April 5, 2019 Panel: Applying for Jobs in Industry

April 5, 2019
Panel: Applying for Jobs in Industry
Hosts: Janelle Kirsch & Rebecca Watson

Approximately 90 graduate students attended a panel discussion about applying and interviewing to industrial jobs on April 5th.

The topic of this panel was of great interest to students in the department and paired well with the previous CSIEUM panel detailing applications and interviews for academic jobs. The panel comprised of three Michigan students who recently accepted industrial positions; fifth years Rebecca Watson (Pfizer) and Devin Ferguson (Dow) and post-doc Dr. Kirk Shimkin (Janssen).

The event began with a short presentation by the panelists including a timeline for the application process, typical interview questions, and general suggestions. The rest of the time was open to questions from the audience.

Overall, the panel discussion was very well received and gave answers to a wide range of questions from the audience. In the future, it would be beneficial to recruit newly hired students from a range of departmental clusters, but we found this to be difficult this year due to the various start times for the industrial positions.

December 7, 2018 Discussion: From Science to Law: Careers in Patent Law

December 7, 2018
Discussion: From Science to Law: Careers in Patent Law
Host: Gabe Magallanes

Randy Micheletti spent a day on campus for a townhall-style lunch presentation to talk about careers in Patent Law. Randy received a B.A. and a M.S. in Chemistry before obtaining his J.D. Since then, he has been actively involved in Intellectual Property law for a number of different law firms and has recently started his own practice for business innovation, specifically to help small startups and biotech companies secure their IP portfolio.

For the lunch event, Randy spent about 40 minutes on a presentation that outlined his path to where he is right now. Randy also spoke on the many career opportunities that are similar to Patent Lawyers, but do not require a J.D. He spoke about Technical Assistants, Patent Agents, and Patent Examiners career opportunities. He also outlined the expectations for all of those careers (regarding hours, pay, etc.) and compared them to working as an actual Patent Lawyer. He stressed the importance of having scientists who are actually skilled in the craft to advise and teach the lawyers who are not technical experts.

After his presentation, there was about 30-40 minutes of Q&A that was very informative. Randy gave very practical advice and handed out business cards for anybody who had further questions.

Throughout the morning and afternoon, Randy had 7 one-on-one meetings with students and post-docs to discuss topics of the student’s choice.

All in all, there were 56 RSVPs for the lunch talk and 7 requests for individual meetings. There seemed to be a pretty high level of interest for Randy’s visit. He said he would be very happy to visit again.


October 26, 2018 Panel: Exploring PostDoc options outside your field

October 26, 2018
Panel: Exploring PostDoc options outside your field
Host: Ellen Aguilera

A recent article in Sciencemagazine highlighted the topic regarding transitioning fields between a PhD and postdoc. The article included the experience of several postdocs that have switched fields (article was handed out at end of event).With this topic as inspiration, CALC|UM was interested in having a postdoc panel at U of M to give their experience of transitioning fields. The panel took place on October 26th with three postdocs from U of M Chemistry Department. The postdocs were the following: Dr. Patrick Lutz from the McNeil group, Dr. Solaire Finkenstaedt-Quinn from the Shultz group, and Dr. Varun Gadkari from the Ruotolo group. The overall attendance of the event was fantastic with about 40 RSVP’s.

The panel style of this event gave everyone in the audience an opportunity to ask their questions, and time for each of the panelists to give their perspective. The panel was diverse in terms of their Ph.D. and post-doc fields because we wanted to ensure we had panelists that could align with many of the audience’s field, so they could relate to the panelists. With this, each panelist had a difference perspective on their experience of transitioning fields.

The panel started off with the question on everyone’s mind: Why a new field if you spent so much time in another field? In this case, the panelists agreed they entered a new field to broaden their opportunities, to learn more chemistry or chemistry techniques, and to be able to teach more subjects. Their perspectives differed when asked how difficult the switch was, and the audience appreciated how honest the panelists were. For one postdoc, the switch was very difficult because the chemistry and lab techniques associated with that field were completely new. He stated that unlike a graduate student, they felt as a postdoc they had pressure to pick up material and techniques more quickly and less time to learn them. One said that they learned quickly, but in the long run felt they are still catching up on some of the field’s fundamentals since as a postdoc you have less time in the lab than a graduate student. However, another panelist stated his switch was not as dramatic because the applications of the chemistry were different compared to his Ph.D., but many of the techniques remained the same.

The audience was also given advice on how to prepare for switching fields by sitting in on classes regarding the new field, reading some of the literature in the field, and lastly just being patient with yourself because it takes a while to learn. The panelists emphasized a general tip for preparing as a postdoc was to ask for the opportunity to help write a grant in your Ph.D. because you will need to have this skill as a postdoc or future jobs. In one of the last, but important questions asked were how do convince your future PI that you are worth taking on in the lab when you don’t have experience in that field? All panelists agreed and succeeded by following this advice that in your interview or application, you need to highlight that you have something to contribute to their lab because of your different Ph.D. field whether that be new lab techniques, but more importantly, a different mindset to help answer their lab’s challenging research questions. It was emphasized to tell your interviewer you are willing to learn many new things in their lab. Overall, the event provided a lot of useful advice on transitioning fields and allowed the audience to form their own opinions on whether this is something of interest based on the experiences of the panelists.

Tuesday October 9, 2018 Site Visit: General Motors

October 9, 2018
Site Visit: General Motors
Host: Justin Harris

On October 9th, CALC|UM visited the GM plant in Pontiac, MI to learn about chemistry in an industrial setting. The visiting U-M students participated in two short seminars that discussed the improvement of lubrication within cars and the chemistry behind fuel cells.

Afterwards, students toured the facilities and observed the chemistry research labs for the lubrication and fuel cell divisions.

Finally, the graduate students had lunch with the GM chemists to discuss things such as the daily life of an industrial chemist and how to advance your career in industry.

May 18, 2018: Bioanalytical and Chemical Biology Town Hall

Bioanalytical and Chemical Biology (Joe and Jaimeen) May 2018

 On May 18th, 2018, CALC|UM hosted an industry “town hall style” panel geared towards bioanalytical and chemical biology interests. The invited speakers were UM alums: Dr. Joseph Eschweiler from AbbVie (Ruotolo lab PhD graduate, May 2017) and Dr. Jaimeen Majmudar from Pfizer (Martin Lab postdoc, 2012 to 2016). They are both at an early career stage and were able to provide fresh insights about their career path while also sharing their own strategy in getting started with the industry job search.

With many senior graduate students and post-docs in the audience, much of the panel discussion revolved around the job search process. Both panelists applied to few job positions and suggested being very selective about job postings to allow plenty of time to work on a cover letter tailored specifically for that job. While the strength of a CV is important, the cover letter gives you the opportunity to showcase your writing abilities, which may not necessarily be lauded in graduate school, but is still a transferable skill useful in industry.

For instance, Joe shared his experience working as a fellow for UM Tech Transfer Office. In addition to being a great feature on his CV, his time as a tech transfer fellow helped Joe explore the perspective of a different career and cultivate his writing skills, which he currently applies in his role as a Senior Scientist in the New Biological Entities development group. In terms of the interview process, both panelists agreed that the phone interview generally focuses on a candidate’s technical skills and ability to talk about their own research whereas the in-person interview gauges the candidate’s interpersonal skills and ability to fit within the research group hiring.

One major takeaway from this panel discussion was the importance of networking, especially as you begin your industry career. Maintaining and expanding your network during the early career stage is equally as crucial. Both panelists acknowledged the fact that turnover in industry is inevitable but highlighted that the strength of your network will help you be ready for the next job, especially if you work in biopharma research hubs such as Boston.

Overall, this panel discussion provided some guidance into starting an industry job search for people in the bioanalytical or chemical biology fields and gave an insider perspective of skills that are currently in demand.

Moderators: Sugyan Dixit and Melanie Cheung See Kit

March 30, 2018: Translational Therapeutics (Jason Rohde)

Jason did about a 40-minute presentation to a group of about 30 students over lunch. He has a unique background that he went over, including his experiences with his advisors and how he arrived to where he is now. Jason briefly went over his undergraduate experience, and his transition to graduate school. He explained his interactions with his Ph.D. advisor (Erik Sorensen) and how his research progress was great, but he also ended up never publishing anything from his graduate studies. He then went on to talk about how he got a post-doc with Larry Overman, where he completed a total synthesis of Actinophylic acid. He contrasted the mentoring styles of his post-doc advisor and his Ph.D. advisor and how both were styles that were able to help him become a more productive research scientist. He next talked about the great mentorship he received as a Med Chemist at Ironwood, a small biotech company. After his stay in industry, thinking he wanted to become a professor, he pursued a second post-doc with John Hartwig.

Jason was thoughtful and polite in all of his descriptions and stressed the importance of picking an advisor. He explained how important it was to make friends and connections, because he essentially only heard of the position at the NCATS through a friend, which is where he went after his post-doc with John Hartwig and has been there since. Jason expressed his feelings on the toughness of grad school and how to leverage the people you know to push through the tough times. He certainly gave very good insight into the process of a Ph.D. and the importance of the advisor.

March 9, 2018: Panel on Thinking about Internships

Thinking about Internships

On Friday, March 9, 2018, CALC|UM hosted a panel on internships where two graduate students who had interned during the summer, and their advisors, shared their experiences and opinions. Amanda Dewyer (intern at Applied Materials) and Alex Nett (intern at AbbVie) along with their advisors, Professors Paul Zimmerman and John Montgomery, started the conversation with a brief introduction and followed by answering the audience questions.

The discussion involved a wide range of questions from how to find an internship position to how to communicate effectively with your advisor to be able to intern and manage time effectively to take time off of research during summer. The question of timing (when – during the summer with at least a term of the PhD program remaining – and how long – 2-3 months) took up quite a bit of time in the discussion about internships.

Although not represented on the panel, the two faculty members noted that internships have also involved joining a research group in another setting, usually outside the US, as well as internships where the visiting student was supervising undergraduate research students, as a scientist in residence, in the group of a faculty member at a PUI.

The take-away messages from this session where:

(1) internships are not for everyone, and the student and the faculty member both need to see the benefits;

(2) the non-research benefits were seen as just as important as the research benefits, from the perspective of understanding the new setting, applying one’s expertise in a way that might emulate the start of an actual job, and for the (huge) benefit of another letter and entree into a new network; the added benefit to one’s overall education and experience was uniform, with the strong caveat that not everyone reaches the point where doing this is the right choice;

(3) there is going to be no support for internships for young students – they cannot contribute enough; this came up and sank like a lead balloon – not enough expertise to be attractive to an external site;

(4) what is the motivational effect of knowing that possible internships exist on the performance of a graduate student who sees one as something useful?— does that student actually behave differently knowing that there is an assessment for being eligible for doing this desirable thing?;

(5) one size does not fit all, and (as with CSIE|UM and CALC|UM) the idea of having an internship “policy” is a good idea, and should be something that an interested student ought to bring up with prospective mentors as they are thinking about which research group they want, and how that balances in the decision-making about which group to join.

A brief follow-up survey from the current graduate students (100/234 response rate) shows a deep interest in internships.

Of the respondents, 13 had done an industrial internship, 19 had done research in another academic setting, 2 had supervised undergraduate research students in a PUI setting. The ratio of US: non-US locations was 2:1.

Interest in doing internships was 65:21 in favor, with 19 for an industrial setting, 34 for research in another academic setting, and 20 supervising research in at a PUI. The ratio of US to non-US interest was 2:1.

February 2, 9, and 16, 2018: Adobe Illustrator Workshops

On three Fridays, Feb. 2, 9, & 16, 2018, CALC|UM + CSIE|UM hosted a workshop series, taught by Ren Wiscons, introducing UM Chemistry graduate students and post-docs to fundamental tools in Adobe Illustrator.

The first of the three-part series was geared towards equipping students with the initial experience necessary to use Adobe Illustrator for the preparation of diagrams, figures, and posters.

The second Adobe Illustrator Workshop, Preparing Figures for Publication, was offered on Feb. 9th and was focused on importing various file types into Illustrator to prepare and combine figures in a common program.

The final workshop, Visually Communicating Scientific Concepts, was offered on Feb. 16th. As part of this workshop, attendees worked with Ren to convert ideas from their own research topics into diagrams for presentations, posters, and publications.

November 15, 2017: Site visit to BASF

November 15, 2017: Site visit to BASF

After a safety video, the morning session included an introduction to BASF, followed by presentations regarding the specific research group areas of the company. After the lunch and poster session, we split up into smaller groups to tour the pilot plants and learn about the ways that BASF can check the safety and robustness of a chemical process before scaling up.

November 9, 2017 – Drug Discovery & High Velocity Learning

A seminar and discussion by UM Chemistry Alum Dr. Beth Knapp-Reed from Glaxo-Smith-Kline (GSK) in 1706 on Thursday, November 9, 2017,  from 12 pm to 2 pm.

Beth did both her PhD and Post-Doctoral work at the University of Michigan under Professors William Roush and John Montgomery, respectively. Beth met with several faculty members on Wednesday the 8th and gave a talk to the Chemistry department regarding drug hit to drug candidate optimization. On Thursday the 9th, five the person subgroups of graduate students gave research presentations to Beth throughout the day. This served as a chance for Beth to hear about the exciting chemistry occurring within the department and provided our students with an opportunity to do some valuable networking.

Beth’s talk was on high velocity learning, which detailed strategies to increase productivity by way of implementing greater efficiency. The topic seemed to resonate well with the students and many questions were asked. Beth would like to return for informal interviews with graduate students at all levels, so that she can get to know people over the course of their graduate studies and recruit them to GSK. The opportunity for our students to do internships at GSK is also available. We should continue working with her to create more opportunities for students in the future.  About 20 people were in attendance.