Cheering for Science—A Chemist (and former professional cheerleader) in Medical Sales
Jul07

Cheering for Science—A Chemist (and former professional cheerleader) in Medical Sales

It’s not every day you meet a chemist who works in surgical sales and used to be a professional cheerleader. But that’s what Allison Grosso is. Allison received a double major in biology and chemistry from North Carolina State University, where she was also a cheerleader. After college, she worked for four years as a biology researcher at Merck, and also cheered for the Philadelphia Eagles for four years, serving as captain for two years. Allison eventually realized that she wanted a job with more interaction with people. She transferred into a sales rep position at Merck, where she learned the ins and outs of the business of pharmaceutical sales. After a few years, Allison says she felt she “needed a bit more of a challenge.” So she applied for a competitive position in surgical sales and landed the job. Now she is a Territory Manager for a surgical device company, which she finds both challenging and satisfying. “I work with surgeons in the operating room, and my knowledge of our technology, anatomy and specific disease states is essential to my success,” Allison says. A typical day for Allison starts at 7:30 am in any one of the many hospitals she covers in eastern Pennsylvania. Her job is to be present while the surgical procedure is taking place to ensure the equipment is functioning correctly. After a few surgeries, Allison takes care of office calls and spends time talking to doctors and operating staff, informing them about new products and training them to use surgical equipment. The best part of the job for Allison is working with surgeons and operating room staff. “I sell a great product that is loved by so many people, and it is so wonderful to hear the success stories from them about how great the patients are doing after the operation,” Allison says. “The most challenging part of the job is trying to convince some surgeons to try something new,” Allison says. “It is my job to simply get them to try it, and let the success of the product speak for itself.” Allison says having a background in chemistry and biology has helped her immensely with her current job. She feels confident in being able to understand exactly how the company’s products work and compare to their competition’s products. In her spare time, Allison is part of a science outreach organization—Science Cheerleaders—comprised of current and former professional cheerleaders who are also scientists. In addition to performances, such as (posted above) at the 2010 Science and Engineering Festival in Washington D.C., the cheerleading scientists also visit schools and do science experiments with kids—all while dressed...

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Is Grad School Really a Stupid, Stupid Decision?
Jun22

Is Grad School Really a Stupid, Stupid Decision?

Hello JAEP readers! I have to apologize for things being pretty quiet around here recently. I, and my co-pusher Glen, will be picking up the pace again with electron pusher goodness in the weeks to come. But to start, I wanted to let you all know about a book I recently finished. The title caught my eye, so I had to check it out: Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to go to Grad School, by Adam Ruben (PhD!). In a nutshell, this book is not worth your time. If you want to know more, keep reading! I can summarize each chapter in a single sentence and spare you from having to read the entire book yourself. Chapter One walks the reader through the decision process: Do you want to ruin your life? If so, go to grad school. Chapter Two explains how to choose the right grad program. There are tradeoffs based on geographic location, cost of living, academic rank, but no matter what you choose it will be a bad decision. Chapter Three is all about grad student life: You will live in squalor with no time to sleep or tend to personal hygiene, and will need to depend on the free seminar donuts for daily sustenance. Chapter Four gives you awful advice on how to fudge your way through your research: Tips for choosing an adviser, writing grants, and how to cherry-pick your data to look more impressive than it actually is. Really, are you really turning data fabrication into a laughing matter in light of recent research scandals?? Chapter Five is about how to deal with undergrads: the common undergrad stereotypes, how to handle liars, cheaters, and plagiarizers. Chapter Six is about non-PhD grad programs: If you go into law, medicine or business, you will pay more but also make more than a science PhD, and also make your Jewish or Asian mom proud. And finally, chapter Seven is all about how to defend, deposit and “get the #@%$ out of grad school,” including tips on how to make your thesis longer without adding content, and making the choice between the miserable tenure-track life and “the dark side” of industry. Come on, no mention of non-traditional career paths? Have you never heard of this blog?? The book is meant to be funny. The author, after all, is a PhD-molecular-biologist-turned-stand-up-comedian, who is also into writing, storytelling, and has a day job as a scientist. But I did not find it very funny, frankly. Maybe I would’ve found it more funny if I was into encountering the f-bomb every few pages and reading crass jokes that reference female...

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Highlights from Pittcon 2012 Chemistry Careers Networking Session, Part II
Apr26

Highlights from Pittcon 2012 Chemistry Careers Networking Session, Part II

As promised, here’s the second blog post with more of the highlights from the Pittcon 2012 networking session I organized titled Chemistry Careers Beyond the Bench. Part I can be found here. After panelist introductions, we dove straight into the Q&A portion. Panelists were seated at the front of the room, and the rest of the attendees took seats around the room, which was organized in a U-shape to help facilitate conversation. Here are some highlights from the Q&A: Q: Did you choose a nontraditional career from the get-go, or did you end up in one by default (i.e., lost your job, etc.)? A: Joanne Thomson looked for jobs outside of pharma for more stability, and found the Royal Society of Chemistry graduate development programme that helped her see what day-to-day life in the publishing world is like and that led to her current job as Deputy Editor. Richard Skubish left the bench because he didn’t love the job anymore, and discovered the world of sales and marketing, where he is happy to still be a part of advancing science without being the one doing the science. Celia Arnaud said she always thought she’d like to write for C&EN, but still tried the grad school research thing only to find out she didn’t like it. “I knew I was in it for the long haul [as a science writer] because I wasn’t bored out of my mind by the end of the first year,” she explained. Q: Any advice for international students who are interested in nontraditional chemistry careers? A: Joseph Jolson, who owns his own consulting business, Custom Client Solutions, tackled this question. Many international students have circumstances that work against them when it comes to landing a job (i.e. language difficulties, different social expectations, visa problems). To get around these problems his advice is: “Come up with skills sets that will create a demand for you.” In other words, international students will need to make themselves stand out from other job candidates. Richard added on to Joseph’s answer by saying that many companies have gone global, and having foreign language skills can make job candidates more marketable to these companies. Q: What kind of work-life balance does your job allow you? A: Merlin and Joanne, who both work for the Royal Society of Chemistry, said the RSC requirement is 35 hours/week, although occasionally extra hours are required to get everything done. Celia said she works from 7 am to 4 pm, if all goes well. But her days can go much longer than that especially when she has multiple deadlines for assignments. Richard, who has three kids, said...

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Electron Pusher, PhD: Reflections on the Final Defense
Apr02

Electron Pusher, PhD: Reflections on the Final Defense

It is finished. My final defense was last Wednesday—and I passed! This is a milestone, and milestones are to be blogged about, right? The thing is, I don’t know exactly what I have to say about it. Perhaps it just hasn’t been long enough for it to sink in yet. It’s interesting, this whole final defense thing. For years, you’re going, going, jumping through each hoop that’s presented along the way. From the very start, you’re anticipating the end, which will one day come. You survive classes, give numerous presentations, pass your prelim. Years pass by, then the long-awaited final defense comes… and goes. And then… you’re done. Done? Huh… Okay, awesome, I’m done! That’s it, I guess… I have a Ph.D. Meanwhile, you proceed to announce on facebook that you passed your final defense and everyone can call you doctor now. Friends and family shower you with congratulatory remarks. It’s wonderful. But somehow it still hasn’t quite hit that I really do have a Ph.D. For real. I guess I thought I would feel a greater sense of relief and finality. Of course, I’m happy. But it’s a bit anti-climactic when all is said and done. Overall, I’ve had a wonderful time in grad school. Perhaps this is easy to say now that it’s all over. But really… I’ve lucked out. Sure, I’ve worked hard, but anyone who’s gone through grad school knows that there are a number of factors that are just outside of your control. Many of those things fell into place really nicely for me. I’m really thankful for that. My labmates have become my good friends—we have so much fun together both inside and outside the lab. My adviser is a down-to-earth person who has been supportive of my nontraditional career plans. Not all labs are as friendly, and not all advisers are as encouraging and supportive, to say the least. And perhaps most importantly, my project has cooperated with me. Even after I fell out of love with my research, we were able to maintain a good working relationship. So, what’s next? That’s the question of the hour! The good news is that I’ve been offered a fellowship for a 12-month Masters in journalism program at the University of Illinois. This is fantastic because I wasn’t really interested in taking out loans to get a degree that I don’t necessarily need to be a science writer. But, what can I say, I’m a sucker for getting paid to go to school! And I think I’ll have a lot of fun developing my skills as a reporter and writer. There are core classes that every student...

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Highlights from Pittcon 2012 Chemistry Careers Networking Session, Part I
Mar26

Highlights from Pittcon 2012 Chemistry Careers Networking Session, Part I

As promised, here’s a blog post with some of the highlights from the Pittcon 2012 networking session I organized! More to come later this week. A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of organizing a networking session at Pittcon titled “Chemistry Careers Beyond the Bench.” The room filled up with 29 people, including five panel members who came to share about their nontraditional career experiences. We started off with a short ice breaker activity that helped everyone get a better idea of who else was in the room, and to introduce themselves to each other. We found out that about half of the attendees were still in school, and the majority of those in school were undergraduates. This made me happy, because I feel like especially as an undergrad I had very little idea what I could do with a chemistry degree besides teach or do bench work. This fact about my past is what motivates me to blog about nontraditional careers today for JAEP today! The majority of all attendees were primarily interested in pursuing traditional chemistry careers, but said they came out to learn more about what other options are out there. Given the shaky job climate, it never hurts to know what else you can do with a chemistry degree, one attendee said. I wanted to also get a sense about how people in the room felt about the job market for chemists? Were they optimistic? Or not so much? Well, it turns out the room was pretty much split three ways: optimistic, not sure, and not optimistic. Those who were not optimistic said it’s because they know too many chemists that have been laid off or are unable to find a job. On the optimistic side, several attendees felt confident they’d receive a job out of school since they’ve seen many of their peers get “plucked out of the lab” to work for companies in the area. The last question I asked for the ice breaker was: Do you typically enjoy or dread formal networking session? I asked this because I know sometimes networking gets a bad rap, since it’s often described as being so important to landing a job, but people often feel uncertain about how to actually do it. The room was pretty much split three ways again. Those who said they enjoyed networking sessions said it’s because they like getting to meet new people. One brave person from the “dread networking” side of the fence explained that for her, networking is scary because you never know how someone will receive you when you approach them to make an introduction. I can totally...

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