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What To Expect In An Industry R&D Role From Former Genentech Scientist, Elliott Brecht, PhD


What is the difference between an academic scientist and an industry scientist? 

Find out in this week’s podcast where Isaiah interviews former senior scientist at Genentech, Elliott Brecht, Ph.D.


Here’s a quick rundown of this week’s episode…

  • Join Isaiah as he conducts an informational interview with a fellow Cheeky: Elliott Brecht, PhD.
  • Elliot discusses the role of a scientist in industry research and how it differs from academia.
  • Elliot shares his challenges in transitioning into industry and how to overcome them.


From This Week’s Show…

Research In Academia Vs. Research In Industry

I’m very excited for today’s show because we have a former senior scientist at Genentech. So for those of you who are considering being a research scientist or a researcher in industry, and you’re wondering what the differences are between doing research in academia and in industry, he is the perfect person to talk to. 

When I started applying and started interviewing and started actually touring different industry sites and going to them, I realized that they were conducting way more research in industry than I was in academia.

You’re basically starting to take on more of that PI role and you are then in charge of usually multiple different projects. 

When you move into a more senior scientist sort of position you’re going to have one main project that you are sort of the advocate for. You have people underneath you who are collecting all of the data, running different analytics, getting the compound, and filtering it down. You have one major project that you’re on while doing several others. 

Depending on the company, they’re going to have people who are over in the other areas of development who are working through and doing a lot more of the process, sort of engineering of things going through and making sure whether or not we can develop these compounds. 

You might not necessarily be writing as many articles. You might be writing books, you might be writing more NDA filings and FDA grants,  or MTA regulations and, writing more medical descriptions.

Industry Transition Challenges And How To Overcome Them

I guess one of the biggest challenges for me when I initially transitioned was imposter syndrome; feeling, am I good enough to be here? Like, should I be here?

You have to realize that you know more about this data than anybody else. And you just have to own it.

I’m personally on the spectrum of being a little more introverted and in industry, you can’t really hide behind the filing cabinet, like you can within academia. That was one of the things that was a little more difficult for me; having a lot more personal interaction with people. 

So one thing that we always recommend is not to silo yourself onboarding, don’t stay by yourself, meet as many people as you can. Really get involved in the onboarding activities. 

A strength that we have as PhDs is that we love a challenge and we thrive in challenges. So we have a very high threshold for psychological pain. In fact, we enjoy it. It’s a weakness for us because things have to get really, really bad for us to finally change. We are sharing this with you so that you at least know what that pain will be like, and you’ll make plans to transition or to take your career into your own hands sooner. 

That rejection really helped me to switch over and really understand a lot more of the differences between the academic and industry because, within academia, you’re always taking ownership. I switched over and was able to start talking about how I could impact the company and I could push their research forward and how I could bring value to the company.

If you are interested in getting specifically into an R and D role, we do have an advanced program that Elliot is a part of as a program leader, the R and D society was our first advanced program.

** for the full podcast, check out the audio player above.

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.

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Isaiah Hankel


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