CBR Career Night: Insight into Science Careers Outside the Lab

Stefanie NovakowskiBy Stefanie Novakowski, PhD Candidate, Kastrup Lab

The trainee-organized CBR Career Night on Thursday, February 15 brought together professionals with rewarding careers away from the bench with students eager to learn from their experiences. By providing networking opportunities with this diverse group of speakers, the CBR has recognized a growing interest by graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in career paths outside of academia.

The event began with a short introduction by each of the eleven speakers, who described how their background in science and engineering helped them transition into their current career. For some of the speakers, this meant utilizing the technical knowledge they gained in their studies to help other researchers communicate to non-scientists. Dr. Edwin Gershom’s experience in clinical research led to his role as co-founder of RxFulcrum, a company aimed at connecting researchers with potential investors, while Nikki Berreth utilizes her combined background in mathematics, physics, and drama

to teach communication skills to scientists through LitScientist, a company she co-founded in Vancouver. Katelyn Verstraten pursued a degree in journalism after completing her Bachelors of Science, and now works as a Science Communicator at Terry Fox Institute. Artemis Lai, JD, also drew upon her science-based undergraduate experience when choosing to dedicate her time to intellectual property, copyright and patent law after becoming a lawyer.

Other speakers chose to pursue project management roles within industry or clinical research when selecting their post-graduate career paths. A travelling enthusiast, Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa participated in research projects around the world before joining Genome BC as their Chief Scientific Officer. Tamer Mohamed now serves as co-founder and CEO of Aspect Biosystems, a spin-off company that came about through his research in bioprinting while a graduate student at UBC. After completing a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences and gaining experience with pre-clinical studies through his work in industry, Dr. Chirag Kariya now works as a clinical trials manager at BC Children’s Hospital. Dr. Regan Zhang (Marketing Manager for STEMCELL Technologies), Dr. Louise Lund (Scientific Recruiter for STEMCELL Technologies), and Momir Bosiljcic (Project Manager for Zymeworks) provided additional insights into working in Vancouver biotech. Of all the invited speakers, Ray Socha will have travelled the farthest from his research background as he starts his career as a Senior Consultant in Financial Services Advisory at Ernst & Young.

Following the brief introductions, the attendees broke off into small groups for more in-depth discussions with individual speakers. Attendees had pre-selected which speakers to join while registering for the event, allowing for more targeted and productive networking. After three round table discussions, all the attendees reconvened for refreshments and light snacks which provided the opportunity for attendees to meet with all the speakers present. During these discussions, many of the speakers emphasized how their background in science made them a unique asset because of the insight it gave them into research. This knowledge allows them to act as a mediator between different groups, whether these are various research groups, departments within a company, or researchers and the public. Most importantly, a strong drive to learn new skills on the job was key to transitioning out of academia, regardless of your career choice.

A special thank you to the speakers for their time, and to the organizers who planned and coordinated the event. Further thanks to the CBR for hosting and providing refreshments.

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