The collection of various career paths of GTC Alumni was initially inspired by the International Neuroscience Alumni Meeting in September 2018 in Tübingen. With that much positive feedback on this article, we want to again present 4 different career paths of GTC alumni to you.

Name: Anna Schädler
Current job: Research Assistant at EVOTEC SE, Hamburg
Graduated from: MSc in CM in 2018

In the Stem Cell Team of EVOTEC Hamburg, one works in a young, dynamic and open-minded team, which creates a pleasant working environment.

We cultivate and bank human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), differentiate them into different cell types, apply quality control of our cells and, in addition, perform protocol development in different areas, as part of contract research. Starting the day, we first check on our cells and plan the work to be done that day. After the laboratory work, we spent some time in the office for documentation and planning purposes. Some days we only perform routine cell culture. On the other hand different projects, comprising smaller or more extensive experiments offer variety in the daily work life.

In spite of standardized modes of operations, one always finds an open ear for suggestions, like how to optimize techniques or protocols and often also gets the opportunity to implement these ideas.

In this way  you can find your own niche in the team and work on smaller projects, which mostly fit to your interests and skills. Examples for such projects would be the testing of new quality control protocols, the optimization of different banking protocols, support of interns or the optimization of  the documentation and data presentation.

The mix of typical standardized industry work with experimental research is a pleasant combination, if you decide not to stay in academia.

This job is excellent for students with:
strong interest in state-of-the-art cell culture and standardized routine work combined with smaller experimental projects

Name: Anne Martinelli
Current job: Psychology Instructor and Research Scientist at Hochschule Fresenius, University of Applied Sciences
Graduated from: MSc in NB in 2012, PhD in 2018

It may sound like a cliché, but the best part of my job is simply the students. I teach a mixture of biopsychology, cognitive neuroscience, diagnostics, and empirical methods for bachelor and master students of psychology. One of the joys of teaching incoming students the basics of scientific research and neurobiology is having the opportunity to mould their first impressions of empirical research, to encourage them to be critical, open-minded and ethical, to think outside of the box, and to be both precise and creative in experimental design and in the evaluation of existing literature.

Teaching and research at a private university are quite different than at public research universities in Germany. The teaching is more time-intensive (1-2 classes per day), the classes are smaller (typically 30-40 students), and one gets to know the students individually over the course of their studies. Depending on the subject and college, research can be distinctly less well-funded, although larger collaborations with private companies and industry are common in some branches. In addition, the “middle tier” of researchers – post-docs and PhD students – is missing. This means that the most time-intensive part of my job, besides teaching, is the direct supervision of bachelor and master thesis projects.

While I am not in a typical research university setting, my supervisory role for thesis students allows me to continue working on ideas that evolved out of my PhD. The challenge lies in decomposing overarching research questions into distinct “bite-size” projects, each to be completed in a 6-9 month time frame. For someone who highly enjoys the educational process and equally appreciates the opportunity to continue working on one’s own research questions, the setting at a private university provides a well-blended combination of both elements.

This job is excellent for students with:
– a knack for making abstract or complicated topics tangible
– an enjoyment for holding talks or giving lectures
– an interest in mentoring others throughout their academic qualification

Name: Michael Paolillo
Current job: Medical Science Liaison at Syneos Health
Graduated from: MSc in CM in 2015; PhD in 2019

After finishing my PhD in neuroscience, I looked into jobs in R&D, consulting, and as a medical science liaison. What do PhDs do in these roles?

Most R&D PhDs will be in meetings and overseeing the work of technicians. There is generally little ‘wet’ work as a PhD in R&D because your value to the company is your ability to design and manage studies, not run a Western blot or take microscopy pictures (which technicians likely do much better than you). This is a great job for PhDs who want to do clinically relevant research and would like to manage a lab.

Consulting is fast-paced, data driven, and project-based. Consultants work long hours and generally have intense travel schedules (Mon – Thurs overnights). Consulting is a great career for PhDs who want to dive into the business aspects of science.

During my career search, I came across ‘Medical Science Liaison’ or for short MSL. The position is a bit of a mix between R&D and consulting. As a MSL, I am responsible for communicating the company’s clinical data to doctors in one on one meetings, group meetings, small presentations in clinics, and large presentations at international conferences. This means I need to know the company’s research portfolio of ongoing and completed clinical trials, as well as the relevant pre-clinical data. I travel about 70% with about 20% overnights, which I find manageable. I am largely in control of my schedule and I enjoy that freedom.

What does a typical day look like as a MSL?
I am happy to say that there is no typical day. One week I might be at a conference for three days and two days in internal meetings. The next week I could be traveling locally for four days and one day in home office, it all depends. Below is a representative week.

Monday – Finish conference report, have skype conference calls, set individual meetings with doctors for next weeks.

Tuesday – Meetings in Stuttgart and Esslingen with doctors, do research to follow up with doctors’ questions and send follow up email with answers.

Wednesday – Attendance at a conference to answer doctors questions at the company stand, poster presentation.

Thursday – Meeting in Munich and overnight in Munich. Emails and other computer work from hotel.

Friday – Travel to northern Bavaria, give presentation to a group of 8 doctors, note their questions for follow up, and travel home.

This job is excellent for students with:
– Interest in communicating complex scientific information to different audiences
– People and relationship building skills
– Desire for local and international travel

Name: Jasmin Mahler
Current job: Quality assurance manager at Acino Pharma AG, Switzerland
Graduated from: MSc in CM in 2012; PhD in 2016

As the name already announces, the job of a quality assurance manager is first of all to assure the quality of a product – in my case of pharmaceutical drug products. What it means in detail is then a bit more complex. In the pharmaceutical industry the quality aspects of drug products are strictly defined and controlled. There are many rules one has to follow and your first task as a quality assurance manager is to learn the respective guidelines and read into the corresponding literature. Although this may sound some kind of “dry” or boring in the beginning it is everything other than that in the daily work.

The task of a quality assurance manager can reach from supplier qualification for the raw materials including on-site inspections called “audits” at the suppling company, which means a lot of travelling all over the world to preparation of quality reports and analysis of data, meaning more paper-based and office work. A quality assurance manager is often functioning as “manager” in assisting the optimization of production processes and finding solutions for current problems. Therefore, the quality assurance manager is also responsible for contact with clients in respect to customer complaints or deviations that may arise to the planned production process. This job may sometimes be challenging and every now and then you might have to be a mediator for two parties but it is definitely never boring and you learn new things every new day.

In a typical week, I would start Monday with data analysis for a product quality review – a yearly review which looks at all production-relevant processes of a product. On Tuesday and Wednesday I would be on an external audit at a supplier company for a certain raw material, for which I would have to write the corresponding report on Thursday. Friday morning I might hold a presentation for the monthly key performance index meeting and in the afternoon fill-in a renewal qualification sheet for one of our contract manufacturing organizations. And finally, Friday late afternoon, we might have one of the typical Swiss “Aperos” with beer, wine and snacks.

This job is excellent for students with:
– eager to learn new things
– well-organized
– communicative

This collection was a joint work of Prof. Dr. Horst Herbert and Stefanie Schuster.


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