A day in the life of a Research Scientist in Biotech

When I was in academia I had no idea what “going to the dark side” and working in industry would be like, I mentioned some expectations in my previous blog post.  In some ways I did have to go through a pretty steep learning curve – things like, when applying to most biotech jobs submit your resume not your CV and that basically anything can be called “assay development”- but it turns out day-to-day, academia and working in R&D in pharma is not all that different.

6:45am Our alarm clock goes off… and gets snoozed.

7am Wake up and get ready.  I wake up with my iphone, checking my email, calendar and facebook.

7:45am Take the puppies out for a quick walk with my husband.  It would be way more efficient to just have one or the other of us walk the dogs, but it’s some nice quiet-ish time to chat (unless, like today, one of the dogs has a meltdown… if anyone knows what to do about dogs with dog-aggression issues I would be forever thankful for any advice).

8:10am Leave for work.  We decided to rent an apartment very close to our jobs so we can skip the madness that is Southern California Rush Hour Freeways.  I get to drive to work on a small mostly-one-lane road along the ocean. =)

8:30am Get to work and settle in.  Today I walked in and immediately ran into the IT engineer who has been helping me by writing code to automate some repetitive analysis I have been doing – looks like it’ll be done today, yay!  It is amazing having access to so much support.  As a company, we have a small number of diseases we focus on and everyone has their role in bringing compounds to the clinic. It makes it a lot easier to collaborate when there is an underlying plan and everyone is running, generally, in the same direction. It is also a wonderful perk of my new company that there are all kinds of engineers who can help you streamline the research pipeline. Whether it is helping you to write code, build custom equipment, or come up with completely new ideas for project progression, these guys really are amazing!

Once I put my things down I go to the kitchen and get coffee and breakfast, which I eat in my cubicle while responding to emails.    I spend the next hour reading papers and updating power point slides to give to my boss for an upcoming program review.

10am Western Blots.  I’ve been running westerns for over 10 years but this is my first day running them at my new company and I’m learning slight differences in the protocols and where everything is. Luckily, running a western blot in industry is pretty much the same as running it in an academic lab.

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12:30pm Lunch.  A few of the ladies that I take ballet with have decided to get together at a new restaurant every Wednesday for lunch.  We post a location and whoever can make it, shows up.  I love it, I’m finally putting down roots again, and I feel lucky to have such diverse and fun people in my life.

1:30pm Finish Westerns for the day.  Annotate my notes and update my electronic notebook so I can hopefully find everything next time.

2pm Prep for a 2:30 meeting.

2:30pm Meeting.  On average, I have meetings about once a day and they range from internal and/or external data updates, to visiting speakers, to company-wide business results and priority updates. Today the data presented was preliminary, but intriguing and led to an animated discussion about future research directions.  A side note – one of my favorite things about meetings at this new company is there is always an agenda and when things to do come up they are called “action items.”  Instead of these good ideas floating off into space, someone is assigned the task of doing the “action item” and it goes into the agenda for follow up.

3:30pm My code is ready!  I start running it in the background while I read papers, follow up on emails, explore potential readouts for future studies and new research avenues. This part, too, feels very similar to what I was doing as a postdoc in academia.

5pm Go home, today my work is done. There are some earlier days and there are some later days/weekends but mostly my schedule (right now) is 8:30-5.  I had the misconception that industry work schedules were very rigid.  That has not been my experience, I can take long lunches and go to appointments around my work schedule much like https://portraitofthescientist.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-teaching-postdoc/.  Some people at my company coach their kids’ sports teams so they leave at 3:30pm a few times a week. On the other hand, many people do stay late and/or have to come in on weekends, it all depends on how you work and what you work on, the same as academia.

5:15pm Walk the dogs and talk to a faraway friend.

6pm Snacks and try to write this blog post.  It feels very awkward and intimidating.

6:45 Start dinner.

7pm Hubby comes home, dinner!  He works at a small biotech company and we get to rejoice, commiserate, encourage and vent.  We are trying to eat at the table like civilized people/adults, but it is new for us not to zombie-out and eat in front of the TV.  Chores, yada-yada.

8pm Hulu/netflix, surf the internet, buy a Valentines Day gift, look for a home to buy (but like https://portraitofthescientist.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-forensic-scientist/ we might have to wait a bit longer, everything around here is too expensive!).

10pm Walk the dogs, then it’s time to read in bed.

11:30pm Goodnight!

This entry was posted in a day in the life, biotech, industry, pharma, women in science and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A day in the life of a Research Scientist in Biotech

  1. peírama says:

    One thing I hate about academia is it can feel like everyone is working against each other since authorship is often not decided on until the end. Is it different in industry since everyone has a common goal of getting the “compounds to the clinic”?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Curiouser&Curiouser says:

    In my experience, being in industry feels like working in one giant (well funded) academic lab. There is still personal ego and politics, but having common goals, clear scientific/research roles and a defined reporting structure all seem to help minimize unhealthy competition while allowing for creativity, collaboration and career development. Also both companies I have worked for have done a fantastic job fostering a strong sense of being on the same team, which is great for morale in general.


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