NGC Graduates

An Interview with Tina Zimmermann

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Tina Zimmermann did her PhD in AG Lutz in the Institute of Physiological Chemistry. She defended her thesis in April 2017 after a helpful rehearsal with the NGC. Now, Tina is pursuing her career as a postdoc at Abbvie in the Neuroscience Discovery department. In the following interview, she tells us why she decided to leave academia and gives some tips to start a career in the industry.

What did you do after your PhD and how did you find your new job?

I started my new job in February 2017, directly after my contract at the University Medical Center ended. I defended my thesis 2 months later while working in the new position. The position was advertised in the Careers section at the AbbVie webpage, and I found all my qualifications and skills matching perfectly. So, I applied. After a phone interview and a whole day’s interview on-site, I was offered the position.

Why did you leave academia?

My goal has always been to make a difference in patients’ lives by finding and developing a cure for devastating diseases. In the pharmaceutical industry, you have the chance to integrate a highly diverse team, where everyone has their own field of specialty. Yet, all focus on one goal: to find new treatments. Academia gave me what I needed to be one of those specialists and I am happy to apply my skills where they are needed most.

What do you like most about your new job?

Pursuing my postdoc in the pharmaceutical industry gives me the opportunity to get a better understanding of how a therapeutic compound is discovered, developed and brought to the clinic. I am applying my knowledge about in vivo studies, immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy as a readout. At the moment, we are preparing a publication about our achievements and I am also involved in a patent application, which is very exciting. I like to work in this goal-oriented way and follow strict timelines. However, working in discovery can also be very challenging and frustrating when projects are terminated by a management decision. It is a fast-paced environment and I learned that change is the only constant in discovery.

If you think about your time as a PhD student, would you retrospectively have done anything differently?

I don’t think so. 😊 During my PhD, I was lucky to use a whole range of methods, which was very important to develop a certain skill set. I was pretty sure about my long-term goal (lab head in the pharmaceutical industry) and I started to search and apply for open positions early (1 year before the end of my contract). If I can give one advice, I would say that even if your dream position is not out there, try to be flexible and apply, even if you do not perfectly match all qualifications.

How do you see your scientific future?

I have a fixed-term contract of 2 years, which is almost over. My short-term goal is to acquire direct leadership experience during my next position, which is something that I am currently missing. My long-term goal is to be a lab head in the pharmaceutical industry (in discovery, development or preclinical safety), but I also have a plan B. I would leave preclinical sciences and get involved in clinical sciences, for example as a medical advisor. I am pursuing both options at the moment.

If you have more questions regarding the pharmaceutical industry and how to start a career in this field, you can contact Tina on LinkedIn or send her an e-mail (tina-zimmermann[at]

Written by Isabelle Arnoux; Edited by Radhika Menon. Feature Image: NGC/Design.

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