Thursday, 14 August 2014 10:02

Nontraditional Science Careers: Consultant

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The secret is out. There is life beyond the lab or the classroom for someone with a PhD in molecular biology, especially in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. And yet many of these business careers have little to do directly with bench expertise but instead call on doctoral level training in analysis, planning, and communication. Those are the key skills that serve Jason Huhn and Danielle Haney, recent PhD graduates who are happily pursuing fast-paced, well-paid office-based careers as consultants.

In Hollywood and in 3D molecular printing, you start with a script. But the scripts that Darrell Hurt offers bioscience researchers help them to make molecular discoveries more easily. Hurt is the section head at the Computational Biology Bioinformatics and Computational Biosciences Branch at the NIH, where he recently launched the NIH 3D Print Exchange. The Exchange offers open-access to ready-to-use scripts, the instructions that drive 3D printers, so scientists can turn their .pdb and other data files into print-it-yourself plastic models.

It's rare to find a young scientist in a big office, yet Gregory Alushin, age 29, has generous space, a U-shaped desk, and a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the NIH campus. He is semi-apologetic about the arrangement, insisting that it's only temporary. "We're going to have to leave this place in a few months," Alushin hastily explains. "Another institute had just moved out of this space so we got to be the temporary sole occupants." His lab was founded only seven months ago, says Alushin, and he doesn't want to get too comfortable.

Making sausage and making legislation are not spectator sports but someone has to keep an eye on what's going into the mix. A case in point is the release by the Senate Appropriations Committee last Friday of its version of the bill that will fund the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for FY15. At first glance, the bill looks like typical Capitol Hill sausage. But look closer. Tucked deep inside the bill are changes that, if they become law, will help NIH scientists attend scientific meetings and reverse a case of unintended consequences. What you are looking at is a big victory for science, for researchers, and for ASCB. Humanity may also benefit.