Industry training and postdoc programs

6/25/2019 1:31:21 PM

There is an established need for more resources to prepare scientists for careers outside academia. And, considering that the private sector now employs just as many Ph.D. scientists as academic institutions, transitioning to industry careers is one important focus of these efforts.  

So, what exactly do we mean by industry careers? We broadly define industry here as for-profit companies that focus on developing or providing science and technology products or services to benefit their end users. These industries can include but are not limited to agriculture and food sciences, biotech and pharmaceutical sciences, laboratory equipment and supplies, and education and information technologies.   

There are a number of ways to get relevant training and experience to prep for a career in industry. Many academic institutions and science societies are starting to offer industry-training programs. One example is the joint ASCB-KGI biotech program. The KGI also offers degree programs, such as the postdoctoral professional master’s program with more in-depth training to prepare scientists for transitioning into management in the life-sciences industry.  

You also can take individual classes on topics relevant to industry areas (e.g., regulatory affairs, patent law, project management) to create your own training portfolio and boost your business acumen. Such classes may be available online (e.g., MOOCs) or through your local university or business/tech incubator.

In addition to training, networking is key for exploring careers and making industry connections. You can reach out to ASBMB members listed in the membership directory who are working in industry and request to hold an informational interview to learn more about their career paths. There also are industry-focused professional groups (e.g., state bioscience associations) that host local networking and other events.  

Some organizations are taking this a step further and facilitating industry-mentoring programs. The International Center for Professional Development runs the SMDP Biotech program, which is open to underrepresented minorities at each degree level. Participants attend a five-day training course and receive one year of personalized mentoring with an industry professional. Additionally, the Professional Development and Career Office at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has partnered with CASSS to pilot a biotech/pharma industry mentor-match program.  

Of course, there’s nothing quite as useful as hands-on experience. Consulting as a subject-matter expert on industry projects is a practical way to gain relevant experience and build connections in industry. As an example, the Medical College of Wisconsin runs the Catalyst BioConsulting group composed of postdocs and graduate students who provide business-consulting services to biotech and health-technology companies.  

If you want to do a trial run to see what it’s like working in industry, there are short-term internship and fellowship options available. For example, Lilly has a one-year visiting scientist fellowship program for postgraduates to get experience working across various business and research units. And, Genentech hosts an internship program open to scientists of all degree levels.  

Another option for Ph.D.-level scientists is participating in an industry-postdoc program. To learn more, we reached out to Kate Bradford, assistant director of career services with the PDCO at John Hopkins Medicine, who we noticed had been crowdsourcing info on Twitter about such programs. In fact, Kate’s office is leading the way in providing career resources in this area. For example, they recently held their annual Finding the Right Postdoc week that included a series of informational webinars detailing industry-postdoc programs at various companies.  

Kate graciously provided us with a curated list of companies that she has heard hire for postdoctoral positions. However, she likes to promote only those programs that offer significant training and professional-development resources to postdocs and has further vetted this list for those requirements. For this week’s jobs roundup, we provide an overview of some of these bona fide industry-postdoc training programs with current postdoc openings.  

* Note: Where applicable below, we had to search each respective job board for keywords that included “postdoctoral,” “postdoc” and combinations thereof with a space or hyphen inserted between “post” and “doc” to find all available positions.


Weekly jobs roundup  

  • The biotech company Genentech offers a four-year postdoctoral program for scientists to engage across their research, pharma technical development and development sciences organizations. The program activities include an annual offsite meeting, onsite postdoctoral meetings and a postdoc seminar series. Open positions are advertised on the company’s job board. There are at least 17 current postdoc openings listed at the South San Francisco location. We also noticed one of these positions is within ASBMB member Wayne Fairbrother’s group in the Early Discovery Biochemistry department. This postdoc position will be focused on structurally characterizing protein-protein and protein–ligand complexes of therapeutic interest. See the posting for more details. No application deadline is provided.  
  • JanssenPharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson runs a postdoctoral program across its U.S. and European locations. The program offers mentoring support, learning and development opportunities and a cohort experience. Any current openings will be listed in the careers section of the website. The most recent posting at a U.S.-based location is for a postdoctoral researcher in digital phenotyping to analyze the role of digital biomarkers in relation to clinical outcomes. The position can either be located in Spring House, Penn. or Beerse, Belgium. Fellowship support is provided for up to two years with the possibility of extension. Check out the job posting for more information. No application deadline is provided.  
  • The biopharmaceutical company Pfizer manages a worldwide R&D postdoctoral training program. Features of the program include an annual postdoc symposium and career-building activities. Fellowship support may be offered for up to four years. We found at least 15 postdoc listings located in the U.S. on the Pfizer job board. The most recent of these is for a postdoctoral fellow with the Gene Therapy Process Development group located in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The postdoc will work on optimizing recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) as a gene-therapy vector and developing improved manufacturing platforms. See the posting for more info. The application deadline is July 18.  
  • The pharmaceutical company Novartis offers two different postdoctoral fellowship programs for early-career scientists to train within the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (Cambridge, Mass., or Basel, Switzerland). The NIBR Postdoctoral Program engages the postdoctoral community in activities that include scientific seminars, experimental-design classes and mentoring/leadership workshops. Here are short descriptions of each program.   
  • The Novartis Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for early-career scientists (within three years of receiving a Ph.D.) to learn more about the drug design and discovery processes. Participants attend an immersive training boot camp, have scheduled rotations in both scientific and business-related disciplines and regularly engage with leadership. Fellowships typically last two to three years. This program appears to run on an annual cycle; the latest round of applications was due this past May with the next cohort starting this September. It is offered at the Cambridge location. Keep an eye on the website for updated information.  
  • The Novartis Discovery Postdoctoral Fellowship pairs early-career scientists with NIBR research mentors to study fundamental scientific questions within a drug-discovery research environment. Fellowship support may be provided for up to four years. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until a position is filled. The program website provides a list of available mentors across various research areas. There also is a link to postdoc listings on the Novartis job board that currently displays four openings within the neuroscience or global discovery chemistry research areas. Overall, it is unclear if applicants must apply to an opening on the job board or if they can directly contact the PIs listed on the program website to express interest. Additionally, a search of the job board for postdoc-related keywords reveals even more openings across NBIR and at other Novartis companies/divisions. We recommend emailing the program contact to get clarification about open positions.    
  • The biotechnology company Biogen, which focuses on treatments for neurological diseases, manages a postdoc program that provides up to four years of support and includes career-building activities (e.g., mentorship, seminar series). Open positions are listed on the company’s job board. The link to opportunities provided on the postdoc program webpage results in no openings at this time. However, a search of the job board for other postdoc-related keywords yielded one opening for a post-doctoral research fellow in neuroimmunology within the Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Research Unit located in Cambridge, Mass. We also found senior research fellow positions that sounded similar to industry-postdoc type positions. Be sure to do a thorough search of the job board to find relevant openings. There also is an option to submit a résumé directly to the Biogen’s Talent Community to express interest in employment.

Further reading and resources  

Choosing your postdoc position (Science Careers)
Factors to consider for industry postdocs (J. Alan Goggins)
Four tips for getting an industry postdoc (J. Alan Goggins)
Job search toolkit & Career paths (JHM Professional Development and Career Office)
Pointers for those curious about careers in industry (ASBMB Today)
Top 11 alternative entry level Ph.D. science careers to skip the postdoc (The Grad Student Way)


Related posts  

Industry careers: application scientist
Industry jobs in orphan drug discovery
Tech-transfer jobs in the nonprofit research world
Industry careers: Medical science liaison

Donna Kridelbaugh is a contributor to the ASBMB Careers Blog. She holds an advanced degree in microbiology and is a former lab manager.   

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