Good prospects for biotechnologists
Patrick Großmann reports on his experiences with the Bayer Science Foundation’s scholarship program, including financial plannability, going abroad and getting in-depth insight into Bayer’s work culture. And of course he has some dreams for the future as well!
What is your career background?
Currently I am employed at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, which is part of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School in Boston. As a PhD student, I do research in radiomics, an up-and-coming field that aims to digitally phenotype tumors and other diseases in order to make predictions as to whether specific therapies will be more successful for an individual patient (precision medicine). Our work relies on clinical imaging technologies (e.g. CT or MRT), which we combine with machine and deep learning methods. I also integrate the image data with molecular data, such as gene expression and mutation, to develop comprehensive predictive models. What we envision is to use innovative “imaging biomarkers” as a basis for treatment strategies.
Data science is also my hobby in my private life. For instance, I work with voice-controlled pattern recognition methods and self-learning algorithms to analyze and classify sequential data (e.g. texts). My goal is to advance technological progress in our digital health care system. I am also able to exercise my passion for innovation as Head of Innovation for the largest, student-led conference at Harvard, the German-American Conference.
What kind of collaboration or support connects you with Bayer?
For my PhD work, the Bayer Science Foundation accepted me into its scholarship program as an Otto Bayer Fellow, giving me the basis I needed to plan my doctoral research. The 12-month program enabled me to go abroad to do the research work for my dissertation. Living in Boston is extremely expensive, but thanks to the scholarship, I had the assurance of knowing that my apartment was paid for during the funding period. In addition to financial support, the Bayer Science Foundation also appointed an internal mentor with many years of experience at Bayer to assist me. I often discussed my progress with my mentor, and could turn to him for advice on other issues. I am very happy that thanks to Bayer’s support, I not only learned so much scientifically and non-scientifically, but also was able to complete several articles for publication in distinguished journals.
What was special about the scholarship for you personally?
Thanks to the close contact with my mentor, I got unique insights into the work culture at Bayer. He put me in touch with his own colleagues in his department, and with other colleagues whose research interests correspond with my own. I try to stay in contact with these people even today, in the hope that we can help each other in the future. But even apart from my scholarship, I have often met and spoken with Bayer employees, for example at the European Career Fair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
What entry-level career opportunities do you see for students of biotechnology/bioinformatics at Bayer?
Bayer offers excellent opportunities to pursue a career. There’s a great demand for bioinformatics and biotechnology, not only in research and development, but also in other areas, such as consulting, project management and even marketing. In summer 2016 I had the honor of participating in the “IT For Life Science @ Bayer” workshop and realized that the company is highly interdisciplinary. To me this means that good (i.e. clear) and fair communication is an absolute prerequisite between colleagues at Bayer. It is also important to mention that you can start out on virtually all levels. You don’t necessarily need a PhD to manage projects (although it naturally helps). Jobs at Bayer are diverse, ranging from applications-oriented research in oncology to the digital phenotyping of grains. As long as you know what you want, you will find it at Bayer. And if you’re interested in innovation and development, Bayer is a great place for you.¶
What has been your impression of Bayer as a company?
I found Bayer to be a surprisingly open company. I grew up in the small town of Grenzach-Wyhlen – a small Bayer site – and to me Bayer was just an old chemical company. But my image of it has changed completely now! At first I couldn’t believe how modern Bayer is and how open the employees were with me. I kept doubting my impression. But because I met many Bayer employees individually, and my impression was repeatedly confirmed, I had to conclude that Bayer really does offer an excellent work atmosphere. And from what I’ve been able to find out, my impression is further confirmed by several independent employer rankings.
What I like most about Bayer as a company is that the driving forces behind its success are innovation and ongoing development. As someone who loves digital innovation, I can sense this passion in many places. Another thing I think is unique is the philosophy of the human resources department, which is to continuously and individually promote company employees and give them opportunities for advancement. In the biotechnology industry in Cambridge and Boston, it is common practice to change employers every 2 to 3 years. At Bayer, a lot of people stay for a long time, but hold different positions. That gives a person a solid basis for planning.
What are your aspirations for the future?
For my own future, I would like to finish my PhD to be open for my next career step. I am pursuing career paths in Germany and Europe and would like to apply the experience I gained in the USA here locally, so as to contribute to the digital development of our countries. Even though I have good qualifications for an academic career, I am tending more towards business innovation in industry. Bayer is definitely one of my preferred employers. But even more than that, I would like to start my own company some day, and hope that Bayer can offer me opportunities in this area too.
This post is also available in: German