting the market to come to us," he adds. All things considered, Pappano poses a question of inevitability — at some point, "will the Ph.D. become the new master's?" she asks.
In a new InfoBrief report, the agency discusses growth in the number of minority students in enrolled in graduate science and engineering programs as well as in the number of female postdocs in those fields, among other things. [More.]
Working at the US Department of Agriculture allows Lisa Gorski to address some compelling questions about pathogenic bacteria that her academic studies largely left unanswered. [More.]
In a recent report, the US Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration says that throughout the last decade, "growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs." Further, the administration notes that "STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness" and tend to make more money (26 percent more, on average) than workers in other fields — likely because more than two-thirds of STEM workers have a bachelor's degree or higher, it says. Notably, the Economics and Statistics Administration, or ESA, says that those who hold STEM degrees tend to "enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM … occupations." In its report, the ESA also predicts a 17 percent growth in the US STEM workforce during the period of 2008 to 2018. Overall, the administration says that "although still relatively small in number, the STEM workforce has an outsized impact on a nation's competitiveness, economic growth, and overall standard of living."
Over at Blogging the PhD this week, Erika Cule says that between research concerns and work-life balance worries, there are plenty of things to stress graduate students out. Cule says the top three triggers of students' stress — "feeling frustrated [or] demotivated by your results and apparent lack of progress; experiencing high levels of stress because of your research; [and] being unclear about the next stage of your career," as a 2009 Imperial College London study found — are not so surprising. But no matter how pervasive the perceived stressors are, Cule says there are things PhD students can do to help themselves. "As well as looking to your supervisor for a realistic assessment of where you are at, seek support from your fellow PhD students," she says. By discussing shared concerns among fellow students, "you will probably find empathy if not immediate solutions," she adds.
Our sister publication Genome Technology's careers column this month also includes expert advice for approaching trainees or labmates that seem stressed out.
Over at Science Careers this week, Emma Hitt explores bioprocessing, which she says is "an expanding field encompassing any process that uses living cells or their components ... to obtain desired products, such as biofuels and therapeutics." Bioprocessing, Hitt says, offers a wide range of career opportunities. She canvassed training and careers trends within the field, and In spoke with a variety of bioprocessing professionals. According to Hitt, the Research Triangle Park, NC-area is "particularly ripe with opportunity and growth." North Carolina State University "offers one of the first undergraduate degree-granting programs specifically directed towards a career in bioprocessing" and produced its first graduates last spring, she adds. Michael Fino, a lead instructor of the Oceanside, Calif.-based MiraCosta College's Bioprocess Technology Program, breaks it down, telling Hitt:
And, according to Dartmouth College's Lee Rybeck Lynd, "key to the future of bioprocessing ... will be personnel who are qualified to run all phases of operations for bioprocessing facilities and equipment, at the research, pilot, and commercial scale as well as process-related aspects of research and development," Hitt says. "Bioprocessing needs engineers of various kinds [including chemical, biochemical, mechanical, process control, and instrumentation engineers], chemists, and life scientists," Lynd tells Science.
At DenverJobForce.com, résumé expert Jessica Holbrook shares tips for getting your biotech résumé into top shape. Holbook says competition for open positions in biotech is currently steep, and "there are many skilled candidates looking for long-term work just like you." To become a top pick in the industry, Holbrook suggests "making your résumé pop" by using it to demonstrate a "great understanding of your industry," as well as of the company's needs. "As you write your résumé, it’s important that you add information that shows you know the industry inside and out," she says, adding that it's important to "be as specific as possible in your job target, branding statement, career summary, professional history, etc. about your accomplishments in the past and what you can contribute now." Holbrook also says that on a biotech résumé, numbers speak volumes. "…While you’re busy wowing hiring managers with your accomplishments, take time to quantify your results," she says. In the end, Holbrook adds, a tailored document is key. "The more effort you put into creating a targeted biotech résumé, the more yours will stand out from the competition," she says.
A deep-seated interest in the business behind the science led Douglas Fambrough to leave the bench and take the plunge 'straight into the deep end' of biotech entrepreneurship. [More.]
The London-based charity Teach First — which aims to address "educational imbalance" in the UK — teamed up with several nonprofit institutes and trusts to "investigate what motivated and drives STEM graduates." By surveying graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, the groups found "personal satisfaction and fulfillment" to be the greatest motivator among respondents, followed by the influence of their friends, family members, and educators' opinions. Teach First et al. also found that "STEM graduates are least confident in the competency areas of leadership and self evaluation" and, further, that a "lack of experience is the main barrier graduates perceive will prevent them from successfully gaining a job in their chosen career sector, both for those considering teaching and those considering alternative careers." In a statement, Teach First says that the groups plan to distribute the survey results to the STEM community to "inform new, more focused thinking on how best to engage with STEM graduates and encourage them to pursue STEM related professions," though it has not disclosed further details as to how the groups plan to do so, and when.
Over at his blog, Prof-like Substance reflects on lessons he learned while working to land his lab's first funded grant. In rounding up reflections that "might be helpful to those in the process of chasing that first proposal," Prof-like Substance says that, "above all, keep making improvements and resubmitting. Don't wait for the response to continue working on the project and making progress with the data, because you may need that critical piece for the next submission." Because of this, he suggests that PIs should "have a couple irons in the fire" at any given time — that is to say that they should be submitting at least one grant per round. In addition, Prof-like says it's important to become all-but-immune to rejection. "Funding rates are down and there is a certain level of stochasticity to the process," he says, adding that "even a very good proposal is going to get beat up once in a while." PIs ought to become familiar with the agencies they're applying to and understand that "program officers are there to help," Prof-like adds. Overall, since a well-written grant simplifies the reviewers' job, Prof-like suggests using "subheadings to guide the reviewers along and allow for easy back referencing," and also to "make the important points clear," when paired with figures. The impact section on a grant application "tends to be the last thing a reviewer reads," he says, "so don't leave them on a down note."
In an effort to shed light on its array of family-friendly programs and policies, the National Institutes of Health Office of Extramural Research launched a Web page that compiles "some of the ways in which NIH helps our grantee institutions foster family-friendly environments for the NIH-supported workforce," OER says. OER outlines the ways in which NIH funds researchers taking time off for family reasons, provides grant applicants an opportunity to explain delays in productivity, allows early-stage investigators, or ESIs, "who have experienced a lapse in their research or research training during the 10-year ESI period" to request extensions of their ESI eligibility, supports investigators re-entering research after some time away with supplemental assistance, and "requiring child care at NIH-supported conferences."
At the American Chemical Society's Careers blog this week, John Borchardt outlines ways to "focus on your strengths and emphasize using them in your current job assignment to obtain outstanding results and recognition from your management." In order to earn a promotion, researchers must often prepare a sufficient rationale for their employers. To do that, Borchardt suggests that researchers first identify their best strengths and accomplishments in their current positions and consider the responsibilities of their target job assignments. "Determine the strengths essential in the new position. Then decide which of these skills you have demonstrated in your current or previous job assignments," he says. "For you to be a strong candidate for the new job there should be a substantial overlap in these two lists." Next, rather than rushing to put in an application for the new job, researchers ought to hone in on potential opportunities to showcase their top two strengths in their current jobs. All the while, Borchardt suggest that researchers "keep an accomplishment sheet that summarizes each of your accomplishments and the strengths you drew on to accomplish them." That way, when it comes time to ask for a promotion, they will have proof of their efforts at hand. "Your supervisor may inform you of additional things you need to do to qualify for your desired promotion of job transfer," Borchardt says. "If you are prepared for this meeting, you may be able to cite things that will convince your supervisor that you are indeed quite qualified for the new job."