New job ideas?
January 28, 2010 11:02 AM   Subscribe

My husband needs an idea for a new job/career that will allow him to enjoy his work. He has a PhD in genetics, is mechanically minded, likes working with people, is exceedingly patient, has ADD, and loves strategy games. Ideas?

As we prepare to move to our next location and next phase of our post-PhD lives, my husband is markedly...unexcited. Not *quite* depressed, but maybe getting there quickly.

He received his PhD in a top notch program for cell biology, working on research in cancer genetics. He thought he would love the problem solving and small group interaction of scientific research, but as anyone who has done research knows, sometimes it sucks. His experience sucked especially hard for various reasons, and he is squeamish about going back to that life.

He isn't interested in a short-term fun job. For example, I would love to take a year off as a pizza maker or a dog walker before I started a post-doc. He is not interested in that kind of thing. However, this next step also does not need to be permanent, like a "Career"-- it can just be another fun step in life.

He thought he would like to be a teacher, but has no teaching experience, so really doesn't know. He likes doing kind of workshoppy mad scientist projects a lot-- electronics, building things, designing things, etc. I think he would be great on a show like Mythbusters or something, but he doesn't seem to think he could land that kind of job. He is very good at almost everything, but not AWESOME enough in anything, according to him. I told him that there are way stupider people who have great jobs, so he just has to decide what he wants to do. Didn't seem to help.

What to do? I'm really just looking for ideas for him from the Hivemind. Maybe there is some overlooked career or job that seems like a perfect fit to you? I need to give him some confidence and ideas.

Other things he loves: nature/outdoors, insects, animals, beer, running, growing things, games, thinking.
Other things he is not interested in: food, selling people things, children, math, religion, reality TV, heights or depths (no scuba, no tightropes).
posted by hybridvigor to Work & Money (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
PhD in genetics + likes working with people = genetic counseling?
posted by scody at 11:05 AM on January 28, 2010

Small biotech/biomed startup - a teeny-tiny one where he'll get to wear a whole lot of hats at once: scientist, engineer and salesman. Lots of energy, lots of excitement, lots of new things to learn and master by doing, while pushing back the boundaries of what human industry is capable of. Plus, curing disease... so it's meaningful work.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:14 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

If he wants to try his hand at teaching, he might want to seek out paid tutoring opportunities to see if he enjoys it. He could try this with both younger students and also undergraduates, if you have a university nearby.

We have formal tutoring businesses in our area that are always looking for PhDs, but you can also find clients on Craigslist.
posted by divka at 11:15 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

A PhD in cell biology doesn't qualify one to be a genetic counselor; he'd still need to be admitted to and complete a graduate program in genetic counseling in particular.
posted by halogen at 11:21 AM on January 28, 2010

Is he at all entrepreneurial? I'm working on some rocketry stuff right now and one thing that kills me is when people talk about defunding NASA and sending the money to cancer research or other things like that. The base problem, which we aren't so good at saying, is that rocket science is actually a hell of a lot easier and cheaper than curing cancer when done right, which we've kinda got down to a science. It's so different in fact that anyone can go out and get started immediately: build a model rocket.

So where's the 'model rocket' for cancer research? Poverty? Homelessness? If we're ever going to make solving these problems a reality it needs to start to happen at a much younger age. Enable that. I want to take a known carcinogen and watch it corrupt a cell, and then try different things to prevent that corruption or reverse it. I want to try breeding super resilient and high yielding bean plants using starter seeds. Why can't we experiment with ultra cheap insulation materials and building materials made from readily available things like dirt, water, and hay?

Enable it.
posted by jwells at 11:21 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Me too! (Except for the ADD part.) I am going to watch this thread with interest.

Genetic counseling is at the top of my list, but it requires a whole separate degree, and medical/counseling rotations. Having a PhD in genetics isn't enough.

Another interesting idea is working for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to help decide which projects are worthy of funding. (Global medical research.) I won't apply because I am unwilling to take on the international travel. There are probably similar organizations if you don't want to go to Seattle.

How about a brewery? Just brainstorming. You need to know microbiology, and people with a PhD in genetics have often done some microbiology.

Would he be willing to adjunct at a local college to see if he likes teaching? The pay isn't great, but he could consider it an internship to explore/reject teaching as a career move.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:26 AM on January 28, 2010

Two ideas.

It sounds like he enjoys people, is patient, I do think teaching would be ideal, even without the teaching experience. He may want to look for the temporary 1 year teaching assignments at a university or small college (ie, sabbatical replacement). The negative sides of this include possibly living in the middle of nowhere (think Montana, Idaho, etc.) and it is a LOT of work without prior material to use for lectures. However, it is a lot of fun -- one small college let me design my own course. He could introduce students to genetics or cell biology, using whatever angle that he wants. Anothe pro - it is only a year, and there is no expectation to do more than that.

Another possibility (although he may want to talk to people to see if this is a good fit for him) -- but with the love of strategy, people interactions plus that PhD -- he may want to either work in a medical education company or work on the pharma side....along the lines of either strategy or eventually a "medical director" (although he probably won't get this for a year or two, but he can work at a company for a year and get to that point). Anyway, these positions will look at drugs in development and decide how to position their drug. It involves looking at the literature and interacting with people. Most types of cancer either have an approved (or many, many drugs in development) that modulate cellular signaling -- so he can apply and use his background knowledge. There are types of drugs that are administered, depending on whether the patient has a particular type of mutation (eg, EGFR, etc) in the tumor. I'm sure the same may apply to other therapies and disease states -- but those are ones that I can think of at the moment.

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 11:57 AM on January 28, 2010

Small biotech/biomed startup - a teeny-tiny one where he'll get to wear a whole lot of hats at once: scientist, engineer and salesman.

I was thinking the same thing. If it's a small multi-disciplinary team there'll be a lot of teaching and learning from each other which he could find very stimulating, plus the whole culture is very different than an academic lab so at least it will be a change. In some places there is becoming more crossover between biotech startups and academic labs (I've worked somewhere like this). Again this gives a different dynamic than your traditional University lab and might be an area he does well in (particularly as they tend to still take on post grad students, and supervising students sounds like something he'd be good at), so he shouldn't be afraid to look at those jobs even if they are based in a University.

Also he should look into biophysics. With his cell/molecular biology background and love of engineering/making stuff he could do very well. Again it tends to be multi-disciplinary and it will also possibly be more applied than what he's been doing in the past, both of which sound like they'd suit him.

It depends really on what it is he wants to keep from his previous career and what he wants to leave. If it's science in general he's sick of then this won't help. At the same time he successfully finished his PhD so clearly can do the science, maybe bits of it are worth keeping and building on in a different setting. A biotech startup building cool nanobots to regulate blood pressure (or whatever) might be a way to do that.
posted by shelleycat at 12:48 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

The negative sides of this include possibly living in the middle of nowhere (think Montana, Idaho, etc.)

Hee, hee. Being a native of this area with family in both states, I only wish that there were teaching positions available in MT and ID, but in fact, the institutions of higher learning are few and far between in my ole Rocky Mountain home. In fact, there are probably more short-term and long-term teaching opportunities in denser areas where there are more schools.

But your point is well-taken, Wolfster. The bigger cities do attract more competition and the schools are glutted with overqualified candidates who can't get on as permanent faculty.
posted by Knowyournuts at 12:50 PM on January 28, 2010

This is the Bioengineering Institute at my University, to give an example of the kind of subject area I'm thinking of.
posted by shelleycat at 12:51 PM on January 28, 2010

Sounds like he might enjoy teaching science to gifted kids. He would have to get teaching certification. I don't think there's any special "gifted" certification though, like there is for special education. Some school districts will waive certification if you have an advanced degree.
posted by xenophile at 12:52 PM on January 28, 2010

Would he be interested in working with a firm that does genetics but in a more 3D output like a medical software company? He could serve as consultant, etc. for the 3d modeling?

Very cool background, by the way.
posted by stormpooper at 1:18 PM on January 28, 2010

What about working for a company which designs or manufactures prosthetics, specifically those kind that map into the brain/nerve cells and translate that impulse into physical activities?

Or a company that designs genetically modified seeds? (prepare to be hated)

Companies that design virtual reality game helmets?

Aren't there companies who are researching using bio-matter as energy sources? That might be cool.

I am just trying to think of objects/industries which combine some sort of biology with some sort of mechanical aspect.
posted by CathyG at 1:33 PM on January 28, 2010

Working at a museum? Maybe some place like this. Designing displays could use both his genetics / science knowledge and his workshoppy side. I don't think there are a ton of these types of jobs available, but he could always volunteer to see if he likes it.
posted by jenne at 1:35 PM on January 28, 2010

he likes strategy? Patent attorney?
posted by HabeasCorpus at 2:58 PM on January 28, 2010

He should learn to embrace selling people things - it will make him more marketable.

In his case, "selling things" means identifying problems and finding solutions to those problems.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:04 PM on January 28, 2010

Bioinformatics. Gonna be huge for the next few decades.
posted by callmejay at 10:50 AM on January 29, 2010

Thanks for all the ideas. He read the list and felt some inspiration-- the prosthetics idea made him excited. He also likes the brewpub idea, and still has some teaching desire as well. I think feeling excited about looking for something is the first step, so that's good.

Thanks, Hivemind!
posted by hybridvigor at 2:02 PM on January 29, 2010

check out this article by a younger PhD guy about what people like in careers:

To be happy, your work must fulfill three universal psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

In more detail…

* Autonomy refers to control over how you fill your time. As Deci puts it, if you have a high degree of autonomy, then “you endorse [your] actions at the highest level of reflection.”
* Competence refers to mastering unambiguously useful things. As the psychologist Robert White opines, in the wonderfully formal speak of the 1950s academic, humans have a “propensity to have an effect on the environment as well as to attain valued outcomes within it.”
* Relatedness refers to a feeling of connection to others. As Deci pithily summarizes: “to love and care, and to be loved and cared for.”
posted by sninctown at 8:48 PM on January 29, 2010

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