Biotech Career Roundtable 03/23/2021

This March, we hosted our second roundtable event. Our round table event series provides a casual environment for students and post-doctoral fellows to learn about the variety of careers available to those with a Ph.D. in biological sciences. Panelists and attendees are split into breakout rooms, where panelists will briefly introduce themselves before opening the floor for questions and discussion. This set up is a great opportunity for networking. Below, we summarize what we learned from each of our speakers about their jobs and experiences in Biotech.

Dr. June Lam, Ph. D.

Indication Team Lead at Amgen

Dr. June Lam, Ph.D. graduated from UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2015. She pursued her PhD in the lab of Youxing Jiang, where she studied mechanisms behind certain ion channels. Upon the completion of her degree, June worked at AROG Pharmaceuticals starting off as a clinical research associate and then moved into the role of a Project Manager. Her time at AROG allowed June to get her foot into the industry and gain experience in clinical research. June then transitioned to current position at Amgen as an Indication Team Lead. Currently, Dr. Lam is involved in seven ongoing clinical trials. Her role involves overseeing the progress of the clinical trials and providing strategic input with regard to clinical trial design (that includes writing protocols, reviewing documents, recruiting patients, etc). She spends the majority of her time at work in meetings.

During June Lam's PhD she joined various student organizations which helped her develop key transferrable skills such as teamwork and effective communication abilities, both of which were crucial to landing her a position in industry. Dr. Lam also shares the advice for students to seek out projects that are disease-oriented for ease of transition into a more translational project at pharmaceutical companies. She reminds students of the value of journal clubs as well as your work-in-progress talks, as these are both great opportunities to strengthen communication skills. 

Dr. Caroline Gillis, Ph.D.

Senior Scientific Researcher at Genentech

Dr. Caroline Gillis received her Ph.D. in Microbiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in the laboratory of Sebastian Winter In 2019. Upon the completion of her degree, Caroline became a Senior Scientific Researcher at Genentech where she works on discovery science as a senior scientific researcher. Her role mainly comprises of bench science. Caroline mentioned that at Genentech, if you want to transfer a managerial role, a "Scientist", you will have to apply for a transfer (you cannot be directly promoted to that role from working as a researcher). Her interview process consisted of two phone screenings, one of which was with HR, in addition to an in-person interview at Genentech. Dr. Caroline Gillis encouraged students to begin to explore various career opportunities through informational interviews.

Dr. Jennifer Gonzales, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist/Product Manager at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Jennifer pursued her PhD at MD Anderson where she used structural-based drug screening for understanding the molecular role of ionotropic glutamate receptors in neurodegenerative diseases. She then pursued her postdoctoral fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine, after which she transitioned into industry. For the past 7 years, Jennifer has been working at Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Jennifer began as a Scientist during which she pursued large molecule analytical development and is now a Senior Scientist/Project Manager and Business Lead.

Jennifer shared the importance of extracurricular activities that helped her transition out of her bench science role into a more business-oriented managerial position. She utilizes the opportunity to manage events to make herself stand out at Janssen and build cross-functional relationships. She spoke to the fact that developing these skill sets early one will help PhDs to ace the interview process of pharmaceutical companies like Janssen that often want candidates to speak towards their leadership roles and interpersonal skillset. 

Brad Phelan

Director of Technology Commercialization at UT Southwestern

Brad is a Director of Technology Commercialization at UT Southwestern. He received his Bachelor's in Business administration, and real estate/finance from the Baylor University. Brad Phelan then went on to earn his MBA in Entrepreneurship from University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He has more than 13 years of expertise in finance, entrepreneurship, and company operations form diverse experiences by working with JP Morgan, the US Senate, and others. As the director of technology commercialization at UTSW, he is helping to translate UTSW-developed inventions to the bedside. Brad spoke to the value and importance of cultivating a network. He also encouraged students to explore the Think Lab program at Pegasus Park in order to learn more about entrepreneurship.