How did you end up in industry?In grad school, I was very much like other students in that I was considering the traditional path of staying in academia and becoming a professor. I was coming from a strange start — an engineer shifting into biomedical research (and us engineers tend to have an industry focus) — but I hadn’t considered becoming an industry scientist in the medical field until later in grad school.
I entered an industry postdoc more to test the water, to see what industry would be like, because there are many people who start industry postdocs and go back to academia. I think it’s a really good chance to begin that transition if you’re interested, but not fully committed — I hadn’t really fully committed even when I started my industry postdoc.
So, you were a commitment-phobe. Why?There are a lot of stereotypes. People often have the perspective that industry has very little freedom, that you don’t get to do much exciting or interesting science. People think you are chugging away at maybe one assay and it’s less fulfilling from a curiosity perspective.
And now?That got quickly disproved the moment I got started in industry.
You’ve committed?There are such advantages to both and you get to do great science in both industry and academia, but I’m finding I’m probably going to stay in industry. We recently had an FDA approval. It’s inspiring to see my own department have new drugs that are already going to help patients. That’s a huge motivation for me — not to say that academics don’t lean that way, but it’s so far upstream. It’s an instant gratification in helping patients.
What advice would you give to Max from four years ago? Is there anything where you would say, “don’t do this”?He’s generally made some lucky, good decisions [laughing].
Don’t panic. Just make sure you are doing great science that you are interested in. You’ll be able to do that in both industry and academia. Pipetting is pipetting, no matter where you are. As long as you are interested in what you are pipetting, it really will make things a lot easier.
What about work-life balance?It’s pretty comparable to academia if that it’s largely up to the postdoc himself or herself. You can work as many hours as you want to and have no life at home. It’s really self-motivation. Personally, I would be on the work side of the spectrum rather than the life side, but, of course, I have my dog, which keeps me grounded, for sure.
Your postdog, so to speak?[Laughing] He’s mostly researching sleeping and treats. He’s working on his manuscript now.