Diverse experience as a post-doc opens doors to industry

Dr. Joe Ross, a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Nehal Thakor’s lab, is poised to make the move to working in industry thanks to the many diverse experiences that came his way as post-doc, including the chance to work in Thakor’s lab beginning in 2016.

“I was doing RNA structure and function work at my previous post-doc, which was a two-year contract in Denmark that was coming to an end,” says Ross. “I started looking for something in Canada and I liked the idea of applying my RNA skill set toward Nehal’s biofuel project. That was what initially attracted me to Nehal’s lab, but I haven’t laid a finger on that project. When I got here, Nehal asked me to start working with cancer cells.”

His willingness to take on the work and expand his repertoire led him in new directions. His first post-doctoral position was with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada looking at antimicrobial resistance in soils. His post-doctoral work in Denmark was a departure from working in agriculture and a step into learning all about RNA structure and function.

“When I came here I really switched gears,” he says. “Now, I’m doing cancer biology. I’ve had all these experiences and all these different skill sets, and that was the main thing that helped me get an industry job. They needed a jack of all trades.”

Ross is taking a position as senior scientist at a company called Chinook Contract Research in Airdrie. He says the company has expertise in microbiological assays for use in the pharmaceutical industry, either veterinary or human pharmaceuticals, and running field trials to study effectiveness, safety or a new application for veterinary pharmaceuticals.

“It’s good to diversify,” Ross says. “The idea is to broaden your horizons and most successful academics will tell you something similar — they started with one thing and that led to another and another and by the time they end up as a professor somewhere, they’re studying something totally different.”

Ross credits Thakor for giving him plenty of useful advice on what it’s like to work in industry and tips on getting a job.

“Joe has done stellar work in my lab and has taken on projects enthusiastically,” says Thakor. “He has also taken a leadership role in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. He shows a positive attitude in all he does and I know he’ll do well in his new industry position.”

Based on his own experience, Ross says his best advice to students is keep an open mind and maintain a can-do attitude.

“Don’t turn down new opportunities even if, at the time, it seems frustrating,” says Ross. “I had quite a learning curve having completely changed fields, but if you put in the time and stay patient, then you’ll see it’s never bad to have a diverse skill set or a diverse set of experiences. Be open and be willing to move around and travel and be willing to change fields and maybe even be willing to change fields a couple of times.”

During his time at the U of L, Ross has published two original research papers, two review articles and a methods paper. In addition, two other research papers have been submitted for publication and are at the peer review stage.

Ross starts his new full-time position on Sept. 3.