Nov. 2019 Circuit

STEM Circuits: Career transitions between academia and industry, and beyond

Date: November 19th, 2019

Location: Hughes Auditorium, NU Chicago Campus – 303 E. Superior St., Chicago, IL, 60611

For our STEM Circuit session to inform researchers on careers outside of academia, we could not have asked for better speakers than Dr. Marina Damiano – owner of Damiano Group Scientific Communications, and Dr. Shyama Majumdar – an Oncology Ventures Associate at Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The event, held on the Chicago campus, was attended by over 80 researchers from across Northwestern, UIC, and U of Chicago. We thank everyone for attending, asking insightful questions, and making this event a great success!

Marina and Shyama completed their PhDs and transitioned into careers in science communication and consultancy, respectively. They walked us through their journey from graduate school to industry and shared some important points with us that we would like to summarize here:

  • Your experience in graduate school doesn’t define you. Yes, graduate school experiences will always be a part of you, but it is a small part of the bigger picture, i.e., your career. If you do choose a non-academic career, keep in mind that this is not an ‘alternate’ career, as pursuing academic research is no longer the norm. In the end, pursue a profession that makes you happy.
  • Network, network, network. An important skill within and outside of academia is to network amongst your peers and build meaningful relationships with people. A key point Marina made was to have an ‘how can I help’ attitude while networking to show prospective employers that you can be a useful addition to their organization.
  • Do your homework. You can look up available positions at companies you’re interested in, use LinkedIn to connect you with people in your extended professional circle, and ask if they would be willing to discuss their role and career path.
  • It is important to understand what you don’t like early on. Shyama emphasized that you should identify your strengths, be honest with yourself about what you want out of your job, and constantly work towards your goals. If choosing between academia and industry is confusing, get out there, do short-term internships and talk to people on both sides.
  • Talk to your mentor, who could be your graduate school or postdoctoral advisor, a colleague, or a senior researcher. A mentor could play a significant supportive role in shaping your career and communicating with them on a regular basis could help you reach your career goals.
  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You will never know what you could have gained unless you ask for it.

Written by:

Sumitra Debina Mitra, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Hauser Lab)

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Our invited speakers:

Shyama Majumdar, Ph.D., MBA

Oncology Ventures Associate

Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

University of Chicago



Marina Damiano, Ph.D.


& Scientific Communications Consultant

Damiano Group Scientific Communications