Unanticipated Destination: Three Pathways To Diagnostics Careers | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 30
Issue Date: July 23, 2012

Unanticipated Destination: Three Pathways To Diagnostics Careers

Department: Career & Employment | Collection: Women in Chemistry, Economy
Keywords: Diagnostics, life sciences, careers, employment

If you talk with chemists currently employed in the diagnostics industry, it’s possible to find that none of them expected to end up working in this field when they were finishing their education. That’s certainly true for the three scientists profiled here.

Armed with the requisite education, skills, and experience, each was able to tap into unexpected, engaging job opportunities in this broad and fast-growing industry.

In these profiles, a bench scientist, a budding entrepreneur, and a research and development executive describe how they transitioned into the diagnostics field and offer advice on how others can follow in their footsteps.

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MODEST BEGINNING
Starting out working from a shed, Bearinger is launching a company to produce low-cost, disposable, handheld molecular diagnostics that incorporate sample prep, nucleic acid amplification, and detection into one device.
Credit: Caius B. Michlitsch
A woman in a lab coat leans on a shed.
 
MODEST BEGINNING
Starting out working from a shed, Bearinger is launching a company to produce low-cost, disposable, handheld molecular diagnostics that incorporate sample prep, nucleic acid amplification, and detection into one device.
Credit: Caius B. Michlitsch

Jane P. Bearinger

Title: Founder, Corporos Inc., Berwyn, Pa.

Job Description: I design and test disposable, rapid, and low-cost molecular diagnostics for the field or clinic.

Education: B.S., biochemistry, Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., 1990; M.S., 1997, Ph.D., 2000, biomedical engineering, Northwestern University; joint postdoc, biomedical engineering and materials science, ETH Zurich, 2000–02

Work experience: Chemist, Merck & Co., 1990–93; Staff Scientist, Specific Capacity Leader for Bioorganic Synthesis & Protein Engineering Group, Medical Technology & Biodetection Group Leader, Medical Technology Program Leader, Countermeasures Group Leader, Global Security Senior Scientist in Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 2002–11; Founder, Corporos, 2011–present

What led you to the diagnostics field?

For a number of years, I’ve done interfacial surface-science research, which I have applied toward tissue engineering, implant materials, sensors, and medical devices. I became hooked on the diagnostics field because it allows me to indulge two of my passions—manipulating surfaces to dictate engineered responses and working on multidisciplinary projects.

What gave you an edge in landing your current position?

After conducting initial research on point-of-care diagnostics at Lawrence Livermore, I recognized an unmet need for high-quality, low-cost devices. I formed Corporos to pursue this opportunity and to find a way to improve human health.

What do you love about your current job?

The potential it holds. By creating molecular diagnostics capable of working in the field and clinic, I may be able to have an impact on multiple fields affecting human health, including food safety, rural health, and biosecurity. Such diagnostics may disrupt or augment centralized laboratory testing.

What advice would you give someone who is considering working in a job like yours or in the diagnostics field in general?

Find a vision and keep the faith. The path for point-of-care and personalized diagnostics is somewhat undefined at present; that means that there is a world of potential and room for innovation.

A man wearing glasses smiles as he stands in front of a scientific instrument.
A man wearing glasses smiles as he stands in front of a scientific instrument.
FIRMER FOOTING
Sensing instability in the drug industry, Eastwood was motivated to move to the diagnostics business.
Credit: Waters

Martin P. Eastwood

Title: Senior Clinical Applications Scientist at Waters, Manchester, England

Job Description: I carry out early-stage research that I can use to develop analytical assays for future diagnostic kits.

Education: B.Sc., microbiology and virology, University of Warwick, England, 1999; M.Sc., biochemistry, Open University, in Milton Keynes, England, 2002; Ph.D., clinical pharmacokinetics, University of Manchester, England, 2006

Work experience: DMPK (drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics) Scientist, AstraZeneca, 2000–03; Associate Medical Writer, KnowledgePoint 360Group, 2006–08; Senior Clinical Applications Scientist, Waters, 2008–present

What led you to the diagnostics field?

I was originally focused on spending my career in the pharmaceutical industry, but while completing my Ph.D., it became increasingly apparent that the industry was entering a lengthy period of instability. As I started to look for other industries where I could apply my skills, diagnostics really stood out as a field that I wanted to be involved in.

What gave you an edge in landing your current position?

I had a wealth of experience in analytical chemistry and mass spectrometry, which I gained in the pharmaceutical industry and in graduate school. That expertise, combined with my biochemistry knowledge, made me an ideal candidate to work within clinical diagnostics at Waters.

What do you love about your current job?

Being able to help to grow Waters’ highly successful clinical business is exciting. I am involved in developing new products, and it is very gratifying to see my work being applied in clinical laboratories to improve patient care.

What advice would you give someone who is considering working in a job like yours or in the diagnostics field in general?

If you are interested in working for a diagnostic manufacturer it is essential to have a strong understanding of analytical chemistry and biochemistry. A Ph.D. is also a great way of differentiating yourself and proving that you can successfully apply your knowledge.

PERSONALIZING MEDICINE
Groody is enthusiastic about Abbott Molecular’s work with pharmaceutical companies, which are using Abbott’s tests to help determine which patients are likely to respond to new drug treatments.
Credit: Courtesy of E. Patrick Groody
Groody
 
PERSONALIZING MEDICINE
Groody is enthusiastic about Abbott Molecular’s work with pharmaceutical companies, which are using Abbott’s tests to help determine which patients are likely to respond to new drug treatments.
Credit: Courtesy of E. Patrick Groody

E. Patrick Groody

Title: Divisional Vice President of Research & Development at Abbott Molecular, Des Plaines, Ill.

Job Description: I am responsible for leading the assay and instrument system research and development for Abbott Laboratories’ molecular diagnostics business.

Education: B.S., chemistry, University of Connecticut, Storrs, 1980; M.S., 1981, Ph.D., 1985, organic chemistry, Northwestern University

Work Experience: Research Scientist, Amoco, 1986–87; Technical Support Manager, Gene-Trak Systems, 1987–92; Manufacturing Operations Manager, Manufacturing & Development Operations Director, Research Director, Abbott Diagnostics, 1992–2003; Senior Director of Manufacturing Operations, Senior Director of Operations, Divisional Vice President of Quality & Operations, Divisional Vice President and General Manager for IBIS Biosciences division, Divisional Vice President of Research & Development, Abbott Molecular, 2003–present

What led you to the diagnostics field?

Initially, I didn’t plan to go into the diagnostics field. In graduate school, I conducted my dissertation research in the area of oligonucleotide synthesis. At that time, several labs were making the discoveries that helped chemistry become automated and easy to do. These discoveries eventually led to reliable methods for making probes and primers used in many of today’s molecular diagnostics. It was great to be able to participate in the field of molecular diagnostics just as it was emerging.

How did you land your first job in diagnostics?

After graduate school, I got my first job at Amoco through campus recruiting. Before my interview, I researched the company and discovered that one of its groups was working on new chemistries for use in diagnostics. That research paid off, because the person who was interviewing me wasn’t even aware of the project. Fortunately, I brought a publication describing the work to the interview and eventually landed the job.

What do you love about your current job?

I love the fact that the things we are doing can really change the way patients are treated. Currently, I lead teams of scientists and engineers who are developing new diagnostic tests and instrument platforms to run them. We’re working hard to make it easier for labs to do diagnostic testing and for physicians to diagnose the diseases patients have. We’re also working hard to improve access to quality diagnostic tests in emerging markets such as India, China, and Africa.

In the field of personalized medicine, we’re developing cancer diagnostic tests to ensure that the right patient gets the right medicine at the right time—in ways that could not have been done even a few years ago. That’s pretty special.

What advice would you give someone who is considering working in a job like yours or in the diagnostics field in general?

Work hard, do something you enjoy, and network as much as possible with people in the field who can help guide you along the way.

Do whatever you can to get some good hands-on practical experience. Gain exposure to what it is like to work in an industrial environment. It is very different from academia. Having internship experience is a big plus when you go on job interviews. It’s important to be able to demonstrate that you’ve taken what you learned in the classroom and applied it to real-world problems.

Be able to show that you can take a project from inception through completion and describe why the work is important.

 
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Comments
Sheridan (Tue Jan 21 23:22:28 EST 2014)
I am graduating with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in chemistry, would that be detrimental to getting a job in this field since most professionals have a chemistry/biochemistry degree?

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