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Workshops in Preparing Future Professionals: A Model in Postdoc Career Development

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We were joined by Nathan Vanderford from the University of Kentucky on the second part of his seminar series, this time demonstrating valuable tools and lessons to develop a course or workshop on professional development for PhDs!





Realities of today’s workforce with PhD degrees

2% unemployment

52% within academic
48% outside academia

26% for profit
9% non-profit
8% federal employment
3% self-employed
2% state employment

Graduate students interest in moving into the tenure track declines over time:
41.7% First Year
21%Third Year
(Fuhmann et al CBE Life Sci Ed 2011)

But, there is no concerted training for alternative careers!

Goals of the course:
– Understand the realities of the job market
– Realise what skills are required to transition
– Identify resources
– Take action to prepare for their chosen career

Five Major Didactic Requirements:

Career Exploration
– Explore the career paths that are of interest to them
– Written paper on necessary skills

Transferrable Skills
– Perform a self assessment and create action plans for improving identified weaknesses

Informational Interviews
– Students contact an individual in their ideal career and conduct an informational interview to develop networking skills
– How did the interviewee obtain their workplace skills?
– How did graduate skill prepare you for this career?
– Expand student’s network by asking for additional points of contact

Career Development
– Students obtain experiences in critical components of the job search process including résumé and cover letter writing
– Practice interviewing and job search execution

Student Engagement
– Students interact with guest speakers as well as present their finding from each assignment to promote student-driven discussions

Demographics:
6% Postdocs
55% PhD trainees
32% Master’s students
6% Other (undergraduates, non-degree seekers)

Course Strengths:
– Safe environment to explore their career options and work through options in a positive way
– Self-assessment
– Identification of career options
– Student engagement
– Student-driven discussion
– Diversity of disciplines
– Development of work readiness skills

Course Challenges:
– Diversity of disciplines (which guest speakers, from which disciplines)
– Tuition (who pays?)
– Permission to attend (scheduling of the class versus time spend for research)
– Course versus workshop format

Course versus Workshop Format

Course:
Positives:
– Sustained engagement
– Incentives (grade) to participate
– Effective platform for exercises

Challenges:
– Costly
– Limited reach
– PI resistance

Workshop:
Positives:
– Free
– Reach a larger audience

Challenges:
– Interrupted engagement
– No incentive to participate in exercises
– Non-effective platform for exercises

Future Plans:
Certificate Program:
– Work hours component (4 hours)
– Course hours (2 hours)

Tips for trainees:

Goal setting tips:
– Write out goals and map out a strategy
– Post your goals where you can easily see them

Career Exploration and Networking:
– LinkedIn
– Alumni network
– Informational interviews
– Work Experience

Transferrable skills:
– Functional skills
– Knowledge-based skills
– Personal traits and attitudes

– A realistic assessment helps with your placement and career success

Tools to assess transferrable skills:
– Science Careers myIDP
– Gallup StrengthsFinder
– SkillScan
– MN Career Pathways
– Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

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Getting More Out of Tufts’ Libraries with Laura Pavlech

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We were joined by Laura Pavlech, Research and Instruction Librarian at Hirsh Library and liaison to the Sackler School to learn more about library resources available to postdocs!

Library Essentials for Postdocs 

Laura Pavlech – Research and Instruction Librarian at Tufts University Hirsh Health Sciences Library


Contact info for the Hirsh Library (at the Boston Campus):
(671) 636-6705
Tufts University Libraries (6 total):

  • Hirsh Health Sciences Library (Boston Campus): Floors 4-7 on the Sackler building
  • Tisch Library (Medford Campus)
    • Lilly Music Library
  • Ginn Library (Government and International affairs at The Fletcher School)
  • Webster Family Library at the Vet School (Grafton Campus)
  • Digital Collections and Archives

The librarians can help with:

  • Literature search
  • Finding data and statistics
  • Using citation management programs
  • Developing data management plans (RDMS project, run by TTS – electronic lab notebooks)
  • Answering scholarly communications questions
  • Citation analysis and measuring research impact
All the libraries have their own websites. The Tisch library also has its own chat.


For upcoming workshops (WebEx-based): tischlibrary.tufts.edu/get-help/workshops
  • “Workshops on Demand”
  • You can also request a workshop for your lab or group at the library
  • Every Tufts postdoc should get a username and password to access their library account 
None of their resources require VPN!
To request interlibrary loans (ILLs): https://illiad.library.tufts.edu
  • If not available at the library, there is a charge of $4 for each request

Options to search for a journal:
  • hirshlibrary.tufts.edu -> Click on eJournals tab, write down the journal name, and the page will redirect to BrowZine to do the search (browzine.com/libraries)
      • Does not allow you to save PDFs
      • If at home, use BrowZine
  • Jumbo Search
  • Google Scholar
    • You can change your settings at Google Scholar:
      • Library links -> Search for Tufts University -> Check the Tufts University box -> Click on “Save”
  • FindIt@Tufts
    • For articles available within the library, you can request it and they print it out for you.
    • If not available within the library, go to ILLiad to request an interlibrary loan https://illiad.library.tufts.edu

Resources to find protocols and methods:

Approach to literature search:
  • Visualizing the literature search as a scientific approach.
  • Focused question:
    • “What is it you really want to know about?”
  • Identify key words/concepts
    • What is the topic?
    • What is the info needed?
    • Where can you find this info?
  • Look at the library research guide or ask the librarian

Indexing in PubMed:
  • Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) – standardized terms
    • Will be located at the bottom of the PubMed search page, once a paper is selected
    • Because it’s people who create the MeSH terms, sometimes it takes a little longer to do the search for a specific combination of words
    • MeSH terms are organized on a hierarchy and can be automatically searched on PubMed
    • Where to find a particular MeSH term?
      • Search for a particular term on the main search box -> Look at the “Search details” box on the right side of the screen (may need to scroll down a bit to find it)
      • Search can be restricted by using sub terms on the MeSH database directly
      • Set up a personalized PubMed account: 
        • Saves your searches
        • Break down your search by using 1-2 search term combinations and using “and” (to restrict your search) or “or” (to broaden your search)
          • Words on the search results will be highlighted
        •  Results will also be emailed to you
For writing a systematic review:
  • Request help from a librarian to find the right search databases as well as construct the right search terms

Popular workshops:
  • EndNote
  • Systematic Review
  • PubMed

Tufts University Postdocs Can Now Access the VersatilePhD!

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Interested in exploring non-academic career options? 

Versatile PhD is the oldest, largest online community dedicated to non-academic and non-faculty careers for PhDs in humanities, social science and STEM. Join over 70,000 other members in learning about options for those in (and out) of graduate school!

VPhD helps graduate students identify, prepare for, and excel in possible non-academic careers. The site includes content for humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. You’ll have access to the career finder as well as real-life examples of Ph.Ds, ABDs and MAs who pursued non-academic careers. You’ll get their stories, advice, inside information about their fields, and even the actual resumes and cover letters they used to get their first non-academic jobs. You also get access to the community discussion forums, a member directory listing thousands of PhDs working across the United States, job listings, and great information about a wide variety of possible careers.

Log into Jumbo Jobs, then click on “Resource Library” and click on the Versatile PhD link to access this resource. 

Stay tuned for a seminar on using the VersatilePhD in your career development!

Login in using “postdoc” as your login and “guest” as your password.

Click on resource links.

Navigate to the VersatilePhD to register your email.
Register using any email address.
Activate your account by checking your email.

Check out the forums and ask questions of the great online community!


Postdoc Appreciation Week: Financial Planning with Fidelity Investments

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We were joined by Dan Shea from Fidelity Investments to learn more about budgeting and financial planning!



Financial planning with Fidelity Investments

Topics to be discussed:

  • Track your expenses.
  • Know what is a discretionary vs essential spending.
  • Monitor your spending behavior.
  • Tough to save if you don’t know what you’re saving for!!
Essential expenses:
  • Mortgage
  • Food
  • Health care
Examples of discretionary expenses:
  • Travel
  • Cable TV
Make paying high-interest credit cards a priority:
  • If you have credit cards with an 8-9% interest rate it’s bad, so try to pay them as soon as possible.
  • Create a budget.
  • Avoid getting a high interest now because it compounds – you end up paying more in the future.
  • If you have more than one credit card with a high-interest rate, you can consolidate them but then make sure they get paid during the timeline that was determined for it.
  • Example: if you have a credit card with a 10% interest rate versus a card with a 15% interest rate then pay the one with the 15% interest rate first!
  • Key to your credit report is how long you’ve had your credit cards.
How much to use the credit card?
  • Doesn’t matter how much you use the credit card, as long as you pay them. Try to pay them off each month.
  • Use only 16% of what’s available of your credit. For example: if you have a $10,000 dollar credit you don’t want to have more than $1,600 in balance.
  • Too many cards could hurt your credit.
  • Monitor your savings! 
  • “Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket” – particularly important with investments.
    • Good tools:
      •  In the Fidelity Investments website to keep track of your accounts (free to set up!) – you can buy stocks through that tool.
      • Google Wallet
      • Some other tools charge $20/month to use.
How to create and manage your budget:
  • Money for essentials, unplanned emergencies and goals.
  • 50% of your take home income should go to essential spending.
Essential spending:
  • ~50% of take-home pay.
Essential savings:
  • Save 15% of pre-tax (not take-home) income.
Roth-IRA:
  • Lowers your taxable income. The younger you are and the lower your bracket is, the more sense it makes to have a Roth-IRA.
Short-term savings:
  • Save 5% of your income.
Emergency funds:
  • “Because the unexpected happens”.
  • Should save 3-6 months of essential expenses!
  • Maybe start a separate bank of money account and put in a certain amount every month ($20 or so) after you’ve paid your bad debt and covered your essential expenses.
Retirement:
  • Start saving for retirement as soon as possible! Up to 8% pre-tax income every month.
  • You don’t want to compromise your retirement savings. Compounding is key!
  • 403(b) retirement plan – can you merge your 403(b) from your old institution into a new one like Tufts? Yes (Rollover)!
  • If you take out a loan on your retirement plan, you have to pay taxes on it.
Mutual funds versus stocks

Investing:
  • Fidelity Investments is in campus twice a month on campus. 
    • October is booked, but for after October is cool – financial advice for free!!
**Pay off high debt first!**
  • Paying debt in full saves you a lot of interest.
  • The benefit of paying your debt:
    • The higher your FICO score the lower your APR is.
Credit score:
  • Student loans can actually help your score, but whether you’re good at making payments to your loan every month is what influences your standing.
Know what you’re spending on and distinguish between good debt versus bad debt.
  • Good debt: i.e. mortgage
  • Bad debt: credit cards
If making $65,000 or less, we can write down the student loan debt for tax breaks?

Housing:
  • Housing payment should be no more than 28% of your gross income.
  • The City of Boston offers a class on home owning for $25.
The order on how to use your money:
  1. Saving for emergency expenses
  2. Saving for retirement
  3. Pay/pay-off high-interest cards
  4. Pay student loans


Postdoc Appreciation Week: Speed Networking & Career Panel

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Learn about PhDs and Tufts alum that have successfully transitioned into careers in Industry! 

In attendance: 

Antoine Boudot – in vitro Cancer Biologist at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals (former postdoc at Tufts)
April Blodgett – Sales and bioconsulting at PerkinElmer
Anh Hoang – Co-founder / CSO at Sofregen Medical
Michael Mattoni – Senior patent agent at Mintz Levin
Travis D’Cruz – Licensing associate at Tufts University
Michael Doire – Department manager – Biology at Tufts University
Angela Kaczmarczyk – Scientist / Founder of BosLabs
Nina Dudnik – Scientist / Founder and CEO of Seeding Labs
What drove your career path away from academia?
April: A lot of work and little pay.
Antoine: Too many postdocs in the Boston/Cambridge area that also want to do the same as you do.
Travis: Going through the motions and seeing his PIs on their offices for so long, writing grants and not doing actual science.
Nina: Never wanted to be an academic. What she cared most about was not about the details of the experiment but to explain/communicate to others why the science matters.

What do you do to step away from the academic path? What research did you do to prepare yourself to move out of academia?

Antoine
  • He works at the bench everyday as he used to do as a postdoc, but he enjoys not having to worry about funding and getting materials/reagents. 
  • Set up a LinkedIn account and realized it was about building connections. He also went to networking events and started making connections within Merrimack. So start making connections now!
April
  • Make connections now. Do not expect to connect with people now and then ask for help or a job the following day. Having a vaccine background helped her (microbiologist by training). 
  • She loves the speed/demands of her job. She felt like making a change after several years and she likes doing sales, so she made the move and started thinking about previous experiences that translate to sales so that she could use them to get the job.
Ang:
  • After publishing in a high impact journal paper, nothing happens. What was conflicting for her was that all that work led to a high impact journal paper would not progress much beyond that. Thus, she wanted to do something about it and started a company.
  • She came from a large, well-funded research group, so she says she had resources. She also did studies toward a MBA. Postdoc’d at day and hustled at night.
  • Her postdoc did not prepare her for any of this! The learning curve was very steep. When starting a company you do wear 5 hats 40 hours a week. The postdoc prepared her for the science part (to sell the idea to investors), but not the business side of it. She didn’t know how to incorporate a company, how to pay her employees, how to provide them with benefits… People management is a whole different subject to deal with when setting up a company.
Michael M.:
  • Realized didn’t want to do research 3 or so years into the PhD, but he pushed through. He went to the tech transfer office and asked if they had an intern position. He now wears 3 hats at his job.
  • No need to be an attorney to become a patent agent.
  • Soft skills from the postdoc to apply for a job: the dealing with people, wearing twelve different hats.
Travis:
  • Sought out what other options are there. He found other postdocs who started a small consulting group and he joined them. That helped him stand out among a pool of job applicants when he finished his postdoc. Think outside the box!
Skills that you gained during your postdoc?

Michael D.
  • Took a different path: he did graduate school in molecular biology but as he progressed through grad school he realized that he didn’t want to necessarily do that. 
  • Skills: Learning does not often solely happen in the class room. You learn valuable skills at your work place. Rarely the person who knows more in the lab is not the PI (not in terms of the everyday requirements). It’s usually the lab manager/technician.
  • He looks for people with passion and knowledge. Doesn’t care about people coming from top schools alone.
Michael M.:
  • A major skill is to ask the right questions! In his case: what does a specific sector need? How can he become an asset to their organization? Utility-centered approach. Take initiative. Know where you want to go. Be honest to yourself about not knowing. Get it out of your system.
Michael D.:
  • Much easier to teach PhDs about management than management people learning how to do science!
What to do when you already know what you want?

Angela:
  • Started by writing for the student magazine at Berkeley. Went to a bio-hacking talk and was intrigued by it. Moved to Boston and acquired teaching experience at Harvard, then found out about space open to do science at Somerville. Science classes open to all backgrounds (a lot of them are engineers interested in learning biotechnology!)
  • Events during the weekends and a forum this Monday 9/26/16 at LabCentral.
  • She is also a visiting scientist at the Broad Institute.
  • In the future she wants to do the community lab (BosLabs) full-time.
Nina:
  • She thinks the biggest problems in the world can be addressed by science. Knew she wanted to be a geneticist when she was 13 (wanted to feed the world).
  • Incredible compulsion to solve problems. 
  • When in Harvard she realized that many labs had a surplus of or were wasting equipment that could be used further, so she started Seeding Labs 5 years even before she officially started Seeding Labs.
  • Got funding for Seeding Labs even before she started writing her thesis.
  • Started doing networking events and met people that helped her learn about finances and management.
  • She had to learn about 7 different languages she would not have learned when in academia to run the labs.
Michael M.:
  • You will never be prepared for the next step! You make it as you go along.





[Job Listings] Associate Project Manager opening at Bracket Global

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[Job Listings] Associate Project Manager opening at Bracket Global

Check out this job posting from our friends at Bracket (formerly Clintara). Great for people who love project management and data analysis!

Position Overview:

Responsible for development and management of projects at assigned pharmaceutical clients.  The projects will include clinical data quality services (e.g. Rater training, subject eligibility, ratings quality assurance, endpoint reliability, scale management, etc.) for said pharmaceutical clients. 
Essential Duties and Responsibilities:
Project Management (50%)
·       Manage all phases of each assigned project, including budget, invoicing, staffing, project plan and client deliverables
·       Manage multiple projects concurrently, maintaining project schedule and quality deliverables in a dynamic environment
·       Coordinate with other Client Services personnel as well as Professional Services and Technical Delivery resources to ensure the timely and quality preparation of project deliverables based on assigned scope-of-services
·       Oversee development and approval of study materials
·       Manage team of Project Specialists and/or Project Assistants to facilitate project tasks
·       Ensure all project deliverables are of high quality and exceed client’s expectations in compliance with Quality Management governance procedures
·       Oversee study management and coordinate study status with project sponsors
·       Manage resources and tasks to ensure all logistics, materials and technologies necessary as defined by scope-of-services
·       Coordinate with project sponsors to ensure all project expectations are met
Data/Site Management (30%)
·       Manage identification and resolution of clinical trial data inquiries/data changes and communication to internal and external multi-function resources within project teams
·       Manage communications with client (e.g. pharmaceutical sponsor, CRO) and site personnel regarding site/study details
·       Facilitate data review meetings with clinical trial study team leaders
·       Own in-study/maintenance transactional project activities throughout entire project lifecycle, e.g.  project variable fees, inter-department workflow assignment, issue escalation
·       Set up master systems, additional study hardware, study site folders, and data folders for clinical trial execution
·       Design and configure unique project systems and manage data for each assigned project, utilizing proprietary IT applications (e.g. RDA, IR2, CDR PRISM, etc.)
·       Produce data reports (e.g., weekly, interim, final, etc.) for submission to pharmaceutical clients
·       Attend and deliver presentations at both site and client facing meetings
Account Management (10%)
·       Communicate new opportunities, as identified, at existing clients for Bracket  encompassing Change Orders and new projects
·       Facilitate new  Change Order creation and socialization for assigned projects in cooperation with Business Development Operations
·       Manage relationships within assigned client accounts including routine written, telephone and face-to-face communication
·       Provide account updates to Bracket account management teams
Administration (10%)
·       Provide ongoing career development, mentoring and performance feedback for supervised Project Specialists and/or Project Assistants
·       Track monthly and quarterly metrics (variable fee budgetary items) and provide to Project Manager for invoicing
·       Enhance the Bracket business model by institutionalizing business processes, implementing best practices and templates, and seeking ways to work more efficiently
·       Contribute to the development, enhancement and testing for enterprise IT applications
·       Coach, counsel and provide mentoring and guidance for direct reports
Experience
·        Three to five years of professional experience
·       One to two years of project management experience
Skills & Competencies
Required
·        Experience with managing work plans, project budgets, invoicing, resource allocation and deliverable management
·        College degree (B.S., B.A.)/University Degree for EU candidates required
·         Demonstrated analytical, organizational, creative problem solving and structured communication skills
·         Strong client and vendor relationship skills
·         Demonstrated experience in career development and team management
·         Ability to travel for business
·         Ability to work nights or weekends as required
·         Demonstrated proficiency with computers, especially Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Access)
·         Fluency in English (will be required to write, speak and understand English to conduct day-to day business)
·         Ability to manage own time proactively identify prioritized tasks
·         Entrepreneurial spirit, drive and work ethic
·         Focus on attention to detail
Preferred
·         Professional experience within the pharmaceutical industry.  Training and/or education background valued.
We offer a fully comprehensive benefits program with medical, dental, vision, company paid life insurance, short and long term disability.  Great Paid Time Off program that starts with 20 days of accrual per calendar year; great 401k plan with company match that is 100% vested immediately!  Paid parental leave and other competitive benefit programs.  Great salary and reward and recognition programs. 
EEO Minorities/Women/Veterans/Disabled

Regulatory Affairs: A Day in the Life Of.

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Interested in a career in regulatory affairs? Click through to find out more!

Written by /u/LifeAfterLifeScience and copied with permission

Communicating

At the most basic level, you act as a trader in information. You’ll stand at the midpoint between a vast variety of departments, experts and regulators – and you’ll be keeping information flowing between each and every one of them. Emails, reports, meetings, phone calls, the job involves keeping people up to date and in the loop. Communication lies at the heart of regulatory affairs, so expect to do a lot of it.

Organising

Are you organised? You’d better be – you’ll be juggling multiple projects at any one time, plus various meetings and whatever emergency has come up this time. Being able to keep track of these requirements is a must. You’ll need to be able to plan both in the short term (today’s chaos) and the long term (what is our 4 year development plan?). This is where the typical scientific background, with its multitasking of experiments, writing, and meetings, really comes in handy.

Managing

The job title is Regulatory Affairs Manager, and so it’s fairly clear that there’s management involved. But it’s not ‘management’ in the sense of having people reporting to you and doing the tasks you assign them (well, not until later at least). Instead it’s managing people without actually having any formal authority over them – you can’t give orders, you’ll have to persuade, wheedle, nag, bargain, compromise and trade your way to your goals. This is not to say that people won’t want to help you, but each expert you approach will have a ridiculous number of demands on their time. Why should they help you? You need to be persuasive, and this is why interpersonal skills are one of the main talents HR looks for when hiring.

Writing dossier modules

Want approval to market your miracle drug? First you need to show that you know what you’re doing – that your product is safe, effective, and made in a (consistently) high-quality way. This is done via the dossier, a vast document split into numerous sections covering every stage of the development process and the future plans. As you’d expect, working on a product’s dossier takes up a lot of time. Whether it’s putting together the initial application or making updates to a previously-approved one, a regulatory career will revolve around the dossier.

Working with source documents

This is a pretty big change for people coming in from academia or research: you’re done with laboratory work. Others within the company will be doing protein analysis, clinical studies, purity checks – that’s not your job any more. Instead, you’ll take the work produced by these people (studies and reports), and use that as a basis for their own writing. You still need experience dealing with scientific data and methods (to understand what you are reading!), but the data is produced by others. Your job is to understand these source documents so that you can decide how much of it ends up in the dossier.

Providing regulatory advice

You aren’t just reading reports and writing dossiers. Because companies are always changing their methods (trying to optimise for cost and yield), you’ll be part of the change evaluation process – saying how much regulatory stress is involved in any given change. That clever idea to increase yields by a few percent is less worthwhile when the FDA demands several years of stability data first. Likewise, your advice will be needed to plan these changes. What will be needed to get approval for your drug? What kind of studies will be needed in the final submission? This is where regulatory affairs comes in.

Thoughts on transitioning into reg. affairs straight from the bench?
It depends on the company. Small biotechs will likely be looking for candidates with more experience however large pharma companies often hire people straight out of a PhD or postdoc and train them up.  

Kind of interesting?

If this sounds like your area and you want to know more, then either drop me a question here or check out our short guide for life scientists on Amazon. Or both 😀