ASBMB careers blogger 2.0

9/15/2017 11:23:47 AM

I am excited to join the communications team at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology as the newest careers blogger. Each week, I will be bringing you updated job postings, training opportunities and honest career advice across the full spectrum of science careers.

I’ll have some big (closed-toe and heel, lab-appropriate) shoes to fill after all the great content provided by past careers blogger Diedre Ribbens over the years. As a sneak peek, I am looking forward to featuring Diedre in an upcoming post about her technical-communications career in the medical-device industry (stay tuned).

Also thanks to Angela Hopp (ASBMB communications director) for filling in these past weeks. If you haven’t checked out her recent posts like science jobs in the Washington, D.C., area, you definitely should catch up on this useful advice.

And I want to hear from you, too. Feel free to comment below, email me or reach out on Twitter (@science_mentor) to share cool jobs you find, additional career tips and topics you would like to see featured here.    

Building a Portfolio Career in Science Communications

This week the focus is on science communications, considering I am a little partial to this career route. My transition from working in a research institution to a freelance career was fueled by the need to have a flexible work schedule and my interest in helping scientists share their work with a broader audience. In particular, science communications is an ideal career route for any other science generalists out there who get bored easily and enjoy the challenge of mastering new areas of science.  

Science communications is a broad term that encompasses developing content in a variety of formats (e.g., articles, videos, graphics) to relay scientific information to a target audience (e.g., general public, other scientists, customers). Many companies and institutions do not have the budget for a dedicated communications team, so often this work is contracted out to freelancers who can provide the needed services.

Freelancing is an example of a portfolio career—a collection of part-time jobs with different clients and varying projects. The benefits are many with more autonomy, creative expression and work flexibility, but it also requires a great deal of self-management. Freelancing also makes a good side gig, which is a reasonable route to take and see if you like it (just make sure you check with your institution on whether you need to declare any conflicts of interest).

Seasoned freelancers may focus on a niche market over time. But if you’re just starting out, I suggest taking on a variety of projects to round out your portfolio and explore what services you can best provide. Examples of recent projects I have worked on include writing newsletter articles, foundation grants, issue briefs and communication plans.  

Most of my business has come from referrals (yes, networking pays off) or from people running across my portfolio website. If you are interested in science writing, a portfolio with published clips (typically three) often is needed to apply for jobs and internships and to join professional writing groups.

So naturally, one of the top questions I get asked is how to build a portfolio. First look at the work you have done so far. Any communication products like technical abstracts, research highlights and science outreach materials may be relevant depending on the type of work you are seeking.

If you are associated with an institution, try reaching out to the public-relations department to help write press releases. Or, let your PI know that you are interested in gaining more experience and volunteer to assist with grant proposals, reports or other projects. More than likely, they will be happy to have some support.

While freelancing certainly shouldn’t be free, you may need to volunteer to write for a professional society, industry/trade publications or other outlets to get started. For me, I got my writing clips by volunteering to write for the ASBMB Today magazine. My first published piece on “How to Compete with a Lab Diva” was a morale booster for sure.

There are other benefits, even if not paid, if you can find a good editor to help fine-tune your writing skills. Angela Hopp of the ASBMB took the time to be a proactive editor and taught me so much (and I’m not just saying that to get brownie points). And now, that volunteer opportunity has led to this amazing (and paid) careers blog gig.

Here are a few other ideas on gaining experience through training programs. I have plenty of other ideas in my head, so feel free to reach out or also check out this blog post on the topic of writing in the sciences. Comment below with any other opportunities you know about. Thanks!

Internships and Fellowships

You might consider participating in a science-communications internship or fellowship to gain experience and sample projects to buff up your résumé. Fortunately, most of these positions are paid decently (and I highly advise against taking an unpaid internship). Here are a few opportunities that I saw posted this week.
  • The American Society for Microbiology is hiring a public outreach fellow to assist the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., with developing an exhibit on viral zoonoses called “Outbreak, Epidemics in a Connected World.” The position requires a master’s degree in the life sciences at a minimum (Ph.D. preferred) with volunteer or paid science education experience. Applications are due Oct. 2, but the position is to be filled a.s.a.p. H/t to Erica Siebrasse (@ericasieb) for sharing this awesome opportunity on Twitter!  
  • The Open Notebook is accepting applications for its Early-Career Fellowship Program in partnership with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. During an eight-month period, fellows work with mentors to publish a series of stories focused on the craft of science writing and features of science journalists. This program sounds like a good way to learn what the art of science writing is all about. Applicants must have less than two years of professional writing experience but demonstrate strong potential. The fellowship is completed remotely and pays a stipend. Applications are due Oct. 15.   
  • The environmental-news outlet Ensia has established the Ensia Mentor Program that pairs up aspiring environmental-science writers with experienced mentors to develop articles for potential publication. Both mentors and mentees receive stipends for their work. Applicants submit story ideas or multimedia ideas on the website for consideration, and there is no deadline listed.  
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science takes applications for its paid Science News Writing Internship program on a rolling basis. Interns work for six months with newsroom staff to develop stories for both Science's daily online news site and Science Magazine. Preference is for applicants who have science backgrounds. Applicants should be at least college seniors or hold bachelor’s degrees. Applications should be submitted two months before the internship period. (See posting for dates.)


Certificate Programs and Courses

Another good way to get experience in science communications is through formal and informal training programs. Most courses and other trainings culminate in final projects that can be added to your portfolio or serve as drafts for publishing in paid outlets. Here are a few upcoming training opportunities and other resources to check out.  
  • The ASBMB is running an online session of its “Art of Science Communications” course in October of this year. During the eight-week course, participants learn the fundamentals of communicating complex scientific information to a nontechnical audience with an emphasis on presentations. The course is $25 for ASBMB members (and you can join the ASBMB here!). Applications are due Sept. 25.  
  • There are a number of free, online courses available through MOOC platforms like Coursera. One course that I highly recommend (and have completed) is “Writing in the Sciences” taught by Kristin Sainani of Stanford University. The course teaches participants how to write more effectively for both technical and general audiences. The next session starts Oct. 2 and runs for eight weeks with an estimated time commitment of three to five hours a week.  
  • The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas offers a wide range of online courses on data visualization, investigative reporting and more. The next course is “Crafting Data Stories” and starts Sept. 18, for six weeks. Participants will learn how to use a dataset to tell a story for the public.   
  • Also check with your local university or community college to see what certificate programs or other science-communication courses are offered through the journalism and other departments. I completed a grant-writing certificate program through the professional development (noncredit) center at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, which even led to paid work from an instructor who referred me for a contract.    

Donna Kridelbaugh is the ASBMB careers blogger. Connect with her on Twitter (@science_mentor) or at her website (            


Jobs in the D.C. region

9/8/2017 11:18:50 AM

While there are plenty of D.C. haters from coast to coast, the truth is that the metropolitan region has a lot to offer in terms of employment, culture and entertainment.

D.C. is, obviously, home to many government agencies that require scientific expertise. It’s also home to many educational institutions, nonprofits and biotech companies that need high-skilled employees.

If you’ve never considered living in or near the nation’s capital, just imagine being able to run down to Capitol Hill to attend a hearing that interests you, showing off your clever sign-making skills in a sea of demonstrators at the gates of the White House, enjoying Ethiopian cuisine, or attending the Kennedy Center Honors in person.

Take it from this transplanted Texan: What D.C. lacks in terms of Mexican food, fashion-forwardness and affordable housing it makes up for with four distinct (but not extreme) seasons, lovely parklands and trails, free Smithsonian museums and galleries, and architecturally charming neighborhoods and shopping districts.

Here is a sampling of jobs in the region.

Science jobs

AstraZeneca (locations worldwide) has more than 200 openings at its Gaithersburg, Md., location. Many of them are business-focused positions (marketing and financial). But there are plenty of research positions, including some at Medimmune.

The Carnegie Institution for Science’s headquarters is in D.C., but it has labs in Baltimore (near Johns Hopkins University) and at other locations in the U.S. Here are the most relevant D.C.-area openings:

  • Postdoc for Steven Farber’s lab in the Department of Embryology.
  • Another postdoc in the Department of Embryology.
  • Investigator, which is the equivalent of an assistant professor, in the Department of Embryology.
  • Staff associate to “pursue highly original and innovative biological research” in the Department of Embryology

The J. Craig Venter Institute (Rockville, Md., and La Jolla, Calif.) frequently has a dozen or more openings. Today, it has half a dozen science-related positions available in the D.C. area, including two synthetic biology research associate openings, two synthetic biology postdoc positions, an infectious diseases postdoc position and a genomic medicine postdoc position. See all the postings. Also, the institute has an internship program.

NantOmics (locations nationwide) is one of several companies under the umbrella of NantWorks. Here’s how NantOmics describes itself: “Combining DNA sequencing, RNA sequencing, and quantitative proteomics, NantOmics offers extensive testing capabilities that provide a comprehensive molecular profile of a patient’s cancer. Our proprietary analytical platform delivers molecular diagnostic capabilities that provide actionable intelligence and molecularly driven decision support for cancer patients and their providers at the point of care.” The Rockville, Md., location has the following openings:

REGENEXBIO (Rockville, Md.) is a clinical-stage biotechnology company that focuses on gene therapy. It has three R&D openings now:

Salubris Biotherapeutics (Gaithersburg, Md.) is advertising on Indeed an opening for a “scientist/senior scientist/principal scientist — analytical — mass spec.” I could not find a website for this biotech company. I did find this press release for a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this year at the company’s new R&D lab.


Jobs away from the bench

If you’re looking for a position in the policy/lobbying/cause arena, start by checking out the DC Public Affairs + Communications Jobs blog, which (full disclosure) was the inspiration for our jobs blog.

If you’re thinking about working for an association – like the ASBMB – start at the job board by the American Society of Association Executives. (Yes, it’s an association for association people. There’s an association for everything in D.C.)

Want to be a part of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology family? Check out the FASEB human resources page. It has posts from all the scientific societies under the FASEB umbrella. This is not to be confused with FASEB’s job board, which also is a good resource but not region- or association-specific.

The Carnegie Institution for Science is seeking an experienced STEM educator to train teachers involved in the institution’s high-school outreach programs.

Gryphon Scientific (Takoma Park, Md.) is a consulting company hiring research assistants with bachelor’s degrees in the life sciences. Here’s an excerpt: “As a Gryphon (research assistant), you will participate in projects focused on public safety, homeland security and emerging infectious disease. Most projects require analysis of publications in professional journals with the goal of extracting and summarizing relevant information.” The listing emphasizes that research assistants will use analytical and quantitative skills – but will do no bench work.


Federal jobs

Finally, if you wish to work as a scientist or other professional for the federal government (and have the patience for enduring a long application process), visit

Angela Hopp is ASBMB’s communications director and ASBMB Today’s executive editor. Follow her on Twitter.

Looking for more jobs posts or for other tips on how to search for jobs? Check out the additional posts by searching your area of interest or geography on the ASBMB Careers Blog. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback or suggestions. Leave a comment or reach out to ASBMB on Twitter or Facebook!

Northeast, Southeast, West

Grain of salt

8/31/2017 4:59:56 PM

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve reported my methods for digging up jobs for these posts. While it’s not really important where I found the positions, I honestly was just plain curious to see what kinds of offerings exist on different platforms/sites. This week, I dug into the job board hosted by Diverse Issues in Higher Education and was impressed by how many recent BMB-related results came up. But, upon closer inspection, things were not as they seemed. Several of the posts were for faculty and staff searches that already had been completed or abandoned. I suspect this could be the case with posts on many job boards, and I’m not giving Diverse a hard time. It’s a great publication, and, though I’m not a technical expert, I am guessing the old posts being presented as new ones has to do with automation issues. (Still, it’s annoying.) Anyway, calling all these departments was interesting, and it just goes to show that you should pick up the phone before getting your hopes up or wasting any time on tailoring your application materials. That terrific job that posted today might not exist after all.


Apply for these

Tenure-track structural biologist: Brown University (Providence, R.I.) has a search for a faculty member for the Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry Department. Excerpt: “(The faculty member will) pursue an independent, externally funded research program using structural and biophysical approaches to investigate complex biological phenomena. Special attention will be given to candidates with a focus on disease-related research areas.” Apply using Interfolio.

Lecturers: The University of California, San Diego, is accepting applications on a rolling basis (through June 2018) for its lecturer pool. Excerpt: “Courses in which lecturers are typically needed include undergraduate lower and upper division lecture courses in the areas of Physiology (BILD 2, BIPN 100 and BIPN 102), Metabolic (BIBC 102) and Structural Biochemistry (BIBC 100), Cell Biology (BILD 1 and/or BICD 110), Molecular Biology (BIMM 100), Genetics (BICD 100), and Microbiology (BIMM 120). Lab courses include Introductory Biology Lab (BILD 4), Recombinant DNA Techniques (BIMM 101), Biochemical Techniques (BIBC 103), Animal Physiology Lab (BIPN 105) and Microbiology Lab (BIMM 121).” Here’s the UC San Diego version of the posting.

Assistant professors: The University of Utah (Salt Lake City), Department of Biochemistry, is hiring multiple assistant professors to begin in fall 2018. Excerpt: "Our goal is to achieve transformative excellence in the molecular life sciences by recruiting innovative colleagues to our collaborative community. The scope of this search is broad, and includes Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Chemical Biology, Imaging and Protein Design. Opportunities exist for considerable synergy with institutional initiatives in: biophysics, cancer, inflammation/infection/immunity, metabolism, neuroscience, and translational research." Note: There's an outdated post on Diverse's job board for 2017 positions (see below), so make sure to use this one for 2018.

Postdoctoral researcher: East Carolina University (Greenville, N.C.), Department of Kinesiology, is seeking a postdoc to work in the lab of Carol A. Witczak. Excerpt: "The (postdoc will) investigate the role of intracellular Ca2+ and calmodulin kinase (CaMK) signaling in the regulation of skeletal muscle metabolism and hypertrophic growth." This post went up more than a year ago, but Witczak assured me that she still has room in her lab. Here's the ECU version of the posting. 

Research technicianTufts University (Medford, Mass.) needs a research technician in the Molecular Biology and Microbiology Department. This is an entry-level position for someone with a bachelor’s degree. The Tufts job description was posted Aug. 10, so I’m pretty confident they’re still taking applications.


Maybe apply for these

Research technician: East Carolina University (Greenville, N.C.), Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. Now, this job’s application period closed Aug. 31. But I talked to someone at the department and was told it’s possible the search will be extended. If it’s in your lane, I think it’s worth investigating this one further. Pick up the phone and see if you can find out who the PI is. They wouldn’t tell me! Here’s the ECU application site.

Assistant teaching professor (also called “lecturer with potential security of employment,” if you can believe that): University of California, San Diego, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. I’m putting this one in the “maybe” pile because the deadline for review was Aug. 17, and yet the posting says they’ll still accept applications submitted by today (Sept. 1) just in case the other applicants don’t work out. It’s useful only for those of you who have your application ducks in a row. Here’s the UC San Diego version of the posting.


Don’t apply for these

Assistant professor: Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.), Department of Biochemistry, vector-borne disease. I talked to a representative in the biochem department, and she said all three openings have been filled. I let her know the post had gone up this week on the Diverse job board and was still available on the VT job board.

Tenured professor and chair: University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), School of Dental Medicine, Department of Biochemistry. I talked to the interim chair, and he said the search is not active. So, you can ignore the post on Diverse’s job boardand the post (from 2014!) on the university’s job board.

Assistant professors: The University of Utah (Salt Lake City), Department of Biochemistry. The department chair confirmed that the positions advertised here are for this school year and already have been filled. The good news is that he also said the department is currently recruiting for next year. See above.

Research technician: Tufts University (Medford, Mass), Department of Developmental, Molecular and Chemical Biology. Even though this position was posted on Diverse’s job board just a week ago, it’s not available. However, see the Tufts research technician posting above. It’s in a different department but (I’m pretty confident) still available.

Angela Hopp is ASBMB’s communications director and ASBMB Today’s executive editor. Follow her on Twitter.

Looking for more jobs posts or for other tips on how to search for jobs? Check out the additional posts by searching your area of interest or geography on the ASBMB Careers Blog. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback or suggestions. Leave a comment or reach out to ASBMB on Twitter or Facebook!