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Physics PhD in Biomedical Science and no job

  1. May 31, 2017 #1
    I would greatly appreciate advice! I have a PhD in Biomedical Science, and it has always been my dream to be a college instructor of some sort. In a year, I have not been able to find any full-time academic job even in unprestigious, non-research institutions. I am willing to do any additional degree programs or certificates, but I am not confident in myself to pick something that will have job opportunities in the future. My bachelor's degree was in physics, so I could restart from there if there is a branch of physics that would be more in demand. We have had some severe personal financial calamities and I can not sit back and wait any longer to make strides to repair this situation. Thank you!!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 31, 2017 #2


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    What kind of advice are you looking for?
    whether to sit waiting for a full-time academic job or going for a different degree?
    I guess for the first half you gave the answer yourself, and I agree, sitting and waiting for a job is never going to help...well I am not judgmental here; it's only natural for that to happen for a while until you get the strength to stand on your feet and deal with the reality. The faster you stand up the better for yourself.

    I would suggest finding any kind of job that can let you live decently your life (even if it's not 100%-related to your PhD) and from there you can have a look into getting more professions at your hand (although I am not supporting getting degrees over finding "real" jobs- aka collecting recommendations over degrees).
    With physics BSc and generally an academic background, you don't have to return back, behind the desks all over again, and becoming a student... you should already feel comfortable with applying to other "demanded" jobs which are related to your studies... an example is that having done your PhD on neutrino experiments/physics, shouldn't block you from applying for a job in something not relevant to neutrinos (eg need for statisticians or data analysers).
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
  4. May 31, 2017 #3
    I greatly appreciate your response!!! I suppose my main question is that if my goal in life is to be a college instructor, what is the best pathway to get there with the degrees that I have and the apparent low potential of instructor positions for biomedical PhDs. Would any additional master's degree or graduate certificates serve any help to me? Also, Biomedical Science is sort of interdisciplinary, so what could I do to be able to teach undergraduate biology or physics? (btw my research has mostly centered on signal analysis, modeling, and statistical mechanics).
  5. May 31, 2017 #4
    Due to relatively large supply of life science PhDs to faculty positions, it is pretty much standard that you do a postdoc. Potentially for years. But I think that's true for science in general because it doesn't sound much better in the physical sciences either. Or have you been unsuccessful in getting a postdoc position as well?

    I recall a cancer comp bio lab at my institution looking for postdocs a few months ago. Sounds like it could be some what in-line with some of your interests since you have a quantitative background. I'm not sure if that's still available but I can forward the lab info if you're interested.
  6. May 31, 2017 #5
    Thank you for your response! Actually yes, postdocs have been difficult to come by for me as well. Thank you for the tip about the cancer comp lab; I actually was unaware that there is computational stuff going on in cancer research. I will look into that!
  7. Jun 1, 2017 #6


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    To the OP:

    You may not want to hear this, but in my opinion, you should give up permanently your dream of becoming a college instructor of any sort. The frank truth is that there are far more PhD graduates in the sciences compared to the number of open academic positions within colleges/universities (particularly tenure-track positions -- I can't speak about postdoc opportunities, although I suspect that even these are highly competitive), and many of the teaching positions that are available in colleges/universities are adjunct (i.e. short-term contract) positions.

    So the next question would be -- if not academia, what else should you do? To answer this, you need to answer the question:

    1. What skills do you possess that employers outside of academia (specifically, industry) would want?

    2. How can I market myself to highlight those skills.

    You state that you have an undergraduate degree in physics, and a PhD in biomedical science. Do you have strong programming skills? If so, have you considered applying to bioinformatics positions at say, pharmaceutical or biotech companies (in the US, there is a healthy demand for people with such backgrounds)? Have you considered working for hospitals, health insurance companies/HMOs and such for clinical informatics (i.e. application of computing/IT in health care work)?

    Do you have any background in statistics? You could consider pursuing work in biostatistics.

    These are the kinds of things that I presume someone of your background may want to consider.
  8. Jun 1, 2017 #7

    Thank you for your response, and I honestly appreciate your frank opinion. I am definitely not a programming pro, although I am highly competent in MATLAB :-):-)
    I do a lot of system modeling. Regarding the background in statistics, what specifically would I need to be able to do in order to market myself as a bio statistician?
  9. Jun 1, 2017 #8
    RickHeek, My son is also going for his PHD in Biomedical but not sure it's the same field you're in... he was working on protein synthesis type stuff and already doing research grants with his professors... he wants to do what you're considering by working as professor/staff at some major universities and they've shown interests due to his research. I would suggest you perhaps look into that route. Were you a TA at the university you graduated from? I know this is what's helping him. Wish you luck but as others posted perhaps a bio/pharm company like J&J, Merck, Abbott Labs, etc. working as assistant science officer or the such as a start and go from there.
  10. Jun 1, 2017 #9


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    MATLAB is a good start, but I would recommend that (since you do a lot of system modeling) to pick up additional programming languages or platforms, particularly related to analyzing large scale data (e.g. R, SQL, etc.). I would recommend something like Coursera or edX.

    As for what specifically you would need to do to market yourself as a biostatistician -- first thing, you need to know statistics! Specifically, you would need to have (at minimum) knowledge of the following:

    1. linear regression/models.
    2. generalized linear models.
    3. survival models (also known as failure time data, for those with a background in reliability engineering)
    4. design of experiments
    5. non-parametric or semi-parametric methods in statistics
    6. programming in SAS (a statistical programming language and platform) and R.

    Typically, biostatisticians would have either a masters or a PhD in statistics or biostatistics, but those aren't absolutely necessary, so long as you have strong, sophisticated understanding of statistics. Again, I would look at online references such as Coursera, additional courses in university (e.g. a second Masters in biostatistics), and independent background reading to get yourself caught up.
  11. Jun 1, 2017 #10
    Thank you for your detailed response. I am comfortable with designing my own studies and performing unassisted statistical analysis including numbers 1,2,5, and 6. I am mostly unfamiliar with survival models. I find it generally easy to use basic statistics in research, but feel like I couldn't systematically prove the validity of each statistical method I choose to use. I have had to take several statistics courses in my line of study, but they have always seemed to be rather elementary. I will look into some advanced statistics courses. You are apparently an expert in this field; do you feel like there is a lot of misuse of statistical methods by researchers?
  12. Jun 1, 2017 #11


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    I'm glad my advice was helpful for you.

    As for being an expert in the field, I am a biostatistician working in the pharma/biotech industry for more than a decade. And yes, I do feel that there has been many cases of misuse of statistical methods by researchers. The most blatant cases have been reported in the social sciences (such as psychology), with issues related to "p-hacking" (i.e. uncovering patterns in data that can be presented as statistically significant, without first devising a specific hypothesis to determine underlying causality), but other areas of sciences (including the biomedical field) have not been immune. On the other hand, there has been an increasing awareness of these issues among the broader scientific community, as well as greater emphasis towards replicability/reproducibility of research, so I do have my hopes that the worst cases of misuse by researchers will abate.

    If you are interested, there are a number of web articles and blogs that have sought to address misuses of statistical methods.


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