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Meet the Alumni Series - Ami Ashar-Patel, PhD

Thursday, March 22, 2018
By:  Kyle Foster

Ami“It is never too early to connect with people and build professional relationships!"

“I love speaking about science with people and wanted a career, which would be a mix of science, business and people!  That’s the reason I joined STEMCELL Technologies as a Scientific Inside Sales Representative in Kendall Square, Cambridge”, says an effervescent and a multitasker Ami Ashar-Patel, PhD. She is a former graduate student and postdoc from Melissa J. Moore’s lab at the RNA Therapeutics Institute and the department of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology. 

Could you tell us about your journey before transitioning into industry?

I have always maintained an interest in industry, even prior to PhD.  After MS from University of Nebraska Medical Center, I joined Johnson & Johnson (New Jersey) as a Research Associate I. Very early into my role at J&J, I realized that a PhD degree is essential for leadership positions in life science industry. That brought me to UMass Chan Medical School for PhD followed by a brief postdoc. 

What role do you play as a “Scientific Inside Sales Representative”? Please describe how your PhD and brief postdoc help in your present position.

I provide scientific support to researchers in academia, biotech and pharma in the Greater Boston area, by maintaining a high degree of technical know-how and a passion for discovering innovative solutions. In a nutshell, I am a scientific liaison between researchers and STEMCELL Technologies. 

Biological sciences are a complex field and there is an increased demand of PhD level salespeople to interact with scientists across industry and academia. My PhD training is the main reason behind landing my present position.  The thought process of formulating an experiment, being able to understand and grasp complex and large datasets, the tenacity needed to survive grad school and a “never-give up” attitude needed to pursue a PhD are extremely valuable and transferable skills for Technical Sales.

Could you tell about your resources at UMass or outside that eased the transition into your present role in industry?

I never missed reading the Center for Biomedical Career Development newsletter and took advantage of the listed opportunities. I got great tips on my resume/CV and cover letter writing from the staff at cBCD. I was also the Director of Industry Outreach in the IndEx Program. I coordinated multiple industry and biotech site visits, which further expanded my professional network. I attended and volunteered across multiple networking events and workshops in the Boston area. I also led (and still do!) preeclampsia awareness campaigns and walks in Boston area.

In addition to PhD, I pursued a one-year mini-MBA course at the Keck Graduate Institute with Burroughs Wellcome Fellowship and theCareer Development award from UMass. This course facilitated hours of conversations regarding post-PhD career options with like-minded scientists across the US.

Additionally, attending and volunteering for Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology (WEST) events were extremely useful in forging personal and professional friendships. Lastly, my mentor, Dr. Moore was extremely supportive of me pursuing opportunities outside academia, and has been a wonderful resource.

Is there any advice you would like to share with the UMass fellows interested in pursuing a non-academic career?

Start networking early during your PhD! It doesn’t matter if you are in your first or second year of PhD or postdoc. Attend as many networking events, and try to connect with people at a personal and professional level. Learn about the various career paths you could pursue post-PhD by requesting informational interviews. Also, look for career advancement and volunteer opportunities. We are lucky to be in the Boston area — a world capital for life science research. Take advantage of it!