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New Interest Group Opens Doors to Careers in Scientific Consulting

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Career Development | April 13, 2015

Scientific consulting has emerged as an exciting career choice for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. However, many graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows are unaware of this career option.

“The majority of people here don’t know that they have the skill set to pursue this as a career and how this could be an exciting opportunity,” said Ablat Tursun, a postdoctoral fellow and co-founder of the UTHSCSA Science Consulting Interest Group.

The goal of the interest group is to allow participants to gain exposure to careers in scientific consulting and to prepare for job interviews.

Connie Tat, a graduate student from the University of California, Irvine who is here finishing her thesis research and co-founder of the group, explained that she was inspired by a scholarship she received to participate in the a Management in the Biotech Industry Course sponsored by ASCB and EMD Millipore, which taught the business side of science including the basics of finance, accounting, and product management.

“The friends and colleagues that I met there introduced me to consulting and challenged me to apply to the top management consulting firms,” Tat said.

Tat explained that she was lucky to have received an interview and that during the interview process she felt confident that this was the right career choice for her. 

“I realized that I wanted to be at the caliber of the people that sat at this table,” Tat said. “They provide sound strategic recommendations driven by their insight on the data gathered. They articulate this in a manner to the client, which is informative in hopes of being able to grow in their business. I knew then that this is what I wanted to do." 

She notes that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have transferable skills that are needed at those companies but need help articulating those skills in a consulting interview.

“What management consulting firms seek in a Ph.D. are your critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” Tat said. "Your ability to learn quickly and on the job are attributes that are highly desirable to them." 

Tursun agreed and believes that graduate trainees offer a lot of experiences which would prepare students for a career in consulting.

“In graduate schools, we are seemingly working on scientific projects that may not be readily applicable in real life but the skills that we learn like project management, data processing, information management, and statistical analysis of huge data that we get from our research experiments are valuable to these top consulting firms," he said. 

One of the aims of the interest group is to prepare trainees for a consulting interview through a combination of consultant-led tips, market research strategies, as well as lots of hands-on practice case interview sessions.

“Every participant will be encouraged to prepare a mock case study from our online resource library and to play the part of an “interviewer” for another who will be the “interviewee,” Tursun said. “During case practice sessions, roles will be changed in the middle so that each person has an opportunity to practice for the case interview.”

Networking will also be a key component of the Science Consulting Interest Group. The group plans to develop programs that will bring in representatives from small and large start-up companies and consulting firms to discuss the in’s and out’s of careers in science consulting.

Tat explained that management consulting firms, particularly the big three (McKinsey & Company, the Boston Consulting Company, Bain & Company), typically recruit at top-tier institutions and more heavily in metropolitan cities. 

“I feel as though San Antonio lacks both of these aspects so for them to come here, as opposed to Austin or Houston, would help our students gain exposure and provide them access to recruiters who may be interested in the fact that our students have good life sciences and health care backgrounds.” 

Tat explained that firms may be interested in people with a clinical or health care background such as graduate students, medical students, or residents that want to transition or pivot into health care management. The group plans to have pro-bono volunteer consulting engagements, informal Q&A’s with consultants, and case competitions to attract firms to UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.

“The goal is to reach out to others that may be interested in consulting and also to encourage companies to view UTHSCSA as a target institution for health care/life science advisory,” she said.

To join or learn more about the Scientific Consulting Interest Group, please email Connie Tat at tat@uthscsa.edu or Ablat Tursun at tuerxun@uthscsa.edu



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