Tremendous strides have been made in eradicating infectious disease scourges such as smallpox and polio that once killed and crippled millions; still, about 15 million deaths—or about one third of all deaths annually—result from infectious diseases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of those, nearly half involve children under the age of 5 years, predominantly in poorer countries. The ongoing hefty death toll, the pharmaceutical industry’s increasing interest in the research and development of vaccines, and plentiful funding from multiple sources all combine to provide a range of opportunities for postdocs and graduate students in vaccine research. The field is high growth and, perhaps more important, the fruits of this work promise to have a real impact on the health of the world’s population.
Many scientists opt for a research career in the pharmaceutical or biotech industry, so why not kick-start the process by also doing a postdoc in industry? Industrial postdocs often provide higher salaries and greater access to resources than their academic counterparts. But how do you find out about available positions and whether they are a good fit for you? Will a position as a postdoctoral fellow provide you a foot in the door at a company? And what if you don't like it? Will an industrial postdoc cut you off from returning to academia?
"As soon as some conference deadline comes up, you see us working like maniacs to finish … papers, just like we did when we were in school." --Henrique Malvar, the director of Microsoft's Redmond research lab
"I used this event to get an idea of how academics should present their ideas to business groups--for example, the need to provide an exit strategy for investors so they can see where and when they will get their money back," says Jonathan Styles.