Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A great comment at In the Pipeline

An excellent comment by Chrispy at In the Pipeline, regarding the Dart Neurosciences shutdown: 
Dear colleagues in this industry: 
You simply have to accept that layoffs and site closures are part of this career. No matter what assurances you get to the contrary, you can rely on unplanned vacations in your future. “Ah,” you may think, “but I have especial talent, our division was picked as a center of excellence, and I have chart-topping reviews for the past few years.” Do not be a fool. That is not the way this business works, and cutting research remains an easy target for making a company more profitable, at least in the short term. 
If you want to keep your sanity, there are a few things you need to do: 
1) Save money. These jobs tend to pay well while they last, but you need to live well below your means and accumulate. This may be the single most important thing. 
2) Publish and network. Some places discourage publication, but it is really critical in this era that scientists get their work out there and get a reputation that extends beyond their employer. Talk at conventions. Keep in touch with old colleagues. 
3) Find a sense of self-worth outside of your job. Perhaps this is family, volunteer work, or even hobbies. Many scientists find themselves with a soul-crushing sense of inadequacy when laid off, having devoted so much of their lives to the pursuit of a particular profession. I have observed many colleagues who suffer symptoms of PTSD even years after getting laid off and years into a new position. 
Finally, for those of you “lucky” enough to avoid the axe when it swings, stay in touch with people who were let go. It is not uncommon for laid off people to feel like pariahs among those still employed. “Blame the victim” is a survival strategy for companies who lay off staff, and the remaining staff can often be found to adopt the same strategy at a personal level. Do not let a company corrupt you in this way.
I think this is a great comment, and one worth acting on, especially Chrispy's last point. 


  1. Though I'm relatively young (34), I feel grateful to have left pharma for my current job (let's say fine chemicals production). Despite leaving a field with interesting science that's constantly changing and lots of tough problems, I moved to a company that has scientists who have been here for 20 to 30 years. I will take that 8 days a week.

  2. My best advice for people planning on entering this field or are currently surviving the "whirlwinds" of this "career" is to always have a plan B. My personal experiences have been that this field is VERY unstable with most jobs lasting only 3-5 years. There is a lot of turnover due to budget cuts. acquisitions, outsourcing and layoffs. If you are able find something more stable than that, then consider yourself lucky. The constant job instability can start weighing on you especially as you start getting older and you want to have a family. Bouncing from job to job and city to city every 3-5 years is a recipe for disaster if you want any type of stability in your life. Personally, I think if you're young enough to leave the field to do something else, then you should. It works and you can make some good money in your early to mid twenties but by 30 yrs. old, it's probably time to find a more stable career choice. Stockpile some money, don't get comfortable, take some classes on the side and work towards something else.

  3. Thanks for the advice. What are would you Recommend that is compatible with chemistry and stable? Patent Agent? Consulting? Or a totally different field?

    1. Longer term chemistry jobs (should you choose to stay in the field):

      any company that deals with consumer based products (toothpaste, laundry detergent, lotions, soaps, cosmetics) or lubricants, food chemistry companies, large research hospitals like St. Jude Children's Hospital or Government research jobs (FDA and CDC).

      Stay FAR away from big pharma, research start-ups, specialty chemical companies and CRO's. All three are suffering greatly from outsourcing to China and India and mergers/acquisitions.

      If you want to leave the field entirely:

      Medical Laboratory Technologist(if you enjoy lab work and want to break into the medical field), Patent Agent/Attorney, Consulting, Financial Analyst, Financial counselor, Accounting or any type of entry level banking analyst, Library Science, Physician Assistant, Nursing, Doctor, Elementary/Middle or High School Science teacher, Patent review analyst (FDA), Engineering (not Chemical Engineering) etc.

      Stay FAR away from big pharma, research start-ups, specialty chemical companies and CRO's. All three are suffering greatly from outsourcing to China and India and mergers/acquisitions.

      I would think along those lines.

  4. Dart is hardly a good example. They hired phoneys from places like ArQule to do research. Better advice for people is to be honest with yourself about the legitimacy of what you are working on. Many "scientists" are "smart" people but all too often they don't have any common sense or street smarts.