Good to hear what is out there
Bastienne Wentzel

22 november 2012, NPC Highlights

Many NPC projects are coming to an end. The PhD students involved are about to be released onto the career market. Many of them are not sure about what to do after their graduation, as became clear when the application was opened of the BioBusiness Summerschool 2012. The summerschool introduces the students to 'the business world of Life Sciences'. As many as 70 PhDs attended the week long summerschool in Amsterdam to hear about opportunities in large companies, the possibilities to start a business and to have opportunities to extend their network.

'People ask me: where do you want to do your postdoc? When they should be asking: what do you want to do after you obtain your PhD?' says Adja Zoumaro, a PhD at the Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics group in Utrecht. 'I am not really interested in staying at the university as a postdoc but I don't really know what else is out there. That is why I went to the summerschool,' explains Adja.
Benjamin Barasa, who is a PhD working in the same group in Utrecht says he hasn't decided whether he wants to stay in academia or switch to industry. 'It is fifty-fifty but the summerschool gave more weight to the business side.' Benjamin says he enjoyed the lecture from a board member of a large company who talked about the development of a drug for a rare disease. 'This company has a direct interaction with the patient. They develop these medicines even though the market is too small to make a profit. I was impressed by that.'
Adja found that a large part of the summerschool was dedicated to people who want to start their own company. 'But even though I am not interested in starting my own company, I learned a lot too. For example during the session about business models, where different steps were explained from development to product in a typical biotech company. I learned which type of job positions are available to me in such a company.'
Pepijn Burgers enjoyed the round table discussions which helped him decide what he wants to do in about a year when he finishes his PhD in the Mass Spec group in Utrecht. 'The last year of a PhD is often very busy, there is not much time to look ahead. So I was happy to go to the summerschool now. The round table discussions convinced me that I may pursue an academic career first to build experience and then switch to industry.'
The students do not have set plans for more orientation on their careers. Pepijn says that he will attend workshops if they come along. Adja, who is almost finished with her PhD, is the most busy. She is updating her CV and contacting people. 'The summerschool was a very helpful starting point. I think this type of summerschool should be available much earlier in the study to prevent people from following the logical way of bachelor, master, PhD, postdoc without thinking.' Benjamin agrees: 'I would recommend anybody to go to the summerschool, especially PhDs from Utrecht. I get the impression that people from other universities are more exposed to information about the possibilities to work in an industrial environment. It is good to hear what else there is besides academia.'

This article was published in NPC Highlights no. 16, 2012.