Tackling the job market — with a little help

12/5/2019 11:37:50 AM

By Courtney Chandler 

As 2019 winds down, you may be taking stock of the past year while turning your sights to 2020. If you’re unhappy with your current job or are just ready for a change, the new year may be motivation to start applying for other positions. The job application process can be daunting, especially if you’re trying to break into a field you’re not familiar with. Specialized advice may be something extra to help you land your dream job or transition careers.

This week, we are highlighting recruitment companies and other businesses that specifically work with life science professionals transitioning into the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Their narrow focus allows for individualized recommendations on everything from résumés to interview tips. Recruiters can even help match you with specific jobs in the field.

Why use a recruiter? You may not want to, which is totally fine. Recruiters can offer benefits to job seekers of all types and can help find jobs beyond online postings through their relationships with companies and businesses within the field you’re interested in. Although times are changing and more universities are offering career-development opportunities outside of the academic path, many scientists and researchers haven’t received training in professional development or career management. Recruitment firms can help you find that next-level management job or just give you resources and job listings in a new area, such as biotech.

When searching for a recruiter, it’s important that you team up with one who is working in your desired field and understands the kind of job you want. If you’ve been in academia for decades but want to switch to industry, find a recruiter who is familiar with the biotech and pharma fields — they’ll be able to match you with the jobs you’re most interested in and suited for.

Working with recruiters who are specifically focused on scientists and researchers has additional advantages. They’ll know how valuable your skills are and will be able to help clearly communicate your abilities to show this value to employers. They’ll also understand the job market and how make your previous experience applicable to that market.

Listed below are a few companies that may help you start or advance your career in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. While not everyone may want take advantage of them (some services come at a cost), they can sometimes make the transition into industry easier.

Disclaimer: I have not used these companies, and the job application process is different for everyone. The companies themselves have offered no compensation for being featured in the article.

Industry and biotech:

CrossOver Search — Founded in 2008, this company is dedicated to job searches within the life sciences industry. They’ve partnered with a range of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostic companies and medical device firms in all stages of growth, from startup to global. They help recruit for clinical, research and development, commercialization, and executive positions, among others. Their smaller size and specialization allows for a lot of customization, which may be especially useful if you’re moving into a new job market.

PharmaScouts — Co-founded by a Ph.D. holder, PharmaScouts prides itself as being company in which scientists recruit scientists. They work with biotech and pharmaceutical companies to recruit scientists at all stages of their careers for positions ranging from research and development to management. They also offer long-term services to help you stay on track and advance in your career in biotech and pharma. Even if you don’t use their services, their job openings page is frequently updated.

Strategic Search — This corporation is a recruitment firm that functions internationally to bring people into the biotechnology market. They’ve been active for over 30 years and specifically recruit for jobs related to research and development, engineering, scientific development and leadership, and technology. Their services are broken down in specific categories to help you move into the job market you’re most interested in and qualified for. The additionally offer recruitment services for those outside of traditional life sciences, such as virtual reality and information technology.

Momentum Scientific Staffing — Based in Chicago, Momentum partners with national pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to match job seekers with contract, contract-to-hire, and direct-placement positions. They offer many contract-based positions, which may be a good way to get your feet wet in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.


There are many recruiting firms and job agencies that provide broad services. Despite the fact that they’re not specifically focused, they can still help life-science professionals looking to join the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. I describe a few below.

The Adecco Group is an international staffing firm based in Switzerland that provides services tailored to medical and science jobs. Make sure to be specific about whether you’re interested in part-time, temporary, or full-time work when starting the recruitment process with them.

Aerotek has specialized recruiters devoted to candidates in clinical research, pharmaceutical sciences, research and management.

Job Listings:

If you’re ready to start the application process on your own, no need to delay. Here are some job listings in industry to get you started.

Courtney Chandler is a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University. She covers industry careers for ASBMB.

How to find a postdoctoral research position

11/26/2019 1:23:38 PM

By Elizabeth Stivison

If you're getting a Ph.D. and you want to stay in academia, you might be thinking about doing postdoctoral research. While postdoc positions vary, the main idea is the same: You are no longer a student but still need more training to become independent, so you work in a new lab for a few years to get deeper or broader expertise and develop more independence.

You can also use a postdoctoral stint as a way to change fields or model systems and to acquire new skills. Postdoctoral positions in many cases are a springboard for future independent research as a PI, but you can move into industry or other careers afterward, too.

Throughout my Ph.D., I always found the postdoc job search mysterious. How do people find postdocs? After talking to postdocs and PIs I knew, attending info sessions, and a lot of Googling, I've discovered that there seems to be three main ways Ph.D.s find postdoc positions: networking, cold emails and job postings.


My gut reaction when I hear the word “networking” is often, “Ohh, nooo,” and I’m reminded of all the times I’ve been awkward at social events.

However, networking can take many forms that fit different personalities. It might be the classic wine-and-cheese event after a symposium, which is often what comes to my mind for me. But there are other networking opportunities. Maybe someone stopped by your poster at a conference and asked good questions and you had a really useful conversation about your work. Or maybe after a seminar you got to attend a lunch with the speaker and you got along and found them really interesting. Situations like these could be the start of a future professional relationship.

The hard part sometimes, for me at least, is following up: emailing after or connecting on LinkedIn and not letting the relationship die out. But that part is important! A friend of mine met his current postdoc PI when he was a Ph.D. student at a conference. He told her that he was interested in her work, they stayed in touch over the following year as he finished his Ph.D., and then he joined her lab as a postdoc.

Networking can also be word of mouth. Your PI, a committee member, or friends at other institutions might know someone who is looking for a postdoc with your skills.

In all of these cases, it is helpful to be open with people that you are looking for a postdoc and what field you're excited about.

Cold emails

By “cold email,” I mean emailing someone you have never met or have no connection to. Most PIs will tell you they get cold emails all the time from people looking for postdoc positions. The advantage here is you can just look up labs online, find some that appeal to you, and reach out! The disadvantage is that it’s hard to set yourself apart without face-to-face interactions, and you don't know if they are even looking for a new postdoc. But plenty of people get their post docs this way. 

The advice that seems to come up a lot from talking to PIs, going to info sessions, and listening to postdoc Q&As is: follow up! If you don't hear back in a while, write again (politely). Show that you're not just throwing tons of mud at the wall and don't care what sticks.

But what to put in that first (or second) email? Every PI is looking for something different, but there are a few themes that come up a lot: Show that you've read their papers, understand them, and like the work! Tell them what you can bring to their lab, why you chose them, and what you hope to get out of working in their lab.

Job listings

Yes, PIs advertise their postdoc openings!

Sites like often have academic postdoc advertisements, and so do university employment pages and lab websites, though, unless you already have an idea of who you are interested in, this can be tedious. At conferences, sometimes PIs will advertise postdoc positions available in their labs at the end of their talks.

A benefit of applying to a job posting, as opposed to cold emailing is that, like some of the examples below, the advertiser often lists specifically what skills they are looking for, as well as what they are willing to train, and what candidates should be interested in even if they might not have the skills yet. This can take some of the guesswork out.

It seems worth mentioning that, like any other hiring manager, every PI is looking for something different. Someone might be laser focused on hiring a postdoc with a very specific skill set, in which case you are either a match or not! In other cases, a PI might care less about skills and instead be looking for a personality or thinking style — or for someone they simply think can flourish in their lab.

In other words, if you get turned down or ignored, it doesn't mean you aren't going to find a good position; there is certainly a good fit out there for you!

Some current postings for postdocs are below:  

Northeastern University in Boston is looking for a postdoc to study brain electrophysiology. Candidates should have related experience. The postdoc will receive training in cell-culture methods and will be expected to attend meetings and help papers and grants.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York is seeking a postdoc to study host responses to cancer. Applicants should have a deep understanding of testing hypotheses, an interest in cancer and immunology, as well as expertise in molecular biology.

Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is seeking a postdoc to study metabolic changes in cancer. Candidates should have a Ph.D. in biochemistry, molecular biology, cancer biology or metabolism. This posting emphasizes the need for critical thinking skills in addition to molecular techniques.

Elizabeth Stivison is a postdoctoral researcher studying mechanisms of DNA repair at Columbia University. She covers academic careers for the ASBMB.

Making science more accessible: science communication careers

11/22/2019 4:59:25 PM

By Martina G. Efeyini

This week, I will focus on science communication careers. A few years ago, I started my science communication career as a way to combine STEM education, communication and support for the next generation of scientists. This is the beauty of science communication: having a career that is flexible and exciting. A great science communicator does three things: makes science more engaging to the public, finds ways to support outreach, and curates content using a variety of formats to target audiences.

How to prepare for a science communication career

Build your professional brand

Science communication is all about being social: online and offline. Social media is your friend (mainly Twitter) and can help you find your niche. Follow @ASBMB and #scicomm to join the conversation. Get involved in science outreach and science communication activities at the ASBMB Annual Meeting. The #ASBMB2020 theme is Community Binds Us, which is the core of science communication. Think of your social media account as an extension of your professional brand — your digital footprint.

Create a portfolio

Create a website for your portfolio and/or start a blog to showcase your work. Your portfolio should include a résumé that highlights your education and science communication experience, links to your social media handles and an updated list of your science communication work.

Read. Write. Repeat.

Science communicators are digital storytellers/narrators who strive to make science accessible to all. Read the Chicago Guide to Communicating Science: Science Edition by Scott L. Montgomery and keep it as a resource. If you are interested in gaining more writing experience contact, Comfort Dorn, ASBMB Today's managing editor, at

Develop your science communication skills

Take the ASBMB's Art of Science Communication course and/or the Writing in the Sciences course on Both courses are great foundation courses and will strengthen your science communications skills. If you are a predoctoral or postdoctoral fellow in the biological sciences, apply for the iBiology Young Scientists Competition. This is an all-expenses paid multiday science communication workshop held at the University of California, San Francisco, where early-career scientists get the opportunity to learn skills to improve their research talks. Deadline: Dec. 16.

Get experience in a fellowship.

  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science (Washington, D.C.) has a 10-week summer Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship that focuses on radio, television, newspaper and magazine media. Must be an enrolled student (upper-level undergraduate or graduate student), postdoctoral trainee or have earned a STEM degree within the past year. Deadline: Jan 1.  
  • The National Cancer Institute has the communications fellowship for scientists who have some experience/education in science writing, public health or health communications. This fellowship is open to students currently enrolled in graduate school or recent graduate degree recipients (no more than two years). Deadline: Jan 3.   
  • If you are looking for an international fellowship opportunity, The International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Vienna, Austria, has a science communications fellowship (summer 2020). This fellowship focuses on communicating science through various forms and translating complex scientific research. Requires a bachelor’s degree in science or journalism. Deadline: Jan 11.  

Below are fellowships with the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and these require a degree received in the past five years.   

  • The U.S. Department of Defense has a 12-month research science communication and education fellowship at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (Silver Spring, Maryland) that focuses on visual communications and multimedia for therapeutics research. Requires a STEM bachelor’s or master’s degree and experience in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop and other related multimedia programs.  
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta) has a health communication fellowship that focuses on Type 2 diabetes prevention and evaluating multifaceted public health communication and marketing campaigns. Requires a master’s degree in a relevant field. Deadline: Dec. 9.  

Science communication job titles vary, so think about what type of role you want. Here are two faculty positions and one staff position at universities.

  • Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) is hiring a communications specialist in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health to support all communication efforts. Requires a bachelor's degree in a related field and interest in public health and policy.   

Science production positions focus on producing scientific content using digital communications.  

  • iBiology is hiring a full-time director of The Explorer's Guide to Biology(XBio) to oversee the production pipeline of all content to reinvent the undergraduate biology "textbook.” This position is based in San Francisco, but the job location is flexible for U.S. remote work. Required: a Ph.D. in the biological sciences and strong writing/biology educator experience. The deadline is Dec. 1 with an anticipated start date of Jan. 2 (flexible).  

Science communications and marketing positions focus on promoting information and engaging target audiences.  

  • The American Society for Microbiology is hiring an advocacy communications coordinator to work in the marketing and communications department to develop effective communications strategies and outreach to members. Requires a bachelor’s degree in science, journalism, communication or public relations.  

Here are other ASBMB resources.  

Martina G. Efeyini is a toxicologist, science communicator and STEM advocate for the next generation of scientists. She covers alternative-academic careers for the ASBMB.