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Career Center

The World Outside the Lab:

Many Ways to Use Your PhD

in Industry

At the Biophysical Society 60th Annual Meet-

ing in Los Angeles, California, the Early Careers

Committee hosted the panel discussion, The

World Outside the Lab: Many Ways to Use Your

PhD Skills in Industry. The panel consisted of

Anna Amcheslavsky

, Sales Representative, Illumina;

Ragan Robertson

, Technology Transfer Principal,

University of California, Los Angeles;



, Chief Information Officer, Quantum

Northwest; and moderator

Prithwish Pal

, Senior

Market Development Manager, Oncology, Illumi-

na. Much of the discussion is summarized below.


What would I need to do to get

started in each of the panelists’ careers?

What are those doing the hiring looking


People hiring for careers away from the bench

are looking for more education than just bench

science training. You will not have had a job like

this in the past, but you must show that you can

apply your existing skills to the challenges of the

job you are applying for. You have learned much

more in graduate school than just your science.

Do not forget what else you are capable of:

critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance,

multi-tasking, quick learning. Reflect about what

you are good at, and it may guide you to different

career options: Good "lab hands?" Consider de-

velopment; Writing? Consider technical writing;

Collaborating and communicating? Think about

becoming a field representative or going into

sales; etc. Also, think about how much money

you have managed in the past, because this is a

valuable skill for many career paths. When you

go on interviews, listen for feedback and take it

constructively and be flexible to meet the needs

of the hiring team. Consider options to broaden

your scientific training in new directions, through

classes on market analysis, business development,

or intellectual property.


In a tech transfer office, how do you

go about taking things to market?

There are many options and pathways to bring

your innovations and inventions to market. The

first step is always talking to the scientists about

what they are working on, and researching the

market potential. In many cases the business is

launched through a start-up although many uni-

versities have options for incubators and accelera-

tors as well. Tech transfer offices at universities

play a critical role in negotiating the agreements

between the campus, researchers, and business

interests. Start-ups often have little or no money

starting out, so universities often have the option

of taking equity, and becoming part owner in the

company and/or in sharing in the technology’s



In a non-academic job, are you under

contract? If not, are you worried about

being unemployed?

In sales, you are not under contract. New posi-

tions are posted all the time, but most positions

in sales are stable, as long as the company is doing

well. And, it's easier to get a new position once

you have experience.

The benefits to not having lifelong employment,

as you do in tenured positions, is that you have

the flexibility to leave. You have no contract,


By the

The number of Science and Engineering graduate students increased by 3% between 2013

and 2014.

Source: Number of science and engineering graduate students up in 2014. (March 30, 2016).

Retrieved from