How to transition from academia to industry - Tips from a Senior Scientist who made the jump
Written by Evrydiki Asmaki & Cornelia Rücklé
In our most recent career event on March 22, co-organized with the IPP student representatives, we had the pleasure to host Lina Vasiliauskaitė, who shared with us her experience in working and transitioning from academia to industry. The talk was attended by 44 junior researchers, 8 of which engaged in a deep conversation during the mentoring session after the talk.
Lina studied Molecular Biology and Genetics in Vilnius University and did her PhD in Molecular Biology at EMBL. After her PhD, she continued in academia as a postdoctoral Research Associate at the MRC Center for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh, UK. She then realized that her next career step should be to join a biotech company in a more translational setup, in order to work on a broader topic and have different opportunities (e.g. working in clinical sciences), bringing her a step closer to patients.
Hence, she applied for jobs in industry, including at STORM Therapeutics, a Cambridge University spin-out focusing on RNA epigenetics and drug-discoveries for oncology and other diseases. She explains passionately that she never regretted the transition from academia to industry, and by doing so being able to still do exciting and interesting science without worrying about resources and the pressure of publishing. Among many positive aspects of working as a Senior Scientist at STORM Therapeutics is the involvement with many people of different backgrounds such as chemists and bioinformaticians, as well as working on many diverse topics. As far as the work-life balance is concerned, Lina explained that there is a balance and flexibility, allowing employees with families to negotiate terms and choose to work in a more flexible setup. Nevertheless, moving higher in hierarchy comes with many more responsibilities that would require more effort and time.
All senior scientists interested in a career path in industry should carefully evaluate their career options and the available positions, work on transferable skills (e.g. communication, management, and cooperation), and be alert and active in social scientific platforms that could facilitate their transition.
Additionally, Lina explained the possible career choices that are available for a PhD graduate. Amongst them, as a postdoctoral researcher in academia or industry, as a scientist in R&D, as an editor or writer in a scientific journal, as a project manager or scientific program coordinator, or even a patent specialist. She highlighted that the major points to make an application in industry stand out, is to work on your transferable skills, deepening your scientific knowledge and communication, working on your organizational skills, and taking up opportunities for mentoring and teaching. She especially pointed out the importance of collaboration and communication within a team; all values which are necessary in all biotech projects.
A starting point in industry for any PhD student or recent graduate would be to apply to internships offered by selected companies, which are applicable for different levels of students (from Master’s to PhD). She encouraged participants to apply to positions even if their skills do not completely match the job advertisement or if they lack scientific publications. Last but not least, it is necessary to network and keep an active profile on platforms that could establish good relations with scientists from the industrial sector and could increase your visibility to your future employer.
All in all, all senior scientists interested in a career path in industry should carefully evaluate their career options and the available positions, work on transferable skills (e.g. communication, management, and cooperation), and be alert and active in social scientific platforms that could facilitate their transition.
We would like to thank all participants for participating in the event and the lively conversation during Q&A, and many thanks to Lina for an enlightening mentoring session. We wish everyone good luck with their future career steps and choices!
Written by Evrydiki Asimaki & Cornelia Rücklé; Edited by John (JJ) Fung. Featured Image: NGC/Design.