Dr. Louise Lund is a recent graduate who studied in the laboratories of Drs. Leonard Foster and Charles Haynes at the University of British Columbia. Upon finishing her studies, Dr. Lund opted to leave the bench to become a scientific recruiter at STEMCELL Technologies. We sat down with Dr. Lund to discuss her career choice, and her journey from bench to desk.
What did you study during your time as a graduate student at UBC?
I studied the development of assays for identifying translocations in certain cancers. I collaborated with the BC Cancer Agency, and together we looked at Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) which has the famous Philadelphia chromosome that affects 95% of all patients. We used Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR) to see if we could identify whether or not the translocation had occurred. It wound up working amazingly well, and was fantastically accurate compared to the Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) assay that is in current use. We also looked at ALK-positive Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) which affects 5% of lung cancer patients, and is associated with an inversion that occurs on chromosome 2. We were also successful in identifying it by ddPCR.
This type of assay is important because these translocations often result in mutation of highly active and unregulated kinases, leading to chaos. By identifying the translocations, we can treat patients with very specific kinase inhibitors, and improve outcome. It’s basically personalized medicine.
What made you switch your career from research to recruiting?
Good question! I had been thinking about moving away from the bench for awhile. One of the reasons is that I found it lonely. As a researcher, you’re often working on a project independently, and I really wanted to communicate more. I’d gained all these skills and knowledge in biology, but I felt that I’d lost some of my soft skills like communication.
I’d been considering various jobs ranging from project management to medical liaison officer in industry. Then one day I was sitting in bed and I got an email from Indeed.ca with a list of potential jobs. As soon as I saw the position for scientific recruiter with STEMCELL Technologies, I knew it was for me. It was all about communication and developing relationships, while continuing to talk science with scientists! I actually was so excited about the idea that I woke up my husband to tell him about it!
How does a scientific recruiter differ from a regular recruiter?
One big difference is that as a scientific recruiter, I recruit scientists. I spend a lot of my time talking to candidates about science. If it’s a bachelor entry position, I like to quiz them on their cell culturing experience by asking things like “Why do you use glutamine?”. When I’m looking to hire someone at the PhD or postdoc level, I just love to find out what they’ve been working on. It comes from a place of curiosity in addition to the need to interview them.
What does your day-to-day job look like?
There’s no typical day. I spend a lot of time screening candidates by phone, or conducting in person interviews. I also regularly meet with hiring managers to try to find what they’re looking for in their ideal candidate. And then there’s sourcing of candidates. This means a lot of time spent on the computer looking at who has applied and going through resumes and cover letters. I also look through linkedin and troll for people who would be a good fit for a position in the company – especially for very specific jobs that are difficult to fill.
Do you have any advice for graduate students or postdocs who are considering switching into alternate careers?
Absolutely! Stay open to any opportunity! There are jobs out there that you may not necessarily know about, but if you do some digging, you’ll find them.
From a recruiter perspective, do your research on the company and make sure your resume speaks to the job description. For example, if the job is in the field off pancreatic research, have the first thing on your resume reference pancreatic research. At STEMCELL Technologies, we have about a thousand candidates apply every day, so we can’t spend time trolling through resumes. Key points need to be clear and visible in the first paragraph. We also value the cover letter. Don’t only talk about the job description, but include some personality in there as well!
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Dr. Lund! It’s great to learn about another interesting career outside the bench that be pursued with a background in scientific research!