UCI Affiliation: PhD Alumnus, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry
Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow at the Genomics Institute of Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) in San Diego, California
Current Industry: Pharmaceuticals
What do you like most about your current position?
GNF is a great place to do a postdoc because it’s a unique mix of an academic and industry training experience. The environment is fantastic, there’s lots of resources here and lots of great people (and they’re all very accessible). I’m getting exposure to the industry side of things (i.e. drug discovery), but I also have a reasonable amount of freedom to explore what I want to and ask the scientific questions that interest me.
What skills do you use on a daily basis in your current position?
Being able to pick up things that are new – especially by seeking out the people that can help you and being able to establish those relationships. There’s so much expertise here that the best way of getting things done is to find the person/people that can teach or help you and making those contacts. Everybody has their own team but it’s very collaborative. Being able to plan and propel your own research project is also a must, and also being able to manage your time well. There’s a lot more meetings to attend, so being able to balance with getting your work done is important.
Did GPS-BIOMED program activities enhance these skills?
I did SciPhD, which was really helpful. [The program] helps to reframe some of the skills that grad students acquire and don’t really think about, which helps to give confidence that you can succeed in an industry setting. I think it’s also just nice to hear that the things you’re working on in grad school really are things you can translate to a different environment.
I also went to a lot of the career talks. The ones I found particularly helpful were from people from industry who talked a lot about misconceptions. A lot of people don’t really know what a postdoc in industry is like, how it’s different from academia and what to expect. So, that was really, really helpful for me.
How did you obtain your position? Which people or experiences helped more than others?
Having an advocate (either inside the company you want to join, or even externally) who can go out of their way to vouch for you goes a long way. You really want to differentiate yourself somehow and make it easier for the hiring manager to notice your resume. I found the position posted online and submitted my resume, but my PI (David Fruman) also reached out to some of his connections at the company to see who the hiring manager was. David went out of his way to forward my resume directly to this person and vouch for my capabilities and this really got me noticed. The turnaround time for hiring in industry is very quick (I was offered this position within a week or two of getting that first screening call), so I’d definitely recommend preparing your job talk and knowing what to expect from the process before starting!
What went into your ultimate decision to select your current position or career path?
Honestly, I hadn’t fully thought about what I was going to do after grad school until David asked me. I knew I wanted to stay in research, but I had assumed I’d just go do a postdoc either academia or industry since those are really the only options. I didn’t know anything about the differences between the two, but David was the one who told me that an industry postdoc might be a good fit for me based off my interests. This is also around the time when GPS-BIOMED started at UCI, so it was perfect timing for me to really start exploring the differences.
What advice would you give to participants who are new to GPS-BIOMED or who are beginning their career preparation?
To keep an open mind and to talk to as many people as you can. There’s so many careers out there and so much information that many people just don’t know or don’t even think to ask/learn about. Seek out mentors – people that know you and what you want. Be open to hearing about what they think and about other careers and opportunities that might be a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, especially for informational interviews. People are a lot more helpful, and willing to be helpful, than you might expect.