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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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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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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A chemist at the intersection of science and policy
Feb24

A chemist at the intersection of science and policy

Profile: Stefanie Bumpus (Ph.D., 2010), AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow Today I’d like to introduce you to a Ph.D. chemist who is currently a Science & Technology (S&T) Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)—Stefanie Bumpus. Stefanie has been working for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as an S&T Fellow since September 2010. Day to day, Stefanie’s work varies considerably—it all depends on what assignment she has at the time. Some days she is working on building good working relationships with U.S. Government and international partners and collaborators. “This includes things such as conducting meetings to discuss planned or ongoing projects, or working to develop strategic documents for the program,” Stefanie says. There are four different concentration areas of the fellowship: Congressional Health, Education, and Human Services Diplomacy, Security, and Development Energy, Environment, and Agriculture. As an S&T policy fellow on the Diplomacy, Security, and Development track at the DoD, Stefanie supports the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs (NCB). Within the NCB, Stefanie is currently doing a rotation in the Office of Threat Reduction and Arms Control (TRAC). As a part of this rotation, she supports a program that “works to ensure international partner governments have the capacity to detect, report, and respond to biological incidents as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Stefanie says. At the TRAC office, one of Stefanie’s roles is to work with the partner governments to “ensure laboratories and other facilities maintain the highest sustainable levels of biosafety and biosecurity,” she explains. One of Stefanie’s favorite parts of her job thus far is being able to travel the world. “Typically, I spend about one week per month traveling to Africa to meet with our partners and collaborators and continue to develop our programs,” Stefanie says. So far, she has traveled to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Djibouti, and South Africa, as well as the United Kingdom, Vietnam, and numerous locations throughout the U.S. Before becoming a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow Stefanie got her Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry from the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and then went on to earn her Ph.D. in chemistry (2010) from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Coming out of high school, her initial plan was to study chemistry or biology and then go to med school. But in college, she met a “wonderful professor in the chemistry department,” and was convinced to major in chemistry and do undergraduate research in biochemistry. “Three years of undergraduate research helped me learn I didn’t really want to go to medical school, but instead wanted to pursue an advanced degree...

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Opportunities for chemists in science policy
Feb23

Opportunities for chemists in science policy

Here at JAEP we’ve been on the topic of government jobs for chemists. Glen wrote a post about a website, INSPIRE, that is full of information about government jobs for scientists. It is being piloted for a short time, so if you haven’t yet, check it out here and take the survey to help them improve the site. And earlier this week, I introduced you to Olen Stephens, a Ph.D. chemist who works for the FDA in regulatory affairs. Today, we will segue a bit and discuss the field of science policy. What is science policy? Science policy is a field that is difficult to define because it encompasses lots of different types of work at the intersection of science and public policy. I’ll use an excerpt from an article I found by Geoffrey Hunt to break the common misconceptions about science policy: “Most people assume policymakers spend all of their time furtively hammering out laws in back rooms. In reality, those working in science policy have the opposite job: They take what is happening on the bench and bring it to the light of day… Science policy experts …[use] their talents to find ways to translate esoteric, often highly technical scientific issues into something that can be sold as good policy.” For more information on science policy careers, check out the following Science Careers articles: Science Policy: Establishing Guidelines, Setting Priorities, by Laura Haak. Paths to Science Policy, by James Austin. Bridging the Worlds of Science and Public Policy, by Andrew Fazekas. There are several organizations that sponsor scientists and engineers to work in science policy—check out this list of policy fellowships compiled at The Intersection, a blog for Discover Magazine. One of these organizations, which I’ll highlight here, is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology (S&T) Policy Fellowships. Tomorrow I’ll follow up with a profile post about a Ph.D. chemist who’s currently an S&T Policy Fellow at the United States Department of Defense, so stay tuned for that! AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship AAAS started up the fellowship program in 1973 to help scientists get the opportunity “to participate in and contribute to the federal policymaking process while learning firsthand about the intersection of science and policy,” according to their website. To date, more than 2,000 scientists and engineers have gone through the program. Check out their website for a complete overview of the history of the fellowship. To apply, you must have a Ph.D. or an equivalent doctoral-level degree, or have a Master’s degree in engineering with several years of professional experience. Click here for more details about eligibility and the...

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Ensuring drug safety: A chemist in regulatory affairs
Feb21

Ensuring drug safety: A chemist in regulatory affairs

Profile: Olen Stephens, Ph.D. chemist, chemical and manufacturing controls reviewer at the Food and Drug Administration. A few weeks back, Glen wrote a post about a website, INSPIRE, which is chock-full of information about government jobs for scientists. If you haven’t yet, check it out here. There’s still time to take the survey that will help them improve their site. As promised, here is the first of two profile posts about chemists currently working for the federal government. Today I’d like you to meet Olen Stephens, a Ph.D. chemist who works in regulatory affairs. From academia into government Olen Stephens always thought he wanted to be a college professor, but after giving it a try, he realized it wasn’t the job for him. Now he works in regulatory affairs at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and says he loves his job and the work-life balance it allows him. I should also mention that Olen and I share a family connection. He’s my mother-in-law’s sister’s son, a.k.a. my husband’s cousin! Olen was a double major in chemistry and biology at Earlham College and went on to get a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of Utah (2004). After a postdoc in biophysical chemistry at Yale University, he landed a tenure-track professorship position at his alma mater, Earlham College. As a chemistry professor, Olen taught organic chemistry, biochemistry and general chemistry. But the job was “not a good fit on either side,” he says. “Teaching wasn’t what I thought it was,” Olen says. The combination of teaching, grant writing, and conducting research left little time to spend with his wife and newborn son. At the same time, Olen says he wasn’t interested in working in industry either. In his first year teaching at Earlham, Olen met another Earlham alumnus who worked at the FDA.  Later, when Olen was looking for a career change, she told him about a position they were looking to fill. Five months later, Olen had landed the job and his family moved to the Washington, D.C. area, and the rest is history. Regulatory affairs– What’s that all about? Olen has been working as a chemical and manufacturing controls reviewer since 2008 and finds his career both challenging and rewarding. At the FDA, Olen works as part of a team to review drug applications and identify safety issues that need to be addressed before drugs can be administered to humans. The job requires a lot of reading and writing, which Olen says he enjoys and was well-equipped for, thanks to the liberal arts education he received at Earlham as an undergrad. There was a huge learning curve when...

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