Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

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JCE66
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Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by JCE66 » Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:58 am

Bogleheads....My child will be graduating with a BS/MS in Biomedical Engineering within the next 4-6 months. He is now starting to get focused on 'life after school' and making his mark in the 'real world'. As his parents, we are inordinately proud, but we don't know diddly-squat about his chosen field (bioinformatics). My question to the Bogleheads:

Where are the best employment opportunities for new graduates in this field? East coast? Midwest? West Coast?
What kind of starting salary expectations are reasonable in computational biology?
What kinds of companies actually have a need for bio-informatics staff? Is it just academia and hospital systems?
What other kinds of questions should I asking, but am not?

Any insight would be tremendously appreciated!

KlangFool
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by KlangFool » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:12 am

JCE66 wrote:Bogleheads....My child will be graduating with a BS/MS in Biomedical Engineering within the next 4-6 months. He is now starting to get focused on 'life after school' and making his mark in the 'real world'. As his parents, we are inordinately proud, but we don't know diddly-squat about his chosen field (bioinformatics). My question to the Bogleheads:

Where are the best employment opportunities for new graduates in this field? East coast? Midwest? West Coast?
What kind of starting salary expectations are reasonable in computational biology?
What kinds of companies actually have a need for bio-informatics staff? Is it just academia and hospital systems?
What other kinds of questions should I asking, but am not?

Any insight would be tremendously appreciated!


JCE66,

1) Those are the questions that your son should asked before he graduated. He had 4 to 5 years to prepare for this.

2) The best source of information will be his seniors. People that graduated a few years before him. Contact them and ask them for information and contacts.

3) The second best choice will be the professors with industry contact. Ask for references and contacts.

4) Any recruiters come to the campus for a job fair? That will be another choice.

5) The best source will be industry insider. They could tell you which conference to go and trade journal to read. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/

6) Check up above web site.

KlangFool

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nisiprius
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by nisiprius » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:24 am

Your "child" is an adult. Well, OK, sort of an adult.

I wouldn't try to manage things too much. I would say that it is perfectly obvious that "a BS/MS in Biomedical Engineering" is a very respectable thing to have, and it shouldn't be too hard to make a good living at it, and that interesting stuff is happening in that field. It's a good degree in a hot field. Maybe it's not as hot as I think it is, things always look iffier when you're actually out there, but it's not going to be as hard as getting a job in, say, the humanities.

Beyond that, life is mysterious, and the first job is just a first job... and it's very hard to predict what sub-sub-specialties and which companies have the best prospects. It's quite possible that an interesting job and one that leads to broadening experience is more important than trying to guess the track that will lead to the highest salary.

In any case, the job search is his search; you should respond if he actually asks you for help or advice, of course, but don't think you are obligated to find him a job.

One detail and I will just say this although I haven't read the book in twenty years... if your child has not yet read What Color Is Your Parachute? 2015: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers he should read it, for two reasons: a) it's really good, and b) everybody expects everyone to know what's in it now, it's become the conventional wisdom.

Another is that his school, and, particularly, any professors he "clicked" with, are an important part of his jobseeking network right now, and he should take advantage of anything his school offers in the way of placements... and if he knows any professors who "know" him, he should be talking to them.

(Detail: never ask "could you write me a letter of recommendation?" Always ask "could you write me a good letter of recommendation.")

I have personally gotten jobs in what I think is every possible way there is to get a job, including:
a) Placing a "Positions Wanted" ad (in a relevant periodical);
b) Working with a recruiter;
c) Answering an ad in a newspaper and sending them a résumé and cover letter--you know, the method that "never works;"
d) Getting a tip from a friend about an opening in the company he was working at;
e) Getting an email out of the blue, with the subject line "A job is looking for you," from a professor who'd been one of the founders of the company that laid me off.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

JCE66
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by JCE66 » Tue Mar 29, 2016 10:54 am

KlangFool, Nisiprius....Thanks for the responses. They're helpful. My sense is that it is a relatively narrow sub-specialty (bioinformatics), in a fairly narrow field (computational biology). That is good and bad. What I am actually hoping for is that a couple of Bogleheads might actually be in the field (e.g. an industry insider), and have good idea(s) on where to go, who is doing good (or path-breaking) work in the field.

livesoft
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by livesoft » Tue Mar 29, 2016 11:04 am

I don't think that Bioinformatics is that narrow nowadays. I spoke to bioinformaticists routinely in my career and reviewed their grants. All of them had PhDs.

Basically, you are just another computer scientist in a pharmaceutical or biotech company or in a university or government lab. It is a research job. Those jobs tend to be in places with high biotech concentration: Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco, San Diego, RTP, and Maryland. These are not the only geographic locations. Of course, there are universities everywhere, so that's where the jobs are.
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livesoft
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by livesoft » Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:32 pm

This thread made me wonder what my parents thought I was going to do with my degree. I think my mom thought that I never did get a real job since I was always doing experiments and giving lectures.
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quantAndHold
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by quantAndHold » Tue Mar 29, 2016 1:45 pm

I worked in the cheminformatics field for awhile, working for a company that sold chemistry software. Bioinformatics is basically the same, with different science. All of the scientists we had at the company had PhD's.

At the company where I worked, we had two groups of people. PhD scientists who could program computers made about $85k. Software engineers with BS degrees in computer science, who might or might not have any scientific background, made about 25% more.

As far as location, there's a lot of biotech companies in San Diego and in the research triangle in North Carolina. There are other places, but those are the ones I know about.

Regardless, he's an adult, and this is his thing. It might be best to let him be an adult and figure this out.

dreamchaser
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by dreamchaser » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:04 pm

I work in healthcare and I do see people with those degrees everyday. If he is good with programing and crunching numbers they are good in any health/finance/analytics filed. All he needs to think is how and where he wants to grow. An entry level job is around 60k in East coast area.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by Heir-A-Parent » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:24 pm

I got an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering. I hate to do this, but the degree was a real let-down. After the dotcom crash biotechnology was supposed to be the next big thing. That never panned out mainly because 1) biotechnology is comparatively primitive compared to computer technology, so the tools at your disposal are more limited, 2) biotechnology and medical devices are heavily regulated so it's very hard to make a startup in those industries, and 3) biotechnology and medical devices are expensive compared to software. I eventually changed industries to software development, where wages are higher and competition for jobs is less (funny how that works).

The good news is that your child is in bioinformatics, which will be software-heavy. Some BME/bioengineering programs are wet lab- or mechatronics-heavy, and those will be less fruitful paths than software-heavy biological endeavors, mainly because the investment costs are higher to build something physical or chemical rather than digital. The bad news, again, at least from my experience, is that a BME curriculum only gets you about 25% of the way towards being good at writing software. A true bioinformatics job would be mostly writing software, such as in a specialized environment like R or SAS. Even a role like that would be limiting - in today's world a good bioinformaticist could use and design if not build custom platforms in the cloud.

If I had to do it again, I would have majored in CS and gotten a minor in biology. That's a better hybrid than BME/bioinformatics/bioengineering.

It's all water under the bridge though, since I left the "bio-world" for higher salaries. A software engineer at a biotech company will be paid less than a software engineer doing the same thing at a software or ecommerce company. (And yes, the nitty gritty of software means the jobs are surprisingly similar. Industry domain knowledge is a small part of my job.) That's a reflection of industry margins and where engineers are at in the industries' pecking orders. About the last point, "bio-world" as a bias for people with PhDs, whereas "software-world" is less concerned with credentials.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by adamthesmythe » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:54 pm

> The best source of information will be his seniors. People that graduated a few years before him. Contact them and ask them for information and contacts.

Actually the FIRST thing he should do (if not done already) is to make contact with his placement office.

MOST engineering students know they are going to have to get a job and MOST institutions make it very easy to work through the placement office. And many employers work through the placement office for new graduates. To be honest, MOST students work on this a semester or more before graduation.

Placement offices help with resume writing, rehearsal interviews, etc. Engineers are easy to place and schools want to be very successful in placing their students.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by Globalviewer58 » Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:07 pm

The website, glassdoor.com, has 190 job listings for Biomedical Engineer. Here's the link: https://www.glassdoor.com/Job/biomedica ... KO0,19.htm

The parents may find it interesting to read what qualifications employers are seeking in candidates. Some of these jobs require work experience.

For all of those other folks wondering how one transitions from engineering student to employee, a wonderful way to do this is through an internship. This may be obvious except to those who did not know such a thing was available. Student and potential employer share some work experience to test the fit.

JCE66
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by JCE66 » Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:10 pm

dreamchaser, heir-a-parent....he is pretty swift with programming, plays around all the time with Matlab, R, Python and C++. Heck, I had him do some programming for me when I could not figure out something in SPSS. He can crunch numbers. He is leaning toward healthcare, and away from academia. He thought academia was way too political, which just made me laugh. I'm like, 'It is like that everywhere'.

The entry level salary info 9East Coast) is good for me to know, just for my own knowledge. The observation, 'All he needs to think [about] is how and where he wants to grow' pretty much sums up my attitude. He will find his own way. When he comes to me to ask my opinion, and he eventually will, I just want to make sure I have a somewhat informed basis to respond.

Did not really know about Research Triangle area, but in retrospect it makes sense given all the pharma in that area. I know he has applied to a couple of positions in the Cambridge, MA area. He has time, and the university he attends has a lot of good support systems in helping graduates network and find employment.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by ellsbebc » Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:02 am

Biomedical engineering is a broad field. Sounds like your son is on the programming/analysis side. My wife is a BME and works in regulatory affairs for a mega corp. As previously mentioned, the hot beds are Boston/Cambridge, Raleigh/Durham triad, and San Diego.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by nisiprius » Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:57 am

One thing about "where the hot markets are." As with the efficient market, the hot markets are also where there is the hottest competition for positions. I imagine there are probably quite a lot of comfortably warm markets. It's been years and years since I was in Madison, Wisconsin, for example, but I seem to remember a decent handful of small companies in various aspects of biotechnology, and very likely there are job prospects in other state university towns.
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by nisiprius » Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:01 am

2014: An Explosion Of Bioinformatics Careers, and Science to me has moderate credence. Lots of good stuff there. "Discovering where the careers are," not geographically, but organizationally.
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dreamchaser
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by dreamchaser » Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:30 am

Since he is good with programing and numbers I would encourage him to play with SAS. Even though R, Matlab etc are good programing skills most of the industry uses SAS as a standard. He doesn't need to be an expert and none of the entry level positions excepts him to be one. Having that skill on resume (even a base certification) will definitely attracts employers attention.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by dziuniek » Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:53 am

Same thing for New Haven, CT... lots of up and coming small pharma companies.

I imagine it's because of YALE in the area.

JCE66
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by JCE66 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:09 am

Bogleheads....a happy update.

My child did indeed get his BS/MS in Biomedical Engineering and just received a formal job offer in the MD/Northern VA area. It is part of a large multi-year government contract. There is one other opportunity he is waiting to hear about (KS area) in the next day or so. But he did it! :happy

Soon, he will on his way. As a parent, I am very proud, but I have to confess that it is emotionally difficult to see my child 'fly out of the nest'. I guess all of us go through it. I used to think I would only have sighs of relief....now, there is sadness to accompany the sighs of relief.

And now, his younger brother will receive all of our focused attention..... :wink:

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by nisiprius » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:32 am

JCE66 wrote:Bogleheads....a happy update.

My child did indeed get his BS/MS in Biomedical Engineering and just received a formal job offer in the MD/Northern VA area. It is part of a large multi-year government contract. There is one other opportunity he is waiting to hear about (KS area) in the next day or so. But he did it! :happy
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Last edited by nisiprius on Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by plantdr » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:52 am

Bioinfomatics is a very hot field in biology and has been for the last 10 years. He should not have a hard time getting a job. It's always hardest to get the first job. I would suggest sciencemag.org careers sections. That is where industry and academia post most of the jobs.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by plantdr » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:59 am

Sorry, I didn't read all the way through. Congrats to your kid. My kid is 2, so I can't wait to figure out what he's into.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by adamthesmythe » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:20 am

> Actually the FIRST thing he should do (if not done already) is to make contact with his placement office.

Yup. USUALLY a student in his senior year has been going to on-campus job fairs, refining his resume, doing mock interviews, and refining his resume during the previous several months. The student will have had several on-campus interviews, maybe a couple of interview trips, and maybe a job offer or two.

In almost ALL universities the placement office is a major resource. USUALLY they are aggressive about making students aware of the placement process and usually they are hard to ignore.

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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by afan » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:58 am

Parents of kids in technical fields quickly realize that their "children" know so much more about the domain than the old folks that we have nothing useful to contribute. I had such a child and I could offer no practical suggestions for job hunting. Although he is supremely patient, it was impossible for him to explain to me what the various jobs actually did. I could say things like "it is cold there in the winter" and "make sure to get enough sleep and eat a good breakfast", but I had nothing useful to say about the jobs themselves. All descriptions sounded like a long string of technobabble, invoking languages, processes and goals that you needed to know a lot more than I did to understand.

Being risk averse, I thought that big companies were more stable and had better benefits, which seemed to be true.

Second the suggestions about the placement office. Firms looking for engineers routinely work with these offices to help them find candidates. If he has not made contact with his placement office he should do that. They will organize the recruiting visits and will know where else locally one should go. If it is a large engineering department, then many employers will have it on their circuit for annual recruiting.

In addition to the areas people have mentioned, and depending on his interests, there is a lot of bioinformatics in the insurance industry and in government. It is increasingly interacting with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
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Re: Advice for child: Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Post by campy2010 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 11:07 am

Congrats.

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