As we get closer to the finishing lines of our PhD programs, our level of stress about what comes next is increasing. We worry about how to gain a foothold in those areas that are professionally interested in us once we have a degree. We all felt a vibe towards the industry and wanted to know more about the sector.
We are three fourth-year PhD students at Norwegian universities. E. J. Studying antibiotic resistance, K. a. H. Studying precision oncology and NSB. Psychiatry is studying genetics. We all hope to receive our degree in the next year.
Reports have documented that the majority of new PhD holders will not relinquish academic research status 1–4. But most PhD programs do not prepare students for a career in industry. It is difficult for many of us to get information on how to make the leap. This can not only be a huge struggle, but is extremely destructive even after completing a PhD and feeling ready to deal with the world.
For a successful transition from PhD to industry employment, you need to take the reins yourself – and the earlier you start, the better.
After reading up on corporate life, including writing a CV that would offer us jobs from private companies, we learned about a big opportunity: a funded industry internship through the Center for Digital Life Norway, from several Norwegian universities A collaboration between funded by the Research Council of Norway.
We signed directly. An application form later, and with our supervisors on board, we were able to take a three-month leave of absence from our PhD programs and move to Trondheim, Norway; Oslo; And Stockholm.
My journey took me to Trondheim, where I worked from September to December 2020 at a small start-up called Glucoset, which is developing glucose sensors made of glass fiber and polymers. This company is full of smart people, which is a really good, marketable idea. I chose the company to get out of my comfort zone completely.
So what did a microbiologist learn in a company focused on making and selling disposable glucose sensors?
Be favorable I had no petri dish or media to grow my bacteria, but I had a lot of medical plastics and optics. Thrown into the deep end, I quickly realize that being a good scientist can get you a job almost anywhere.
Even if the subject is outside your comfort zone, most workplaces require people with research skills (such as analytical thinking) who can review the literature, examine laboratory consumables, and perform statistical analysis. And, with our own PhD training, we already have each of these skills.
‘Completed’ is the new ‘Completed’. I needed to learn to fight to the fullest. It was more important to me to follow the baseline of industry standards – by which margin it did not matter. Your test set-up is required to meet all the basic requirements; Perfection will follow. Those small wins fuel you to move forward and help you gain momentum.
work it out. It took me a while to realize that knowledge is money. In academics, you can interact with most people, and get protocols or remove misunderstandings on a zoom. But in industry, at least in my case, acquiring outside knowledge for a project was difficult.
Information was normally scarce; I will only hear about the standards set by the International Organization for Standardization, stating that I would need the hear devices a, b and c ‘and the measured result should be ± 4’. Which manufacturer you buy the equipment from, and the procedures for using them, are usually up to you, and no one will tell you. I have rarely received help from anyone outside the company.
Give importance to your time and labor. Working in a company means conducting a continuous cost-benefit analysis: Should I buy new, state-of-the-art equipment, or should I try to slop into a similar set-up with older equipment?
And how much time do I need to get the equipment up and running? Are we sure it will work at all? Surprisingly, spending huge amounts of money for new equipment is often more cost effective than having to labor for days or weeks using old equipment. Keep your value in mind.
My internship took me to the Research and Development Department at IDL Biotech in Stockholm. The company’s focus on in vitro diagnostic tests for cancer and bacterial infections perfectly matched my interests, and I was part of the team in no time. Here’s what I learned.
think outside the box. Does my wet-lab background mean that I should only apply for jobs requiring lab-based experience? No way.