Tag Archives: career development

ICYMI: Short course on Introduction to Drug Development

The fall semester is in full swing here at Tufts, and Dean Dan Jay’s mission to “train to career excellence” is already palpable. You may have noticed that you received an e-mail alerting you to new course offerings at Tufts this fall: a career coaching workshop that also includes one-on-one sessions with career strategist Sarah Cardozo Duncan (this took place on October 16, 2017) as well as a short, five-week course on drug development, led by Tufts alumnus and Agios Pharmaceuticals’ director of enzymology Stefan Gross, PhD.

As a “senior grad student” (don’t call me that to my face), the impending decisions of career paths are pressing on me. Since I had met Stefan at other Sackler events–he gave a DMCB seminar as well as judged our flash talk competition last spring–I knew he was a fantastic scientist and speaker. I jumped at the opportunity to learn from him first hand about the work he is involved in, and registered for his course on drug development. In this edition of “In Case You Missed It,” I’ll be sharing with you my experience at our first class. Perhaps it will inspire you to also take other career training courses that we anticipate will be offered in the coming semesters!

In this first class, Stefan talked about developing drugs for strategically selected diseases- for example, rare genetic diseases that are relatively uncommon but are actually prevalent enough for a substantial patient population (and ultimately drug consumer population) to exist. We reviewed a specific example that covered the series of experimental techniques performed toward developing treatments for an example of a category of rare genetic diseases, Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation (CDG). As the name CDG suggests, these conditions are due to defective glycosylation, the ubiquitously important process in which a carbohydrate is attached to a molecule to enable its structural or functional role. Glycosylation defects can occur at many different points of sugar production, and for every affected step in the pathway, there can be an associated disease. We learned about how to design an experiment to screen thousands of compounds that might rescue enzymatic activity of phosphomannomutase 2 (PMM2), a defective enzyme in a type of CDG. Moving forward, we also learned how to follow up on and validate hits from a screen and then progress those compounds through a drug development program.

Just from this first meeting, I can tell this course is unlike any other I have taken at Tufts (and as a one-time Immunology, now-CMDB student, trust me, I have taken many). The mix of graduate students and postdocs, as well as the presence of our Deans Dan and Dan, creates a new kind of diversity and range of experience that results in many thought provoking questions, comments, and discussions. I look forward to completing the class goals outlined by Stefan, which are to familiarize ourselves with the small molecule drug discovery process and current state-of-the-art concepts in drug discovery, and to conduct a company diligence exercise. Towards the first two goals, we will be learning about procedures carried out at industrial companies that often require resources graduate students like ourselves could only dream of, like simultaneously testing thousands of 96-well plates with tens of thousands of compounds in a screen. By thinking about science through a lens in which we are enabled with benefits like these, experiments can be designed in a completely different way. Furthermore, the third goal of the course, to conduct a company diligence exercise, is meant to prepare us for an interview at a biotech company, something that your microbial genetics course may not.

Keep an eye out for announcements for career-oriented course offerings in the future. These are great opportunities for those of us who may be interested in transitioning to a career in industry after grad school, and even for those who have other paths in mind but are still curious about the inner workings of industrial procedures!

New Sackler leadership envisions training to career excellence

The beginning of this academic year has seen a shift in the leadership of the Sackler school with the retirement of both the Dean & the Associate Dean. Dr. Naomi Rosenberg’s decision to retire from her role as the Dean of Sackler after 13 years of dedicated service was received with a mixture of surprise and trepidation, which was compounded by Associate Dean Kathryn Lange’s retirement decision around the same time. The dynamic duo left large shoes to fill and the search committee spent the summer choosing candidates who would have the school and its constituents’ best interests in mind. To that end, Daniel Jay, Ph.D., a faculty member of the Developmental, Chemical & Molecular Biology department, and Daniel Volchok, Ed.D., previously the Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life at Northeastern University, were chosen to fill the positions of the Dean and Associate Dean, respectively. Both of these individuals bring their extensive experiences to the table. Dean Jay has mentored numerous graduate students and has served as the post-doc officer for the school prior to his appointment as the Dean, and Assoc. Dean Volchok has worked with both undergraduates and graduate students across multiple disciplines that range from medical schools to business schools.

For Dean Jay, a fortuitously timed conference on graduate education solidified his commitment to throw his hat in the ring, while Assoc. Dean Volchok found that beginning his position simultaneously with a new Dean was a wonderful opportunity to build a fresh vision for Sackler from the ground up. Aside from similar serendipitous timing, Jay and Volchok also developed convergent objectives for how to keep Sackler and its associated graduate programs a competitive academic institution. Of particular interest regarding these new goals is that they grew directly out of interactions with students.

“In my interview, with the students I met with, they all talked about career,” Volchok recalled. “It was very important to the students. It turned out they were right…career focus is part of the life here.”

Jay states that their new mission for Sackler is one of “training to career excellence”, which encourages high distinction not only at the bench for students, but also in less traditionally academic contexts, such as in the boardroom or at the news desk. “The reason for that,” Jay explained, “is that 80% of our trainees go on to careers beyond academia…and we need to train all of those individuals in addition to the small number that do go on in academia to compete, to excel, and to lead in areas of whatever their chosen career passion.”

Both Jay and Volchok believe that trainees are the key to Sackler’s success. To highlight the importance of student leadership, Jay mentions that “extracurricular programs, that didn’t exist 10 years ago, were developed by student leadership such as the GSC [Graduate Student Council], TBBC [Tufts Biomedical Business Club] and the PDA [Postdoctoral Association].” They both want to see this trend to continue as they would like students to take ownership of their career choices and approach the Dean’s office with their needs and wants to ensure their success. Jay believes that “we will be stronger and better if we are willing to change with the times to provide what students require for success.” He is also less concerned that faculty may not be on board with non-traditional career choices. He believes that most faculty are not opposed to career choices outside of academia, and he stresses that research excellence is still the first priority for any trainee at the Sackler school and will not be compromised

In his twenty years at Tufts, Jay has watched, as well as aided, the trainee community forge extracurricular programs and initiatives to fulfill these alternative training needs, despite, and more aptly because of, the shortage of accessible resources. To build upon this foundation, this fall semester the Dean’s office launched two new trial initiatives: a drug development short course, taught by alumnus Stefan Gross, and career counseling services provided by Sarah Duncan. In addition, Volchok is currently working on developing a business skills course based on his experience in Northeastern’s business school; such action speaks to the fresh perspectives he brings to Sackler through his extensive and varied educational and administrative experience. While this type of career training will remain supplemental in the short-term, they plan to eventually incorporate such training directly into the infrastructure of Sackler. This integration will run the gamut from admissions to available curriculum, such as proposed course offerings focused on business or transferable skills (eg – team building, project management, etc.), school-facilitated industry internships that are integrated into a student’s research plan, and possibly a two-year biomedical Masters program that would incorporate training in both research and non-traditional science career development.

The majority of these programs will be accessible not just for graduate students but also for Tufts postdocs as well. Jay’s role as the post-doc officer for the school has made him very much aware of the bottleneck effect of the current academic job crisis that these postdocs face. Therefore, he has stressed that programs be made open to the whole Sackler community whenever possible. He also proudly mentions the success of the PDA, which organized around 70 events last year, and affirms his faith in trainee leaders to build career-related programs. Unfortunately, industry internships will not be open to postdocs, but Jay hopes to work with industry contacts to improve that situation.

The success of these programs and the new vision, according to Jay, will be evaluated by whether “graduates have an easier time finding their first job.” He mentions that he developed this milestone after his conversations with alumni who wished they had learned particular skills before entering the job market. In these conversations, he also discussed building more formal engagement between the alumni and the school, such as the possibility of alumni acting as adjunct professors to teach aforementioned short courses and the development of a biomedical research interest group. He affirms that he has had a positive reaction from the alumni who have also expressed interest in hosting/organizing events. He also mentions that alumni would definitely be a part of the new branding strategy now that the Dean’s office has developed its new mission. As a key component to executing these varied goals, Jay and Volchok have also established and seeded a new Sackler career development fund, dedicated to financing the programming to come out of this new mission.

Jay and Volchok aim to use their first year to launch programs that would serve as “trial balloons.” The school is “small, so [it is] easy to make changes”, according to latter, and therefore, they would like to test out which programs can be expanded upon in the long term. “This year will test the viability and utility of these short courses that can be used to build upon for longer term goals, and student engagement and participation will be crucial to seeing these initiatives succeed,” Jay elaborated. This last point seems to be critical to the new administration, as “feet on the ground”, as Jay put it, will be the litmus test for whether these initiatives continue. Both seemed confident that the students will indeed engage, given how proactive the trainee community has been about this topic in the past, and are ready and willing to listen to individual feedback.

“We’re of the size that we can make sure students are successful,” Volchok observed. “We can work with individual students when we need to. Students can feel like part of the community and not just a number.”

While a small student body has organizational advantages and new approaches can be tested easily without much bureaucratic repercussions, there are also disadvantages. The current funding climate, along with the fact that Sackler is surrounded by heavyweight schools with similar programs, has led to a dwindling number of students recruited to our programs every year. In the light of such events, concerns regarding the continuity of Sackler as a successful graduate school are bound to rise. However, both Jay and Volchok believe that their new mission of a strong emphasis on career development will help Sackler stand out amongst the other schools in the area.

“I view this as our route to success…how do we define ourselves in a very competitive environment,” Jay said. “If we dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to this mission, we would, in some ways, distinguish ourselves so that we are competitive, so that a student may choose us because they seek this path toward career excellence. We have to find a way to be relevant…I think the combination of being in Boston, of being small and mobile–if we can do it, we set the standard for the rest of the country. So that is exciting to me, and that’s making a difference, and this is why I’ve taken this job.

Besides the strong emphasis on career development, the Dean’s office’s new mission also prioritizes community building both in and outside of Tufts. Jay mentions a great advantage that Sackler has by being surrounded by Medical, Dental and Nutrition schools, and being in the same university as a Veterinary school–all opening doors to an influx of opportunities for trainees and faculty to design their studies that could result in more collaboration within the school. As an example, he cites the Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and their intentions of working more with the Sackler Basic Science programs (CTSI currently offers drop-in hours for statistics consultation and also offers a course on biostats, both of which are open to Sackler trainees). Jay is also looking forward to hearing individual programs’ changes to curriculum based on discussions between students and faculty mentors (CMDB is offering a bioinformatics class to its students after it was brought up in the program retreat). Additionally, Jay hopes to reach out to industry as well for more collaboration on various fronts.

Jay and Volchok are also tuned in to the social needs of the community to protect its members while reaching outside of their bubble. They are both advocates of the new student club Scientists Promoting Inclusive Excellence @ Sackler (SPINES), and stressed “increased awareness of diversity and inclusion” and building a tolerant community. In an effort to increase student engagement, Volchok has revised The Goods–a weekly digest of news, opportunities and events both on and off campus–delivered to the school community. He believes that “students have a good voice here” and are great resources on how the school and its environment can be improved. Both Jay and Volchok mentioned the need for more community outreach into middle schools, both in the Chinatown communities and the African-American communities in Roxbury. They would like the students to help with organizing and mentoring in these communities.

Of course, most of these ideas are still in the very early stages. “We’re at the very beginning of all this,” Jay said with a laugh. Even so, they seem to be off to a good start, as Jay and Volchok spent their first few weeks listening to the needs of the community before shaping their mission. Jay admits “…the level of concern and frustration of career path thing is here,” an issue frequently brought up by students in the past. Jay and Volchok are committed to listening to the needs of the trainees and helping them as much they can, but they also want the students to take ownership of their own career paths by being proactive. When asked what the students can do to help the Dean’s office, Volchok expresses his eagerness to work with students to improve their experience at Sackler. “Be open and honest with us. Come and tell us when things are going well. Come and tell us when things are not going well. If you have ideas and things we can do differently, let us know.”

New England Graduate Women in Science & Engineering Retreat, August 19th

NE GWiSE Inaugural Retreat!

New England Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (“N-E-G-wise”) is a new alliance between groups of graduate women in STEM from universities in Boston and across New England. We’re joining forces to address the issues facing graduate women in STEM. Join us for our first event, the NE GWiSE Inaugural Retreat, this summer! Details can be found below or at our website, https://negwise.wordpress.com .

Description: Come join us at NE GWiSE’s Inaugural Retreat- a day of connecting graduate women from different universities and collaborating to help make NE GWiSE an organization that can effectively address the issues we face and create change within our community.

We will start off the day being inspired by our opening keynote speaker (TBD). Next, we will have introductions by partner GWISE groups and breakout sessions to discuss how NE GWiSE will function. Finally, we’ll end the day with a scavenger hunt and BBQ social! This is a great opportunity to meet graduate women from different departments and universities, share best practices and recurring issues, and foster collaborations and friendships across the region. We hope to see you there!

Registration closes August 16th at 5pm so sign up now!

Date: Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Time: Registration is 12-1 pm, Opening Keynote starts at 1 pm, Event goes until ~7 pm

Location: BU College of Graduate Arts and Sciences and BU Beach

Coffee and snacks will be served throughout the event. Dress is casual.

 

 

GSC Committee & Club Updates: April 2017

Tufts Biomedical Business Club (TBBC)

from Aaron BernsteinCMP

Upcoming Events

TBBC Case Study Group: Mondays – 5-7PM, Jaharis 508

Practice solving cases, gain insight and tips, and learn more about the field of consulting.

TBBC Tufts Biomedical Alumni Speed Networking Night: Th Apr 13 — 6-8PM, Sackler 114

TBBC, in collaboration with the Office of Alumni Relations will be hosting a speed networking night! Meet fellow students and Tufts alumni who are working in the biomedical field from across all of Tufts campuses and programs, including Sackler, Fletcher, Medical, Dental, Nutrition, and the Gordon Institute. Mingle with old friends and new. We look forward to seeing you! Food and drinks will be served at this facilitated networking event.

TBBC Biotech BUZZ with Lily Ting: F Apr 14 — 9AM, M&V Lobby (Stearns 108)

Dr. Lily Ting is a life scientist and entrepreneur with 12 years of experience in academia and industry. Lily received her PhD from New South Wales University in Sydney and a post doc in the Gygi Lab at Harvard Medical School. After her experience leading projects in the academic sphere, Lily worked in a business development role at Athletigen and is now an Associate at PureTech Health. PureTech is a venture creation firm focused on bringing innovative solutions to the fields of neuroscience, immunology, and gastrointestinal diseases. She is also an avid dragon boat racer and just won gold, silver, and bronze in Puerto Rico!

TBBC Consulting Seminar Series: ClearView Heathcare Partners: Tu Apr 18 — 5-6:30PM, Sackler 507

Representatives from ClearView Healthcare Partners will speak to students about consulting and ClearView’s Connect to ClearView program for advanced degree candidates. 

TBBC, the Sackler Dean’s Office, GSC “Sackler Speaks” Flash Talk Competition: M Apr 24 — 5PM, Sackler 114

A well-developed flash talk is an effective tool to quickly and easily communicate your work to others. These take time to develop and usually evolve over a series of iterations. Sackler students will have a chance to give their scientific flash talks before a judging panel and other students. All presenters will receive helpful feedback and compete for nice prizes. This will be a low-key, fun event with appetizers and beer, and a chance to network with other students and professionals.

Recent Events

TBBC Biotech Buzz with Joel Batson, PhD, of RA Capital

F Feb 24: TBBC hosted Joel Batson, Science Project Manager at RA Capital. Joel introduced students to a new web-based tool he is developing and offered students the opportunity to collaborate with him and his team.

TBBC Career Seminar: Teresa Broering, Director of R&D, Affinivax

Tu Apr 4: Teresa Broering, current Director of R&D at Affinivax, a Cambridage, MA-based company developing a next generation approach in vaccine technologies, and former Director of Immunology at AbVitro as well as Senior Director of Product Discovery at MassBiologics, joined us for a discussion of her career path and her current role with Affinivax, and the current state of the biotech industry.

Reflections from AAAS 2017 – Research During the Trump Administration

The theme of this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Boston was “Serving Society through Science Policy.” As we move through the first few months of a new administration, this gathering could not have been more timely. While this conference is diverse with topics ranging from gene editing to criminology, the undercurrent of the meeting was anxiety over what will happen to research under the Trump administration.

What is science policy even? Most in this audience probably think of it as how much money research gets budgeted and occasional rule changes on whether fetal stem cell research can occur. Generally, science policy is the set of federal rules and policies that guide how research is done. Science policy can be split into two general frameworks: policy for science and science for policy. These can often feed into each other. For example, policy for science provides funds for climate research. The data and conclusions derived from that research could then inform new climate related policies. That would be science for policy. While science itself is an important input into the whole process, other considerations such as economics, ethics, budgets and public opinion are also inputs. As a scientist who considers science as a method of interpreting the world, my biases had not let me consider non-science inputs for science policy decision-making. It may seem obvious to some, but it was illuminating to realize that other concerns can be just as valuable and legitimate.

As funding is a major reason scientists are concerned, I was happy to learn a lot about the place of research in the federal budget. There are some out there who believe that research in Boston will be fine no matter who is in charge because of all the industry science in the area. It’s true; around two-thirds of research and development is funded by industry. However, industry is mostly concerned with development. Basic research is primarily funded by federal money. The federal budget is divided into mandatory spending and discretionary spending. Mandatory spending does not require congress to act for programs in it to be funded. These include the entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Dr. Josh Shiode, a Senior Government Relations Officer from AAAS, informed us that entitlement programs are considered “third-rail” discussions by lawmakers, meaning if you touch them, you die (an electoral death). In contrast, discretionary spending requires Congress to actively fund. Most of research and development spending falls into this category.

 

 

Due to changing (aging) demographics, the percentage of the budget that goes towards mandatory spending has been steadily increasing. 50 years ago, we spent around 30% of the federal budget on mandatory spending and now we are up to 70% and increasing. Research and development generally gets around 10-12% of the remaining budget left for discretionary spending. Traditionally, increases in discretionary defense spending will correspond with a parallel increase in nondefense discretionary spending. The Trump administration has proposed increases in military spending. Given likely tax cuts and reluctance to make changes to entitlement programs, it is unlikely nondefense discretionary funding will fare well. The good news is major research programs like the BRAIN Initiative, Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot were funded through the bipartisan 21st Century Cures act during the lame-duck session. While NIH and biomedical research will likely have diminished profiles during this administration, both parties are against Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer. What is less clear is how research performed by the EPA and Department of Agriculture will fare although initial reports are grim. Finally, repeal of the Affordable Care Act will have rippling effects, as many research universities are also providers of healthcare. It is clear that there will be a shift in culture. Under President Obama, science was elevated and scientists were regularly consulted. As former senior science adviser to President Obama John Holdren said: “Trump resists facts he doesn’t like”.

There is reluctance for some scientists to get involved in the political theater, as some believe science should be apolitical. I would argue that science is already political as science can dictate policy and policy can dictate science. What science is and should be is nonpartisan. No party has an inherent monopoly on being allies of science and scientific thinking. So what can scientists do? All politics is local and personal. The majority of Americans say they don’t know a scientist. This is an easy thing to work on. Make sure you introduce yourself to others! Visit your lawmakers and let them know that you are funded by federal money. Politicians are most concerned about their own districts and so if you’re a transplant, you likely have connections to more than one district. Try to build a relationship with him or her by seeing if you could help with anything. Figure out if you can help your local community with anything by serving on committees. Speaking of committees, know what committees your representatives are on. When communicating, think carefully about what words you use. Former U.S. Congressman Bart Gordon opined that he never called it climate  change. Instead, he called it energy independence. While branding may sound like a trivial thing to worry about, targeted story telling is extremely important. We would love for our data to speak for itself but people connect best to stories, especially ones concerning things they can relate to or care about.

If you’re interested in science policy, there are a number of good resources available to get better acquainted. The Engaging Scientists & Engineers in Policy (ESEP) Coalition has a wealth of information and resources on their website (http://science-engage.org/). In fact, they host a local monthly science policy happy hour to network and engage those interested in science policy. If you are interested in learning more about the R&D budget, AAAS has an excellent resource with analyses of federal research and development funding (https://www.aaas.org/program/rd-budget-and-policy-program). There you can also find their data dashboard to look at funding for specific agencies for different periods of time.

 

GSC Committee & Club Updates: December 2016

Tufts Biomedical Business Club (TBBC)

from Aaron BernsteinCMP

Upcoming Events

TBBC Case Study Group: Mondays – 5-7PM beginning M Feb 6, Jaharis 508

Practice solving cases, gain insight and tips, and learn more about the field of consulting.

Recent Events

TBBC Seminar Series: Liz O’Day, Founder and CEO of Olaris Therapeutics

Tu Dec 6: Liz O’Day, PhD, presented actionable tips and insight into her transition from the academic world to being an entrepreneur. Olaris is a venture-backed drug discovery company that uses a proprietary NMR-metabolite profiling platform to unlock aspects of human metabolism that could never before be analyzed.

TBBC Consulting Seminar Series: Peter Bak, PhD

Tu Dec 13: Peter Bak, PhD, Manager at Back Bay Life Science Advisors, spoke about transitioning from a PhD program to life sciences consulting and career opportunities at BBLSA.

GSC Committee & Club Updates: November 2016

Tufts Biomedical Queer Alliance (TBQA)

by Laura DarniederNRSC, Amanda GrossPPET

TBQA-oSTEM Joint Networking Mixer and Panel
We are having our TBQA-oSTEM Joint Networking Mixer and Panel on Friday, 11/18 from 6:00-8:00pm in the Crane Room on the Medford Campus. Food will be provided!

TBQA Transgender Health PanelDecember 1, 3pm, Sackler Auditorium

The Tufts Biomedical Queer Alliance (TBQA) invites you to come learn about the current state of transgender healthcare. We are pleased to welcome Dr. Anne Koch, DMD, to share her personal experiences of the healthcare system as both a patient and provider. A professional panel composed of Dr. Julie Thompson (Primary Care, Fenway Health); Dr. Stephanie Roberts (Endocrinology, Boston Children’s Hospital); and Cei Lambert (Trans Patient Advocate, Fenway Health) will join Dr. Koch in a panel discussion of the services they provide from both medical and social perspectives. A complimentary reception will follow.

Please register at: https://goo.gl/sCCmbT


Tufts Biomedical Business Club (TBBC)

from Aaron BernsteinCMP

Upcoming Events

TBBC Case Study Group – Mondays — 5-7PM, Jaharis 508

Practice solving cases, gain insight and tips, and learn more about the field of consulting.

TBBC Tufts Biomedical Data Science Club: Information Session – Tu Nov 29 — Time and location TBA

The Tufts Biomedical Data Science Club is a resource for students wishing to learn and apply programming techniques in order to tackle big data problems in the biomedical sciences. No programming experience required! The club hosts bi-monthly meetings, works on group projects, and provides opportunities to hear invited speakers and network with others interested in big data. Please email Matt Kelley at matt.kelley@tufts.edu with any questions.

TBBC Seminar Series: Liz O’Day, Founder and CEO of Claris Therapeutics – Tu Dec 6 — 5:30PM, Sackler 216A

Olaris is a venture-backed drug discovery company that uses a proprietary NMR-metabolite profiling platform to unlock aspects of human metabolism that could never before be analyzed. Focusing on diseases with limited to no treatment options, Olaris uses their technology to uncover previously unknown biomarkers and molecular targets to develop breakthrough therapies that fundamentally alter how these diseases are diagnosed and treated.

TBBC Consulting Seminar Series: Peter Bak, PhD – Tu Dec 13 — 5:30-7:30 PM, Sackler 221

Join us for a discussion with Peter Bak, Manager at Back Bay Life Science Advisors. Dr. Bak will talk about transitioning from a PhD program to life sciences consulting and career opportunities at BBLSA.

Recent Events

TBBC Health Advances presents, “Diagnostics Commercialization Challenges”

Th Oct 6: TBBC hosted Sackler alum and Partner at Health Advances, Dr. Donna Hochberg (SK03), who discussed the career path that led her from the bench to her current role as the leader of the firm’s Diagnostics and Life Science Tools Practice. She also led the group through a business case study exploring the challenges of bringing diagnostics to market. 

TBBC Biotech Buzz with Hannah Mamuszka

F Oct 21: Hannah Mamuszka, picked by Future of Biopharma as one of 5 women to watch in Boston, and founder and CEO of Alva10, a company specializing in precision medicine, joined us for an informal conversation about the future of diagnostics, the latest news in biotech, her career, and Alva10. 

TBBC, GSC, and the Sackler Dean’s Office Career Exploration Panel

Th Nov 3: A panel of senior graduate students provided insight about steps that newer students can take to prepare themselves for a variety of career paths, including: academic/industry science, teaching, entrepreneurship, science communication, policy, data science, venture capital, and consulting. (For a more in-depth recap, read the Insight article here!)


Tufts Mentoring Circles (TMC)

from Daniel WongCMP

This year, the graduate student and post-doc mentoring circle programs have merged together to form a larger, single Tufts Mentoring Circles program that started for the 2016-2017 academic year with a kick-off event on Thursday, October 6. In total, 71 people are participating in the Mentoring Circles program this year: 24 mentors, 21 graduate students, and 26 post-docs between the Boston and Medford campuses. These mentors, who are faculty, post-docs, senior graduate students, and industry and non-traditional professionals working in different fields, will be working in pairs to advise and facilitate discussions with small groups of post-doc and graduate student mentees over the course of this year.  Mentors and mentees were matched together based on their personal and professional development interests indicated in the registration survey that was available online in September. Each group, or circle, will meet monthly on their own schedules to have discussions as they see fit on topics they choose. A closing event will be held toward the end of the academic year, likely in May or June 2017. Registration is now closed for the year, but for more information and to be notified when registration opens next year, contact us at tuftsmentoring@gmail.com.

The graduate student-focused Tufts Mentoring Circles program was founded in November 2014 through the Sackler GSC as a peer mentoring program to serve the professional and personal development needs of graduate students, and also facilitate inter-program and -department communication and collaboration. Tufts Mentoring Circles is based on the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Mentoring Circles program.

ICYMI: Career Exploration Panel

In this month’s edition of ICYMI, I’ll be giving you the low-down on a career exploration panel that took place on November 3rd in Sackler 114, sponsored by the GSC, TBBC, and the Sackler Dean’s office. Like every great event at Tufts, there was plenty of cheese, crackers, and booze to go around. Aaron Bernstein (CMP) took the stage as emcee and introduced the eight panelists and their intended career paths, which ranged from teaching to healthcare consulting.

I’ve made you all a little cheat sheet that summarizes the main takeaway for each career path and some of the great resources provided by the panelist that can help you learn more about and prepare for the job. Hopefully one or more of these professions spark your interest and inspire you to join a club, participate in an event, or simply give you something new to think about!

  1. Joslyn Mills-Bonal (CMP), teaching

Inspired by her great experience at a small liberal arts college, Joz participated in the panel as an advocate for a teaching-heavy career at a community college, liberal arts college, or university.  

Teaching experience, which might seem hard to find at Sackler, is critical for preparing you for this job. Take advantage of student seminars and treat them as an opportunity to practice teaching. You can work on your curriculum design skills by getting involved in behind the scenes efforts for the various teaching opportunities you participate in. For example, if you get involved with Biobugs you can also take part in designing the labs.

It’s important to think about what kind of institute you want to work for- a liberal arts college? A state university? A research I institute? These decisions will inform the steps you take during and after graduate school as you work towards your career as a teaching professor. For example, a postdoc is usually required for a job at a liberal arts school and above, whereas community college professors don’t need a PhD. Also keep in mind that if you don’t want to continue to do research, your publication list isn’t so important. If you do want to continue to do research, however, you need to keep in mind that prolific publishing is paramount.

Opportunities/resources of interest:  

If you’re interested in any of the above opportunities or simply want to learn more about this track, feel free to contact Joz!

  1. Laura Stransky (CMP), academic/industry science

In academia we aim to better understand some disease or mechanism, whereas those in industry work to make some therapeutic or drug that can be marketed and sold. For both jobs, however, Laura loves the fact that you get the luxury of thinking for a living!

As a graduate student at Tufts, you’re already actively in training for a career as a scientist! To make the most of your time in graduate school, go to seminars as often as possible and learn from how other people present. Remember that for many of the visiting speakers there is a lunch you can attend with the speaker at which you can network and learn about their career path. Take any and all opportunities to write! There are plenty of grants travel awards, abstracts, and conferences that give you the chance to practice writing. By taking mentoring opportunities—volunteering to work with rotating students, for example—you can develop the management skills that are critical to being a good scientist, regardless of whether you’re in industry or academia.

After graduate school you must become a postdoc if you intend to get a job in academia. You need to demonstrate your ability to accrue funding and publish high impact papers. If you’re leaning more towards becoming a scientist in industry, a postdoc isn’t absolutely essential but can certainly get you started a little higher on the ladder. Furthermore, a postdoc before industry can help you expand your skills, fill in any gaps that you may have, and perhaps give you the opportunity to get involved in more translational research and develop project management skills.

  1. Kayla Gross (CMDB), science communication

This field encompasses more than just one kind of job—you can be a medical writer, a publisher, a communicating officer at a brand, or even a journalist. While at Tufts, find ways to improve and practice your writing and communication skills! Look for as much feedback as you can on your manuscripts, abstracts, posters, presentations and even committee reports to help you sharpen your skills and hone in on what needs to be improved. You need to practice adaptability to different scientific fields, since as a writer you are unlikely to be limited to just one topic. Furthermore, you need to be able to speak to those who aren’t well versed in the field you are writing about.

For a job in science writing, there is no hard and fast rule on whether you need to postdoc or not. The only track in which working as a postdoc is encouraged is in being an editor. If journalism is your goal, keep in mind that making the shift from grad school to journalism can be tricky—you may have to do some freelance writing for a while to build up your portfolio and break into the field.

Opportunities/resources of interest:  

  • Join the INSIGHT newsletter/blog! You can participate as much or as little as your time permits, and it’s a great opportunity to practice your writing and communication skills. Contact Kayla to join!
  • Tufts also has a collaboration with Emerson College in which you can work with an undergraduate communications student whose project is to assemble a science-centric media piece in which your research is explained to the general public. This is a great way for you to practice making the science that we think so deeply about a digestible subject for the general public!
  1. Andrew Hooper (Neuro), science policy

A job in science policy often involves advising policy makers on important scientific matters. This is a great way to have impact on our government and every day lives by helping educate people, especially politicians, who often have very minimal science knowledge. Because part of the job also often involves putting budgets together, it’s important for you to have some financial savvy. Finally, communication skills are essential, as you’ll be translating complicated scientific concepts to people completely untrained in the field.

There are many organizations that offer policy fellowships that can support you while you work in D.C. and learn the ropes, most of which require a postdoc. Applications are usually due in January and start dates are in the fall.

Andrew suggested you contact him if you’re interested in science policy!  

  1. Matthew Kelley (Neuro), data science

Data science merges statistics, math, and programming to help get insight from large databases, generate correlations, and make predictive models.

Hard skills you need for a job in data science include statistics, programming—many things you are already doing regularly as a PhD student. It’s important to learn how to code, which you can do on your own! While you’re at Tufts, try to integrate data science in your PhD project to practice applying your skills.

Opportunities/resources of interest:  

  • The Insight Science Data Fellowship, designed to bridge the gap between a non-computational graduate degree and a career in health data science (http://insighthealthdata.com/). In this program, you’re funded for 7 weeks to learn from industry leaders and even interview with some of the top companies in the industry!
  • Check out the newly formed Data Science Club—there have only been two meetings so far so get in early! The club plans on bringing in speakers and learning applicable skills together.
  • MIT edX has a course on analytics: https://www.edx.org/course/analytics-edge-mitx-15-071x-2
  1. Jaclyn Dunphy (Neuro), entrepreneurship

A job as an entrepreneur is exciting because it involves brainstorming and sharing ideas with other people to start something completely novel. A job at a start-up company might seem high risk, but it offers the opportunity to make a big impact, as teams are usually small. If you’re interested in being a “big piece of a small system,” this field might be for you!

Firstly, to be more proactive, reach out to others—contact experts who can assess your idea and help you decide how feasible it is. Secondly, demonstrate leadership skills! Take the lead with rotation students and get involved in student-run groups where you can take some charge! Thirdly, practice your interpersonal and networking skills. You must practice the formula to successful networking: reaching out to your person of interest the day after meeting them, be it via e-mail or LinkedIn, and setting up a time and day for a coffee meeting where you can learn more about their job and solidify your professional relationship. To get started as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can do is… be an entrepreneur! Think of an idea and start a company!

Opportunities/resources of interest:  

  • Cross register for classes in the entrepreneurial management program at the Medford campus
  • Engage in IDEAS competitions
  • Participate in Mass Challenge!
  • Venture Café: A networking event that happens every Thursday evening at the Cambridge Innovations Center (1 Broadway, Kendall Square, Cambridge MA) where you can have a (free!) drink and socialize with other entrepreneurial-minded people. This can be a great opportunity to find collaborators or just bounce your ideas off other people in a social and friendly environment.
  1. Michaela Tolman (Neuro), healthcare consulting

Michaela aptly nicknamed healthcare consulting “rent-a-brain”—a perfect summary for a job in which you are hired to consult non-experts in a healthcare related venture. Many of us are in biomedical research because we want to help people, but as we all know, research can be slow and it might take years or even decades before a discovery you make in lab actually benefits someone in the clinic. As a consultant you are involved in helping bring people the best healthcare much more rapidly.

It’s extremely important to develop interpersonal and networking skills for a successful career in consulting! The job involves a lot of interactions with non-scientists and you need to be able to fit in and make them feel comfortable. It’s also important that you have business acumen and learn the jargon of the business world. Do you know what people are talking about when they say percent market share, market size, or competitive landscape?

To go on consulting interviews, you have to be able to say that you can graduate within a year. Postdocs are not recommended as consulting firms are typically looking for someone fresh out of graduate school. It’s also critical that you know how to do a case interview, which typically the process one goes through before getting a consulting job.

Opportunities/resources of interest:  

  • Join the case study groups, which take place every Monday!
  • Participate in TUNECC- this is a highly attended case-competition event at which you can show off your consulting skills and get the attention of potential hirers!
  • Come to Biotech Buzz and Tufts Advisory Partners (TAP)!
  • Michaela also had some book recommendations, including Case Interviewing Secrets and Case In Point.
  • A website that might interest you is Seeking Alpha.
  • The “Mini MBA” program at Harvard can be great for your resume
  • Just like for any other career path, network, network, network!
  1. Christina McGuire (Biochem), venture capital

Though there are venture capital firms that solely exist to provide funding for start up companies that already have a formulated product or idea, Christina’s goal is to find a job in a venture capital company that creates ideas in-house. To get that kind of position, you need to have a deep understanding of science and you definitely need good analytical skills. Continue to practice reading primary literature to develop these skills and also keep in mind the importance of acquiring business acumen. Often times, to get a job at a VC firm, you need to get involved in business or consulting first. Demonstrate your entrepreneurial abilities by getting involved in successful projects and familiarizing yourself with the business world, much like when you are preparing for a career in entrepreneurship and consulting!

Opportunities/resources of interest:  

  • Tufts Biomedical Business Club (TBBC) and Biotech Buzz.
  • Christina’s book recommendations: Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson.
  • Subscribe to: Fierce Biotech and XConomy

Overall, the event was a great success and attendees walked away with a wealth of knowledge and tips for how to better prepare for a slough of career options. A major recurring theme throughout the night was the importance of networking, so as intimidating as it may seem, the next time you hear about a networking event, grab a friend and go! You never know if the next person you meet will help open the door to your dream career.

GSC Committee & Club Updates: October 2016

Tufts Biomedical Queer Alliance (TBQA)

by Laura DarniederNRSC

First General Meeting!
Join LGBTQIA colleagues from the Medical, Dental, and Sackler schools on Wednesday 12/12 at noon in Sackler 114W for free dumplings and to learn about this year’s upcoming events!

Tufts Biomedical Business Club (TBBC)

from Jaclyn DunphyNRSC

The Tufts Biomedical Business Club (TBBC) is a student run organization whose mission is to cultivate business leaders in the health and life sciences. TBBC is a growing community of graduate, medical, dental and nutrition students, postdocs, physicians, scientists and alumni. It provides members with opportunities to learn about consulting, business development, entrepreneurship, intellectual property and more.  We engage our members though a number of initiatives including a seminar series, Biotech Journal Club, Consulting Case Study Group, panel discussions, Biotech BUZZ and most recently the Biomedical Data Science Club. E-mail tuftsbiotech@gmail.com for more information.

Recent Events:

TBBC Seminar Series: Seismic – W Sep 21: The founders of Scismic, a tool aimed at helping researchers to find their optimal work environment/mentor, met with students and postdocs for feedback on the company’s product and business model.

TBBC Tufts Advisory Partners – After a successful first engagement last year, TAP’s second engagement is now well under way.

Upcoming Events:

TBBC Case Study Group: Mondays – 5-7PM, Jaharis 508

Practice solving cases, gain insight and tips, and learn more about the field of consulting.

 

 

TBBC Tufts Biomedical Data Science Club: Information Session:   Tu Oct 11 — 5PM-7PM, Sackler 221

The Tufts Biomedical Data Science Club will be a resource for students wishing to learn and apply programming techniques in order to tackle big data problems in the biomedical sciences. No programming experience required! The club will host bi-monthly meetings, work on group projects, and provide opportunities to hear invited speakers and network with others interested in big data. Please email Matt Kelley at matt.kelley@tufts.edu with any questions.

TBBC Biotech Buzz with Hannah Mamuszka: F Oct 21 — 9AM-10AM, M&V Lobby (Stearns 108)

Picked by Future of Biopharma as one of 5 women to watch in Boston, Hannah Mamuszka is the founder and CEO of Alva10- a company specializing in precision medicine. Hannah will be joining us for an informal conversation about the latest news in biotech, her career, and Alva10.

TBBC, GSC, and the Sackler Dean’s Office Career Exploration Panel: Th Nov 3 — 5PM, Sackler 114

A panel of senior graduate students will provide insight about steps that newer students can take to prepare themselves for a variety of career paths, including: academic/industry science, teaching, entrepreneurship, science communication, policy, data science, venture capital, and consulting.

ICYMI: Mentoring Circles Kickoff

As part of my resolution to better understand my career goals and options by attending more seminars at Tufts and then sharing my experiences with you, I decided to join the Tufts Mentoring Circle Program. Here’s a brief breakdown of the program’s kickoff event, which was held on October 6th in Sackler 114.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, the mentoring circles, open to all graduate students and postdocs at Tufts, are meant to provide a social and educational experience for mentors and mentees alike, bringing together people who, based on a previously submitted survey, have similar career goals and interests. At this first event, the circles, which have an average of five or six people per group, were brought together to meet one another and discuss objectives for the year. Since on my survey I indicated a strong interest in industry, my group consists of postdocs with the same inclination and a mentor who currently works as a scientist at a prominent pharmaceutical company in Cambridge. My experience will be unique to my personal goals, as those who stated an interest in academia are grouped with other academia-bound grad students and postdocs, similarly to how those who are working towards an alternative non-academic career, like science writing, are also assigned to one another for the duration of the program.   

After we introduced ourselves within our groups over pizza and salad, the organizers of the program gave a short presentation on tips and suggestions for how to have a successful circle. The importance of preparing for and attending every meeting was heavily stressed. We were also encouraged to mix up the format our meetings—instead of always just going to a coffee shop and talking, we can go to events together like symposiums, seminars, or even networking events. As someone who finds networking to be an intimidating and nerve-wracking experience, the prospect of having someone come along and act as a safety net seems fantastic and will make me more likely to attend.

After the presentation, groups were left to themselves to chat, set goals, and eat more pizza. In my group, every person had the opportunity to talk about what their dream job might entail—whereas some of the members had pretty specific career ideas, others, including myself, could only speak in broad strokes about factors like work-life balance, travel, and flexibility. The meeting was casual and fun, and it was actually a relief to hear some postdocs, even a few years out of graduate school, have undeveloped ideas about their careers and are still figuring out where they want to end up. Together, we decided on topics that we would like to discuss and goals that we would like to achieve throughout the year and we signed a “Mentoring Circle Contract” that stated the following: “We understand that each of us is responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of our shared communications, meeting regularly at the times we have agreed upon, and actively participating in circle discussions”.  Though this was only our first meeting, I can tell we all have a lot to learn from one another and I am excited for the new professional and friendly circle I am now a part of! It’s like joining a club where the main project is you and your career.

Definitely keep an eye out for the program’s announcement next year, and also keep in mind that American Women in Science (AWIS) is another organization through which some of you can join a similar circle.