Biomedical Sciences Offers Alternative Career Options

Published September 19, 2019

story by bill bruton

In preparing to host Biomedical Sciences Career Day & Vendor Show, Thomas Melendy, PhD, wanted to expose students and trainees in the biomedical sciences to the numerous opportunities available to them.

“I chose this topic because often students in the biomedical sciences see only a few types of careers. ”
Associate professor of microbiology and immunology and biochemistry and director of the Witebsky Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology

Speakers Use Research Skills in Various Ways

One of the sessions presented, “Alternative Careers in the Biomedical Sciences,” featured four speakers who have used their biomedical sciences doctoral degrees to open doors to various careers.

“I chose this topic because often students in the biomedical sciences see only a few types of careers,” said Melendy, associate professor of microbiology and immunology and biochemistry and director of the Witebsky Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology, which hosted the event.

Helping Graduate Students With Life Skills

Anyango Kamina, PhD, earned her doctorate in microbiology and immunology in 2017 from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

She started her career doing research, but found that was not her calling.

She is still at her alma mater, now working as Institute for Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity (iSEED) scientific workforce specialist for the Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement, a job that meshes well with her skills.

“We work with graduate students, both master’s and PhD students, training them in skills other than bench work,” Kamina said. “You could be a really good research scientist and be an expert in a particular subject, but if you can’t market yourself or be able to have conversations with people from different departments and describe your research, how are you going to be able to grow and do well in your career?”

Working with students is something she enjoys.

“It’s really exciting to work with the medical students and grad students. They make my day,” Kamina said. “I’m really happy because I’m actively promoting changes at the school that I went to and am really glad to be at.”

Getting Paid to Read, Write About Science

Kristina Wasson-Blader, PhD, found that her favorite part of research work was writing about it. So she made scientific writing her career.

Wasson-Blader, who earned her doctorate in biology in 1998 from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, is a freelance editor and writer in Western New York who works with contract research organizations, medical communication agencies and academic institutions to effectively communicate their message to the intended audience.

“The best part of what I do is I get to read about science and get paid for it,” Wasson-Blader said. “I’ve learned about cystic fibrosis because I wrote a piece about it directed toward physicians. I’m currently working on a clinical trial grant on liver cancer. I get a generalist view on all the great science that’s going on around me.”

Research Now Directed at Analyzing Stocks

Shawn Egan, PhD, earned his doctorate in immunology from UB in 2015 and did research work at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

He now works in equity research of the health care industry for Citibank out of its hub in Getzville, N.Y.

“I was interested in biotech in general,” Egan said. “I just sort of stumbled across this industry.”

He covers both local and international companies.

“It’s a very demanding job. You’re required to really know the science and the company and the valuation,” Egan said. “You’re always going to be drinking from the fire hose a little bit on the job.”

Egan’s days start early, and depending on what happens in the news that day, can get hectic.

“If a clinical trial were to succeed or fail, and the stock’s reacting and it’s really volatile in one direction or another, we have to react very quickly. Those days are a mad rush,” Egan said. “You have to analyze the data and the science very quickly and then get out a report. You’re also dealing with different clients. Some are angry because they’ve lost a lot of money, and others are excited because they’ve made a lot of money. Those are probably my favorite days.”

Putting Degree to Use in Patents, Licensing

Mark L. Hayman, PhD, earned his doctorate in microbiology from UB in 2000.

He later earned his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and now works with the Morgan Lewis law firm out of Boston, specializing in patent counseling, procurement and licensing for the life sciences industry. He works with established companies to build intellectual property (IP) and works with emerging life sciences companies to identify important IP generating opportunities and to design and implement effective patent strategies.

“I enjoy being involved in larger projects that are press worthy that come in, like a merger or an acquisition,” Hayman said. “I like to be involved in something that moves the commercial projects along.”

It was one of six panels on the day.

“I hope that students took away from this that there are many possible paths that they can take with their background, paths that rely not on the specific technical skills they used in doing the research they did for their degree, but the skills they gained in how they learned to think and address problems and questions,” said Melendy, who served as moderator for all six of the panels.

The event took place Aug. 27 at the Sol Messinger, MD ’57 Active Learning Center at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building in downtown Buffalo.