“I feel like I am still working in science even though I have left academia”, Joe Amatrudo

“I feel like I am still working in science even though I have left academia”, Joe Amatrudo

After working in academia as a postdoc for three and a half years, Joe decided to look for a technical-based industry role. He now utilises the knowledge and skills he gained in the lab in his Advanced Systems Technical Support role at Scientifica. Here’s his advice on how to choose the career path that’s right for you. 

My journey in academia

I completed my PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology at Boston University. Here, I used patch-clamp electrophysiology and confocal imaging to study the effect of age on electrophysiological and morphological properties of pyramidal cells. After this, I worked as a postdoc at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai doing multiphoton imaging and multicolour uncaging on mammalian neurons.

I always envisioned spending my life in academia and becoming a PI like my advisors. However, following some failed grant applications and no responses to job applications, I began to doubt that this was the right path for me. It felt as though the only way to get a tenure-track position was to come from a more well-known lab. In the end, this realisation, combined with the stress my advisors went through during grant renewals, made me feel these difficulties weren’t worth the freedom of being a researcher in academic science.

My move to industry

While a postdoc, my supervisor was active in helping me decide where my interests lie and helping me apply for positions. I went to a few careers fairs, and spoke to some pharmaceutical companies about how my skills fit in with their company. Much of my postdoc work was technical based, so I was actively looking for similar roles. I saw Scientifica’s Advanced Systems Technical Support role and thought it was really suited to my skillset, so I applied for it.

My application to Scientifica was successful as the experience I had from working in labs was what they were looking for. In this role, I give customers technical support for our multiphoton systems and the LASU (Laser Applied Stimulated Uncaging) system. I find both hardware and software solutions remotely and in person.

Did I make the right decision?

What I enjoyed about working in research was the intellectual pursuit of answering questions through experiments. I was worried that when working in industry I would be doing the same tasks every day and not getting that same satisfaction. However, I find that the work is varied and provides the same problem-solving satisfaction that research gave me. Best of all, I can switch off when I am not in work, which was definitely not an option as a postdoc!

My advice

My advice to those who are working in academia but are unsure whether to continue or move to industry is to talk to people at your institution. Whether it be one of your advisors, or a member of the office of postdoctoral affairs, someone will help. Go to careers fairs and talk to people about their experiences – ask their opinions and for their advice. Don’t worry about any pressure you may be feeling to stay in academia, just choose the path that’s right for you.

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