UCI Affiliation: PhD Alumnus, Center for Complex Biological Systems
Current Position: Scientist, Quantitative Systems Pharmacology at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Princeton, New Jersey
Current Industry: Biotechnology
What is your current position?
The position is mathematical modeling of diseases to try to predict the best therapies.
What skills do you use on a daily basis in your current position?
[My position] is pretty open-ended. It’s developing mathematical models, and a lot of interacting with people. 30-40% of my time is spent in meetings. I’m learning about the drug development process and learning about immunology, which is the field that I’m focusing on.
Did GPS-BIOMED program activities enhance these skills?
[GPS-BIOMED] hit on important skills including: communication and the ability to interact with people. I mostly participated in the networking events. They would bring people in from industry or think-tanks or government positions. It was great to get exposure to all of the possibilities, all the possible career trajectories.
How do you feel that your PhD prepared you for this position?
It definitely helped build technical skills. For my PhD, I was doing a lot of mathematical modeling in my research and trying to figure out how to integrate those models into biology. I think GPS-BIOMED was also a good program for learning how the skills translated into industry.
What went into your ultimate decision to select your current position or career path?
[At the beginning of my PhD] I wanted to take the traditional path, which is teach and go for professorship. I was also considering academic postdocs. I was interested in doing research.
[However, after] doing what I was doing for six years, I was ready for something new. This position really offered that; it gave me the opportunity to really do something very different from what I had done before. It is a very research heavy position. It’s also a position where I can really learn a lot of new skills in terms of learning immunology, learning drug development, and learning some quantitative techniques.
How can trainees best prepare themselves for the hiring process? What do you think may have helped you in preparing for your job search?
During the hiring process, I learned that it was important to talk to hiring managers and recent hires. Before every networking event, I would try to look at the job postings on the websites of the companies of the people attending the event. If there was a position I was interested in learning more about either in terms of hiring or job functions, then I would print the job posting so I could ask about it at the event.
Companies are really interested in professional soft skills, such as leadership, communication, and teamwork. Almost invariably in the interviews I had, I would be asked to give examples demonstrating these skills. It’s very helpful to think about these examples ahead of time.
What advice would you give to participants who are new to GPS-BIOMED or who are beginning their career preparation?
If you really want to find a job in industry, then you have to prioritize that. You can make all kinds of excuses but it doesn’t take that long [to participate in career events]. Before I finally got an offer, I realized that [if I had more time] I could have taken courses to make my resume better, maybe courses to help me understand pharmaceutical development. Things like that would have been much more attractive to employers.
[For those interested in doing research in industry], I would recommend going to networking events. They should know that when GPS-BIOMED brings people from industry to campus, they are making it really easy to talk to people working there and see what it’s like working in industry.
They should make sure they’re educated about all [career] possibilities because you can’t make a good decision unless you educate yourself.