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088: 15 Transferable Skills PhDs Can Use In Any Career

But I have no skills! At least no skills employers would be interested in!

Melanie Sinche
Melanie Sinche, Director of Education, The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine

As a career counselor, Melanie Sinche heard grad students and postdocs voice this concern nearly every day.  She looked at these talented scholars and saw the ability to think critically, analyze data, and solve problems. To her eye, these were transferable skills very much in demand outside the research lab.  Why couldn’t the students see it?

“I felt frustrated by that comment, and motivated to conduct a research study around skill development. I would argue that scientific training, by its very nature, lends itself to the development of LOTS of skills.”

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079: The Insider’s Guide to Industry – with Randall Ribaudo, PhD

If you’re an academic scientist, applying for an industry job is a bit like traveling to a foreign country.

First, there is paperwork.

Will they accept your Curriculum Vitae as is, or do you need to crunch it down into a résumé? And how on earth do you get through the screening software that filters through the 1000+ applications?

Next, there’s the language barrier.

You’ll need to communicate your qualifications in an interview that may last just a few minutes.  You might describe a key experiment you designed with six controls and twelve replicates, but what the interviewer needs to hear is that you have experience in ‘quality control and quality assurance.’ Don’t expect them to make the translation.

Last, there can be culture shock when you actually get the job and start to work. There are aspects of your academic training that you will need to un-learn if you want to be successful. You can either begin the job with a sensitivity to these new cultural norms, or you can learn them the hard way…

This week, we talk with a scientist who acts as travel guide for academics who want to make the leap into industry.

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078: Knowing When to Leave Academia – Feat. The Recovering Academic Podcast

Maybe you’re in love with science, but you just can’t imagine your life as a PI.  And maybe you’ve had a string of experiments fail and you’re just ready to put the entire ‘lab thing’ behind you.

You have a choice – you could leave academia and try to find your way in industry, publishing or some other career. Or you could try to revive your research in the hope that lab life will eventually improve.

But how do you know which choice is right for you?

What happens if you make a mistake?

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064: A PhD Internship Will Help You Get a Job

You might think internships are the domain of business students and undergrads.  You’re training every day in a lab – why would you need more experiential learning?

The short answer is that your laboratory training is a great internship if you want to go on to a faculty position at a major research university.

But what if you want to use your scientific training to craft policy and legislation in your state government?

Or what if you want to work with a Contract Research Organization and help shepherd new drugs through clinical trials?

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blood test

053: Why more testing from Theranos won’t prevent cancer

It’s a compelling promise: take a few drops of blood, and tell the patient what hidden diseases are lurking in his body.  If only we could have an early warning system for cancer, Alzheimer’s, or myriad other diseases, then we could treat them before they took hold.

This is the narrative of Theranos, a company that wants to make medical testing affordable and fast for everyone.  They’ve taken the notion so far that they actually publish a price list for hundreds of tests right on their website.theranos price list

Recently, the company made less favorable headlines when the Wall Street Journal revealed that many of the tests were performed on industry standard equipment, rather than the space-age technology Theranos markets.

The company’s troubles deepened when federal regulators announced plans to revoke the license of one of its lab facilities and to ban CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes from the industry for two years.

But technology and regulations aside, there’s a more fundamental question we should all be asking: is wider access to routine screening a good thing?

The math says no.

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