Graduate Students and Postdocs Explore R&D Careers

Graduate Students and Postdocs Explore R&D Careers

University of Chicago graduate-student and postdoctoral researchers recently gathered outside of the Gordon Center for Integrative Science to prepare for a day of career exploration and industry networking. While chatting about personal pursuits and laboratory endeavors, they expectantly awaited transport to the Baxter research and development (R&D) campus in Round Lake, IL. This was to be an experiential trek organized by the University of Chicago Biotechnology Association and sponsored by Career Advancement.

Upon reaching their destination, the travelers were impressed with seeing that theirs was not the only bus converging on the Baxter R&D campus that day; the company clearly values community engagement. They were equally appreciative of the warm reception upon entering the main lobby and prompt escort to the large meeting room where they would soon be presented with a company overview.

In the company’s own words, “Baxter assists healthcare professionals and their patients with treatment of complex medical conditions.”

Following the overview, the budding scientists were engaged in a career panel discussion with Baxter staff from the R&D, project management, marketing, clinical operations, quality, regulatory affairs, and IP law areas. The discussion was spirited and candid with many fundamental questions asked and answered about the diverse career tracks represented by the panelists. After the panel, the group was treated to lunch with the presenting staff. The rate of edibles consumption was dramatically slowed by spontaneous discussion and networking which notably picked up steam after the meal.

The visit culminated in an in-depth tour of the Baxter Round Lake R&D facilities including electron microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), chemical fabrication, and particle characterization. The facilities do justice to the legacy of industry R&D capabilities of old, such as those of the famed Bell Labs. Photos were not allowed, except for shots of a retired NMR device. The wire at the heart of such apparatuses is a story unto itself: it is wound by specialists who wrap each strand precisely by hand.

The trek was also an opportunity for graduate students and postdocs to consider scientific career paths in industry. Fourth-year PhD student Courtney Kagan, who is studying human genetics, stated “the panel discussion was an incredibly candid and honest talk about getting jobs in industry and specifically at Baxter. Hearing about the panelists’ path to their current position highlighted the non-linear career trajectories that many PhDs outside of academia will have.” Mike Barrows, another fourth-year PhD student studying immunology, agreed: “My favorite part of the visit was the career panel with Baxter employees. There are many career options that we never hear about as graduate students, and seeing how people enjoy their work, make a difference, and use their scientific training in ways beyond bench-work was fascinating.” Fourth-year PhD student Katie Bailey echoed these sentiments: “The Baxter trek was a wonderful networking opportunity to meet PhDs working in a nonacademic setting and to learn about their career paths.”

Career Advancement will offer a range of career treks to various locations focusing on different fields over both College Break Day (February 14) and Spring Break (March 17 – 21). For more details about these trek programs, please visit the Career Advancement trek website. In addition, graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates with an interest in the sciences are encouraged to keep an eye out for the upcoming Hard Sciences Chile Trek, which will focus on astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology, hardware engineering, and science management.

For details about the Baxter Trek, or for more information regarding career resources for graduate students and postdocs, please contact Joe Bernstein, PhD, Associate Director, Graduate Student Preparation, in the Career Advancement office.