Scientists Simplifying Science

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Face à Face

About the voyagers of science

Story of Science: Dr. Ramray Bhat

in Face à Face/Theory of Creativity by

Ian Leslie said, “Curiosity is unruly. It doesn’t like rules, or, at least, it assumes that all rules are provisional, subject to the laceration of a smart question nobody has yet thought to ask. It disdains the approved pathways, preferring diversions, unplanned excursions, impulsive left turns. In short, curiosity is deviant.” And Ramray’s journey exemplifies the curiosity led transitions in his subjects of research interests at all phases of his career. He claims that he gets bored easily and cannot continue on the same thing for a long time.

As a nerd growing up in Calcutta, his inquisitiveness drove him to look up encyclopedias and science books. Being the text book ‘good’ student with good grades made him choose the option, biology and medicine.

I was inquisitive about things around us.’

Being questioning, he was more interested in interactions of physical world with the biological world. He remembers being intrigued by the shape of fishes towards the end of high school. He found it interesting that shape of most fishes is like a spindle in all cross sections. He wondered if hydrodynamic environment affects shaping of fishes. He bugged several physics students and found it annoying that the answers were not revealed in the many textbooks and encyclopedias he owned. He realized that there are a lot of biology-related questions that are still unanswered and that was the bait for him to lean towards basic research. He wanted to seek answers, a pursuit that continues to this day.

The fish is spindle shaped along all axes.

‘Does water movement shape the fish body?’ Ramray wondered.

However, he studied in a medical college, and he realized that most curriculum in India tend to dumb down curiosity.  He was driven into self education – reading biology, physics and mathematics books outside the strict curriculum. He believes that this reading developed an unorthodox and unconventional curriculum for himself that allowed him to ask different questions. He viewed his training in medicine as an alternate route to ultimately being a researcher. He claims that his training in physiological and pathological aspects on human biology were useful in gaining perspective on some of his research later.

I would read (science books) whatever I could get my hands on.’

He visited labs in Calcutta and Bangalore during his vacations and worked there. His interactions with scientists like Vidyanand Nanjundiah and Amitabh Joshi deepened his inclination towards basic sciences research.

After finishing his training in medicine, he started his doctoral studies at SA Newman’s lab in upstate New York. He worked on pattern formation in limb development. He elucidated novel information on the effect of physical forces on pattern formation and on how molecules come together to form a network leading to the same. These answers are reminiscent of his interest in shapes of fish. His love for pattern exists in physical and biological worlds. He also has a keen interest in architecture and pattern occurrence in man made structures as well.

He sought newer science for his postdoctoral studies. He worked with Dr. Mina J. Bissell on breast morphogenesis. There he dissected the importance of glycol saccharides in mammary tree branching. This time his research on morphogenesis had a relation with human pathogenesis. After four and half years, he sought a change and got recruited at the MRDG, IISc. There, he is now working on understanding the differences between metastatic routes of two different cancers, breast and ovarian.

Transitions allowed me to keep my love for science fresh, as well as, vigorous as it always was.’

While this is his first step as an independent principal investigator, it may not be the full stop for his transitions. We are on the lookout for all the things he will do with his love for curiosity and science.


About the author and illustrator:

Ipsa Jain is Ph.D. student at IISc. Wants to gather and spread interestingness. Prefers drawing and painting over writing. Posts on Facebook and Instagram as Ipsawonders.

 

 

 

Editor: Sayantan Chakraborty, PhD

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.

Transitioning from Bench to Pharma – Face to face with Dr. Sourav Sarkar, Senior Scientist, AstraZeneca, UK

in Face à Face by

Dr. Sourav Sarkar (SS) shares his academic journey with Nida Siddiqui (NS) and describes the factors that led to his transition into the industry. He also provides some invaluable pointers for future “transitioners”.

NS: Could you tell us about yourself?

 SS: I am an experienced research scientist with broad knowledge and understanding in cell biology and biochemistry. I did my masters in Biochemistry from Calcutta University, India followed by PhD in Genetics and cell biology from Bose Institute, Kolkata, India. After completion of PhD, I joined University of Warwick, UK to pursue postdoctoral research in understanding molecular mechanism of chromosome segregation in normal and cancerous cells. Currently I am working in AstraZeneca, Cambridge, UK as a senior scientist where my role is to screen different classes of compounds to find candidates that are effective, as well as selective against targets in different cancer types, and to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanism of action of specific compounds against a target.

 NS: What were some of the exciting projects that you worked on during your PhD/Postdoc?

SS: I have mainly worked on understanding the molecular mechanism of chromosome segregation during mitosis and meiosis, and how genetic alterations affect this process in cancer cells.

I have been involved in several projects during my research career and most of them have been very interesting, but if I must choose then I would say that the following projects have been particularly exciting.

  1. a) To understand the role of fusion gene(s) in chromosome segregation, and its contribution towards development of aneuploidy, and consequently cancer. There is considerable evidence that suggests potential links between fusion gene(s) and cancer, so it is very important to understand the molecular basis of this association.
  2. b) To understand how cells respond to nutritional status in the environment, and trigger entry into quiescence/gametogenesis program for their survival.

NS: Did you have any dilemma after your PhD, to choose between a postdoc/industry position?

SS: After completion of PhD, I decided to continue my research work in an academic setting. Frankly speaking, I never had any thoughts of moving to the industry after my PhD.

NS: When did you decide it was time to move on and transition to the industry?

SS: To consider moving to the industry was not an easy decision for me. However, successful scientific research is not a product of ideas alone. Other factors, such as research funding play a crucial role, and I have personally experienced research getting affected due to the lack of funds. It was during my postdoc that I realised that staying in academia was not going to be an easy task. There is constant pressure of publishing articles, getting grants etc. and this to some extent I believe led to a situation where “publish or perish” became a harsh reality.  Considering all these factors, I thought it would be a good time for me (after my second postdoc) to move to the industry, where I could still be involved in science, and address relevant scientific questions. Moreover, I felt that joining a pharmaceutical industry would give me the perfect opportunity to work more closely with experts from different fields towards a common goal of developing new medicines and improving human health. 

NS: What are the skills that helped you crack your current position?

SS: My research experience during PhD and postdoc gave me the invaluable opportunity to learn various technical skills ranging from cell and molecular biology to protein biochemistry. In addition to my technical skills, I also got the chance to develop my inter-personal skills over this period. Interacting with researchers from various fields of expertise has helped shape my research career. The set of skills I acquired from these communications turned out to be highly valuable towards obtaining my current position in this company.

 NS: How has PhD Career Support Group (PhDCSG) played a role during your transition period?

SS: PhDCSG is a great initiative and I must thank all the people who are behind this. CSG has helped me better prepare myself during the transition stage. The vast variety of posts by people from different areas, starting from CV writing to preparing for a job interview etc. are very useful. One learns a lot from CSG as people share their personal experiences on topics relevant to early-career scientists, which to me is extremely valuable.

 NS: What would you advise PhD students and postdocs, looking to transition to the industry?

SS: I would suggest few points to work on before making the move.

  1. First ask yourself whether you are prepared for the move.
  2. Be honest, be prepared to take risks, and believe in yourself.
  3. Continue to learn and develop skills in your area of specialization, but also keep your mind open to picking up new skills in other areas, as and when an opportunity presents.
  4. Understand your subject very well and develop the quality to address pertinent questions.
  5. Both, technical and inter-personal skills are key during transition.
  6. Don’t hesitate to interact with people, reaching out to them, and making yourself visible in the job sector.
  7. Attend conferences, meetings, networking events etc. where you would get an opportunity to meet people from different industries.
  8. If possible, attend courses on career development.

And most importantly, remember, employers won’t come and knock on your door; you will have to create opportunities for yourself.

 

About Dr. Sourav Sarkar

Dr. Sourav Sarkar is a senior scientist at AstraZeneca, Cambridge, UK. He completed his PhD from Bose Institute, Calcutta, India followed by two postdoctoral stints at the University of Warwick, UK.

 

About Nida Siddiqui

Nida Siddiqui is currently pursuing final year PhD at the Centre for Mechanochemical Cell Biology, University of Warwick, UK. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @siddnida

Editor: Arunima Singh

About: Arunima obtained her PhD in Computational chemistry from the University of Georgia, USA, and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at New York University. She enjoys traveling, reading, and the process of mastering a new cuisine. Her motivation to move to New York was to be a part of this rich scientific, cultural, and social hub.

 Cover image: Pixabay

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.

Geospatial Technology – bridging space machinery and geography

in Face à Face by

Geospatial technology encompasses a broad range of tools including remote sensing imagery, GIS software for data analysis and map making, GPS satellites for precise location and positioning, and Internet mapping applications such as Google Earth. An internet search can overwhelm us with information, yet a conversation with an expert yields the best knowledge. Prof. Arup Dasgupta, Managing Editor at Geospatial Media and Communications, is an eminent scientist in the field of Geospatial Technology. Earlier, he has also served as the Deputy Director, SATCOM and IT Applications Area, Space Applications Centre – ISRO, Ahmedabad. My discussion with Prof. Dasgupta (AD) encompassed not only his career, but also the broader impact of Geospatial Technology in our everyday lives.

AS: How has your professional journey panned out so far?

AD: I was born in Calcutta, began my schooling in Allahabad and continued that in Calcutta. In the later years, having completed my school education in Delhi, I graduated in Physics from Delhi University. My dream profession being engineering, I joined the BE program at the Indian Institute of Science where I further went on to complete my ME in Electrical Communications Engineering.

My one and only job was with the Space Applications Centre of Indian Space Research Organization at Ahmedabad which I joined in 1970 and superannuated from in 2005. I’m now settled in Ahmedabad. I began as a television engineer designing a rugged TV set for the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) and moved on to managing the rural TV network under SITE. My rural experience resulted in my traversing on to the area of Remote Sensing where I worked on promoting remote sensing applications. Later, I progressed on to Image Processing and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) before retiring as an engineer in charge of satellite communications and information technology applications.

Although my work sometimes did take up a lot of my time, I never compromised upon relaxing myself every now and then. My hobbies are reading, listening to music and of late, creating working models using a 125-year-old construction set called Meccano.

AS: What is your current role in Geospatial Media and Communications?

AD: I joined Geospatial Media and Communications post-superannuation from ISRO. Currently I am the Managing Editor with the Media & Public Relations Department. I oversee print publication, conduct interviews with key people in governments and industries worldwide, speak at conferences organized by GMC, represent GMC at other conferences and meetings, and write articles and blogs on emerging topics.

AS: What is Geospatial Media and Communications?

AD: GMC is a media house that aims to inform all professional communities and in particular those communities working on earth relates subjects on the advances in geospatial technologies and applications. It provides geospatial industries a platform to showcase their products and services, network with academia, government and other industries to understand upcoming requirements and issues for improving their offerings. A major component is also policy advocacy which helps governments understand the difficulties faced by industry and user communities due to over-regulation of activities, like the controversial Geospatial Activities Regulation Bill. The company also provides academia a platform to understand industry, government and user requirements to enable them tailor their courses to emerging technologies and processes.

AS: How should a layman perceive geospatial technology and its importance?

AD: Let me quote a stanza from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Elephant’s Child’.

I Keep six honest serving-men:
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.

Any description of an event or a situation has to include answers to these six questions. We live in a three-dimensional world in which a place is defined by three dimensions of a coordinate system. Therefore, the ‘where’ is an important member of the sextet of questions. For example:

Location: Where is …?

Inventory: Where are …?

Routing: What is the best way to go from … to …?

Analysis: What spatial pattern exists?

Modelling: What if …? When will…?

Trend: What has changed? How? Why? Who?

Humankind realized the importance of where which gave rise to science, some call it art, of cartography whose underpinning is the technology of surveying. Today, surveying technology has adopted and adapted the best of other technologies like laser ranging for distance measurement, remote sensing imagery for terrain mapping, Global Navigation Satellite Systems for surveying, routing and position location, computers for GIS, Internet for map publishing, Cloud, Big Data Analytics, Deep Learning, Blockchain and so on. The Internet of Things is heavily dependent on Geospatial information.

A typical example is routing. What happens when you call up Uber or Ola for a taxi ride? The app locates your location via the GPS built into your smartphone. Once you select your destination you can see the route traced out on a map – application of GIS. Once you are in the taxi, the routing directions are audible on the driver’s phone. It uses the current traffic information to avoid congestions en route. How do such apps obtain real-time congestion information? Google collects data on the number of cellphones in a particular route. More stationary phones on the road means congestion – an application of Deep Learning.

Another example is crop insurance. Remote Sensing helps to identify cropped areas and crops under stress. It is also used to determine losses due to episodic events like floods. Based on this the insurer can decide on the risk and fix the premium.

AS: How has your geomatics experience been in ISRO?

AD: My field experience in managing the SITE rural TV network convinced my then Director, Prof. Yash Pal, to offer me a position in the Remote Sensing area. My first position was to organize a utilization program for remote sensing. At that time, the major work was from aerial photography. The scientists were mapping and laboriously measuring the area under different categories in the map using a dot grid. A meeting with the Collector of Panch Mahals district shed light on his interest pertaining to different types of land cover rather than how much. This initial experience helped me to organize applications around mapping using the US Landsat and later Indian satellites like Bhaskara and IRS. I realized that maps made using remotely sensed imagery were only the beginning of a bigger analytical process which could yield actionable information.

Another aspect of my work was the development of data products for the IRS satellites as well as for airborne synthetic aperture radar and SAR from the ESA ERS satellites. Starting with the VAX, we moved to minis and clusters in a client-server architecture. The SAR processors were extremely data intensive and required faster computers which were denied to us under the MTCR regime after Pokhran -1 and Pokhran-2. We teamed up with CDAC and used a transputer based parallel processing machines to attack the problem – reducing processing time from 12 hours on VAX to 40 minutes on a 16 node PARAM from CDAC. We also developed digital
photogrammetry software for stereo data from Cartosat series of satellites.

My interest in natural resource information systems dates back to my earliest years in remote sensing. In 1978, I delivered two lectures at a UN/FAO Training Seminar on “Information Systems for Resources Management” and “Reports for Resource Managers”. My view is that remote sensing by itself cannot realize its full potential unless combined with other data in a structured, preferably computerized format. I was introduced to GIS through publications of the Harvard Laboratory of Computer Graphics. Getting one’s hand on a GIS package was made possible by a fortuitous offer from Colorado University under a conference being organized by the university with SAC at Ahmedabad, for a package called P-MAP which could run on our VAX11/780 and print out maps on a line printer. After cutting one’s teeth on this rather cumbersome software, and an extensive literature search and evaluation of available GIS packages resulted in the procurement of Arc/Info for ISRO. In parallel, we launched the development of an indigenous GIS package, ISROGIS, which was released in September 1991.

For using GIS to establish the Natural Resources Information Systems, we first proposed a National Natural Resources Information System, NRIS, in 1983 at a national seminar on the foundation of the National Natural Resources Management System, NNRMS, in India. After this, I was involved in pre-investment activities of the NRIS and was designated as Deputy Director Information Systems, NNRMS. I drew up an NRIS Program Plan and after consideration by an expert committee set up by the Department of Space, it has been taken up for implementation. I was the Project Director for that program. Initially, we worked on an interim plan to set up 30 demonstration databases all over the country in 17 states.  Subsequently, we expanded this to cover 17 full states in a phased manner.

My work on spatial information systems led me to standards and interoperability issues. I participated in the discussions on setting up a National Spatial Data Infrastructure. I became familiar with issues relating to change management and realized the importance of people, processes and environment in the adoption of new technologies. I might have learned a lot and contributed technically, but could not succeed in making institutions accept geomatics as an essential element of their professional life. That made me realize the importance of integrating geomatics with other systems like ICT.

AS: Would you like to share your journey as a teacher? Any advice for current aspirants?

AD: I never desired to be a teacher. However, my friends from the teaching fraternity seemed to have other ideas. Maybe my association with IEEE and occasional lectures to Student Chapters paved the way for me, hence I was offered several teaching opportunities post-retirement from ISRO. The subjects I taught were Remote Sensing, GIS and Project Management. I realized that there is a need to bring students up to speed on new technologies. Therefore, I introduced new topics like Harvesting Social Media as a Geospatial Data Source, and Lidar Technology and Applications.

Since I didn’t plan to become a teacher, I feel that I am not qualified to offer advice to aspiring teachers. My limited experience showed me that students need to be challenged to think. Interactivity in a class livens things up.

AS: How should one prepare himself to face the current fluctuating job scenario?

AD: In Science and Technology, you must run very fast just to remain in one place. Therefore, your active life must be one of constant learning. Keep your mind open and don’t be afraid to make drastic changes. Above all, follow your heart. I began my career as a television engineer, moved to systems management, then to image and signal processing, and information systems. I explored the potential of the internet and synthesized IT with communication. Now, I am learning all about Blockchain technology and how it can be applied to geospatial systems.

 

 

About Prof. Arup Dasgupta:

Prof. Dasgupta is the Managing Editor at Geospatial Media and Communications (formerly Deputy Director, SATCOM and IT Applications Area, Space Applications Centre – ISRO, Ahmedabad). In this picture, Prof. Dasgupta can be seen creating a working model of an automative with his Meccano set.

 

About Abirami:

Abirami is a research fellow with a focus on cell and molecular biology research and research administration. She is interested in photography and freelancing.

 

 

Editor: Sayantan Chakraborty, PhD 


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.

 

Continuus Pharmaceuticals: Changing the rules of drug manufacturing

in Entrepreneurship/Face à Face by

Editor’s note: The innovative research and technologies bid adios to many diseases that posed a threat to us. However, with the boost in the population, one major challenge that the pharmaceutical industry confronts is to keep the balance between demand and supply. In the global market, it is no longer just about getting the right cure; it is about searching the fastest, economic, eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives. This face-to-face interview with Bayan Takizawa will throw light on ‘continuous flow model’ of manufacturing which permits the bio-pharma companies significant lead time in the drug production. Additionally, he discussed with Subhalaxmi Nambi how his company Continuus Pharmaceuticals is currently the best solution to bridge the gap between supply and demand.- Rituparna Chakrabarti

An efficient manufacturing process in any industry is the crux of the economic success and market sustainability. This article focused on one such success story. Traditionally, pharma industries focus has been on ‘batch manufacturing’, with multiple disconnected steps. Further, a large plant footprint, magnified the risk of human errors and contaminations, running the system into time crunches. Annually, it is estimated that on average the pharmaceutical industries suffer a loss of $50 billion during the manufacturing process alone. In contrast, other manufacturing sectors, such as the electronics industries implement ‘continuous flow model’ where raw materials are funneled through uninterrupted steps, delivering the final product/services. The Novartis-MIT Center were among the first ones to embrace this model successfully in 2007. Their prototype system circumvented the major roadblocks associated with the stages of manufacturing. Now, it is not any more a far-fetched dream, that a tablet can be produced from the raw materials, just within two days.

A few weeks ago, Subhalaxmi (Subbu) had the opportunity to interact with Bayan Takizawa, a co-founder and chief business officer at Continuus Pharmaceuticals, Woburn, MA; a spin-off company from the Novartis-MIT Center established in 2012, for Continuous Manufacturing.

During the course of the interview, Takizawa highlighted that Continuus is relentlessly moving forward with their cost/time efficient plans. They aim at better plant footprints and drug quality through implementation of plant-wide Quality by Design. Continuus’ modular manufacturing designs further allowed modification and adaptation of an existing process for a new drug.

Bayan Takizawa exclaimed that “The continuous flow technology is a game-changer! However, we have to acknowledge several challenges towards its broader implementation within the pharma industry.” No doubt that establishing this process is profitable but involves initial capital investments. Moreover, many companies are not enthusiastic about overhauling their established production processes, a phenomenon often termed as industry inertia. However, the situation is changing as there are some early adopters. Continuus has worked with several companies ranging from innovative pharmaceutical to generic companies, leveraging its novel continuous manufacturing technologies. Additionally, they are currently working with government agencies, including the NSF (through their SBIR programs) and the FDA.

In the future, the incorporation of Continuus’ flow technology will enable companies to reduce their cost structures. The modular and flexible nature of the process design makes this technology ideal for personalised medicine applications. Dr. Takizawa is also interested in exploring how this technology platform can be exploited for the development and production of biologic medicines (e.g. oligonucleotides). He emphasized the importance of the rich Massachusetts’ life science ecosystem and how it has contributed to Continuus’s success, as many of the advisors and employees are from this area. He added companies can benefit greatly from the fruitful collaborations with the thriving Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) located in Waltham and Cambridge, respectively.

Continuus strength is the people with technical and regulatory expertise, who are flexible to work in a small company culture. Bayan explained they are always excited to welcome those future candidates aboard who are adaptable and willing to accept changes. He quipped “We appreciate someone disagreeing but not disagreeable”. When asked for advice for budding entrepreneurs, he laid stress on using one’s network to connect with interested and helpful people. He personally finds attending conferences to be a great connection-building exercise. Additionally, he believes that creating a competent management team is a key factor in building a successful startup.

 

Finally, he offered some advice for the budding entrepreneurs:

  1. Listen to others – we all think we’re pretty smart, but we have not done it all, and we can learn from listening to others
  2. Listen to your client
  3. Be ready to pivot (especially based on 1 and 2) above
  4. Be objective when picking advisors/directors – you don’t want to pick friends or people who you feel comfortable with – you need people who will provide good guidance and advice
  5. Be ready for tough times ahead – creating a business is not easy. It is important to be energetic, persistent, and resilient while being realistic (don’t be delusional!)

 

Continuus Infoshell….

 

 ———————————————————————–
This interview was conducted by Subhalaxmi (Subbu) Nambi (MS, Ph.D.) She is  a business development associate for Innovation and Business Development at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS). Her responsibilities involve collecting competitive intelligence and market analysis to determine commercial viability and competitive advantage of technologies invented/discovered in UMMS. She is also involved in understanding the IP of the ongoing projects in UMMS. Prior to this position, Subbu did a post-doc with Prof. Chris Sassetti on developing new approaches to understanding the role of genes of unknown function in mycobacterial pathogenesis and validating their products as potential drug targets. She obtained her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in India. Her graduate research focused on understanding the role of cAMP signaling in mycobacteria.
About the author:
 Anisha Zaveri recently graduated from the Indian Institute of Science and is presently a postdoctoral associate at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York. She works on the human pathogen M. tuberculosis while also dabbling in effective altruism, behavioral economics and data science.

 

 

About the editors:

Rituparna Chakrabarti pursued her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Georg-August University (Göttingen, Germany) and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Biostructural Imaging of Neurodegeneration (BIN), Göttingen. Over years, she has gained technical expertise in electron and high-resolution light microscopy, in order to study the nanostructures of specialized chemical synapses in the sensory systems. She likes to have a bird’s eye view of her undertakings and gets excited with analytics. Passionately believes in, correct simplification of science, therefore engages in different scientific communication and public outreach projects. To unwind herself she plays mandolin and eagerly looks for a corner at a coffee house to slide herself in with a good read or company.

 

 

Uma Turakhiya, Ph.D. About herself Uma says “I currently work as a regulatory medical writer, having previously completed my Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Freiburg, Germany. I enjoy writing about science and believe that simplification of science and communication are the key to creating a scientific temper in the society. Apart from having a voracious appetite for books, I am enthusiastic about learning new languages, meeting new people and occasionally playing the piano.”

Featured image: Pixabay


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.

Let’s start with the first stepping stone

in Face à Face/Planet Gurukool by

Editor’s Note: Enrico Fermi said, “There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery”. In her career transition tet-a-tete with Rituparna, Riya Binil reveals how her leap of faith from the ivory tower of academia was a perfectly measured career move and also ensured the discovery of the purpose of her scientific training. As we begin the next season of Gurukool, we hope Riya’s experience will help you realize the power of altruism that propels peer-sourced mentoring in Gurukool. – Abhinav Dey

 

Whether we are freshly minted Ph.Ds. or rich with postdoc experiences, sometimes uncertainty beckons us and we yearn to venture away from the trodden path into a different kind of future. Although our training equips us with the ability to reason out and calculate the trial and error rates, transitioning into broader STEM-Careers may seem like an insurmountable challenge, but all that we need is the first stepping stone towards it.

Dr. Riya Binil reinstalled my (Rituparna Chakrabarti) faith in this and made it much stronger, as we spent a Sunday afternoon Skypeing about her recent job transition experience as Biotech Analyst at SGS Canada Inc. Riya patiently narrated her story highlighting the importance of seeking help and building networks with the right person at the right time. She urges young PhDs to take a leap of faith from the ivory tower.

RC: Congratulation Riya, tell me more about where it all started?

RB: Well I am an applied chemist by training, I got my M.Sc. from Cochin University of Science and Technology, India. I wanted to pursue my Ph.D. but my younger version was equally excited to meet new people and enjoy new experiences. That’s why I moved to Bangalore to do my Ph.D. at National Center for Biological Sciences. Here, I gained most of my laboratory skill sets and grew passionate to work at the intersection of Chemistry and Biology. During that period, I mainly worked with GPI (Glycosylphosphatidylinositol, a glycolipid) and GPI-APs (GPIanchored proteins, glycolipid-tethered proteins). These proteins are ubiquitously expressed in all eukaryotic cells and perform diverse cellular functions. I synthesized fluorescent GPI analogs as well as ligands for the GPI-AP receptor to specifically study the plasma membrane organization of GPI-APs.

By the end of my Ph.D., I started looking for scopes where my skill sets can be implemented on larger scale projects and I made up my mind that I wanted to transcend beyond academia. More or less at the same time, my family relocated to Canada. It’s always quite challenging with these relocations, especially when your family is entangled with you and your decisions. So, I decided to take up a postdoctoral position at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, but in parallel, continued to dig in more about opportunities in the industries and developing my CV towards it. My latest relocation from Ottawa to Greater Toronto area, Ontario thankfully came at the right time where I had my first reality check; ‘In Canada, you might have a Ph.D. but that might not be enough for you to land up with a job.’

RC: So how did you circumvent this obstacle?

RB: This can be quite nerve-wrecking and a long experience for most of us but I guess you find a way about it. I was very sure about this transition for quite a long time. I did not care too much about the pay scale to start with but kept my eyes open for opportunities which matched my skill sets. One thing that I was very clear about was ‘I need to get my very first industrial exposure’, therefore I was flexible to learn and adapt to the system. By this time I came across CSG (Career Support Group) and Ananda Ghosh prompted me to get associated with CSG Gurukool Initiative which helped me immensely to custom design my CV and groomed me for the interview.

RC: What are the objectives of SGS and what are your current roles as a Biotech Analyst?

RB: SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance) is a MNC based in Geneva, Switzerland. They are one of the global leaders carrying out inspections, verifications, testings, and certifications for their client’s services and products. They set a global benchmark by delivering high-quality services in a wide range of sectors (13 of them), starting from ‘agriculture & food’ to ‘oil & energy’. I joined the biopharmaceutical division within the life sciences department. As a Biotech Analyst, my major responsibility includes various bioanalytical analysis to ensure quality control.

RC: What were the skill sets you highlighted for your current job?

RB: I was always interested in research and had a vast skill set to get absorbed in this department. After looking at the job ad, I observed that I full filled most of their requirements. But the trick is you have to tailor the CV and cover letter smartly. I was picky with my skill sets and highlighted only those which were mandatory for this particular position. I highlighted my expertise in cell cultures, cell-based assays, chromatography and gel electrophoresis. In addition to this, I highlighted my strongest soft skills like good communication (both verbal and written), openness to collaborations (within and outside interdisciplinary team of scientists), innovative outlook and flexibility.

RC: What was the biggest lesson you learned during the process of transition?

RB: For me, the biggest virtue I learned was to be persistent and patient throughout the process. It takes the time to understand the job market. It needs a lot of self-effort and diligent networking. CSG and CSG Gurukool provided me the required support, as well as a sound networking platform.

RC: How did CSG Gurukool help you?

RB: Everyone knows the importance of social media and networking, but initially very few of us actually take this process seriously. I took my time to get accustomed to this procedure as well. The CSG inhouse mentor-mentee program is a great platform in order to know people from different walks of life. They hand pick few CSG members every 6 months based on their CV and cover letter and assign them to set of mentors with the similar background. I got in touch with Swayam Prabha and Ravikiran Ravulapalli as my mentors, who understood the Canadian job market specifically. At the start, I was a bit shy to approach the mentors directly. I always wanted to provide them with the well-furnished CV, so I kept editing the CV without knowing the right approach. It won’t be surprising for you to know that it was not the correct way. It is an open portal and both mentors and mentees learn from one another. It is always best to work through the materials and evolve together in the focused direction. They also provided me with useful tips like spreading the keywords well throughout my CV and LinkedIn profile so it is easier to crack the CTS (Computer Tracking Software). Most importantly I learned that one has to be proactive in order to make an impression among the mentors because you might get a referral to a particular industry via your mentor. The best part of this experience is it is a free open access source which anyone can utilize once motivated and enrolled. I pursued it diligently and was successful. I am now looking forward to the new cycle of CSG Gurukool, as it’s my turn to give back to CSG as a resourceful mentor.

RC: Thanks, Riya I am sure this will help many of our readers. Do you have any suggestions for future aspirants?

RB: Study the job market carefully; jot down what you want to do and what your priorities are. Once you have your first draft take help from your friends/peers who made the similar transition or get associated with programs like CSG Gurukool. Start applying well in advance. Generally, it is a long process and earlier you start more confident you will feel about it. Informational interviews are great tools and I highly recommend everyone to exploit this medium.

 


This interview was coordinated and conducted by Rituparna Chakrabarti

Rituparna pursued her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Georg-August University (Göttingen, Germany) and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Biostructural Imaging of Neurodegeneration (BIN), Göttingen. Over years, she has gained technical expertise in electron and high-resolution light microscopy, in order to study the nanostructures of specialized chemical synapses in the sensory systems. She likes to have a bird’s eye view of her undertakings and gets excited with analytics. Passionately believes in, correct simplification of science, therefore engages in different scientific communication and public outreach projects. To unwind herself she plays mandolin and eagerly looks for a corner at a coffee house to slide herself in with a good read or company.

The editor Vignesh Narayan Hariharan

Vignesh is a molecular biologist at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India with a passion for science communication. When he is not peering into bacterial signaling networks or playing with his fluorescence microscope, he tries to simplify science through his writing. He loves talking about science almost as much as he loves writing about it and wishes people would pay for him to just travel the world talking and writing about science….or anything else for that matter.

 


Cover Image source: Pixabay

Profile image courtesy Riya Binil,

Content Image sources: Pixabay

References:


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.

 

A Recruitment Manager’s Eye View

in Face à Face by

Editorial Note: We want to make sure that the mid-week pressure and long lab hours are not blurring your visions. ”Look out beyond the horizons of academia”. Are you now wondering how to do that? Where to start from? Or are you just tired of beating around the bush? We hope that this article will provide you with some perspectives.

It encompasses the basic queries and suggestion for those who are looking towards a STEM career transition. Dr. Sudhakar Bangera systematically breaks down the current job market scenario in India, talks about how to bridge the gaps between the expectations of the employer-employee, how to train oneself and discusses the major challenges faced in Indian Bio Industries.

We are sure this article will broaden your myopic vision and help you take a lead in your next venture. – Rituparna Chakrabarti

 

Dr. Sudhakar Bangera is currently the Vice-President (Medical Affairs), Bharat Biotech International Ltd., Hyderabad. He started his career as a medical practitioner and a teacher, later moving on to clinical research. In his 26 years of health care profession, he has successfully led several start-up companies, the US subsidiary of India and governmental organization. His main forte encompasses business and program management of clinical trials of new drugs and medical device. In this Face-to-Face interview with CSG India Team, he talks about the Indian job market for life science professionals and the employer-employee expectation gap. We highly appreciate Dr Sudhakar’s effort and time in helping the young researchers and science students to improve their stand by sharing the views of “people on the other side of the recruiting table”.   His willingness to help young researchers and science students is evident from his dedication in meeting CSG members at MNR Educational Trust office at Hyderabad for half a day on a Sunday in sharing his experience and providing guidance to Scientists from academia and Industry.

Image source: Pixabay

Q1: What is the expectation gap between the students (potential employee) and the industry (employer)?

There are four entry levels: Fresher, junior, mid and senior level. Each of these four levels has different expectations.  I have gone through all these four levels as an interviewee and an interviewer, hence it is easier for me to speak about it.

For a fresher just out of college, the technical skill is not the priority to be judged as there are various streams and not everything related to the job/position requirement subject is taught in the school. At Bharat biotech people with a background in life science like biotechnology, microbiology, molecular biology, medicine, pharmacy and other life science backgrounds are recruited. I have also recruited people with multiple backgrounds in my team. During the interviews, subject related questions (technical questions) are generally avoided, such questions are asked only when the interviewee himself directs them or provokes them to test his/her knowledge.  In most of such instances, the interviewee tries to kill himself with his own axe.  This interview pattern is only for the fresher’s.  For the other cadres, technical questions are asked according to the post.

Each division particularly chooses the candidate with Masters over Bachelor’s or a Ph.D. over masters because of only one reason and that being “age”.  With age comes “maturity” which is a must in any profession. This maturity is attained by the experience we get while dealing with different people. During masters the people we interact the most are the classmates (limited interactions). Whereas, during Ph.D. the interaction is at much broader level because of the diversity of the people we interact.

Ph.D.s/MDs should also realize that they don’t know everything. They will learn more as they work. There are few areas where a medical grad understands medicine and physiology and anatomy better, and a Ph.D. understands a particular peptide/ enzyme better. People need to know their limitations.

Candidates coming from overseas or from big schools have huge expectations from the company in terms of position and salary which most of the time are not met. Many times when the job is accepted by the employee they don’t stand on the agreements made during job offer, they try to diverge away from it. For e.g. ability to travel, work on weekends, completion of assignment even if it needs staying back for more hours. Many times, the more a person is experienced, the more reluctant they are to change. Instead, they try to change the system in the new job place. Another issue with experienced employee coming from MNC culture is that they need to get adapted to the new system, for e.g. business class travel in MNC company versus economy class policy in Indian companies, perks and benefits may be different, the number of workdays in a week.  Occasionally employer is also at fault because they expect deliverables on time but does not facilitate the whole process to run smoothly.

Not only the job seekers have shortcomings but also the industry. From an industry point of view, it is the HR team who act as a front line in the whole process of hiring. Most of the times the HR team fails to convey the proper job description to the interviewee while contacting them. They also don’t send proper emails with all the relevant information about the interview.

Q2: Most of the life science job advertisement/ profiles in India states “M.Sc. with 3 or more year’s experience”. Why is the industry not willing to absorb Ph.D.s for the entry/junior level jobs? Does this unwillingness, to take or join the juniorlevel posts, comes from the industry or from the Ph.D.s themselves?

To answer this question we create two groups:

1) Ph.D. with zero experience, 2) Ph.D. with experience

When we take Ph.D. with experience: in such instances, the educational qualification of the person is not given value; it is the technical experience which gets the highest priority. In the West, for most of the high-level job entry, it is the years of work experience that is counted irrespective of the educational qualification. In India, the scenario is a little better because people still give some importance to the educational qualification, though the professional experience is given the priority while hiring. For a fresher, it is always soft skill rather than technical. The soft skills are generally not taught in schools and colleges.

Q3:  Most of the Ph.D. face a problem of getting absorbed in a job market. Is it the real scenario in India or our approach towards the job market is different and wrong?

The Ph.D. is very focused on a specific topic and most of the time the research is on basic science which is not that useful to an employer in the industry, where the focus is more on the commercial aspect. As an employer in a fresh graduate (Ph.D.), I look for overall knowledge, non-technical skills, adaptability, and flexibility. We take people with minimum basic knowledge and then try to train/mold them according to our requirements in the industry. In this process of molding and training, not everyone reaches to our standards and expectations.

Q4: What are the different ways we can train our students so that their chances of being absorbed in the industry increases?

When a fresh grad is interviewed, the most important thing we look for is non-technical skills. One of which is communication fluency (in English) both oral and written. Many times I find the interviewees speaking in Hindi or their regional language during the interview.  When I receive a CV, I first scan for the overall presentation in the CV, like font type size, margins, and layout.  Most of the time I receive CV’s which are merely filled template. There is no time and energy invested into the making. Even when writing an Email for a job application, people generally don’t write a covering letter, they just mention in one line that “my cv is attached and kindly look at it”. All the basics of communication and behavior are not laid down in schools, and the schools are not paying adequate attention to this aspect of education which is reflected later on in their job applications and interviews. The graduate students should be trained more on the non-technical skills like body language, attire, transparency, follow-up on assignment, questionable on loyalty by staying long term, travel, enthusiasm.

Q5: What are the kinds of non-technical questions raised in the interview?

My way of judging people: when I interview people, for the first two minutes I go through their CV, in these two minutes I observe them for their behavior from the corner of my eye. I watch their body language, attire and communication skills.

Q6: Why in life science we get paid so less as compared to other streams

The salaries are benchmarked; they are always compared with the pre-existing employee salaries where people are working for lower salaries than offered in the job market.In the end everything boils down to “Supply and demand”!

Q7: What according to you is the apt time to transit from academia to industry for Ph.D. holders

Soon after Ph.D. is the best option. If experienced, then years of post -Ph.D. experience counts. Companies then require specific technical skills and that matters. Education then becomes obsolete. If transitioning many years after Ph.D., then salary, title, expectations become an issue.

Q8: What are the other options /allied career in science for a Ph.D. Fellow?

The answer to this question is influenced by the gender. As a woman, one prefer a job involving no travel and usually look for a stable job. They generally prefer bench work. This might be due to many reasons and family being one of it. Whereas, most of the men perceive and try to go up the corporate ladder. Based on this it depends on where one wants to go.

In the Indian perspective, many companies may not have R&D if they have it can be of two type-a generic formulation R&D or innovative pharmaceutical or vaccine R&D. Another division coming up these days is R&D for medical devices and IVD (in vitro diagnostics). The last two areas generally don’t hire Ph.D.s because the medical devices are run by engineers and IVD companies are very close knit and have 4-5 people with higher qualifications and rest of the staff is just bachelors or masters who do the groundwork.

Among the first two R&D types, in India we hardly find any pharmaceutical industry working on innovation (i.e. finding out new drugs). Most of the pharma industry runs on making “the generics” for which the industry requires only 1-2 Ph.D.s at the top position and few chemistry and pharmacy graduates. Ideally, there are not many positions in a pharma industry for a Ph.D. graduate, and the Ph.D. doesn’t like to tone down their expectations and take a job of a master’s student. My advice/suggestion to all the fresh Ph.D.s is to join at a lower level, don’t go after designation and salary. Prove your worth/caliber to the industry and climb up the ladder. The more the number of skills you present on the table the better your position becomes and then one can negotiate about the designation and salary.

In an industry, a Ph.D. is hired mostly for R&D. If they are open to new arenas and willing to acquire new skills they can also be hired for Medical & Scientific Writing, Regulatory, Project Management, Clinical Operations, QA, Data Management, Proposal Writing, Business Development or Compliance in my line of work.

 

The take home message

“Start from scratch, forget the education, title, show your skills, enthusiasm and passion. Work hard, let people recognize your caliber and climb the ladder”

 

This interview was coordinated and conducted by Dr. Hema Mohan (L), with support from Dr. Reetu Mehta (R) and Dr. Viswanadham Duppatla (Extreme R).  They pursued their Ph.D. in Neuroimmunology, Microbial Genetics and Biochemistry respectively. All the three of them chose to move from bench science to alternative careers in science.  Hema is presently working as a Senior Research Manager and exploring opportunities in Science Management, Reetu has explored patenting opportunities and Visu is interested in improving science education and working as COO of MNR Foundation for Research and Innovation, Hyderabad

 

Editor: Rituparna Chakrabarti

Rituparna pursued her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Georg-August University (Göttingen, Germany) and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Biostructural Imaging of Neurodegeneration (BIN), Göttingen. Over years, she has gained technical expertise in electron and high-resolution light microscopy, in order to study the nanostructures of specialized chemical synapses in the sensory systems. She likes to have a bird’s eye view of her undertakings and gets excited with analytics. Passionately believes in, correct simplification of science, therefore engages in different scientific communication and public outreach projects. To unwind herself she plays mandolin and eagerly looks for a corner at a coffee house to slide herself in with a good read or company.

Featured image source: Pixabay

Creative Commons License

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

 

 

From Oklahoma to Manhattan- The Genesis of Sevengenes

in Entrepreneurship/Face à Face/Medness by

Where there is a will there is a way. This is the mantra followed by scientist-turned-entrepreneur Ayyappan Subbiah. Ayyappan started his journey in the field of Material Science, obtained PhD in 1997 from IISc, Bangalore, India under the supervision of eminent Professor C.N.R. Rao. Introvert by nature, Ayyappan had a desire to bring about some kind of impact in people’s lives. This passion was rekindled during his job at ConocoPhillips where he was working as a Senior Scientist. Ayyappan did not want to entangle himself in the rut of routine work and confine himself to the realms of bench experiments. This prompted Ayyappan to break the traditional norms and set forward his journey of entrepreneurship. With the help of two friends, Ayyappan founded LivePet LLC. The first product from LivePet was an anti-inflammatory supplement for the pets. In order to take the product from the bench to over-the-counter veterinary product, Ayyappan and his mates tested their product at Liberty Research Institute, NY and carried out a couple of small trials on 50 dogs. The dogs were administered a set dose of the supplement for 30 days and were tested successfully for the safety and the change inflammatory markers. All the tested dogs were safer and healthier at the end of the study.

After developing the novel anti-inflammatory supplement for the dogs, Ayyappan started questioning himself to go further beyond pet supplements. By now he also realized that as a responsible human being, the best job he can do is to help “towards making 7 generations of human beings living together healthily/happily!” But the bigger question was what will be the source of funding for his next project? There comes a point in life of every scientist when they look for their next career move. “I just knew that after LivePet, I couldn’t go back to the monotonous life of being a lab scientist. I wanted to make an impact in people’s lives and this was the right time” reminisces Ayyappan. Ultimately, he thought of self-funding his own project. He did not know how far his self-funding will take him, but decided to begin the journey. With this dilemma being resolved, the next question was the kind of project he should start.

My first instinct was to learn about the bottle-necks in pharmaceutical industry and look for the potential problems. I wanted to find solution to the biggest challenge of the pharmaceutical industry

says Ayyappan proudly. His research yielded him the answer for his quest. He decided to work on the solubility issues of the hydrophobic drugs. He says “About 40% of drug candidates filed with FDA and 90% in the discovery pipeline are hydrophobic and possess solubility/bio-better issues. Therefore there is an immediate need for a safe and better solvent (excipient) in the pharma industry.” He wanted to test one of his novel excipient/solvent technology idea from his materials science background with a hydrophobic molecule preferably a novel molecule for the first time in the pharma industry.  Literature search yielded an ideal hydrophobic molecule called triptolide which is notoriously known to possess solubility (and toxicity) issues but never became a drug just for those reasons.

Ayyappan took it as a challenge to solubilize triptolide in the novel excipient (7GEN) or the solubilizer. That’s the birth of Ayyappan’s successful start-up called Sevengenes (www.sevengenes.com ). Since then, there has been no looking back. 7GEN significantly enhances the solubility and bioavailability of hydrophobic molecules.  7GEN is very effective compared to existing drug delivery strategies (such as lipid and nanomaterials based) used for approved drugs.

So how does he fund his start-up projects? Ayyappan is deeply passionate about his project and he used up his 401 savings to fund his project. When asked about grant funding, Ayyappan did not want to divulge the details of his idea to the federal agency before gaining patent approval. He pitched in the idea to family and friends and they acted as amazing sources of funding. His MSc classmate wanted to help him and became a co-founder. Similarly, couple of his PhD colleagues from IISc also wanted to jump in and help and they have become co-founders too.  In addition, Ayyappan’s project was also screened by a non-profit organization, i2e (www.i2e.org) that provides funds to small scale biotechs in Oklahoma. With limited funding but tons of passion and zeal, Ayyappan and Sevengenes’ cofounders outsource their experiments to CRO’s and University of Oklahoma.

They are a pre-clinical company and would like to file their Investigational New Drug (IND) application on their first drug product 7GEN-TDTM when they get their first round investment.  They would like to use their 7GEN excipient (as a platform) for many other hydrophobic drugs and take 505(b)(2) approach for a particular combination.  Meanwhile, Sevengenes recently got selected by Alexandria LaunchLabs for an incubator space in Manhattan, New York from June-2017. Their might be restricted funds but there isn’t dearth of passion inside Sevengenes.

Infoshell…..

When asked about advice he will give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Ayyappan suggests that one should chase their dreams regardless of worrying about the outcomes. He believes that once someone sets his or her brain and heart to a project, the brain will work at its best to find resources to complete the project. Ayyappan has his background in Material Science and is yet a founder of Biological Science start up. He believes in working hard and fair. He credits his spouse and family for their support. He believes that it is a two way street. He saved up enough 401(k) so as to provide secured life to his family while his family understood and supported his dream of a start-up and his project. When asked about his mantra for relieving stress, Ayyappan says he enjoys yoga and believes in the power of prayers!

Ayyappan with Ananda Ghosh (Founder of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs).

About the Author:

Imit Kaur, Ph.D. is a freelance scientific advisor, medical writer, editor, and an active science blogger. She pursued her PhD in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah. She is experienced in the field of oncology, hematology, pharmacology, nanotechnology and drug development. Follow Imit on LinkedIn (Imit Kaur) or Twitter (@imit_kaur)

 

Featured image: Ayyappan in the auspices of Alexandria Launchlabs

Blog design: Abhinav Dey

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

 

Transcending the realms of Equity Research with a life science PhD

in Face à Face by

Biology – market – finance are all quite diverse fields, but do intersect paths at certain points. Did you ever wonder whether your PhD training could be relevant to financial markets? As it turns out, a PhD graduate is skilled in teamwork, critical thinking and has strong analytical prowess. Add some other important ingredients and the recipe for a successful transition into the corporate world is ready.

Kumaraguru Raja (KR), whose career trajectory evolved from being a microbiologist to an equity researcher, discusses his journey with Parul Chachra (PC). He earned his PhD from the Bowling Green State University. After two postdoctoral stints, KR went on to pursue an MBA from the University of California San Diego and found his calling in equity research.

PC: What does your role as an equity researcher encompass?

KR: I’m involved with equity research in pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. Our research is instrumental for institutional investors in composing their investment decisions. I provide insights and detailed analysis on a number of companies whom I cover in the aforementioned sectors. Based on our recommendations and their own analysis, our clients working in mutual funds and hedge funds decide on which companies’ stocks they would like to invest in and how to change positions in stocks they already own. On a day-to-day basis, we do an in-depth research on the companies we cover. We assess factors that have an impact on market valuations and stock prices of the companies – factors pertaining to clinical data, product differentiation, intellectual property, and status in the competitive space. We provide our views on market developments to our clients. Typically, for any company, it starts with initiation reports. Initiation reports consist of an in-depth review of the company, financials, potential of the pipeline, its management and why our clients should invest in them. We also provide coverage reports over time, wherein we provide updates based on the market developments or when the company provides additional data.

PC: What kind of teams exist in equity research? What kind of people do you interact with daily?

KR: The teams typically consist of a senior analyst and a few associates reporting to him. In the healthcare sector, there are various areas like medical technology, medical devices, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Each analyst typically covers 15-20 companies with the help of his team. Initially, I started out as a senior associate and at that time our team consisted of one senior analyst and three associates. Currently, I am a senior analyst, and have an associate working with me. We interact with managements of companies we cover, institutional investors, institutional sales and traders.

PC: How did you shape your career trajectory after earning your PhD in microbiology?

KR: I briefly worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Mayo Clinic after my PhD where I focused on cancer epigenetics. From there, I moved to LA BioMed where I pursued research on tumour biology. I always had an inclination towards the business aspect of biotech. I decided to move to the corporate side and opted to pursue an MBA. I went on to join the UCSD management school and graduated in 2010.

PC:  When did you decide to go into equity research? How did you zero in on it?

KR: I was looking for opportunities where I could utilize my background as a scientist and the skills I had developed in management school. I have always been inquisitive about the stock market and biotechnological innovations. Further, my interests revolved around understanding the commercialisation of academic discoveries and innovations. That was the impetus for me to go for an MBA. After starting management school, I didn’t have a clear idea and I was interested in various opportunities. I found that there were certain areas where my skillset could be useful. That’s when I thought about equity research, especially covering biotech and pharma stocks, as a potential starting point for my career in the corporate world. In this niche, we analyse a lot of companies and it also provides us an opportunity to interact with the management of different companies.

PC: Your answer brings me to another question. When was it that you decided to do an MBA? Did you view it as a necessary step to enter the corporate world?

KR: My postdoc supervisor was a very qualified person. During that time, I saw the challenges that he faced for acquiring grants and a skewed work-life balance that he efficiently managed. That was when I decided that perhaps doing an MBA would be a good idea to diverge from an academic career. While a lot of people manage to transition successfully right after their PhD or early postdoc years, I did not take that route and thought that an MBA would be helpful.

PC: How supportive was your PI when you showed interest in pursuing an MBA?

KR: I didn’t discuss it with my PI at the time. At a later stage, he wasn’t very encouraging when I told him that I was wrapping up my postdoc to do an MBA.

PC: How receptive do you think business schools are towards PhDs or postdocs who haven’t ventured much into corporate and aspire for an MBA degree?

KR: Some schools are more receptive compared to others and that was one of the reasons for me to choose UCSD. They had a lab-to-market course and the focus was on bringing innovations from lab to the market. When I applied in 2008, the program at UCSD was also relatively new, so they were actually very excited about me joining them.

PC: Can you name some schools which welcome incoming MBA candidates with a PhD or postdoc experience?

KR: Rady School of Management at UCSD, The Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell, and Indian School of Business to name a few. Most management schools strive for a diverse student population and are open to students with advanced degrees.

PC: At what level can people enter into equity research without an MBA degree? Do you have colleagues around without a business degree?

KR: Equity research has a comparatively flat hierarchy and people without an MBA degree start as associates. I have had several colleagues without a business degree who joined directly from academia, but they knew the expectations the role demanded and were prepared for it.

PC: How much credibility exists for self-preparatory courses in your field? Does it impress the employer?

KR: I think compared to someone who doesn’t have similar credentials, it helps you to differentiate yourself. To the very least it shows that you took an initiative to inform yourself. Obviously, your understanding will be tested during the interview process and the decision will be based on that. At the end of the day, even if you go to a great academic institution, it all depends on what you learnt and how you leverage it and contribute to the job.

PC: In what way was your PhD and postdoc experience useful during your MBA and later when you continued as an equity researcher?

KR: There are a lot of skills one develops during their PhD training. The essence of team play is very important in academia and holds true in corporate too. I cover the biotech sector, so we do a lot of fundamental research and look at case studies where drug development is involved, for example, looking at how different molecules work and how they are different from competitive drugs developed by other companies. Also, we look at the different pathways that are affected with a sense of looking at the off-target effects and the side effect profile. These are the attributes that we garner while being trained in science.

PC: You did talk about the challenges of being in academia. What kind of challenges do you face in the corporate sector, especially as an equity researcher, and what do you love about your job? What are the aspects that you are still learning and working on?

KR: Every job has its own advantages and challenges. There are some similarities between doing a postdoc and equity research. This line of work is very competitive and involves long hours. Often it happens that I need to think ahead of time, like what catalysts are coming up and be prepared. I need to do my analysis and get it to clients in a timely manner. Many a times, relevant company announcements are made at 6 in the morning. Some US companies collaborate with their counterparts in Europe/Japan so they release data according to their time zones. One needs to be prepared for all these events. Furthermore, there are press releases after the close of business. As you might guess, being an equity researcher involves investing long hours, which I believe many researchers can relate to. We get to know point-in-time whether our predictions regarding a stock or a clinical trial stood correct. Sometimes we are right, sometimes not. We learn a lot while on the job, plus one gets to interact with a lot of smart people. We routinely interact with CEOs, CFOs, research analysts, portfolio managers and other management team members from mutual funds and hedge funds.

PC: How does the career trajectory of an equity researcher evolve?

KR: Some pursue equity research as a career and continue for a long run. There are others who would move on to corporate finance roles or join as research analysts and portfolio managers in mutual funds and hedge funds after investing a few years. Some move to business development, while others become CEOs or CFOs of companies. There are several exit opportunities for people in equity research.

PC: What kind of equity research opportunities exist in India and overseas?

KR: A lot of equity research options exist in India. For example, people can work for banks and/or cover stocks that are listed in the stock market. Also, a lot of investment banks have research departments based in India and employees in these departments collaborate with employees in the US, UK or Australia. Many teams have their research analysts based in the US/UK and their associates in India and I think that’s a good starting point for people based in India. I have also seen people who took this path and later moved overseas. Additionally, there are opportunities in similar capacities in competitive intelligence which involve expertise that overlap with the skillsets required for equity research.

PC: What kind of quantitative skills do such departments look for?

KR: It depends on the field. In healthcare, we are looking at how clinical trials are powered and we are also involved in market projection. For example, in the case of prostate cancer, you look at the therapeutic space and determine different treatments being developed. Therefore, you also make a lot of estimates in terms of how big the market opportunity is and how many patients can be treated, how a particular drug is differentiated from what is already in the market, and the other drugs that are being developed in the market and then you come up with the potential market share. Additionally, you also do revenue projections. You build profit and loss models, balance sheet, cash flow and you also do a lot of valuations in terms of discounted cash flow. These are some of the skillsets needed for evaluating a company and a candidate possessing such may be the best fit.

PC: Do you suggest pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship if a mid-career graduate student has decided on transitioning into corporate eventually?

KR: It depends on that individual’s situation and it is not necessary to do a postdoc if one has made up their mind to enter corporate. It varies from person to person. Some are successful in landing a position in corporate immediately after their PhD. For others, it doesn’t work out that way. It all depends on how much time you need and being a postdoc provides you that additional time where you prepare yourself for the successful transition.

PC: How crucial is networking for a person who wants to transition from academia to corporate?

KR: Networking is very important and it also helps to converse with people in the field in order to understand what a typical job involves and what are the skills needed. It also provides a better idea on how best can you put yourself in those shoes and determine if this is what you would want to pursue. You also need to base your decisions on personal situations. Some people are married and some people have kids by the end of their PhD/postdoc. I guess one needs to take a holistic view of your their circumstances and then decide what would be the right career for them.

PC: What advice do you have for PhDs and postdocs who are looking forward to a transition and is there anything that they can add to their inventory for better preparation?

KR: One of the aspects that I strongly believe that you should invest in is networking. It is important! People are open to helping out students, communicating with them or mentoring them. And, I think PhDs and postdocs should reach out and find a mentor. Another important point is to differentiate yourself from the crowd. That’s the key to success. When you are working in a lab, or preparing for a transition, you need to individuate yourself. You need to demonstrate why they should choose you over someone else. In my opinion, that is what will get your resume to the top of the pile and ultimately help you in landing the job that you so desire. For example, it helps to take courses in financial modelling or entrepreneurship as a graduate student. It will equip you to differentiate yourself from the herd.


 

About K. Raja:

Kumaraguru Raja (KR) pursued his PhD in Microbiology from the Bowling Green State University. Thereafter, he briefly worked in Mayo Clinic, focusing on cancer epigenetics and later moved to UCLA to conduct research on tumour biology. After two short postdoctoral stints, he earned an MBA from the University of California San Diego and transitioned into equity research. Presently, he is the Vice President Biotechnology Research at Noble Life Science Partners in New York.

 

 About the author:

Kumaraguru Raja was interviewed by Parul Chachra. Parul is a research professional with training in life sciences and specific expertise in neuroscience & data analytics. She pursued PhD in Neuroscience at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai and is currently a part of healthcare analytics team at GE Global Research Center. Towards the completion of her PhD, she started ‘Beyond your PhD’ initiative at her institute to develop a platform for an open discussion on ‘alternate’ career paths for science graduates and how they could approach them. She is also a strong advocate of mental health and works towards creating awareness and eliminating stigma associated with mental illness.

 

Edited by: Sayantan Chakraborty, PhD

The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of the 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.

Scaling new heights as an independent PI – In conversation with Dr. Avinash Shenoy

in Face à Face by

Nida Siddiqui (NS) and Dr. Avinash Shenoy (AS) strike a conversation on the latter’s scientific journey as a non-clinical lecturer at the Imperial College, London. AS sheds light on various aspects that are paramount for building an academic career.

NS: What launched your scientific journey? Any underlying motivation?

AS: I think my journey began with a deep interest in maths and physics in high school. This is when I realised that I’d like to train myself to undertake fundamental research in natural sciences as I had great teachers for these subjects at the time. My interest in biology, or mostly molecular biology & biochemistry, developed when I became fascinated with metabolic pathways and molecular machines like the DNA polymerase!

I eventually enrolled for a BSc in Microbiology & Biotechnology (instead of Physics) at Ramnarain Ruia College, Mumbai. This is where my love for infectious diseases originated and continues to date. Credit for this goes to my teachers at Ruia.

My journey really took-off when I joined the Integrated MS-PhD program at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. Here I worked in the laboratory of Sandy Visweswariah and studied cAMP-signalling in mycobacteria. For my postdoc, I decided to switch fields and study host immunity to bacterial pathogens. This was at the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, USA. Broadly, these are also the themes of research in my laboratory at the Imperial College – molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions.

NS: How was your experience at IISc and what led you to the next step in academia?

AS: I had an exceptionally good time at IISc. This was for two reasons – the project I was working on moved along superbly, and I had an excellent mentor. I learned a lot of new things during this time, but most importantly the philosophy, fun and excitement of doing research at the bench.

I was interested to pursue basic research by the end of my high school and during BSc. I kept thinking about my PhD and postdoc as essential steps towards starting my own research group. Obviously, it had to be in the area of bacterial infection-biology.

NS: How did you choose your postdoc position at Yale (in terms of place, project and funding)? What kept you motivated?

AS: A lot of factors played a role. The geography – US north east/NYC area – was based on personal reasons. However, this did not limit me too much as there were/are excellent laboratories in this area. I was quite selective (bacterial or mycobacterial infection labs), and it took well over 8 months to find a position I liked. While I waited, I had (unsuccessfully) applied for fellowships with  John MacMicking, who eventually offered me a position when his grant was funded. Persistence helped as I repeatedly wrote to people I was keen to work with; it helped that I had met some of them at conferences. Once I arrived in Yale, I applied for several postdoctoral fellowships unsuccessfully, but eventually received two one-year fellowships during my 7-year stint.

The start of my postdoc was the toughest time for me and there were no good results for about 18 months, yet I decided to hang-in and keep trying. These were high-risk high-gain projects and my experience was not uncommon. Eventually things clicked and I had a great project!

NS: What was the most exciting project that you worked on? What fuels your passion for science?

AS: I have enjoyed all the projects that I have worked on! If I had to pick one, I will say it is a cross-disciplinary chemical biology project that’s ongoing currently. The chemists bring a different perspective to the project. We are designing new probes to dissect ubiquitylation processes during infection.

My passion for science is essentially fuelled by an unsatiating appetite for unearthing how things work the way they do. My interests are mainly molecular mechanisms, and we apply this expertise to study infection-biology.

NS: Could you tell us the factors you considered while choosing the position at The Imperial College, London?

AS: I did my postdoc at the Dept. of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale, which I consider to be one of the best microbiology departments in the world. By the end of my postdoc I had recognised how much I loved (and benefited from) being in an environment that lived-and-breathed pathogens and host-defence. This was in sharp contrast to my PhD at the Dept. of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics (MRDG). As fun as my PhD was, as a microbiologist I had no interest in the biology of reproduction or development! One could argue I am too focused on infectious pathogens – but this was the main reason for joining the Imperial College, and that they (we) attract the best students. The MRC CMBI at Imperial has some of the leading pathogen-biologists (Holden, Frankel, Filloux, Young, Robertson, Gründling, among others). When I was made an offer, there was no way I could refuse! My job-visit to Imperial had gone well too, and my other options were general biology or immunology departments. And of course, London is a fantastic city and the neighbourhood of South Kensington is a great place to work.

 NS: What were the challenges in the initial years of setting up your lab?

AS: The main challenge for new PIs is getting grants. This can be a slow and demotivating process. I went through two major disappointments in my first year, but eventually got grants. However, more immediate concerns for new labs relate to finding the right people to join you – PhD students, technicians or postdocs. Almost everyone advised me to be careful and selective, I was, and this has paid-off. I have terrific PhD students and together we have managed to start a great scientific program from scratch! I cannot stress how important this is – finding the right team. Another challenge can be finding the right collaborators and saying no to others.

NS: What is your idea of mentoring in the current academic scenario?

AS: Mentoring is a two-way street. It did not take too long for me to realise that different people need different kind and/or amount of mentoring. This does not mean there are favourite people or favourite projects! Given my background and training, I am better at passing-on academia-related skills to mentees. Luckily, I am involved mostly with Masters by Research (MRes) and PhD programs where this is appropriate. Apart from bench work and project-specific mentoring, I often get asked to provide feedback on projects/grants/manuscripts. Personally, I received good mentoring at the CMBI which helped me understand the process of grant applications and reviews in the UK. The CMBI has also tried to address issues around lack of female faculty and set up a team that offers mentoring to female scientists to encourage them to stay in academia. While this only addresses a part of the larger issue, I think some students and postdocs may benefit from it.

NS: What advice would you give to PhD students and postdocs who are looking forward to become independent researchers?

AS: Think hard to identify what really interests you, focus and be decisive! The passion is what got me through, and I cannot help thinking that a drive is a must and it will also help face disappointments. Sketch out a plan on how to achieve your goals and try to stick to it as much as possible. Also plan your first grant or project well – this is essential for getting that academic job!

 

About Dr. Avinash Shenoy:

Dr. Shenoy completed an integrated MS-PhD degree studying signal transduction in mycobacteria at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and a successful postdoctoral stint on host-immunity at the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine. He started his first independent position at Imperial College in October 2013 as a non-clinical lecturer of Molecular Microbiology at the MRC CMBI.  

About Nida Siddiqui:

Nida Siddiqui is currently pursuing final year PhD at the Centre for Mechanochemical Cell Biology, University of Warwick, UK. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @siddnida.

Edited by:  Sayantan Chakraborty, PhD

Photo credit: Pixabay

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.

Transitioning from Bench to Academic management: Tête-à-tête with Dr. Viswanadham Duppatla

in Face à Face by

In Club SciWri’s transition interview series, we highlight the journey of Dr. Viswanadham Duppatla (Visu) today, who is the COO of MNR Foundation for Research and Innovations, India. Dr. Duppatla is a multifaceted research professional who envisions establishing an efficient system for training science graduates in India. He’s continuously striving for a change in the higher education standards and is playing an important role in improving rural education in India. He is a man who has mastered the skills of transforming challenges and hurdles into success and his career is a perfect example of it.  In his conversation with Abirami Santhanam (AS), Dr. Duppatla provides some inspiring insights to young scientists looking to move back to India as well as for transitioning to newer STEM roles.

AS: Please tell us about yourself.

Visu: I come from a very remote village in South India. Due to my limited exposure, I took a lot of risks in life. At this stage, I feel they were all worth it. I’m an average person who learned where and how to get things done, and therefore, I can promptly set things in motion. Furthermore, I help my network and ask for help without hesitation.

I was fortunate enough to graduate from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore where I learned quite a lot from fellow students. Thanks to my PhD supervisor I could explore opportunities like the DAAD short-term visiting fellow and European Union Scientist exchange programs during my PhD. My participation in these programs catalysed my selection in the Marie – Curie Industrial Network Program (Foldamer Applications in Protein-Protein Interactions) at the University of Würzburg, Germany. Thanks to the rigorous training during my PhD, I could handle an independent lab soon after my graduation.

AS: What’s your role in the MNR Foundation for Research and Innovations?

Visu: In one sentence: To encourage the Research and Entrepreneurial culture among faculty and students of MNR educational trust institutions with a special emphasis on Medical college. We have started the process of establishing an incubation platform for graduate students who can start exploring their start-up ideas with limited internal funding. We are actively collaborating with young minds in the biomedical space with a mutually beneficial outcome.

AS: How was your academic journey and what were your memorable moments?

Visu: The most fortunate event in my life was studying in the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya where quality education is provided to rural students with free boarding and lodging support (I would like to stress the importance of this as it enabled me to be what I am today). Like many of you, I enjoyed my bachelor’s in Biochemistry (Andhra university), simultaneously working at a telephone booth (entrepreneurship) during the night. Passing several MSc entrance exams tremendously boosted my confidence. Thanks to the DBT sponsored program at the University of Calicut, I pursued my Masters in Biotechnology. Thereafter, I earned my PhD while focusing on DNA Mismatch repair (Indian Institute of Science). Exploring a career as a Marie-Curie Industrial Network program fellow at the Biozentrum, University of Würzburg, Germany and that too in an independent position was the most satisfying moment. My academic journey is a continuous effort and now  I am doing a Strategic Management course with IIMK.

AS: Did you set any goals during your early scientific career?

Visu: Like most of the Indian science students, I didn’t plan my career. I was just a part of the race and luckily ended up at the IISc. The academic atmosphere at the IISc was very stimulating and competitive. Sadly, I had limited mentorship regarding my scientific career (Inferiority complex due to not so posh English language skills). I just followed what everyone else thought was better. Having said this, my PhD mentor was very helpful throughout my stay, especially at times of distress when I was looking for a change.

AS: How did you develop your network during your research career? How important was it for you to reach to your current position?

Visu: Friends call me a ‘people’s person’. I was an extrovert outside the classroom since childhood, but somehow, I could not just get up and clarify my doubts in high school as I wasn’t the smartest of the lot (and I repent a lot for this). I try to put a conscious effort in staying in touch with people in everyday life. The purpose of my networking was never for any gain. I always reach out if I can help. Whenever I have a problem I have people around me who assist me in troubleshooting. PhDCSG (PhD Career Support Group) helped me greatly in widening my network. It was through networking that I came to know about my current job. As a COO of MNR-FRI, I assist with connecting people from different walks of life, and it is this networking which has made my job easier.

AS: At what point, did you decide to move from academic research to academic management?

Visu: Like many postdocs, I too was interested in an academic career. It was during my postdoctoral time when I was searching for opportunities to come back to India that I thought about this transition.  I don’t have an extraordinary CV in terms of publications, though I have prestigious national and international scholarships and two first and corresponding author publications. Unfortunately, these achievements were not enough for getting me an academic position in India. Instead of letting myself down I seriously thought about my strengths, which are networking and management, for which I was greatly appreciated both in India and abroad. I used these qualities as my trump cards and created a new niche for myself – academic management. This area is still in a budding phase in India, with lots of opportunities in the coming years.

AS: Why academic management in particular?

Visu: I realized that researchers have limited options for exploring their entrepreneurial spirit, though the government has various schemes to encourage them. I felt that the paperwork was the major limitation for researchers. Therefore, I wanted to simplify these procedures for fellow researchers who want to explore their own ideas and develop marketable products. I am already seeing the effects albeit on a small scale.

AS:  What persuaded you to move back to India?

Visu:   ‘A foreigner is always a foreigner in a foreign country’. In the west, the system underlying science and the ecosystem for kick-starting a scientific company is well developed with very little space for tinkering. Whereas in India, there is an enormous scope for improvements. Hence, with a well thought structured effort, one can bring about a huge change and have an impact on the Indian ecosystem. Therefore, I always wanted to be a part of it!

AS: Can you elaborate on the role of PhDCSG in your career?

Visu: PhDCSG played a very important role in my transition and even present operations. Most importantly, #ClubSciWri was very instrumental in sharpening my social skills, especially on Twitter: @visu_bio. The assistance of several of my friends and many PhDCSG members have been instrumental along the way. Most of the specialized seminars organized in our medical campus were done with the help of the CSG members. Thanks to the active network, we could coordinate international travels with the institutes of choice. The programs organised in conjunction with the PhDCSG members were the most successful. Special thanks to Prof. Nikhil Gupta for his valuable contributions in organising a fruitful workshop on 3D printing and its applications in medicine and dentistry. As you might have realised this support network stood by me at every step and I enjoy being a part of it.

AS: Can you share the difficulties you faced while establishing a network in a new environment?

Visu: Surprisingly, I enjoyed interacting with people during my transition and I knew I was going to enjoy my future role. These are the people I was interacting for 10-15 years in various capacities. I was very much convinced of seeing myself in a management role at an educational institute. I was always open about it to my circle. I accepted my shortcomings and tried to improvise by attending career workshops and constantly updating everyone in my circle with “What’s Next”. It’s very important to be fearless in accepting your limitations and constantly learning the much-needed skills. If you love what you are doing, you will find a way to cross any barrier.

AS: What are the advantages and hardships one faces after coming back to India?

Visu: The answer could be a broad one and opinions could be divided based on a person-to-person basis. I can talk about what I felt.

Hardships:

  • Approaching for jobs is not straightforward.
  • It takes time to get a response (if you are lucky).
  • Most jobs are through some sort of reference though most deny it.
  • Many applicants don’t mean what they say! It becomes difficult to gauge the situation.

Advantages:

  • The system in India has been the same since I left India in 2009 with only marginal improvements in its functioning. So, it’s easy to work in a familiar place which is better than anywhere else – my home.

After getting used to a super streamlined and organized system in Germany, it was a bit difficult for me to unlearn and relearn Indian things. But familiarity helped me in settling down quite quickly.

AS: Can you share your vision for the future of MNR FRI?

Visu: The major objective of MNR FRI is to establish a research centre with an entrepreneurial spirit catering to the regional health care challenges of lower socioeconomic strata. My major goal is to create a PhD program where graduation means running their own company!

AS: You are an avid user of social media. Could you share some useful tips for using social media for one’s professional development?

Visu: It’s very important to define what you want to share and why. Spend defined and limited time on social media. I would strongly suggest everybody to update themselves with technology. Link your LinkedIn profile with Twitter and connect your Tweets to Facebook. So, once you post in LinkedIn it finds its way to Facebook via twitter. It saves a lot of time. Most people ask me whether I spend a lot of time on social media. The truth is that I hardly do so in reality. You can schedule your posts using various technologies. Be professional on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Depending on your geography and future career, modify your discussion from the standard format. This is where people can approach you without you saying it out loudly. Your social profile should truly reflect your personality.

AS: What is your advice and suggestions for PhDCSGians who are looking for a career transition?

Visu: Career transition should not be a secret and a single person project. If permissible, let your well-wishers and friends know about it as early as you can. Be vocal on LinkedIn and Facebook discussions. Employers are always looking for good applicants. Have a tailor-made resume for each job (CV for academia). I was invited for interviews without submitting any formal application. Hence, it all depends on how others perceive you when they are interacting with you. The present job was offered to me when I went to see if I could help out the MNR group. For me, your daily activities should reflect your career transition and you should make it as natural as it can be. If you are looking for a job in the Indian academic system, you should start very early, at least 2 years ahead. Strictly speaking, I won’t recommend last-minute job applications. There are seniors who are willing to help. Approach politely while asking for guidance. Your strengths are your skills and your network. There is always a job waiting for you – you just need to recognize it. You are your strength – talk to yourself, take the risk and enjoy your life.

Here’s my favourite quote that drives during the toughest of times:

You are not superior, you are not inferior; You are not even equal, you are just unique, and You will become what you want!

AS: Thank you very much Dr. Duppatla for this clear, detailed interview and your time. I can see your enthusiasm and passion for academic development as well as the optimism towards approaching your goals. This interview will definitely help us in paving our path to a passionate and successful career.

 

About the author:

Abirami is a research fellow with a focus on ocular research and research administration. She is interested in photography and freelancing.

Editor: Sayantan Chakraborty, PhD

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.

 

 

 

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