Uni training inadequate for fresh grads going into industr

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Uni training inadequate for fresh grads going into industr

Postby Myotis_rufopictus » Sep 14 2010 12:45 am

My spouse and I both finished our masters' (in separate departments) in an American public uni last year. We now live in Singapore; I'm in a small biotech company and he's working for a collaboration between (famously geeky American uni) and (major Singaporean uni that isn't NTU). Because of our shake-down experiences in the first few months of work, we are thinking of writing a letter to our alma mater pointing out that the education we received has some serious holes.

Obviously, it's unrealistic that every freshly minted PhD from a life sciences program let alone every MS or BS is going to stay in academia or go into governments or nonprofits. Our opinion is that institutions have a responsibility to students to not only teach them science per se but to give them some grounding (or warning, hehe) in the practical aspects of doing science.

We'd like to write to our former uni suggesting that 1 or 2 graduate-level courses be put together addressing the following issues, and make them compulsory or else highly recommended for all life sciences grad students. It shouldn't be a huge problem to implement since many professors nowadays have industry experience. Even for students who will never end up in industry (how to tell without a crystal ball?) it will still be beneficial to know some of these things.

1. Documentation/document version control. I was pretty overwhelmed by all the paperwork we have at my workplace when I started. In comparison, in many university labs, an SOP is a Word file written by the senior scientist sitting on the lab computer, or a lab wiki.
2. Assay qualification/validation and transfer: It doesn't mean that if you run an assay twice and get the same result that it will always turn out that way...
3. Regulatory stuff. The only time I saw the letters "FDA" and "USP" was when I looked at my bottle of vitamins in the morning. For all I knew, "ICH" was the white spot fungal disease your goldfish gets if you don't change the water.
4. Legal stuff: ownership of intellectual property, liability, etc. I went to a couple of talks by this guy who had both a PhD in some life science and a JD (juris doctor, the American law degree), and they were really interesting.

Anything else I missed?

Feel free to let me know if you think I was more of an ignoramus than the average person, but do let me know your suggestions to help save current students from such ignorance as well :wink:
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Re: Uni training inadequate for fresh grads going into indus

Postby CrowSan » Sep 14 2010 6:10 am

I completely agree that (even for academia, never mind industry) the 1st and 2nd degrees do not in anyway describe real-life (and I am refering to UK universities here). But then again I've always wondered why at highschool (or secondary school over here) they never once gave a lecture on a) how to get a mortgage b) how to manage simple finances c) talked about the need for pensions and insurance. Instead I was taught sines and co-sines and tangents. . . . which I have never used. Especially not when talking to the bank manager.
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Re: Uni training inadequate for fresh grads going into indus

Postby relaxin » Sep 14 2010 8:53 am

The company that hire fresh grads should not expect they can do all the industry stuff. They have to train them, just as we train fresh postdocs (from departments other than biochemistry/molecular biology) how to use micropipets. Some universities do have intership programs with collaboration of industries, so fresh grads will know what to expect when they land on a job in industry.

Nowadays, at least in USA, the middle schools are teaching kids to balance checkbooks and invest in stock market, and do some basic cooking. I think they should teach them to care for babies, so as a deterrent for teen pregnancies. :)
Retired academic researcher. Mention of a specific product does not imply my endorsement of the product. No conflict of interest or guarantee to work on the advice given. Do as I say, not as I do. Not liable to the loss of your valuable samples.
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Re: Uni training inadequate for fresh grads going into indus

Postby mchlbrmn » Sep 16 2010 2:13 pm

The US government funds the education of biology graduate students. Not only that, I think they are paid a stipend to do it (at least I think US students are, I don't know if your situation is different?). This is quite a subsidy to industry as it is. It may not be unreasonable to expect industry to handle some of the education specific to their needs.
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Re: Uni training inadequate for fresh grads going into indus

Postby Myotis_rufopictus » Sep 30 2010 1:31 am

Thanks for your input. Yes, in the US a lot of graduate-level education is funded by government grants directly or indirectly. I'm not saying that a young scientist's ENTIRE education should be geared toward industry needs. Just having 1 or 2 courses to cover the basic ideas. Also, some of the industry-related stuff is scientifically important to academic labs also but tends to be ignored by a lot of people, like validating/qualifying in-house-developed assays. If anybody else has suggestions for stuff that falls into that category I would like to know.
Reading about expression of genes "in Planta" makes me think they're doing it in margarine.
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Re: Uni training inadequate for fresh grads going into indus

Postby still goin' » Oct 01 2010 1:57 pm

you're right-it is a leap to go from academia to industry. Some universities are now offering graduate level courses on intellectual property commercialization independent of graduate degrees in that discipline. I don't know how many faculty members there are out there who understand the multitude of regulatory requirements and standards (like ISO accreditation) and compliance to the same. I have worked in academia, industry and government research facilities and I am an auditor. I am skeptical that an undergrad or grad program could provide a thorough education with respect to compliance and I'm not sure that they should. While there are regulatory requirements that apply to academic research, accreditation applies if you are providing a service or inventing/producing a product. In addition, compliance is part of a management system and those systems can be unique to orgranizations. The best that could be achieved in an academic setting is an awareness of regulations and standards and the need to demonstrate compliance. There are benefits to achieving certain standards though. Just think of how much easier we could have made our own lives if we and our colleagues had kept really thorough and accurate lab notes!
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