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Return to academia: The price I’m willing to pay

Does academia deserve its reputation as a bad employer? And if so, why do some people choose to return? Philipp Gramlich and Karin Bodewits spoke to four scientists moving from the “real world” back into the ivory tower.

Read the full length article at (for free)

Academia has had some bad press in recent years. Long years of temporary contracts, enforced mobility, and low salaries are some of the arguments used against academic careers. But is the grass really greener on the other side?

After six years working in a permanent position at AstraZeneca, Neil Carragher embarked on a five-year contract as a PI at the Edinburgh Cancer Research Center. “I missed academic freedom and academia’s inspiring environment. In industry, the company strategy comes from above and you can’t really influence it as an individual,” he says. Moving to AstraZeneca in the first place was a tactical decision. “After two post-docs, I felt that industry offered a more supportive career path.”

After those years in big pharma, Carragher felt confident that he would make it in the academic world; “I had a large network, a clear scientific vision, and full support from the head of the department. Plus, they offered me a five-year contract, which is plenty of time to show what you can do.” Continue reading at


Philipp Gramlich has studied and researched chemistry at various universities in Germany, Australia and Scotland. After experiences in industry at baseclick and Eurofins Genomics, he co-founded NaturalScience.Careers. With seminars like “Goodbye academia?” he focuses on career- and skill-development for natural scientists.

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The Medial Science Liaison (MSL) role

Like many of you scientists, I like exploring new pathways, learning about new subset of cells that intricately work with other cells, and most of all I like to read and discuss the new cool science with my fellow scientists. When I was a postdoc, however, the latter – reading and talking about the science – was overwhelmed by doing the day-to-day experiments, finding money and working by yourself for hours on end behind a FACS machine in a dark place and feeling quite lonely (and bored). So that fun part of “doing” science was quickly eroding for me.


I then moved into a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) in the pharmaceutical industry. A role that ticked all the boxes for me on the science menu that I missed during my postdoc. A role with fierce competition that requires diligent preparation.


As an MSL you are the scientific and clinical disease and drug expert within the medical (affairs) department of a pharmaceutical or biotech company. You are the person within the company that anyone will go to first to get answers on complex questions. This could be about how the drug is designed; which pathway it targets; how the drug works – the mode of action (MOA); questions about the disease and the patient profiles; how to prevent or treat an adverse event or questions about clinical trials from your own (and the competitor) company. This requires you to keep-up-to-date on the latest literature so you will need to read quite some (clinical) papers.…

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Wanted: Hybrid economist/ natural scientist with an integrated view on consulting

Interview with Dr. Michael Müller, Director at KPMG

Good day, Dr. Müller. What kind of company is KPMG exactly?

We are a large consulting and auditing firm with more than 170 000 employees worldwide. KPMG delivers a whole range of consulting services beyond auditing and tax counselling, services in deal advisory and within that segment also strategy, to name but a few.

You are a physicist, how did you as natural scientist get into such a company?

Ever since, I was interested to see the bigger picture and to connect a broad range of expertise and backgrounds in order to get to an integrated solution to a problem. At first I studied mathematics, physics and computer science, followed by a PhD in physics.

I started my career at Bayer in the technological section, eventually leading a business unit with 600 staff. My tasks at the time were extremely multi-faceted: technology, sales, economics. I was working on the strategy development of Bayer´s business units. During all these years, I always had a high staff responsibility and had to conduct a whole range of exit interviews in the context of the sale of a company.

“Networking is everything!”

I subsequently founded my own consulting company, which was specialised in headhunting, coaching and strategy consulting for medium-sized enterprises. By word of mouth, the business quickly took hold. Six years later, I engaged with Stratley, a consulting boutique, which was specialised in the chemical industry and managed to win the Hidden Champion Award 2012. Three years ago, Stratley was bought by KPMG, which brought me into the position as Director at KPMG.…

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NaturalScience.Careers launches conference project

Why do less women than men get or take the prestigious speaking slots at conferences? What are the effects on their visibility and consequently their networking activities?


Peter Kronenberg, project manager for the conference project

We asked these and other questions in our recent Chemistry World article. In brief, we concluded that gender-specific communication differences might deter women from raising their hand for speaking slots if the prize at hand is a monologue without interaction. Quotas and other attempts at levelling the playing field thus force women into communication situations that don´t make best use of their strengths.

In our article, we propose using conference formats like round table discussions in order to enhance scientific exchange and to foster networking and collaboration. Small discussions will be led by a speaker, most of the time will be used for questions and discussions.

Writing an opinion piece is one thing, but this time we were just too curious to see if our ideas work. Therefore we hired Peter Kronenberg as manager for this conference project, in which we we are looking to do two things: We want to test out new communication formats at science conferences, and, at the same time, evaluate the formats’ success and applicability in an empirical study. For this, we are currently looking for partners: on the one hand, we want to get in touch with academics from sociology and gender studies, who are interested in the dataset we´ll be generating. On the other hand, we need conference organisers, who are happy to try out the new formats in the planning and the execution of upcoming conferences with us and who see the upsides of being a trailblazer organisation.…

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