Q+A with Jeff James, CRS Industry Scientist


1.  How did you arrive at your current industry job?

Unconventionally after completing a first degree in Pharmacology, I moved into industry, first to a large organization (Wyeth), then into contract research organizations (Pharmaceutical Profiles and Vectura). While in industry I felt that in order to a) progress quicker to the next level of my career, and b) fulfill a desire to complete a large research project, I decided to temporarily leave industry and return to university to complete a PhD. It was a tough, yet calculated decision as I happened to work in a number of places where all of the middle managers and senior managers were PhDs, and I felt that a glass ceiling was present and potentially hindering my progress. So I completed my PhD, by which time I had made an active decision to move into business development, since I had a lot of technical understanding in pharmaceutical development, but no real exposure to the business side of pharma. So I discussed this with my PhD supervisors, who suggested that I apply and join their spin-out company. So now I am a Business Development Manager.

 2. When did you first know that you wanted to be a scientist? 

From a very young age (approximately 8 years old). 

3. When you finished graduate school, what factors led to you choosing a career in industry as opposed to academia? 

I entered industry following my degree and was happy to stay in industry but progress up the career ladder and into the business side of pharma, so following my PhD it was an easy decision to try to obtain a position in business development. 

4. What advice would you give to an aspiring young scientist? 

Plan for success! Know what you want to do early and work towards it methodically. Also, get as much exposure to different things as often and as practical as possible. 

5. How has your unique background assisted you in your career? 

I worked in a few different industry organizations, then returned to academia for my PhD before entering business development so I think I have wide-ranging skills in both technical and business arenas. Plus I have a good understanding of academia and industrial cultures. 

6. What do you regard as the most significant achievement(s) of your scientific career thus far?  

My PhD completion and my book chapter (so far!) 

7. Which scientists have inspired you in your career and how did they inspire you? 

Charles Drew - first open-heart surgeon

Marie Curie – two Nobel Prizes in separate fields

Stephen Hawking –-obvious yet brilliant

All triumphed in the face of adversity! 

8. Did you have a mentor(s) and how did they guide you along your career? 

Not directly but I have had managers and supervisors who have given me good guidance. 

9. How do you go about solving a problem/challenge that you are facing? 

Understand the background and scope of the challenge, identify who/what can help solve the problem, plan for the solution, implement the solution and be prepared to modify the path to the solution if necessary. 

10. Looking back, what are some things that you wished someone had told you when you were starting out in your industry career? 

I wish that someone would have told me how different the culture is, compared to academia. It’s an important step change and I would urge young scientists to be aware of it and be ready to adapt quickly when he/she moves from academia to industry. 

11.   What skills or attributes do you think make for a good scientist? 

Adaptability, listening, learning, creativity, patience and determination. 

12.   What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a scientist? 

That we are an egotistical, un-sociable, inflexible group. 

13.   Outside of your scientific research, what hobbies do you enjoy? 

Sports (football, rugby etc), DIY, music (playing instuments as well as listening). 

14.   Which scientific discovery do you wish that you had contributed to in history? 

Penicillin discovery. 

15.   Name five things on your desk right now? 

Memory stick, laptop, phone, iPod, and a doll of a Bavarian cow dressed in lederhosen (don’t ask…!!)

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