Monday, December 9, 2013

Are research scientists being replaced by mathematicians?

In Rick Mullin's year-in-review article on pharma, he talks more about big data (emphasis mine):
The main front in data, however, continues to be “big data” in the laboratory. Information technology firms responded in 2013 with a new generation of electronic lab notebooks and other software for collecting, storing, and analyzing data in drug discovery and development. Drug firms are seeking statistical analysis skills in the lab. Some even claim that research positions once filled by scientists who are taught statistics on the job are now filled with mathematicians who learn the science in the lab.
I would like to know, are there any recently-hired mathematicians working in bench-level (or bench-adjacent) positions in the life sciences industry, i.e. "a research position once filled by scientists"? I offer a shiny Sacagawea dollar to the first five people who can comment or privately e-mail me evidence of this (evidence being a verifiable LinkedIn profile).  I am defining "mathematician" as someone whose terminal degree (B.S./M.S. or Ph.D.) was "mathematics." I am defining "recently hired" as "hired since January 1, 2010."

I presume, though I do not know, that this is somehow related to this Ian Shott interview from earlier this year.

Either way, a very interesting development. 


  1. Did both math and chem (B.S.) and still can't find a job. From the job postings I've seen, they're really only interested in statisticians or informatics people. And I have yet to see a bench position that doesn't require having extensive knowledge of the techniques involved. Maybe it's because I'm only looking at entry-level jobs, but this quote is completely contrary to what I've seen in job postings.

  2. One of the shiny Sacagawea dollars has been claimed. B.S. in mathematics, does benchwork, statistics now. Sounds more life sciences than not.

  3. I haven't seen this trend happening yet. Mathematics grads are pretty rare and are probably taken up doing statistical analysis and things like that. We tend to teach chemists statistics rather than the other way around.


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