Monday, 03 February 2014 08:18

Life in the Lab Losing its Charms? Take a Look Outside Academia

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career compass smallLooking to change the direction of your career?
Try a short-term course, internship, or fellowship.
It may sound like a spam subject line but you can change the trajectory of your career in a few short weeks. If it sounds too good to be true, consider one of the numerous short-term courses, internships, and fellowships in outside-the-lab science careers that can give you a look at a whole new career track.

Ask Jennifer Crawford. Now a science writer for Heat Biologics, Crawford changed career directions after a science writing internship at NIH. Crawford had already worked a year as a conventional NIH lab postdoc at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) when she applied for a writing internship offered by her institute. "One of the reasons I did a postdoc at the NIH is because I was pretty sure that I wasn't interested in the academic track," she recalled. The NIH's Office of Intramural Training and Education has great career resources, Crawford said. During her postdoc, she had been writing for newsletters at the NCI, which helped her get a spot in NCI's Health Communications Internship Program, a full-time year-long training opportunity.

During Crawford's internship, she wrote summaries of new papers published by PIs at NCI, factsheets for the NCI website, summaries of clinical trials, and articles for the NCI Cancer Bulletin. She also edited and proofread NCI's quarterly magazine. "It gave me tons of experience," Crawford said, which helped her get a job as a contractor at the NIH Office of Communications and Education when her internship ended. "It has also given me a network of people who are doing lots of different kinds of writing like epidemiology or public health... it's nice to have [these] people if I'm writing about something I don't understand," Crawford said.

A two-week bioscience management bootcamp at Keck Graduate Institute helped Wayne Austin get his current position as an Inside Technical Sales Specialist at EMD Millipore, he says. He was a postdoc at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) when he took the Keck course last year. "Being in a course like that was helpful in the interview process because I was demonstrating an interest in going into the business side of science," Austin said. He added that during his interviews with EMD Millipore he also used the emotional intelligence skills he was taught during the course. But it wasn't the course alone that helped in his career transition, Austin believes. He also did an internship at a small consulting start-up and participated in programs at the UCLA Business of Science Center. "Having that extra experience... is something that stands out on a resume to separate you from every other postdoc and it gives you some practical experience," Austin said.

For scientists looking to explore life outside the ivory tower, consider this list as a starting point.

Industry Courses & Internships

Managing Science in the Biotech Industry
ASCB and the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), with generous funding from EMD Millipore, are teaming up to offer this free-to-the-student 12-day, MBA-style, case-based course for students and postdocs interested in a career in industry. Deadline to apply is February 15, 2014.

GSK Co-op or Internship Program 
For students, or those within 12 months of graduating, the 4-12 month co-op placement or summer internship provides full-time paid experience working in industry. Apply now.

Flagship Ventures Fellows Program 
For undergrad and graduate students within one year of graduating, this summer fellowship gives scientists the tools they need to work in new biotech companies.

Genentech Biomedical Imaging Co-op
For current PhD students, this six-month internship is focused on developing imaging approaches in neurodegenerative disease models. Genentech also offers internships in other areas of interest.

Industry Postdocs

Many biotech companies offer two-year postdoc positions, most with higher pay than traditional postdoc salaries, along with full benefits. Here are some of those opportunities:

Lilly Postdoctoral Fellowship

Genentech Postdoctoral Program

Roche Postdoc Fellowship Program

Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development Postdoctoral Program

Novartis Postdoctoral Program

AstraZeneca Postdoc Programme

Merck Research Laboratories Postdoctoral Research Fellow Program

Policy Fellowships

California Science and Technology Fellowships
This one-year program is for PhDs (from any state) interested in working on science policy in the California State Legislature. Application are due February 28, 2014.

ASBMB Science Policy Fellowship
Recently graduated PhDs spend 12-24 months working in the public affairs office of ASBMB's headquarters near Washington, DC. Applications will be available in early spring 2014.

Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program 
This 12-week program at the National Academies in Washington, DC, is offered every January. Applications will be available in summer 2014.

David A. Winston Health Policy Fellowship
A one-year fellowship starts in June in Washington, DC, for recent masters or PhD graduates. Applications will be available in late 2014.

AAAS Policy Fellowship
A one-year fellowship in Washington, DC, begins in September for PhDs. Applications will be available in late 2014.

Research!America Science Policy Fellowship Position
This is a three-month fellowship for PhDs at the Research!America headquarters in Alexandria, VA. Applications will be available in late 2014.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellowship
A 12-month program in Washington, DC, for PhDs, applications will be available in late 2014.

The Satcher Health Leadership Institute Health Policy Leadership Fellowship Program
Here is a 10-month program in the Georgia State Legislature beginning in September for PhDs. Applications will be available in late 2014.

Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy
This one-year appointment in Cambridge, MA, is for PhDs with experience or demonstrated interest in science policy. Applications will be available in late 2014.

Science Writing Internships

Nature gives general advice for how to get a science writing internship here.

NASW Science Writing Internship Fair 
If you are attending the AAAS meeting in Chicago in February, the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) offers a science writing internship fair at the meeting.

Health Communications Internship Program 
This can be a six-month or a one-year internship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda or Rockville, MD, for those with science experience. Applications are due the first Tuesday in March.

Science News Internship 
For anyone planning a science writing career, these three-month internships, which are offered three times per year, will give you a blast of real life as a deadline news reporter. The next deadline is June 11, 2014.

Brookhaven National Lab Science Communication Internship 
For undergrads and grad students, and those within one year of graduating with either degree, Brookhaven NL offers these internships for would-be science writers. The application is due Friday March 7, 2014.

The Scientist Internship
This internship is for researchers with proven writing abilities or for writers with a science background. The deadline for this summer internship is March 15, 2014.

AAAS Mass Media Fellows
This 10-week internship places fellows with major news outlets. It's for science undergrads and graduate students or those within one year of graduation with either degree. The application will be available in November 2014.

Medical Writing Internship

Genzyme Graduate Internship in Medical Information
This summer internship is for graduate students interested in medical writing. Deadline to apply is February 7, 2014.

Patent Law Fellowship

NCI Technology Transfer Center Fellowship Program 
Fellowships at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD, for those with advanced degrees in science.

Outreach Fellowship

Robert Noyce Fellowship in Informal STEM Learning 
This is for those with experience in K-12 STEM education plus experience with education policy.

Do you know of additional internships or short-term training programs? Please add them to the comments section below.

Christina Szalinski

Christina is a science writer for the American Society for Cell Biology. She earned her Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

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