Scientists Simplifying Science

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Czuee Morey

Czuee Morey has 3 articles published.

PhDCSG Consulting Club – How it all began and future plans

in ClubSciWri/Entrepreneurship by

Editor’s note- Ever thought of Consulting as a career option? Look no further, PhDCSG has its very own Consulting Club, where members can connect and solve case studies as well as learn about business. In this article, Czuee Morey writes about how the Club was formed, what it has achieved so far and what its outlook is, for the future. It is a wonderful example for the potential PhDCSG holds in aiding career choices through the creation of hubs, by providing resources and connecting those with common interests. – Roopsha Sengupta

If you are a PhD who is tired of working alone on your experiments and would rather work in teams, travel extensively and be paid well for your hard work, consulting might be just the right career for you! Consulting is one of the most sought after options to transition out of academia by graduates from various disciplines. One of the major reasons for this trend could be that unlike other industry jobs, getting hired as an entry-level consultant does not require much experience. Also the exit options after consulting can be fabulous considering the solid experience, growth and exposure to varied fields gained in consulting. However, getting a consulting job does require demonstrating that you are good at analytical and quantitative skills as well as have a basic understanding of business, all of which is usually assessed through ~30-min case interviews.

Consulting clubs have become a regular feature at many universities. They provide PhDs and postdocs with easy access to consulting resources and fellow graduates to practice cases. Many times these consulting clubs also provide consulting services to clients at reduced prices, which help the members gain valuable experience. However, many universities around the world still do not have such consulting clubs. Moreover, PhDs who have already graduated from University might not have access to clubs at their University any longer.

PhDCSG came up with the idea to launch an online consulting club so that its members could have an easily accessible solution to prepare for consulting or simply to learn more about business. The PhDCSG group itself has been a major success in connecting PhDs worldwide through its online platform, with over 8000 members. The consulting club arose as an extension of this platform where the members connect with each other via social media and solve cases using audio/video conferencing. Mayur Vadhvani and I started the club in March 2017 and Ananda Ghosh has provided us constant support throughout. We saw a lot of response from participants in the beginning. However, as the case studies progressed many members dropped out due to time constraints or simply because they realized they were not interested in consulting. We eventually had 20 committed members who are still with us. We had another intake in the middle of the year, and are currently operating with 40 members. Parthiban Rajasekharan and Shruti Srinivasan have recently joined us to help run the club.

So, what is exactly a case interview and how is it used to evaluate candidates? In a case interview ‘the applicant is presented with a challenging business scenario that he/she must investigate and propose a solution to. After the applicant is given information about the case, the applicant is expected to ask the interviewer logical questions that will help the applicant understand the situation, probe deeper into relevant areas, gather pertinent information and arrive at a solution or recommendation for the question or situation at hand’ according to Wikipedia. Although this might sound relatively easy, many intelligent candidates with top grades fail case interviews due to lack of frameworks and problem structuring. Eventually, it is not only important that you get the right answer, but also what steps you take to solve it and if you give enough confidence to the interviewer that you can follow such a structured approach every single time. So, practice is crucial!

We have structured the PhDCSG consulting club so as to simulate the actual case interview process. The participants work in pairs, where one person acts as an interviewer and another one as interviewee for the first case study and the task exchanges for the next case study and so on. For every case, we send the interviewer all the information for a case to guide the interviewee. The interviewee would ideally get the problem case from the interviewer on the day they decide to solve the case. While solving the case, the interviewee is expected to ask several questions, and the interviewer is supposed to guide them. The participants were provided the following pointers by the PhDCSG club, in order to work on the cases. After a case study is solved, the interviewer gives feedback (we have this automated thanks to Google forms!) on a number of factors such as calculation skills, hypothesis-driven approach, case structuring, communication, case conclusion as well as appearance and attitude of the interviewee. The interviewee also gives us feedback about the case – if it was easy peasy, moderate or ninja-level difficult!

The group also provides support besides case studies. We have created an FB group where all the members can interact and share articles, tips and have discussions about business terminologies and case studies. We had also organized a Facebook live interview on the main PhDCSG group by a consultant, Anandaroop Dasgupta, who shared his experience as a consultant and tips on preparing for interviews.

We have had a good response from the participants so far. Many of them were struggling to prepare for consulting all by themselves and were happy to find this resource. It has also benefited members who were not looking for a consulting job but wanted to learn more about business. Syam Anand, who is an IP consultant quoted, “The case studies I did with other members in the club, sharpened my business data analytical skills and more importantly, helped me to understand key pieces of the puzzle and find and seek them when they are missing to complete a case. Budding entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the case studies in the club. Since these activities benefit critical thinking abilities needed/used for problem solving, one will also get insights into how companies/organizations operate and how the balance sheets guide all of the decisions made. This will also benefit those who are not actively looking for consulting jobs as you will understand your own jobs better, irrespective of your technological area and nature of your organization as the case studies themselves are very diverse”. Since, I also participate in the case studies besides helping to organize it, I have experienced a lot of benefits myself. The regular weekly case studies ensure that I keep on track with my practice in spite of a busy schedule! It helps to overcome the complacency of reaching out to partners for practice and keeps me on my toes even if I don’t have an interview to prepare for. The platform also gives an opportunity to virtually meet fellow PhDs who are also struggling to find a job in business/consulting. Somdatta Karak, who was a postdoc in Germany and later moved to India, while keeping up with all the consulting assignments throughout her transition, explains it as follows – “The club helped me to invest time discussing the prospects of consulting with peers with similar interests or sharing the geographical location of interest. It helped me network with some wonderful people in addition to practicing case studies together.”

Such interactions with fellow PhD students proved to be very useful for Saikat Nandi, when he was looking for team members to participate in a business case competition in Boston. Through an email sent to the consulting club he found Parthiban Rajasekaran. Their team was selected as one of the top five, after solving a business case within a mere 10 days. Parthiban gave a recap of the event later to the group, “Essentially, you have 10 days to solve the case and present your analysis and recommendation in a Powerpoint slide deck. So, our team got selected for the top 5, which by itself is a great result as none of us had any previous experience. Most of the judges look for three things: (1) Did you do a thorough analysis of the case? (2) What is the kind of analysis (primary or secondary research) you did and what is the logic behind your framework of analysis? (3) What are your recommendations and how are they going to help your clients? It goes without saying that I am thankful for the PhDCSG consulting group. It was that email from Saikat to the PhDCSG club that made me sign up for this experience. Now we know what is expected in case competitions and we can help you if any of you are planning to go for one.”

The organizers of the consulting club (Mayur Vadhvani, Parthiban Rajasekharan, Shruti Srinivasan and I) are doing our best to make sure the club runs smoothly and that the members benefit from it. We are working on a voluntary basis, which sometimes leads to organizational delays. However, we always encourage the members to continue their case practice and reach out to other members in the group. In the future, we are planning to have more interactions with consultants to gain a better understanding of consulting in general and to help the members to have case practices with real consultants before an actual interview. Since the members have asked for greater interactions within the group, an online business case competition is also in the pipeline.

If you are a PhD and would like to learn more about consulting, check out this link for what a consulting interview looks like and also visit the Preplounge website. We also recommend going through the case interview introductory videos by Victor Cheng. This has 12 parts and is roughly 4.5 hours in total. If you find that interesting and would like to participate in the club, drop us an email at csg.consultingclub@gmail.com. We would also love to hear from consultants who can help us with guidance based on their consulting experience, case studies, and with the upcoming business case competition in the club.

About Czuee Morey:

Czuee is currently exploring applications of digital technologies in healthcare as a market intelligence analyst at Debiopharm in  Lausanne, Switzerland. She has a PhD in protein biophysics and a broad experience in various other fields such as genomics analysis. Equipped with business skills and an entrepreneurial mindset, she is looking for opportunities to bring innovative healthcare solutions to patients. Besides her work, she is involved in organizing the PhDCSG consulting club and Life science networking group in Switzerland, and is an amateur webcomic artist and DJ.

Editors: Roopsha Sengupta, PhD edited and Paurvi Shinde, PhD proofread the article.

Roopsha is a freelance manuscript editor and is trying to break into a suitable scientific editing and writing role. She did her PhD in the Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna and postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge UK, specializing in the field of Epigenetics. Besides science and words, she enjoys spending time with children and singing.

 

Paurvi is a Post Doc Fellow at Bloodworks Northwest in Seattle, where she’s studying the mechanism of how alloantibodies are formed against the non-ABO blood group antigens. Apart from doing bench research, she loves editing scientific articles, to help convey the message behind it in a clear and concise form.

 

Cover image: Unsplash

Infographic: PhDCSG Consulting Club


The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (A US Non-Profit 501(c)3, PhDCSG is an initiative of the alumni of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The primary aim of this group is to build a NETWORK among scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs).

This work by Club SciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

How to create and measure innovation?

in That Makes Sense by

“Innovation” is THE buzz-word of today!

Everyone wants to label their companies as innovative, hire innovative people, create processes to induce innovation and be the next big innovator! But how does one really ‘innovate’ and how do we quantify innovation?

Sarah Kaplan, professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto came up with an interesting answer that you might not have expected.

It is generally thought that brain storming with people from diverse knowledge backgrounds is a great way to come up with new ideas. In their paper, Kaplan and colleagues show that while combining different disciplines does lead to novel ideas, there is another equally important way that innovation works. In-depth knowledge in a field is required to understand the anomalies within the field, which can then lead to novel ideas.

“We find that, counter to theories of recombination, patents that originate new topics are more likely to be associated with local search, while economic value is the product of broader recombinations as well as novelty.”

Interestingly, breakthrough innovations were more likely to result from searches within a domain but economic value was a result of novel innovations arising from a combination of diverse ideas. However, such patents were very rare making up only 1% of the dataset.

“Patents that were both novel and had economic value were the most valuable. And that was only about 1% of the total patents.”

At this point, most researchers must be nodding in agreement “I had thought so”. What was the most surprising thing for me, though, was the way they measured “novelty”. In scientific literature as well as the patent world, innovation is measured as a direct function of citations. Even though most of the scientific community has rejected the idea of the journal impact factor as a way to measure the quality of a scientific article, the next best measure employed is the number of citations for the article itself. Thus, a patent or scientific paper that get highly cited is considered superior and thus a breakthrough innovation.

“What we found in our study is, in fact, that most of the patents that do get highly cited are not necessarily novel.”

In this study, the authors used a different metric to examine patents from the field of nanotechnology. A computer science and natural language processing (NLP) method called topic modeling that uses “a bag of words, a body of text, …and it infers from that body of text by the co-location of all the different words, what are the key underlying topics in the data”  was employed to determine if novel ideas were being developed. Interestingly, the patents that had high level of citations were not necessarily novel.

This is an interesting revelation, and something that scientists should also consider while judging the quality of literature. The entire reward system in science is largely based on publications and the feedback from citations. This generates ‘hot’ topics that many scientists work on, read about and cite, thus creating a research bubble. In such an environment, other fields of potential interest have difficulty to gain exposure and citations. Researchers flock towards hot topics, which can hinder the overall progress of science.

This generates ‘hot’ topics that many scientists work on, read about and cite, thus creating a research bubble. In such an environment, other fields of potential interest have difficulty to gain exposure and citations.

Kaplan and her group plan to delve deeper into how innovation works by studying novel ideas in different fields. It would be interesting to see what insights they can bring!

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About the author: Czuee has a PhD from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and Masters from IIT Bombay. She has previously worked at IISc-Monsanto collaboration and as a patent analyst at Evalueserve. Apart from her research on proteins involved in brain signalling and diabetes, she is interested in scientific communication (czuee.wordpress.com), entrepreneurship and runs a webcomic (http://gradschoolmuse-icals.thecomicseries.com/).

Photo source: Forbes.com

Creative Commons License
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Reading scientific literature – for dummies

in That Makes Sense by

If you are interested in the latest science breakthroughs, there is some good news for you. Be it to know more about a disease your mother has, to write a newspaper article about the latest scientific discovery, or to look for the latest research on a topic of undergraduate study; scientific literature is increasingly becoming available at your fingertips!
Recently, there has been a significant push in support of open access publishing in the scientific field. This “unrestricted online access to peer-reviewed scientific research”, as Wikipedia defines it, is supposed to create a revolution in scientific communication. The main argument in its favour is that research done with tax-payer’s money should be available to the public for free, and the internet has greatly made open access possible.
However, an important question that this movement has ignored, is this – how would the general public be able to understand, make sense of, and utilize this information in the right way? Scientific literature is often detailed and boring, with scientific jargon scattered all over, that only scientists from a specific field are able to understand. It’s a running joke between researchers that reading a scientific paper is the best cure for insomnia! So, how would a lay person be able to understand this information even if its made available to him?
If it helps, a paper on amygdala anatomy is as difficult to understand for me as it is for you, even though I am at the end of my PhD in life sciences – simply because I am in a completely different field. However, with some basic knowledge of science, you can actually manage to understand the scientific discoveries in a particular field if you have some time and patience.
In this post, I have given some pointers to simplify navigating through the ocean of scientific literature with very little or no knowledge of the field.

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Don’t let the jargon scare you!

Sample this –

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Scientists are notorious for using the most complex-sounding tongue-twisters in their papers. But don’t let it deter you. It would help to have a medical dictionary or Wikipedia handy, to look up terms you don’t understand. The best papers are the ones where each term is introduced and explained properly. Also, try to understand that commonly used words have a slightly different meaning in scientific literature.

Where to look for an article?
For biomedical articles you can search on Pubmed, the repository of the NIH. A search for “alzheimer’s” gives all articles with the word anywhere in the paper. For more specific searches, you can use “alzheimer’s [Title/Abstract]”. You can also use other parameters for searching, like Author and date of publication and Boolean operators like AND, OR, NOT. Google scholar also gives good results.

If the article you are searching for is not available for free, try your nearest University library. Most Universities have access to paid journals. There are some online torrents, sites and even a Facebook page where academicians share papers that they have access to.

Start with reviews
Reviews combine the results from several articles to give a good overview of the field. If you are new to the field or want information in layman terms, reviews are generally a good starting point. Even as a researcher, reviews are the best place to start before we dive into the huge pool of literature on a topic. The downside is that you might not learn about fresh research that got published in the last few months. If a review seems too difficult, start with a textbook entry. There are many free books available on NCBI Books.

How to read a journal article
A research paper has several sections, generally arranged in a particular order – Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion and Conclusion. However, if you want to find information quickly without delving into all the details, you can follow this order:

Read the Abstract first and the Conclusion – this will give you a quick idea about what the paper is all about, and the highlights of the research presented.

Then read the Introduction and Discussion – This will give you an idea of previous research in the field. The ‘Introduction’ introduces the topic, and cites related literature. The ‘discussion’ explains the implications of the research carried out by the authors, and how it relates to the currently available knowledge.

And finally the Results section, which details the experiments performed and the exact outcome of all experiments. If you must read this section, start with analyzing each figure and table, and read their captions. Try to draw your own conclusions, and mark the irregularities in the data. Be critical of what is represented in the figures and what is claimed in the text, and if they indeed match!

Keep in mind the basic rules of statistics when analyzing data:

  • What information is represented on the X and Y-axes on graphs? Then think about what the data really indicates.
  • What is the sample size used for the study? In most cases, the bigger the sample size, the more reliable the results.
  • Is there any apparent bias in the sample? For example, did they consider only Caucasians for the study. In that case, is it still relevant for Asians?
  • Are there multiple experiments pointing to the same conclusion?

The Methods section is best left to a trained researcher in the field, and is generally not required to be understood to know the implications of the research.

Understand the general consensus in the field
If you are trying to find out if product x causes cancer, try to read several articles on the topic. This will give you an idea of what the best researchers in the field think about the topic. This way, you can also learn about different perspectives – one researcher might claim it causes cancer, while another might show it causes cancer only under certain conditions. Also, make sure that the articles are not from the same laboratory. For Biomedical literature, you can check the last author(s), who is generally the Principal Investigator (or Professor), and their University affiliations. If the articles published by different authors at different universities have similar conclusions, it shows that the research is reproducible and there is a consensus.

Impact factor is not the best indicator of quality
This is a mistake that I made until I was a Masters student! The impact factor of a journal indicates how well-cited the articles from this journal are. However, the most highly rated journals are like newspapers looking for the most sensational news. Although, most research published here is of good quality, it is best not to take it as the absolute truth. Instead, try to look for how well-cited and well-researched the article itself is. When you read an article in Pubmed, you can see how many times this article has been cited by others.

Take it with a pinch of salt
Scientific research is complicated and difficult, because one is charting new territories. As my adviser says, researchers are like the blind men trying to figure out an elephant. Each has their own version of the “truth” and all of them could be correct, or wrong! Hence, be careful about jumping to strong conclusions. High impact, well cited articles could be proven wrong or insufficient at a later point.

First published on LinkedIn on Jan 27, 2015

 

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About the author: Czuee has a PhD from University of Lausanne, Switzerland and Masters from IIT Bombay. She has previously worked at IISc-Monsanto collaboration and as a patent analyst at Evalueserve. Apart from her research on proteins involved in brain signalling and diabetes, she is interested in scientific communication, entrepreneurship and runs a webcomic (http://gradschoolmuse-icals.thecomicseries.com/).

Creative Commons License
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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