Friday, December 6, 2013

Career Options for Bioscience Graduates...Updated

Here is an updated list, with additions by colleagues and Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier, Professor of Biochemistry, University of Toronto.

  1. Business
    1. Management Consulting
    2. Innovations Officer
    3. Market Analyst
    4. Recruiter
    5. Venture Capitalist
    6. Founder and CEO of own company
  2. Communications
    1. Writing/Editing for Scientific Journals
    2. Writing/Editing for General Science Newspapers/Newsletters/Hospitals
    3. Writing for Grant Writing Services (ie. UHN)
    4.  Science Consultant for Entertainment Industry
    5. Patent Officer/Tech Transfer Officer/Patent Agent
    6. Science/Medical Liaison
    7. Science Translation
  3. Government
    1. Research and Development
    2. Grant and Research Administration
    3. Office of Innovations
    4. Policy
    5. Intelligence Analyst
    6. Forensics
    7. Biodefence Research
    8. Regulatory Affairs
    9. Education
  4. Biotech Industry
    1. Pharma Field Scientist
    2. Biotech Application Scientist
    3. Pharma or Biotech Sales
    4. Forensics
    5. Cosmetic Industry Scientist
    6. Food Supplement Industry
    7. Medicinal Plant R & D
  5. Education
    1. Research Professor
    2. Teaching Stream Professor 
    3. Lecturer
    4. Lab Course Coordinator
    5. High School Teacher / Head of Science Department
    6. Tutorial Services
    7. Science Outreach Programs
    8. Graduate Professional Development Programs
    9. Think Tanks
  6. Non-profit
    1. Independent Science Research Foundations
    2. Social Programs
    3. Public/Global Health Organizations
    4. Environmental Policy and Research
    5. Health/Hospital Research Scientist (Clinical Trial Management)
    6. Food Science / Nutrition Programs in Hospitals

  1. Professional
    1. Doctor
    2. Pharmacist
    3. Dentist
    4. Veterinarian
    5. Lawyer
    6. Health Professional
    7. MBA/Financial

  1. University/Hospital Research Institutes
    1. Grant Administration
    2. Graduate Administration
    3. Undergraduate Administration
    4. Career Centre
    5. Research Facilities
    6. Animal Care
    7. Health and Safety
    8. Training
    9. Planning

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Presented at the Canadian Science Policy Conference

It was a fantastic discussion of "Is a PhD Really a Waste of Time?" at CSPC Incubating Innovation and Ingenuity today with reference to the 2010 Economist article.

In brief, the answer is that just the PhD alone is not sufficient.

A student asked "Does that mean I have to take more classes?"
You are finished with classes! A PhD gives you the training to learn independently. The "more than just the PhD" is about self-assessment and building a network. Find a career you would like to explore and "work backward," as Ivan Waissbluth, one of the panelists commented. Ask them how they got there. Talk to professionals outside your lab, the university. Having said that, if you are interested in patent law or business management, a law degree or an MBA (mini MBA) may expose you to more skills and contacts you never knew about. But even with patent law, find a patent attorney and find out what their job is like before you write the LSAT. Perhaps start as a technical consultant and see if patent law is for you. Innovations or business classes at the school of continuing studies may be beneficial, but not necessary, depending on your own career goals.

Soft skills, self-assessment, a network, and a passion to lead the world with innovative ideas will take you to your dream career. Read my older posts which address these in detail. Good luck!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Power to Change

After viewing Blackfish and reading up on orca behavior in the wild, I came across - a forum where one can start a petition and though the power on the internet, thousands can sign and changes are made. Victories are listed, and the effects are inspirational. I know my writings are usually not about social causes; but as a scientist, one should be involved with correcting the wrongs of the world. Find those that move you, and contribute to change. Propose a change that could satisfy all parties involved. Who knows? Perhaps one of your causes will become your career.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Minimalist Living with Kids

We spent the summer at the beaches with our three kids, in an unfurnished apartment with 2 bedrooms and roughly about half the living space as our home. We brought our beds, one couch, 2 chairs, clothes, one large box of toys for the 8 month-old. Our older kids each brought a small suitcase and a backpack for books and stationery. My husband and I each brought one bag of clothes as well. Out kitchen was minimal for 4 and a baby. No glasses, just water bottles and some plastic cups. One large pot, one small pot, one strainer, a pizza pan, a baking pan, dinnerware for four. We borrowed a dining table and 4 chairs, some cutlery and plastic plates. We were on minimal operations.

And you know what?
We were just fine.

Our lifestyle changed.
The kids and I walked to the neighborhood grocery store almost everyday, we brought home fresh bread almost everyday. We borrowed many books from the local library every 3 days. There was no tv so the only electronic entertainment was 12 minute episodes of Octanauts once in a while. Some of our kitchen cupboards were empty! We walked to the beach almost everyday. We walked to the park, restaurants, menchies, local music festivals.

We have returned home to notice all the "extra stuff" in it..
We purge and donate every 3 months or so, but this summer's experience really accentuated our collection we accrued over the 10+ years of marriage and 3 kids.

I am in the middle of the big "purge," and I notice as more toys and things are removed which haven't been played in a while, the key pieces we are keeping are played with and valued more.

I am in no way one of those moms who own only 2 pairs of jeans. I am still nursing and I know that my body will probably shift again so I am anticipating wardrobe changes in the next year. I know that families are always in flux, so I know I will be making purchases and donating again in the future. I do know, however, I will keep my purchases in check and not be so tempted with the 75% off signs as I make this largest purge this year. I hope to refrain from making bulk but "cheaper" purchases as the hidden cost of seeing towers of paper towels and toilet paper in my basement are too much for me.

My mantle looks so clean now - nothing except a picture of the kids and a wedding gift of a vase of glass roses. I can actually appreciate them now as they are not hidden behind plastic plants, candles and other dust-collecting knickknacks which I have forgotten about already.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Best Nursing Top

Hi Moms,

After trying many different nursing tops from many different retailers (price ranging from $10 to $40), my favorite this year would have to be the peasant top from Joe Fresh for $14. It is 100% cotton, the elastic collar pulls down, the midsection is generous for the postpartum baby bump and comes in different colours. I wear a nursing tank under it and a pair of cotton shorts (also from Joe Fresh.) It is number one on comfort, cuteness, and affordability. With its variety of colours, I had fun mix and matching tops and shorts this summer.

Since I am running around all day with 3 kids this summer, this ensemble took me everywhere!

I hope that saves some moms out there some time.
If your location does not have a Joe Fresh, look for peasant tops at your nearest retailer. If you catch them on sale, you won't have to pay over $30 at a maternity store.

Happy nursing!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Top Seven Secrets

Here are some secrets (my opinion only) summarized on one page based on a more than a decade of experience with scientific colleagues in and out of academia. You may read more about each in detail on my other posts.

1. To save a few years in the academic track, use your PhD as a base when deciding on the postdoc. Either stay with the same technology and apply it to a different model OR stay in your area of research and learn a new technology to expand it. For example, my PhD was in the genomic mapping of a pediatric illness. A good postdoc geared towards an academic career would have been to expand my genomic mapping skills to another illness OR performed proteomics (next step) for the same illness. Some postdocs do change everything in it entirety - but then be prepared to spend more time as a PDF. Remember however, if you take some part of your PhD with you, find an agreement with your advisor so you are not competing with each other in future work. 

2. Optimize your PhD - try to make it the best in science and collaborations so that you might even start an innovation, patent, or company from it.

3. Find mentors 5-10 years your senior so they can tell you which grants to apply for as a postdoc and a young professor or which biotech companies have good science and good people.

4. Read everything so you know what is going on in this world. Figure out the need, combine your passion and scientific background and CREATE something good. Talk to the right people who can advise you on the marketability. Communications is key. Here is an inspirational example of baby Embrace started by Stanford grad students which I have spoken about: 
Everyone of you have this potential.

5. If you are pursuing an academic postdoc and you realize you are off to industry, publish more collaborative papers. Industry looks for collaborative, excellent scientists.

6. Maintain research integrity, know the legal issues which revolve around science patents and company partnerships.

7. Creativity again is essential in integrating the rest of life, especially when having children. Create and propose a shift in your career that works for both you and the company/institution. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Challenges of Professional Nursing Moms

During my maternity "break," I have had some meetings on skype, conference calls and in person. I must say that all of these were only possible with my trusted team, both at work and at home. At work, I have a great team of graduate students and administrative help. At home, I have a great mother's assistant who helps with school drop-offs and pick-ups for my older children, lunch with them, baby, laundry and light housekeeping. I also have some trusted mothers who can also take my school children for lunch and after school if I am late either nursing baby or at a meeting.

One of the challenges through all this was to find nursing-friendly clothing for postpartum working women. We are definitely not all supermodels who fit back into our form-fitting outfits 4 months later. Most nursing wear are too casual for work. I have a formal work conference coming up, and it was a big challenge just to find the best outfit to nurse in, feel good yet professional in. Button down shirt with a suit? Too stuffy. Nursing tops? All of them were too casual. Wrap-dresses can reveal too much cleavage. After many attempts, I finally found a button-down dress made of fabric and colour (black with fun pattern and colours) which I felt good in. Shoes are black sandal wedges with back-up flats as I will be working all day.

Anyone want to tackle retail for real, nursing women?
This is a definite need.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Finding the Confidence to "Be the Change"


I recently spoke at a career symposium for grad students and PDFs and the lead coordinator for the event was one of my students from the course I taught last fall. She mentioned she was always a shy person, and never imagined she could do something like this.

I hope my motivational talks helped her out of her shell.
Congratulations I say!

As I say in my talks, "You are a PhD! You are smart and can move the world in your own way. Seize the opportunity!"

It's lovely to see young scientists, especially women, find their worldly confidence!

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Ghandi

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Funniest Things Kids Have Said Lately

"Where did you learn the word 'foolish' ?" I asked.
"Well, big sister taught me the word 'fool' from the silly boys in her class. And I added 'ish.' "

On another day, I was speaking to an adult.
"I tend to find parents of an only child to be a bit more protective since they...." I paused a bit to tend to baby and my kindergarten child finished the statement for me.

"Because they don't have a BACK-UP kid?"

This was followed by tears of laughter....for a long time.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

What to Expect During the First Three Months of Baby

1. Sleep swaddled
2. Nurse one side
3. Sometimes poo, change diaper
4. Nurse other side
5. Sleep swaddled
6. Goto 1.

Other activities:
Step 3) may happen at anytime.
Random moments of wakefulness during the 24 hour cycle.
Random moments of crying anytime.
Lot of hugging and holding.
Lots of looking at baby in amazement...a miracle she is.

For the Mom:
1. Adjusting to breastfeeding takes a month or more.
2. Critical is a cellphone with texting ability to reach out to friends, baby caretakers, husband when you are immobile while you nurse.
3. Your hair will start falling out after 3 months, some more than others. This may be a good time to enjoy a fresh, new haircut.
4. You will no longer need mat clothes at 3 months, but won't be able to fit into your previous skinny jeans. You may need to purchase some "interim" pants and button down shirts, if nursing.
5. Purchase a breastpump - critical for emergencies.
6. A nursing pillow that has a velcro belt works best, not the U shapes ones. They tend to slip out.
7. Take time everyday to shower, take care of your hair and makeup so you feel good about yourself. A disheveled mom is not a happy mom.

Enjoy this early baby time - it goes by quickly!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Biomedical Career Development Workshop 2013

Here are the sessions for the Career Development Workshop coming in June, 2013. Open to 200 graduate students, PDFs and professionals, it will address the transitions of the life science career path while integrating the rest of life. Proposal was sent to American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and was awarded! Other sponsors include CSMB, Depts of Biochemistry, Immunology, U of Toronto. Thank you to the sponsors and the students who are helping me organize the logistics.

9-10 How to Succeed in Academia
10-11 How to Optimize your Scientific Career
11-12 Successful Careers outside of Academia

Networking Lunch
1:30 - 3 Concurrent sessionals
    Intellectual Property and Ethics
    Global Trends / Innovation
    Choosing the Best PostDoc and Preparing for the Job After

3:15 - 4:30 Afternoon Plenary
Career Transitions Throughout Life

4:30 - 5 Keynote Speaker Matt Buist, Director of Life Science Ontario

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Swaddling Baby

Infants are used to the cozy, naturally swaddled place she called home for 9 months. Then after birth, she cries "What is all this space?! I have these long dangling limbs! What are they? Why do they keep hitting my face? Ahh!"

Hence, they are at peace and sleep better when they are all wrapped up.

A recent Globe and Mail article addressed this very question, and here is my take on the whole swaddling.

All three of my babies slept better when swaddled.
They might initially fight the swaddle, but when held right after, they calmed down and stayed asleep longer. Here are the swaddling blankets we used at each step of their infancy.

Newborn: Receiving blankets
1-2 weeks: Swaddle blankets with the velcro
2 months: Woombies as my baby likes to have her arms near her face
4 months: Sleep sacs with the arms sewn up

By 5 months, my second child was out of them.
My first child had a sleep sac with some fabric sewn on the arms as she liked to feel blankets on her mouth.
My third one seems to like blankets on her mouth too, so I imagine the next step in her sleep development will be a sleep sac with open arms, but with longer fabric so she can easily access her "blankie."

Just make sure they do not overheat or are not too cold.
Enjoy the sleeps!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Realities of Nursing

I have nursed two children for 1 year, 18 months and the third is 4 months old. Here are the highlights of my experience.

1. When your milk first comes in, it is PAINFUL. Cabbage leaves or baby washcloths soaked and drained in warm water can be effective compresses while you nurse and after.

2. With each subsequent baby, the pain associated with the first milk coming in decreases. The let-down pain of my third baby has just diminished to the point it just feels funny, but the first 2.5 - 3 months were pretty painful.

3. My two older children did not have latching issues. Third baby did. Some speculated she had a smaller mouth. Her smaller mouth led to breast preference.

4. During the infant stage, my babies nursed for 1 hr at a time. At 3 months, they were efficient and so it only took them 10-15 minutes.

5. Invest in a nursing apron or some good nursing tops so you can nurse in the living room with friends around. Don't feel you need to be isolated in the nursery. Feeding a baby should be just part of your own life.

6. Pumping does not produce as much milk. Some told me to watch a funny show or think of baby while pumping, but I never really got it to work as well. I pumped after some feedings for my first child, in case I would need it. However, with the other ones, I rarely pumped or pump now. I think I have about 20 ounces in the freezer. C'est tout.

7. Baby #1 and I experienced thrush, which is a painful yeast infection in the breasts and babies' mouth. We eventually won the battle, after weeks of treatment. However, I took preventative measures the second time and this time, but taking supplemental acidopholus pills.

8. Don't be afraid to talk to lactation consultants. Most will come to your home, watch you and give you the advice you need.

9. It is a wonderful bond between mother and child. Enjoy it while it lasts. I know I cried a little when both of my older children self-weaned. Even after all the pain, I know I will miss it too when baby 3 finishes in the future.

How to Get Things Done with Baby

By the time babies are around 3-4 months, their window of wakefulness is about two hours, the latter hour being one of when baby wants to be held.

Hence, if you want to get things done, that first hour is when you have the most flexibility. This is the hour when after nursing, you are able to get yourself ready, cook, eat, vacuum, clean, fold laundry, work, or write emails while baby plays on a play mat or in the swing or bouncy chair.

At about the second hour, she likes to to be held. This is when I hold her to practice standing and/or hold her with in my lap and play piano and sing. We also walk around the house and pick up/tidy, load laundry or switch to dryer, put dishes away or read to my other children. I have even vacuumed while holding her too. She enjoys the noise and the movement. Women have great hips where baby can sit on while you multitask. :)

My motto is: try not to always do things FOR the baby but do things WITH the baby. Incorporate baby into your life as much as possible, around her sleep and nursing schedule.

Having said that, most of my cooking is done while she is sleeping. I may hold her while washing fruits or vegetables, as she likes the sound of water and watching the process. However, with all of the chopping and heat work, baby needs to be safely away.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sleep Issues for Babies and Children

Listed by age, here are the top reasons your babies will interrupt your night sleep.

1. The "fourth trimester" or the first 3 months of baby's life, feedings are every 2-3 hours, poo diapers at all hours of the night, and infants have day-night confusion until 6 weeks when sleep hormones kick in.

2. By the end of the third month, they have a reasonable schedule (wake up 2-3 times to feed at night) but then at 4-7 months, the teeth come in! Another round of sleepless nights.

3. So excited to crawl (6 months) and walk (12 months), they even want to practice during their sleep.

4. At 2-3 yrs, they are potty training, including the nights.

5. At 4-7 yrs, they have bad dreams.

6. By the time they are 8, you may get a full night's sleep for more than a few days.

These do not include issues when they are sick, ear infections, nosebleeds, tummy aches, effects of immunizations. Make sure you have tylenol and advil (for ear infections) in your medicine cabinet.

I am not at the teenage years yet, but I am sure issues will arise then with late nights...

Parenting is a job 24/7...for life. :)

Top 27 Items Required for Baby

Here is the list. Try to obtain these second-hand as baby will not use these items for very long.The big thing for me is, baby does not need all the matching baby furniture such as crib and changing station. I used a Pack-n-Play for all my kids until they were one, and then they were in a twin bed. The PnP is great because it is soft; and when you are traveling, the baby does not have "strange" bed anxiety as you cannot take a crib along everywhere.

1. Carseat
2. Accompanying Snap-n-Go Stroller
3. Shades for car
4. Backpack baby bag (pick a light one)

5. Pack N Play for sleep and travel sleep
6. Swaddler Blankets - Woombies
7. White noise machine or a loud fan
8. Rocking chair (saves your back)

9. Baby Seat or Swing
10. Playmat
11. Baby sling

Bath and Grooming
12. Diaper Change Pad with 2-3 covers
13. Penaten or Zincofax
14. Ecobaby Wash
15. Bathtub
16. Washcloths
17. Nailclippers
18. Baby brush and comb
19. Wipes and Diapers (Costco)
20. GatorBalm for any patches of dry skin

21. Nursing Pillow
22. Cotton BreastPads (NOT disposable)
23. Waterbottles for Mama at night time
24. For Mama: acidopholus
25. Pumping supplies

26. Blankets for stroller on cold days
27. Camera to take LOTS of pictures

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Realities of Parenthood

A recent article inspired me to write my own list of the realities of having babies.

1. It is the hardest thing...EVER.
2. Having more than one child is harder than 1)
3. Having more than two children is harder than 2)
For example, I was nursing baby when child 2 had a nosebleed and first child was 3 in the morning...with hubby on a business trip. Ugh.

4. Sleep is a luxury.
5. Free time is a luxury.

6. You learn to function on 2-3 hours of consolidated sleep at a time.
7. Cleaning poo in the middle of a meal becomes the norm.
8. A baby cries, sometimes for no reason.
9. A baby cries, sometimes for a reason you find out after. For example, sleep training baby and after 30 minutes of crying, you check to find a poopy diaper and feel like the most horrible parent.

10. Working from home is only possible if you have help at home.
11. Nursing is painful, especially if you have latch issues or thrush. Yes, I have had both. I am still in pain for the third one, but it has subsided some.
12. Uterine contractions while nursing are like early labour all over again, especially with the third baby. Ugh!

But having said all that, the huge smiles and hugs you receive and the "I love you, Mama" make it all worth it. Crazy, huh?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Day with Three Kids and Everything Else

Some people have asked,"How do you do it?"
The answer? "I have some help and I don't need much sleep."
Below is a sample timeline of a day with three kids and everything else.

6:30 Nurse baby, play
7:15 Get myself ready and greet older 2 kids
8:00 Baby naps while breakfast with family
8:30 Grade 3 child and Dad go to school/work
9:00 Read/play with kindergarten child, work from home
10:00 Nurse, Mama's helper arrives
11:30 Work meeting or lunch with kids
12:30 Kids back to school
1:00 Nurse then play with baby, prep dinner
2:00 Conference call
3:00 Pick up kids from school, Mama's helper leaves
4:00 Nurse and play
5:00 Dinner for kids and Mama, piano and song time with kids and baby
5:30 Dad comes home
6:00 Nurse and bathtime
7:00 Baby to bed
8:00 Older 2 kids to bed
8:30 - 10 Work
Emails and texts are also exchanged throughout the day, sometimes while picking up kids from school, sometimes while nursing.
10 Nurse (sometimes she skips this one)
1 Nurse
4 Nurse
7 Nurse
Day starts again :)

Whew! Life is full. Mama has to be efficient. There is not one moment when I am not multitasking. What a fun journey! 

Factors to Consider With the Job Offer

Here are some of the factors besides salary (summarized briefly) to consider with the job offer. Not all jobs will come with these options, but some will.

1. Career development with the job, within the organization
2. Office culture - did you "click" with the people?
3. QOL - how far is the job? Will you enjoy the commute?
4. Vacation (negotiable as well)
5. On-site daycare
6. Benefits - medical, dental, other health-related
7. Stock options
8. Do they promote "Fedex Days" or initiative and follow-through? "Fedex Days" are those days when employees can work on anything that they think need improvement. At the end of the day, everyone gets together over food and drinks to present their ideas. Some of the best ideas and product enhancements have resulted from these days.
9. Management
10. Do you agree with the organization's overall message? I hope you believe in them, or you should not have even applied.
11. Can you deliver more then expected with your own dose of initiative and creativity?
12. Family days available?
13. Last but not least, will you be happy with the actual work?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Job...after Baby #3

Wow - we are at Baby #3. More interrupted sleep, but it comes with the cuteness.

I taught classes while I was pregnant, finished the final grades and she was born 2 weeks after. Great timing! While taking a "break" from teaching, I am writing a book to go with the next class and organizing a biomedical career symposium for one day in the summer. I wrote a proposal for it a few months back which was awarded. I have a great student team helping me as I am unable to do most of the legwork with new baby. As you can see the common theme with all of my post-births, set up a plan to have enthusiastic interns or students help with the job. With the right leadership and guidance, it works!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Incorporating professional development into the graduate curriculum

Hi Everyone,

It has been a while. Great news! We introduced a graduate professional development course to my alma mater and it was a great success, according to the feedback which returned after the class. I hope more universities follow. The course outline is posted on here.

For any academics interested, please email me at for any feedback or discussions to start your own.

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