On February 19, the Freshman Research Initiative hosted its first biotech career panel. The panel consisted of five professionals who currently hold managerial and industrial positions at various biotech companies around Austin. Here is a brief description of the panelists:
Rob Burgess, Ph.D.—Ray Biotech Jose Cienfuegos, B.S.—Thermo Fischer Scientific Hillary Graham, M.A.—INC research Jeanette Hill, Ph.D.—Spot On Scientific Nick Kosa, Ph.D.—Bioo Scientific
Below are some of the panel’s most frequently asked questions and answers:
Is it better to obtain a Ph.D. or a bachelor’s degree for a position in the biotech industry? According to the majority of the panelists, it is better to obtain an M.D., Ph.D., or Pharm.D. However, this depends on the workplace and the type of position. A B.S. degree is sufficient if you are planning on becoming involved in research and development. In fact, individuals with a B.S. have the highest job security in the biotech industry, especially compared to Ph.D.’s. This is due to the fact that middle management, which mostly consists of Ph.D.’s, is the first group of workers laid off when a biotech company downsizes. Additionally, there is much competition among Ph.D.’s for a few specialized positions in each company, while there are many research and management positions for people with B.S. degrees.
How are small and large biotech companies different from each other in regards to degree requirements? For small companies, as long as the applicant has a bachelor’s degree, obtaining a Ph.D. or a B.S. is not an important factor in the hiring process. The hiring committee often looks for independent and well-rounded individuals who clearly demonstrate their interest in the biotech industry.
What are some benefits of attending graduate school before entering the biotech industry? According to Dr. Burgess, obtaining a Ph.D. allowed him to explore his interests in the industry and determine his future career path. Without going to graduate school, he wouldn’t have been able to discover his interest in biotechnology research. Additionally, becoming involved in academic research while in graduate school allows individuals to round out their scientific skill set and explore their interests in various research fields.
Is obtaining a Business Foundations Program certificate beneficial for a future in the biotech industry? If you are thinking about joining the biotech industry, it is often best to have a business background to supplement a science degree. Employers often look for well-rounded individuals who have strengths in both research and business, because most positions in the biotech industry require both.. However, Dr. Hill imparted that she learned the business side of her position after being hired, and that learning business is not as hard as learning science.
What are some ways that undergraduates can go about finding internships in the biotech industry? The panelists expressed that most biotech companies hire undergraduate interns for a period of three months to test their fit in the company before offering them full-time positions. The best way to look for internships in the industry is to attend career panels and develop professional relationships with the managers. Also, it is beneficial to contact local companies and ask about their interest in an undergraduate intern. Doing so demonstrates your interest in their company, and they will often welcome you for a visit.