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Meet The Alumni Series - Ayşegül Özen, PhD

Thursday, February 22, 2018
By:  Kyle Foster

Aysegul“Networking is the key to land on any job, industry or academia!”

After her PhD in Celia Schiffer's group in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology, Ayşegül Özen, PhD pursued an industrial postdoc at Genentech in San Francisco before becoming a Senior Scientist in the Computational Analysis & Design Group of Discovery Sciences at Pfizer. "My main role is to guide drug discovery programs by providing computational structural biology/chemistry inputs and structure-based drug designs", she explains. 

What has driven your choice to prefer industry to acedemia after your PhD? Have you reached a good work-life balance?

When I was still in academia, I was under the impression that only there I could do cool science. However, during my postdoc in Genentech, I realized that the industry offers a lot of opportunities and that interesting and biomedically relevant projects can be carried out in an extremely efficient manner. I like working with people who are experts at what they do and I really enjoy the fact that we focus all together on the project goals in a very fast pace environment. Another thing that got me interested in industry is that I work on many different projects, adapting quickly to changes and trends. As to the work-life balance, based on my experience,  that is easier to achieve in an industry setting than in academia. All this combined attracted me to industry. 

What resources at UMass Chan Medical School or outside helped you transition into industry?

I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for me to have the opportunity to attend conferences, where I learned how to talk about my work and myself as a young scientist. Furthermore, conferences gave me the possibility to interact with scientists from both academia and industry at a personal level. I do realize not all the PIs are as generous as Celia in encouraging students and postdocs to attend conferences. However, working at UMassMed is already an advantage in terms of the proximity to Bostona Biotech hubReaching out to UMass Alumni to grab a coffee and seek for some career advice is probably worth the trip to Boston!

Is there any advice you would like to share with the UMass fellows interested in pursuing a career in the industry setting?

Start networking early on! Capitalize the years at UMassMed for publications and presentations at conferences. Definitely aim to achieve a strong publication record.  One way to accomplish this is through establishing and maintaining productive collaborations, which will help to speed up the publication process. Having a second/third author in your paper does not diminish the value of your first authorship. Similarly, helping out collaborators will get you middle author papers. A resume with a mix of first and middle author papers will show a hiring manager that you are capable to carry on and complete a project as well as that you are a valuable team player, which is what working in industry is all about!