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Day In The Life Of A PhD Level Industry R&D Professional

Skip ahead to:

00:12 – Show Me the Data
15:10 – Principal Scientist Track w/ Lilian Josephson, Ph.D.
30:25 – Associate Research Scientist Track w/ Evan Dubiel, Ph.D.
41:15 – Scientist I Track w/ Natalie Fredette, Ph.D.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in R&D? 

Want to know what it’s like to actually work in industry R&D as a PhD?

In this episode of Cheeky Scientist Radio, we are joined by 3 PhDs who have successfully transitioned into an industry R&D position. Each of the PhDs joining us has industry experience and want to share their insights and perspective with you. Just like you they sought out something different than academia and found success in industry. Our 3 guests, Lilian Josephson, Ph.D., Evan Dubiel, Ph.D., and Natalie Fredette, Ph.D. share incredibly valuable insight into how they found success in industry R&D. 

About Our Guests

Lilian Josephson, Ph.D. completed her Ph.D. at the University of Delaware and she currently works as a Principal Chemist at Ecolab. She has 5+ years’ experience working closely with biotech/CMC industry scientists from Genentech, Abbott, and Momentive. Currently she helps make the world cleaner, safer, and healthier by inventing and developing hand care products that are designed for them. She helps clean 40 billion hands each year!

Evan Dubiel, Ph.D. completed his Ph.D. at the Université de Sherbrooke in Chemical and Biotechnological Engineering and he currently works as an Associate Research Scientist at PPD developing pharmacokinetic and immunogenicity assays with multipleimmunological platforms including ELISA and Mesoscale Discovery.

Natalie Fredette Ph.D. completed her Ph.D. in Biomedical Science at the University of New Mexico. She currently works as a Scientist I at BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. At BioMarin she is a part of the Translational Biology team, working to turn creative ideas into cutting edge solutions for patients with rare disease.

Key Takeaways

1. The priorities of industry R&D are very different than academic research. In industry the major end goal is to create a product while in academia the end goal is to get a publication. 

2. You do not need a postdoc to get hired in industry R&D. In fact, too long of a postdoc will hurt your chance of getting hired. 

3. Even in a technical R&D role employers are considering the way you will fit into the company culture and the team very highly. They want to hire someone who they want to work with, someone with good soft skills. 

Why Industry R&D Holds So Much Opportunity For PhDs 

Research & Development is a massive part of industry. 

According to UNESCO, the world spends $1.7 TRILLION  on R&D every year, and the US alone spends $478 billion on R&D annually. 

This is a huge amount of money and this large spend creates many, many opportunities for PhDs in industry R&D.

Additionally, R&D is always changing always advancing – and maintaining a culture of innovation was one of the top concerns for R&D employers. 

As a PhD you are well suited to help companies maintain and build an innovative culture, and this is something you should communicate when you are talking with potential employers. 

According to the Innovation Research Interchange, more than 40% of the employers they surveyed said that one of their top innovation tactics is to hire new people.

They are looking for new, fresh people who can bring innovative ideas to their companies.

That is Ph.D.s.

That is who you are.

And finally, in industry as a PhD you will be paid what you are worth. 

According to Indeed, the average salary for a postdoctoral fellow is $48,000, while an industry Scientist role will earn you an average of $93,000 and a Principle Scientist role $145,000. 

In general, when you look at the averages across the board, you’re making at least twice as much in industry as you are in a postdoc.

Industry provides the resources and opportunity for you to do meaningful innovative work and be paid well. 

Principal Scientist Career Track: A Conversation With Lilian Josephson, Ph.D. 

Isaiah: First, I thought to ask you, why did you pursue this career track right after getting your Ph.D.?

Lillian: Actually, I wanted to do research, R&D career before I started grad school. I did one of those R&D internships when I was an undergrad that I fell in love with. It wasn’t academia lab that I fell in love with, it was Momentive industrial lab that said, “Well, we love you, but we can’t hire you with only an undergrad degree.” So, I was like, “Okay. I will do a Ph.D. in this.”

Isaiah: Wow. Basically, you’re saying, getting a Ph.D. opened more doors for you in industry R&D.

Lillian: Certainly, because this is a personal view.

But I think having a Ph.D. will lead you further into the career. If you want to make it to a director level or VP level of a technical company, the Ph.D. is really an asset and a value.

Isaiah: You went right from getting your Ph.D. right into industry, correct?

Lillian: That is correct. I started at L’Oreal.

Isaiah Hankel: That’s right. I bring that up because there’s this misconception that you need to do a postdoc to get into a scientist position at a big company or to get into a senior position, but you’re an example that you do not. You can transition right from getting your Ph.D. into an industry scientist position.

Lillian: Yes, that is correct. I think too long a postdoc will actually prevent you from joining a company because they would be very confused as to which level they would put you in terms of being a scientist. Because after three to five years, companies start to hire from within or pull from other companies. Having a really long postdoc, whether it’s at one location or multiple locations, will affect your job prospects.

**watch the video above to hear Lilian’s full interview

Associate Research Scientist Career Track: A Conversation With Evan Dubiel, Ph.D.

Isaiah: How have you been able to have more of an impact, on the industry side that in academia?

Evan: To answer that question. I really have to look at like the end results of academia versus industry. The end result of academia that I worked in was you publish a paper, and it goes into pub med, and that is the end.

And then when I think about the end result of working in industry, the end results specifically for me, and the company I work at, our end result is developing a pharmacokinetic or an immunogenicity assay, say so that we can analyze drug candidates of our clients.

So that’s kind of, it’s a step to get in towards that end goal of getting a drug to market, to help people.

This is really could be a direct impact on society that you maybe make a small contribution to, but even a small contribution is better to little to no contribution, which is what I feel most, at least my personal academic research went into.

And that’s even I published in quite high impact journals, high as chemical reviews, which is a very high impact factor. I published in that. I really realized even doing that, there’s not a lot of, at least what I felt was a lot of impact.

**watch the video above to hear Evan’s full interview

Scientist Career Track: A Conversation With Natalie Fredette, Ph.D.

Isaiah: What are some of the key things you’re going to look for right away when making a new hire? 

Natalie: So for me, now that I’m on the other side technical proficiency is very big deal. I can look at a resume and look at that in a very clean resume. If I see a jumbled resume with way too much detail, unfortunately now I’ll be prejudice to think you’re getting so caught up in some of details here that what if that happens in your work. So a beautiful resume that shows you know how to communicate well for me when I’m just screening. And we get hundreds of applicants for a single job.

But when we have to go through and look through some of these, like I admitted, I’m tired, I’ve been looking at the same terms over and over again. So I want to see that you communicate really well. And once I see that you have you skills down with the first few questions, the next biggest thing for me is culture fit.

We’re going to be working together a lot. We’re going to be in a lot of meetings, we’re going to have stressful deadlines and I need to know you get along. There are a lot of wonderfully competent scientists out there and I think that’s important and valuable. But I want to know you get along with the team.

And we spent so much time and money in viewing candidates and going through the process and onboarding them. We don’t want, first of all for the candidate to feel uncomfortable when they get here or for us to feel uncomfortable when a candidate is accepts the position. We want to get along. And we want to gel because you need to work as a well oiled machine in industry to get you results fast.

And so culture fit now is actually a really big deal to me and it should be a big deal to candidates too. You don’t want to be where you’re not wanted, you don’t want to be well you might feel uncomfy so don’t forget your interviewing them as much as us.

Isaiah: If you could zoom out and you were talking to yourself, five years ago or a month before you got hired what advice would you give yourself in the job search? Specifically for getting into the type of role that you’re in now in R&D.

Natalie: I had a very low point a few weeks before I got hired where they said that they were going to take me as a research associate and at the last minute backed out and said they’d just extend my post doc.

And so I was literally actually, I was physically in tears at some points coming home from work realizing it wasn’t going to end.

If I could go back to that person, I would look at them and just really shake myself by the shoulders and say, “Do not doubt that you are valuable.” Like never doubt that you are valuable. And make sure you keep that confidence that you are valuable. Because of that confidence in who you are and your skillset and what you can contribute to a scientific team is very apparent when you network.

And as we all know, networking is very important, so keep your head up. Do not doubt your value and make sure that you’re putting that value and that confidence into your networking.

Because you can tell now that I’m on the other side of things and I’m networking with people and I see them add value to me or see them competent in what they can do, it makes a big difference.

So don’t forget your value. Know that you’re worth. Don’t relegate yourself and say, “Guess I’m going to take this third or fourth post doc.”

You don’t have. Be confident. Know your value. Reflect that value in how you interact and network with others. Don’t forget to reflect your value.

Watch the full podcast episode above to learn more about what it’s like to work in R&D from PhDs who have successfully transitioned from academia into an industry R&D position. 

To get advanced access to the full length versions of these podcasts, as well as access to our live training webinars, exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the waitlist for the Cheeky Scientist Association now.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah is a Ph.D. in Anatomy & Cell Biology and internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant. He is an expert in the biotechnology industry and specializes in helping people transition into cutting-edge career tracks.

Isaiah believes that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life right now, you should make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.
Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.