Perspectives from Big Pharma

I came to research in statistical genetics from an undergraduate degree in biochemistry. I learnt statistics as applied to genetics; perhaps a student who studied statistics of itself would have a perspective that is broader than my own.

I was prompted to think about more diverse applications of statistical methods in the life sciences (and beyond) when I had the privileged of attending an internal conference organised by GlaxoSmithKline‘s Quantitative Sciences Division. PhD students were invited to apply to attend the conference via a mailing list. With a tight deadline I submitted a poster abstract which was accepted.

In common with the other PhD students who attended the conference, I did not know what to expect. My only inkling came from having encountered the work of John Whittaker. Professor Whittaker is Vice President (Statistical Platforms and Technologies) at GSK and also holds an appointment at LSHTM. If I was expecting anything from the conference, it was to come across at least some of the work with which I am familiar – I was not anticipating the broad range of applications that were discussed. GSK’s conference brought together statisticians from every stage of both the drug development pipeline and the manufacturing process. It was eye-opening to see the topics I have studied in one context applied to a problem from another area.

Aware of current anxiety surrounding the potential for individuals with academic training to continue into a permenant post in academia, I felt it was useful to identify some industrial careers that I had not previously realised existed! I would encourage other PhD students in my position to pursue opportunities such as this one, whether or not they are contemplating a career in industry. I would also encourage employers to actively promote the opportunities within their organisations to PhD students who may not be aware of the range of job roles out there.

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3 Responses to Perspectives from Big Pharma

  1. ricardipus says:

    You (and others with training similar to yours) are in a somewhat enviable position. Good statisticians are relatively thin on the ground, and good statistical geneticists are, by comparison with, say, pure-play molecular biologists, in fairly high demand.

    All that said, I’m glad you pointed this out – working in industry R&D can have many advantages over academia (the opposite also being true of course). And in an environment where academic jobs are increasingly hard to come by, it’s good to be reminded of other options.

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  3. Erika Cule says:

    in an environment where academic jobs are increasingly hard to come by, it’s good to be reminded of other options.

    This was the real advantage of the opportunity to go to GSK. I had not previously realised that some of the roles represented there existed, and it would be advantageous both for employers and for graduates (and their respective institutions) if there was more discussion of roles beyond those that are frequently suggested as post-PhD possibilities.