Interviewed by Lauren Tanabe, Ph.D.
Q. Please tell us about yourself
Brijesh Yadav was a participant in the 2016-17 BEST program. He completed a Phase III career exploration at Biogen, a biotech company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Brijesh is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He always had an interest doing research in industry. He says the BEST program provided him with the hands-on experience he was searching for.
Q. What did you study?
Brijesh did his BS, Biomedical Engineering (National Institute of Technology Rourkela, India), MS, Biomedical Engineering (Wayne State University) and Doctorate (PhD) in Biomedical Engineering
Q. Why did you decide to apply to the BEST program?
BEST is a great initiative from the NIH, and it’s great to see Wayne State University’s active involvement with it. I’m currently pursuing my doctoral degree, which involves extensive learning and research. I’ve become familiar with the way academia works but was curious about industry. While working on some projects with our lab’s industrial partners, I realized that I was interested in experiencing industry employment and research culture. After attending the BEST orientation in Fall 2016, I finally decided to take the summer semester off and explore industry.
Q. When did you decide that you didn’t want to pursue the academic track, and how did BEST help you in your decision?
Right now, I’m in the completion phase of my doctoral program. When I started my program, I was quite open to a career in either academia or industry. But as I interacted and worked with more scientists from industry, my desire to get into the field became stronger. I was looking for an internship that would help me get that industry experience so that I could decide ahead of my graduation whether or not I wanted to go in that direction. Then BEST came into the picture. I had reached out to industry scientists and human resources departments by myself but being a BESTer allowed me to get the internship of my choice and negotiate benefits.
Q. Can you describe what you did during your internship?
I had an amazing time during my internship. I worked on a new and challenging project exploring cerebrospinal fluid volume measurements and optimization of drug dosing in newborns. I was able to use my expertise in medical imaging and, at the same time, learn about how ideas get distilled at a fast pace in industrial research. It was a collaborative project, so I got a chance to interact with lots of different scientists. Importantly, I was encouraged to lead the project and to take initiative. After the completion of my project, I was given the chance to present my work in a research talk. I was applauded for my hypothesis, results, and for my ability to drive this project to completion with a team.
Apart from research, my manager encouraged me to make connections through networking. I reached out to people and asked for their opinion about the important skills needed for a career in industry.
Q. What are the skills needed for a career in industry?
Initially, I thought that technical skills would be the most important for industrial positions. I was surprised to learn that a candidate’s confidence and personality mean much more than technical knowledge. I observed this during the interview processes.
Another important thing I learned is that one should be open to new ideas and have good translational ability. For example, if you have expertise in cell biology don’t stop yourself from trying something different like imaging. Industry loves those people who can add value beyond their expertise.
Connections are also very important and can help you to get interviews. Maintaining regular contact without annoying the person is an art. People move from one industry to another so quickly. Even a single connection can help you get your foot in the door.
Q. What did you learn about the skills you had (and those you needed to work on) during your BEST experience?
I had never led a scientific project before, therefore when I was asked to lead the project during my internship, I had some doubts. But it came to me naturally. I planned the study, prepared a roadmap to achieve goals, and made sure that everybody was on the same page. I now realize how important it is to have quality leadership, especially in industry, and consider myself fortunate to be able to have experienced being in that role.
I think communication is one skill that I needed to hone. Being a technical person, sometimes I overlooked my audience. Now I realize how important it is to convey your rationale and findings in a very basic way to clients, collaborators, and general audiences.
Q. What advice do you have for graduate students who are struggling with what direction to take with their careers?
I believe BEST is an excellent opportunity for doctoral students to experience something different from academic lab work while also helping to prepare them for the competitive industrial world. I would suggest using this program to explore any interest that might be a potential option after graduation. We should remember how challenging it can be to get a good research position in industry right after graduation.