Fellow presentation and intro to your career path
My name is Giorgia, I was born and raised in Italy and always been deeply passionate about science. I have completed my studies in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Padua (Italy), that, apart from being one of the oldest University in Italy and in the world, it is also the university of Galileo Galilei (and we are very proud of it!).
During my time in Padua, I discovered my love for regenerative medicine, and I became very passionate about studying the extracellular and intracellular cues triggering stem cell differentiation. I was so fascinated by the power of stem cells that I soon realized I wanted to build a career out of it. After finishing my PhD, I moved to Boston for a postdoc in developmental hematology at Harvard, where I studied the mechanical forces involved in the birth of blood stem cells during embryo development and developed a strategy to generate blood stem cells in vitro. Even though I always thought that academia was the right place for me, I felt that such discoveries had tremendous potential to be translated into therapies; that is why I decided to leave academia and bring them one step closer to the patients by starting Garuda Therapeutics.
I am currently the head of Research & Development at Garuda Therapeutics, a biotech company pioneering the development of off-the-shelf blood stem cells for the cure of patients with bone marrow, blood, and metabolic disorders.
- Scientist (Research & Development)
A research and development scientist specializes in conducting scientific studies and experiments to develop new products and technologies. They usually work at laboratories where they are in charge of conducting research and assessments, coming up with new ideas, performing experiments, analyzing data, and maintaining records of all procedures. R&D scientists can find employment in both academia and industry. A PhD is preferred to move on to the career ladder.
- Scientist (Process Development)
Process Development scientists evaluate biomanufacturing processes, improve them, and scale them up for larger batches of materials. Their goals are to improve product yield and reduce overall costs of production.
- Scientist (Analytical Development)
Analytical development scientists participate in assay development and/or product characterization and release to support research, IND-enabling studies, and clinical trials.
- Scientist (Quality)
Quality scientists ensure that a product is suitable for its intended purpose and meets specifications and regulatory guidelines.
- Scientist (Clinical)
The clinical scientists drive and participate in the development of clinical strategies for assigned clinical protocol(s) and are responsible for leading, developing and ensuring effective and efficient execution of the clinical development plan
- Program manager
Program managers oversee the fulfillment of larger organizational goals. They coordinate activities between multiple projects and departments without directly managing them. Instead, they manage the main program, giving detailed attention to program strategy, project delegation, and program implementation.
- Regulatory affair associate
The Regulatory affairs associates work in close proximity with key leaders across various functional departments to actively contribute to the creation of regulatory strategies for the pipeline products and to assist in the preparation, review, and submission of regulatory documentation to ensure compliance with relevant regulations and guidelines.
- Scientific writer
A scientific writer is someone who writes for their peers as a scientist, generally in journals. Science writing is done by people who are still considered experts in science journalism but are laymen themselves. They are not generally a part of the actual research.
- Laboratory technician
Laboratory technicians’ main responsibility is to receive, process and analyze samples. Depending on the work setting, the samples may consist of blood and tissue (health care); air, water, soil, and rock (environment, public health and mining); chemical products (chemical and pharmaceutical industry)
- Bioinformatics specialist
Bioinformatics specialists collect, manage, and study biological and biochemical data at the molecular level by using computer software. They also design computer databases and develop algorithms to study and manage data.
- Animal research associate
Animal technicians take care of the laboratory animals that are used in biotechnology research, veterinary research, and product testing. Laboratory animals play an important role in helping scientists understand how drugs behave in a biological system. The most commonly used animals are mice and rats; however, a wide variety of animals can be used. These include birds, fish, frogs, sheep, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, cattle, cats, hamsters, dogs, and monkeys. Animal technicians often assist scientists with experiments and may have to perform simple medical procedures.
Main hard skills you use on daily basis in your current job
- Theoretical and technical knowledge
Knowledge gained throughout academic studies and past lab work experiences. It is important to have deep knowledge and be a subject matter expert about the research area of interest to lead and guide others in the team.
- Stem cell culture is the process by which stem cells are grown under controlled conditions, generally outside of their natural environment. I learned these techniques during my PhD, specifically by handling pluripotent stem cells and developing protocols for their differentiation into different lineages.
- Molecular biology techniques
Methods used by scientists which generally involve manipulation and analysis of DNA, RNA, protein, and lipid. I learned these techniques during my PhD, specifically by analyzing mRNA and protein expression to ensure proper differentiation of stem cells into lineages.
- Gene editing
A group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change cells or organisms’ DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome. I learned these techniques during my postdoc, specifically by using the CRISPR/Cas9 system to improve the development of blood stem cells from pluripotent stem cells.
- In vivo techniques
Methods used by scientists to test the effects of various biological or pharmacological entities in animals (like mice). This involves mouse handling, injections, and tissue dissections for further analysis. I learned these techniques during my postdoc, specifically by transplanting blood stem cells into murine models and by checking the hematopoietic organs for the reconstitution of multilineage blood.
Soft skills you use on daily basis in your current job
- Creative and innovative thinking
It is important to maintain knowledge of emerging technologies and trends in innovation and business skill set through continuing education. Science also needs a lot of creativity and ability to think outside the box to conceive new ideas that might turn into successful therapies. This is a critical skill to have if you decide to do a PhD.
- Analytical thinking
It is important to develop the ability of examining the information, collecting the facts, checking whether the statement follows logically in identifying causes and effects, connecting dots, and advancing hypothesis and interpretation of data. I developed this skill during my PhD and improved it during my postdoc.
- Problem solving/Troubleshooting
It is important to develop the ability to identify and define problems, extract crucial information from data, and develop workable solutions to these problems. I developed this skill during my PhD and improved it during my postdoc.
- Drives for results and rigor
It is important to develop high level of perseverance and to ensure appropriate scientific rigor in the design, conduct, validity, and interpretation of data. I developed this skill during my PhD and improved it during my postdoc.
It is important to get out of the comfort zones and quickly adapt to changing work conditions, to wear multiple hats and to problem solve/improvise on the fly. This is particularly important when you change your work environment. I have improved this skill after moving from Italy to US and by moving from academia to industry.
It is important to be dependable and one that people can count on for fulfilling commitments and meeting deadlines. I have developed this skill during my postoc by working in a team and now by leading a team.
- Strategic thinking
It is important to have a strong vision for current and future growth and analyze critical factors and variables that will influence the long-term success of the business and to prepare for future challenges by having a plan to overcome them if they arise. This can help to anticipate problems and manage them smoothly and efficiently, helping to reach success through adversity. This skill is very important for my current position and for anyone leading a team. I do my best to improve this every day.
- Open communication
It is important to keep an open line of communication with team members and succinctly explain organizational goals and tasks using several types of communication channels, such as team meetings, one-on-one sessions, emails, etc. It is important to develop the ability to shares clear messages and makes complex ideas easy to understand for everyone. This skill is very important for my current position and for anyone leading a team. I do my best to improve this every day.
- Inspiring others
It is important to create a vision of the future that is vivid and compelling and that motivates the team to want to achieve it. Everyone wants to work for a company that makes a difference in the world. It is important to help the team members connect what they do to the impact it has on the patients. This skill is very important for my current position and for anyone leading a team. I do my best to improve this every day.
It is important to focus on identifying with others and understand their perspective to better understand how the team feels about their work environment. This skill is very important for my current position and for anyone leading a team. I do my best to improve this every day.
Your personal path
In my personal experience, the hardest time to find the next job was right after completing my PhD. I felt that the opportunities in my country were limited, and it was quite hard to make my cv stand at the international level. It was also incredibly stressful to adapt the application and cover letter to the research focus of the different labs I applied to. At that time, I sent dozens of applications across Europe and US, and I have been selected for the initial screening only by few. Things went much better when I had the chance to talk directly with the hiring managers and showcase my skills, commitment, and genuine “hunger” to learn and grow. As I mentioned in the intro, I feel extremely lucky and grateful that I had the opportunity to bring my postdoc project one step closer to the patients by starting Garuda and by leading the R&D activities.
What would you tell your younger you regarding building your current career?
I am convinced that, at that time, I did not get the job only because of technical skills, but mostly because of the drive to go above and beyond to give myself a chance to success. I would tell my younger self that things will be fine, and that it is normal to feel stressed out about the future and about making the “right” decisions. I was convinced I wanted to become a professor and focus on academic research, but I switched to industry, and I could not be happier! There is a perception that a career trajectory is linear, but in reality, there are wins, setbacks, plateaus, and challenges throughout the journey, and this is normal for most of us. It is much easier when you end up doing something that is rewarding and you do not simply see “as a job,” therefore do not be afraid to gain different experiences, change your mind, and build your own career trajectory.
Final tips and insights
-Tailor your CV/application to the specific job you are applying to
-Do your research about the company and show excitement on the company’s core mission
-Provide examples to back up the skillsets reported in your cv
-Highlight your passion and commitment for the problem at hand and other soft skills. They often matter more than technical skills when you are at the beginning of your career
-Use the help of a mentor to prepare you for a job interview. Ideally this person should have achieved specific goals that you are aiming for, should share your values and definition of success, and should challenge you while helping you smooth out your weak areas.
-Do not escape opportunities for networking and share with your network if you are looking for the next opportunity (you never know who will be able to help!)