Society News

ASBMB launches industry advisory group

Aim is to link industry and academic scientists effectively
Laurel Oldach
July 20, 2020

Young researchers in the life sciences who want to chart a career path in industry often feel cast adrift, according to Ed Eisenstein, because many professors have little experience with business hiring practices and professional norms.

Edward Eisenstein of the University of Maryland chairs the ASBMB Membership Committee.

Eisenstein, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Maryland and chair of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Membership Committee, is leading a new advisory group convened by the committee and society staff to help both in the society’s outreach to scientists in industry and in educating ASBMB members about possible industry careers and how to prepare for them.

“I ran a biotech center for Maryland for a dozen years,” Eisenstein said. “I discovered very quickly … that there was exciting science being done everywhere, not just in academia.” However, he said, that appreciation for industrial research is not widespread among his peers.

Eisenstein and other members of the Membership Committee see a role for scientific societies such as the ASBMB in connecting scientists who work within and outside of the ivory tower. But before launching such efforts, he said, the society needs expert feedback.

“Rather than get a group of academics in the room” to discuss outreach to industry, Eisenstein said, “we decided we needed some better inside information. … We tried to convene a diverse group of people: large industry and small; early career and later career — even retired; men and women; (from) different geographic areas of the country.”

Six ASBMB members who work at companies such as Genentech and PepsiCo signed on to help. Over the next year, Shyretha Brown, Mark Harpel, Lana Saleh, Melissa Starovasnik, Douglas Storts and Paul Wright will work to determine how the ASBMB can offer programs and resources of value to scientists working in, and contemplating, nonacademic research careers.

The group is considering several preliminary ideas. The first is to offer professional skills development for trainees in academia who hope to transition to industry: for example, offering training in science communication to potential investors, rather than fellow scientists. The society might also match student members with internship programs and work to highlight the career paths of successful scientists in industry.

Finally, Eisenstein said, he would like to see the society recognize some of the research he didn’t see until he began working with biotech companies: work that may become part of the patent literature instead of appearing in journals. The ASBMB could highlight this work with new awards or invited lectures at the annual meeting, and by inviting members who work in industry to share stories about their careers and research. If you would have advice or ideas for the new working group, please contact staff member Jennifer Dean.

Laurel Oldach

Laurel Oldach is a science writer for the ASBMB.

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