Thursday, March 16, 2023

Ask CJ: transition to data science

From the inbox (redacted for privacy): 

I was wondering if you have any advice on getting OUT of Chemistry? After [3-6 years] of industry after grad school [with a master's] I have found I liked coding & analyzing data a lot more than doing R&D and the issues that come with it in an industrial setting.

 I was just wondering if you know a lot of people who HAVE transitioned to data science/data analytics, so I can manage my expectations on if I should expect a paycut, how long the process takes, how much technical experience people had when they left, etc. [redacted]

A lot of my technical skills are self-taught and not on-the-job experience. I don't think my career path is unheard of, I was just wondering if you have any advice coming from an R&D synthetic chemist perspective that might help me get to an interview.

For past data science questions, here's an old post. 

I don't have much expertise in this, and so I will leave it to the commenters. I think that what a person needs to demonstrate interest in moving to a new field is the basic educational background (which probably can be made clear with some kind of programming/coding certificate) combined with sufficient on-the-job/off-the-job experience in the field to the point that you've demonstrated some kind of level of understanding. 

Readers, I'm genuinely not familiar with this, so do you have any thoughts? 


  1. I think Aurora Ginzburg seems to have made this career transition. She and Tony at the polymerist had an article:

  2. Pay CUT moving to data science?? Not in my country...

    "Data science" is very broad so it's hard to tell. Would scientific computing for chemistry/pharma, or clinical data analysis, or digitization in a chemistry department work? That could be an "in" without having to restart your career. It could also be a perfect match...

  3. I successfully moved out of chemistry, but into process engineering, not data science. This was achieved by applying to jobs at CDMO's as they're almost always willing to take a chance on "alternative" people vs big pharma. I feel like I did a pretty good job relating past experiences to the roles and responsibilities of the PE role. After around 1.5 years (which at a CDMO is more like 3+ years of experience at a big pharma), I took a chance on applying to big pharma PE jobs and landed one.

    I'm not sure if CDMO's hire data scientists but that may be a decent approach. In my experience though, CDMO's are usually very lean so you may need to be willing to make a sacrifice in work/life balance for a period of time. Or perhaps you're just ultra productive and can do everything required of you in a very lean atmosphere.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20