From Optical Engineer to Lawyer: The Unusual Career Path of Bill Greener

1. February 2013

William Greener has had a diverse career that has taken him from optics to farming to law school. He is currently a high-tech patent attorney with the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC. This post has been adapted from an interview with him that appeared in the OSA Rochester section January newsletter.

OPN: Tell us about your career path.

Bill: I have wanted to be a physicist since I was about nine. I got hooked on optics after constructing a hologram as a sophomore physics major at Canisius College. I earned my M.S. in optical engineering from the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, where I learned from top optics experts including Brian Thompson, Rudolph Kingslake and M. Parker Givens. I also took a course with OSA Fellow Duncan Moore.

In 1976, I accepted a job offer from Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in West Palm Beach, Fla. I was part of a team that built and tested the closed cavity of MIRACL (Mid-Infra-Red Advanced Chemical Laser)—a hydrogen-fluoride gas dynamic laser whose 13-in. cavity mirrors were cooled by jet fuel.

After five years in Florida, my life took a different direction. My wife and I moved to New York to pursue another dream—to operate a farm. We enrolled in the agriculture college at SUNY Alfred and farmed dairy calves for the next eight years.

During that time, I also attended law school at SUNY Buffalo, which led to a federal court clerkship, a three-year stint with a small patent boutique law firm, and then a job at Corning, Inc. I was a senior patent attorney in charge of Corning’s worldwide erbium-doped fiber amplifier portfolio. Five years later, I joined Kodak and then Bausch & Lomb, where I managed the ophthalmic laser surgery portfolio.

I joined Bond, Schoeneck & King in 2005. We have a significant intellectual property group that includes 10 U.S.-registered patent attorneys. My primary clients include the University of Rochester, Cornell and the University of Central Florida/CREOL. Some of the technologies I work on include multiphoton and computational imaging, nanophotonics and opto-fluidics.

OPN: How did your scientific background prepare you for law school?

Bill: Law school emphasizes some of the same skills I learned as an engineer: logic, discipline and analytical thinking. What was new to me is the notion that 2+2 can equal whatever you can convince certain others that you want it to be equal to. Facts are always facts, but the laws are different in just about every jurisdiction, and the application of the law to the facts can lead to unexpected outcomes.

I took a systemic approach to problem solving in law school that drew on my experience in the lab and on the farm. In both scenarios, I had to not only address the problems at hand but anticipate all the things that could go wrong—whether they included a dysfunctional laser or a billy goat with its collar stuck in an electric fence.

OPN: What do you do as a patent attorney?

Bill: A typical case starts when I receive an invention disclosure from a client. I meet with the inventor to flesh out the details of the invention and determine the most commercially valuable form for which we will apply for patent protection. This often involves commissioning a patentability search through a professional search firm. At this stage I draft the broadest claims covering aspects of the invention that I believe would be patentable.

Once I and the inventor (and often a licensee) are comfortable with the content and scope of the patent claims, I prepare the specifications and drawings. We electronically file the application in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and then wait for at least 12 months to get our first substantive response—which is almost always a rejection of the claim. The examiner provides reasons that she believes render the submitted claims “obvious” or not new. My job is to convince her otherwise. If we are successful, the examiner will eventually send out a “Notice of Allowance.” We pay a fee and the applicant is granted a patent.

I also provide opinions about a client’s right to use their invention. I prepare confidentiality agreements, review contracts, formulate license agreements, and advise clients.

OPN: You’ve described a career that many optics students might not think of.

Bill: Practicing patent law enabled me to integrate my love of science and engineering with tools that make great technology accessible and sustainable. I encourage anyone with a passion for technology and its presence in the real world to explore patent law as a career. I’d be happy to speak with anyone who wants to know more. You can reach me via email at wgreener@bsk.com.

 

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Massive Online Open Courses Offer Free Learning on the Fly

11. January 2013

Charles Clark

Both within and beyond academia, there has been much lively discussion about how the future of higher education will be affected by massive online open courses (MOOCs)—classes taught over the Internet to a large number of students with limited involvement from professors. Predictions range from the mass extinction of universities as we know them to a fad that will soon join the dancing baby in the Hall of Fame of Internet Has-Beens. 

Even I entered the fray when I was quoted in an article about MOOCs in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which included a photo of me wearing a funny hat to an event that had been sponsored by Coursera in Menlo Park, Calif., last July. Coursera is an online startup that is working with a number of elite universities to offer MOOCs, which are free and widely available but do not confer academic credit.

Some of what I learned at the event may be of interest. Almost all of the Coursera students whom I met  were much like you, dear readers: Ninety percent of the 300 or so present were holders of degrees in science or engineering who were working in high-tech occupations. They were ambitious, career-minded, and eager to learn new skills.  The remaining 10 percent of attendees were either scarily smart high-school students or random fashion victims like me.

While the MOOC trend is clearly hot right now—the New York Times recently called 2012 the “Year of the MOOC”—no one knows how long it will last. So just in case the MOOC bubble is soon to burst, now would be a good time for the Bright Futures crowd to sample the merchandise, which is a steal at the attractive price of zero.  In addition to Coursera, courses are offered through the companies edX, Udacity and Stanford’s Classes2Go.

Some of the courses are stunningly good. They require intense, active involvement during brief periods of time, present challenging assignments and can even engage a social dimension of the learning experience.  It’s more than just watching lectures on YouTube.

They can’t all be as good as the first one I tried through Coursera, an introductory course on computer science taught by Nick Parlante. Nick is one of the best natural-born teachers I’ve ever seen, and within a few hours he had the students writing JavaScript code executed within a browser window to do image processing.  As the field matures, some turkeys will undoubtedly flock to it, but the early pioneers seem to be talented and motivated. After all, they are doing something new, innovative and hard.

While the concept of “distance learning” is certainly not new, what’s different about MOOCs is their scalability: the ability to teach tens of thousands of students, or more, all within the same time window. This is only made possible by eliminating one-on-one interaction between teacher and student. Although this seems at first like a grave disadvantage compared to traditional classroom learning, it also gives students a new opportunity to exploit the awesome power of social networking in order to advance learning worldwide.

Now struggling to build a MOOC myself, I have some appreciation for the real difficulties that are involved in their basic construction.  Just recording an ordinary classroom performance would, in most cases, yield pure box-office poison.  In addition, a sustainable business model for free MOOC distribution remains elusive. 

There’s no doubt that the MOOC landscape will be littered by the graves of pioneers, as was the railroad business and Internet retailing.  So now, while the going is good, and there is no potential loss other than your own time (which is, after all, subject to your control), why not give it a try? Coursera has a number of optics-relevant offerings in view. Sight unseen, I recommend Computational Photography, by Irfan Essa, scheduled to start on February 25, 2013.

Charles Clark (charles.clark@nist.gov) is co-director of the Joint Quantum Institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Maryland, and an enthusiastic supporter of the OSA Student Chapter program. Web site: http://j.mp/JQ1cc

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Lessons from a Faculty Search

9. January 2013

David McGloin

This post is reproduced from the blog Dundee Physics with the kind permission of the author.

When my department was hiring for a life sciences-related position this past fall, I was on a search and selection committee for the first time. It’s an interesting and tough process, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on how we went about assessing our applicants in the hope that other job seekers can benefit from my insight. We cast a wide net and ended up with a large number of very high quality candidates. It was a tough choice–so how did we decide?

Fit to specification: My first piece of advice is to make sure that your cover letter, CV and research statement clearly communicate how you fit the specific position advertised. While our call wasn’t restricted to those working in a certain topic area, applicants still needed to state how their work aligned itself to the life sciences. Writing that you were “really interested in biology” wasn’t going to cut it, and for some really strong physical sciences applicants, this is where they fell down. We wanted to see at least some evidence of how the applicant’s work had been applied to biophysics research or how it might be applied in our department (and not just generically).

Experience: Your experience to date matters a lot – it shows the trajectory that you are on, what kind of thinker you are and what you might be capable of. The areas you have worked on, your general productivity and the papers you have produced make a big difference. However, the reality is that this is only part of the package. You might have been unlucky in where you have worked, or the projects you were assigned may not have gone according to plan. We recognize this. When your papers and background are a little lacking, then your research statement becomes even more important.

Research Statement: So you want to come and work with us, but what exactly are you planning to do? Your research statement should outline a coherent program of work and describe an interesting project in an innovative way. Incremental changes are not as persuasive as plans on a larger scale. However, you also have to be realistic, and this is where the challenge lies: to outline something of grand ambition in such a way that we can believe you will be able to deliver. In my mind this is perhaps the most important section: It gives you the opportunity to showcase your talent regardless of what you have achieved.

Metrics:  Does your h-index matter? Your publication count? Number of citations? Where you publish? In modern academia, these things are very significant, probably much more than they should be. The wide variety of postdoc positions that people have means you can’t always compare such factors in any meaningful way. One of my colleagues thought that postdocs should produce at least one decent paper per year. We used this as a general standard, but not a hard-and-fast rule. We did consider numbers of citations, but only as one factor to help us get a sense of the value of the papers published. Ultimately, I think the panel paid more attention to where papers were published over other numbers, but we really tried to look at the whole picture rather than just one metric. We put more emphasis on the applicant’s research ideas and his or her potential to deliver than pure numbers.

Interview: You might make a good impression on paper, but you also have to talk the talk. We decided on a full day visit for each interviewee, so the candidates got to speak to a range of people across the university. We asked them to think specifically about which faculty members they might like to converse with, in order to push them to think about why exactly they wanted to work with us. They were also asked to give a talk. All this information gave the interview panel a rounder picture of each applicant.

Ultimately, we hired someone with great potential, who we believe will take on big challenges. We were looking for—and found—a person who is a good colleague, who fits in with the department and who interacts well with undergraduates. I hope you find a similar good fit in whatever position you seek!

David McGloin (d.mcgloin@dundee.ac.uk) is head of the division of physics and a senior lecturer at the University of Dundee, Scotland.

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What They Don’t Teach You in Graduate School

3. January 2013

Arti Agrawal   

I learned a lot in graduate school: science, research, patience, and technical writing skills, among many other things. So when I took my first position as a lecturer, I thought that my grad school training and subsequent experience as a post-doc had prepared me for professional life as an academic.

Boy, was I wrong!  Many skills that I need in my current job were not taught in school, and sometimes I am blindsided when professional life rudely makes demands on me that weren’t part of my carefully scripted student career. Below are some abilities that I have learned in the workplace.

Persuading and negotiating with people: I must often deal with people in positions of authority to obtain necessities like lab space or funds for equipment, conferences, training courses, or publishing in open access journals. There are limited resources, and the people holding the purse strings are besieged with demands from many others like us, so it’s important to know how to get what you need. Start by prioritizing your wish list into must-have, nice-to-have, and don’t-need-right-now items so that you can focus your energy and efforts accordingly.

Developing good work relationships: You will interact with colleagues, students, peers, superiors, suppliers, vendors and administrative staff, and it can be difficult to maintain these relationships successfully. As a typical geek, I had no idea how to manage working relationships, especially with people who were very different from me. Sometimes taking personality tests like the Meyers-Briggs can help you to better understand yourself and others. You can also get a head start on cultivating working relationships by taking on volunteer leadership opportunities such as organizing an IONS conference  or leading a student chapter—or simply networking within a professional society.

Managing my lab: When I began hiring people, I suddenly needed to understand legal requirements for equality and diversity, health and safety, and risk assessment. I also had to determine how to evaluate my staff. You can find much information online about hiring laws in your area, and my recent OPN article on “Learning to Teach” includes some ideas on how to think through student assessment.

Balancing more than one demanding job: As a post-doc, I would work on several research projects at once and even throw in a bit of teaching on the side—which felt overwhelming enough. But now added to the mix were administrative work, department meetings, lab management, securing funding, reviewing papers and supervising post-docs. Learning how to organize and prioritize is critical.

Saying no without offending: I find it hard to say no to people, and, as a result, I often take on more than I can handle. Although it can sometimes be difficult, it’s important to learn how to deal with such situations and say no without causing hurt or offense. Just be friendly but assertive about what you can and cannot realistically do. You must be able to set healthy boundaries in order to succeed in any relationship, whether personal or professional.

Indeed, these skills are not confined to any single profession–we need them in every sphere of life. Although they may not be part of any formal curriculum, you can learn them through experience and practice. Good luck!

Arti Agrawal (arti_agrawal@hotmail.com) is a lecturer at City University London in the department of electrical, electronic and information engineering at the School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. To follow her personal blog, visit http://artiagrawal.wordpress.com.

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And So It Begins: Scientific Stereotypes

12. December 2012

David McGloin

This post is reproduced from the blog Dundee Physics with the kind permission of the author.

Recently, my daughter was asked to do a writing and comprehension exercise related to her science class. On the surface, it was a simple assignment: Look at an image and write descriptive words and phrases about it, and then put these into context in a few sentences. The exercise was linked to her current project work on magnets and their properties. (It was rather straightforward, as she is only in Primary 3.) But the picture that the teacher had chosen was what caught my eye. It was of a “scientist” in the old man, Einstein mold with a set of test tubes.

Although I don’t have a problem with the assignment itself, I do take issue with the way that this particular image reinforces the tired old cliché of the stereotypical scientist. This is the type of thing that seeps into kids’ minds and influences the way that they conceptualize the sciences. While it may not put them off entirely, it could lead them to perceive science as being uncool or only for a limited group of people. At a young age, I think many kids love science. They like doing experiments and discovering things. But after years of being bombarded with images like these, that can begin to change. I think my daughters are capable of anything, including becoming much better scientists than I am. However, in spite of their potential, years of reinforcement of the idea of scientists as disheveled old men could ultimately take its toll.

This is a deeply entrenched image in society, and it is not a simple problem to fix. The misconception should be addressed on multiple levels, and so science communication needs to extend much further than just the pupils. The solution begins with teachers. The instructors at a primary school may not know better. They too have grown up with these stereotypes, and they may be, through no fault of their own, unaware that this is an issue.  That is why we in the science community need to raise awareness among educators so that our teachers can help take on the lack of female students in the sciences. 

I have watched with interest the development of projects like Sciencegrrl and Geek Girl Scotland. For quite a while, I have sympathized with their cause and seen the need for such initiatives. However, before I had my own daughters, it didn’t hit quite so close to home. Now the issue seems much more personal. I have ordered a Sciencegrrl calendar to pass on to my local school. In addition, as the Head of Physics at Dundee University, I will try to look at ways to improve our attractiveness to female applicants. As a community, we need to explore ways in which we might help out more in the community to try and counter such stereotypes. As a start, I have ordered a Science Grrl calendar to donate to my kids’ school. You should get one too.

David McGloin (d.mcgloin@dundee.ac.uk) is head of the division of physics and a senior lecturer at the University of Dundee, Scotland. 

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Laser-focus Your Job Search with Work in Optics

4. December 2012

Jean-Michel Pelarpat

For optics and photonics industry professionals, navigating the vast universe of job listings on mainstream job sites can be daunting. The specific careers and organizations you seek may be buried among thousands of other outdated or unrelated positions, even after you’ve attempted to narrow down results as much as possible. Fortunately, professional societies such as OSA are available to provide career assistance for their members and the community. Indeed, part of OSA’s mission is to expand and develop the field of optics globally, and a critical step toward that goal is effectively connecting professionals around the world to industry leaders, emerging fields and opportunities for conducting breakthrough research.

OSA’s online job board, WORKinOPTICS.com, provides a global career resource for the optics and photonics community. Accessible by employers and job seekers worldwide, this niche job board gives optics and photonics professionals the unique opportunity to connect directly with organizations at the forefront of their field.

Since its inception, the Work in Optics site has been consistently updated to be as user-friendly and practical as possible. Users can sort job postings by state, country, education level and specific subfields, including academia, aerospace/defense, biotechnology/medical, telecom, government and more. There is no cost for job seekers to browse positions or post their resume, and there are more than 70 open positions currently posted, ranging from leading optics universities, government laboratories and prestigious companies.

The benefits even expand beyond the job seeker -- OSA corporate member companies receive 20 free job postings per membership term, and non-OSA corporate members are welcome to post jobs for a nominal fee. There are nearly 1,800 resumes in the resume database for companies seeking qualified candidates.

 A great new feature on the Work in Optics site is the internship listings page. As someone who serves on the OSA Corporate Associates Committee, I collaborated with OSA leadership and staff to establish this new component to the online job board. We’ve had great success with our internship program here at Vytran, and it was important to me that there be a means to connect students with internship opportunities on the Work in Optics site. The internship page allows OSA corporate members to post unlimited intern positions at no cost (there is a small fee for non-OSA corporate members), and students can browse those listings, apply, and post their resume for free.

I encourage all job seekers or professionals who may be open to a career transition to post their resume to the Work in Optics site. This job site was developed especially for you: It cuts through the clutter of mainstream job websites and gives you direct access to employers or job seekers in your specialized area. Share this resource with a colleague, friend or family member and help us continue to expand our network of bright, innovative optics professionals.

Jean-Michel Pelaprat (jmp@vytran.com) is president and CEO at Vytran Corporation, a supplier of optical fiber splicing and processing solutions based in Morganville, NJ, U.S.A. He is the 2013 chair-elect of the OSA Corporate Associates Committee.

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Curriculum Vitæ: Some Dos and Don'ts

27. November 2012

Jean-luc Doumont

Whether on paper or in electronic format, the résumé or curriculum vitæ still plays a crucial role in job applications. By analyzing a draft CV kindly provided by OSA student member Matt Weed, this article offers some dos and don'ts toward effective communication.

Compared to many résumés I have seen lately, Matt's draft CV shows many positive qualities. It sets the name of the candidate very visibly (top left) with unique contact data (top right), rather than multiple addresses or phone numbers that can confuse a potential employer. It focuses on competencies and goes beyond the mere research experience to include public policy and leadership. In terms of style, it puts forward specific achievements with action verbs.

On the other hand, the CV is on the long side (more than two pages), with page breaks in the middle of sections and a third page 75 percent empty. With some tweaking of the text and/or page layout, it can either be brought back to exactly two pages (my recommendation) or perhaps be extended to three, with the third page devoted solely to publications and presentations, almost as an appendix.

More important still, the otherwise effective structure is not very visible. Despite being set in small caps bold, the headings do not stand out. Whatever white space is left on the first page ends up separating related information horizontally (such as degrees and dates) rather than separating distinct sections vertically. Similarly, the dates on the right are a little lost.

While I know it is common practice, I am always skeptical about career objectives and other so-called profile information. The objective stated here is vague, hence hardly useful. It is best moved to the application letter and written specifically toward a given company or job. On the CV, it can be replaced by some sort of tagline under the candidate's name, summing up his qualifications and, indirectly, previewing the structure of the CV.

As for style, perhaps the best advice I ever received is that good writing is read-out-loudable. Matt's CV uses conjugated verbs but without the subject (understood to be I), probably in an effort to be concise. The outcome is compact and consistent yet would not read out loud well. For example, many readers may not recognize “image” to be a verb in “image devices and processing steps”. Along the same lines, beware of industry jargon. In the sentence “Developed quantitative naval periscope image resolution metrics across functional groups”, I did not know what exactly was quantitative (the periscope, the image, the resolution, or the metrics) and I could not quite place the phrase “functional groups” (which, to me, evokes hydroxyl or alcohol groups on organic molecules).

Finally, a word of caution for those of you applying for jobs internationally. Matt's draft CV is US-centric, with phrases such as “Annually visit DC” or “Orange County schools”, a phone number without country code, and no information whatsoever on language skills. Even the full name “Matthew Davidson Weed” would confuse many people outside the United States, who are not used to middle names, especially when these sound like family names: To a Latin reader, “Davidson Weed” is a perfectly normal compound family name for the son of Mr. Davidson and Ms. Weed. For international communication, I recommend sticking to one given name and one family name (in that order), perhaps with the family name set in small caps to clarify which is which, given that not all cultures place the family name last.

In the attached PDFs, I propose a revised version of Matt's draft CV and I provide more detailed comments on both draft and revised versions.

Jean-luc Doumont (jl@principiae.be) holds a Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University. He now devotes his time and energy to training researchers and others in effective communication. He is a traveling lecturer for OSA.

Matthew Weed (mweed@creol.ucf.edu) is a Ph.D. Candidate in Optics studying integrated, chip-level lasers and photonic systems at the University of Central Florida. You can visit his website at www.MattDWeed.com

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Learning to Teach

16. November 2012

Arti Agarwal

As a young academic focused predominantly on research, I felt conflicted when I was asked to lecture at my university. I was nervous about teaching for the first time and concerned about the amount of time and work required but also excited about the opportunity to impact students.

When I actually got into the classroom, I found that it was every bit as difficult as I had expected.

For those of us who are not natural teachers, the idea of facing a few hundred students, waiting like hungry lions to devour our fearful attempts at introducing discrete Fourier transform, is not an enticing prospect. However, in spite of its challenges, teaching is an integral part of an academic career. Every academic could benefit from learning how to do it well.

Fortunately, there is help out there. Here are a few ways that you can learn how to be a better, more effective teacher:

Take courses. Many universities offer classes on various aspects of teaching: theories of learning and teaching in higher education, curriculum development, assessment, teaching techniques, etc.  These courses can be very helpful for new teachers, so take advantage of them.

Find relevant workshops. I participated in a two-day teaching workshop focused on designing classes, including preparing slides, hand outs, and assignments. We practiced giving lectures that were video recorded and played back to us. Watching ourselves on tape allowed us to see how we appeared to students. Did we talk too quickly or too quietly? Was our writing legible on the blackboard? Did we fidget or appear nervous? Seeing these kinds of errors helps you to correct them.

Look to professional societies. Many professional groups and technical societies also have teaching resources for educators. Usually they will be subject-specific, and thus can be a great place to find material, teaching tips and activities for your particular area.

Seek advice from teaching experts. You can also find support from people who specialize in the study of teaching and learning. Input from these sources can be very helpful in engaging students For example, I recently had a group of students who were not solving tutorial problems. No amount of exhortation on my part could convince them to do the assignments. I was getting increasingly frustrated, so I went to the Learning Development Centre at my university and asked for their advice. They suggested that I divide the class into groups, and assign a question to each one. They would have to solve their problem on the board in front of the rest of the class, and then prepare a new question for the other groups to tackle. The most challenging question won. Peer pressure and healthy competition provided the motivation necessary to get my students excited about their work.

Even if you don’t feel that teaching comes naturally to you, you can learn techniques to help you be a more competent and comfortable teacher. It takes a lot of hard work and practice, but the rewards are worth it in the end. There is no better feeling than when a class goes well and you know that your students are truly learning and benefitting from your efforts.

Arti Agrawal (arti_agrawal@hotmail.com) is a lecturer at City University London in the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Information Engineering, School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. To follow her personal blog, visit http://artiagrawal.wordpress.com.

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Advice for Listing Research Details on Your Resume

6. November 2012

Lauren Celano

This post is based on content that has already appeared on the Propel Careers website and BioCareers.com. It is reproduced here with the author’s kind permission.

When you apply to a job, the details listed on your resume provide your future employer with information about the type of job you are looking for. Everything matters—the key words you include, the way you phrase your accomplishments and experiences, how you order your bullet points, etc. These details build your brand.

RESEARCH ROLES

Include research techniques. If you are looking for a job doing bench research, make sure you include the major research techniques that you used during each of your roles, as well as a separate section listing all of the methods you have ever used and know well. A hiring manager will want to see both the current techniques and previous ones. Whether you are a post-doc or an industry professional, listing these details is important to show growth.

List relevant details. Many companies use resume-parsing systems to input a candidate's details on their job skills into their database. Companies then scan resumes against job descriptions to see which candidates could be a fit. Resumes without details listed won't come up as matches, and you will be passed over in favor of candidates who have listed the relevant skills.

Be specific and thorough. Include research techniques that match the desired job description only if you have experience with them. Customize the resume for each job. Don't just list a general term like molecular biology techniques. Elaborate on exactly which technique you have experience with, such as molecular cloning, recombinant DNA methods, PCR, site directed mutagenesis, DNA isolation, purification, and sequencing, Southern blotting and Northern blotting. Don't rely on a hiring manager to guess that you have the right experience. Don't be afraid to take too much space when listing skills; you can recover some of that through clever formatting: by using a smaller font for the list, as well as going from a vertical bullet point list to a horizontal one.

NON-RESEARCH ROLES

Don’t include research details. Resumes for non-research roles should not include details about research techniques, since these are not typically relevant to these jobs. If you are considering a role in clinical research, disease and/or therapeutically relevant experience is important to highlight. You can include high-level information about techniques you know under each of your experiences, but you do not need to include an entire section on research methods. Sending a research-focused resume for a non-research role will indicate to the potential employer that you are not sufficiently interested in the role that you are applying to because you did not bother to tailor your resume to the job.

Highlight transferable skills. Hiring managers for non-research based roles prefer to see more transferable skills and experiences such as: leading teams, managing collaborations, working with clients, managing projects, strong communication and writing experience and mentoring, rather than specific laboratory skills and techniques. For a non-research role, extra-curricular or community service activities should also gain more prominence on your resume. For example, note if you write a blog, work as a teaching assistant or serve as the president of a charity. These activities highlight your transferable skills, especially if your previous job or academic experience is heavy on laboratory research and not much else.

What you decide to include on your resume is important. The details tell a story and indicate the type of position you are looking for. Be focused and strategic. The effort will pay off!

Lauren Celano (lauren@propelcareers.com) is the co-founder and CEO of Propel Careers, a life science search and career development firm focused on connecting talented individuals with entrepreneurial life sciences companies.

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A Frog in a Well: How Photonics Broadened my Career Perspective

2. November 2012

Yosuke Ueba

The expression “frog in a well” is sometimes used to describe a person who cannot see the big picture because of the narrow or sheltered environment in which they find themselves. It is the opposite of a “frog in a field,” which broadly surveys its environment and takes advantage of the many possibilities available to it.

When I started my Ph.D., I was a frog in a well. I was convinced that there was only a narrow range of options open to me after I graduated. I assumed that I would go into academia or industry because those were the only paths I knew about. All the other Ph.D.s I met were in one of those two worlds, and in Japan that seemed to be the natural progression that one followed.

Ph.D. students often feel like they are in a tough situation: There are precious few jobs available for them outside of academia and industry, and yet the number of opportunities within those areas appears to be even smaller.

Fortunately, I came to learn that doctoral scientists actually have potential in many fields.

So how did this frog climb out of its well? I was able to do it because the research focus of my laboratory is photonics, and because I have become part of a much larger community through my OSA student chapter.

Like many areas of interdisciplinary research—including electronics, medical science, chemistry, biology and environmental science—photonics opens the door to a wide range of fields, academic societies and contacts. I have benefitted very much from being a part of Osaka University’s OSA/SPIE student chapter; it has 27 members who are studying diverse topics represented by no less than five academic departments. After I joined the chapter, my horizontal network dramatically expanded—and so too did my career prospects. Taking part in chapter activities also broadened my knowledge and contacts for future collaborative research or the founding of a company.

Furthermore, organizing chapter events with students beyond my own lab and institution has been an invaluable experience. For example, I collaborated with others to develop outreach activities for local schools and an international student conference in Asia. This gave me insight into diverse people and job possibilities that I could not get through my daily work in my lab. It spurred me to think for the first time about career possibilities beyond industry and academia.

I got acquainted with a group called Kashin Juku though personal networks that I had through my photonics and student chapter connections. Kashin Juku derives from the famous school for western learning named Tekijuku school, which was established in 1838; it educated many excellent people from broad fields who would come to play an important role in Japan's Meiji Restoration. We invited leading doctors from many fields—for example, a  politician, a novelist, a financier, a consultant, a corporate manager and a journalist—to talk about how having a Ph.D. expanded their potential in their chosen careers. These fruitful discussions broadened my view of the options one has available to them after acquiring a doctoral degree.

While I once believed that Ph.D.s have few options in Japan, the field of photonics and my student activities have shown me otherwise. I haven’t yet decided exactly how I will contribute to society, but I know I want to make effective use of my education and to make my career meaningful. Nowadays, this frog is right where he belongs: in the field.

Yosuke Ueba (yosuke.ueba@gmail.com) is a graduate student in photonics at Osaka University in Japan. He is president of Osaka Univ. OSA/SPIE Student Chapter, and he established Osaka Univ. JSAP (Japan Society of Applied Physics) Student Chapter in 2012. His research interests include thermal emission, plasmonics and metamaterials. To discuss or collaborate with him, visit him on Facebook

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