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Academia Vs. Industry: How Do You Decide?

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

In this career corner: Careers for Microbiologists, Microbigal Jon sits down with Senior Scientist Stephen to discuss how he decided academia vs. industry. This is a decision we all have to face at some point. When do you leave the Ivory Tower? What path is right for you? Find out all the tips and tricks in this Academia Vs. Industry discussion.

Who is Stephen Bolaris?

Stephen Bolaris has been a friend, a mentor, a game master, a hiking buddy, an advisor, and a dog sitter for me for the last 7 years. Stephen Bolaris, Ph.D. is currently a Senior Scientist Bioinformatics at Bio-Rad Laboratories and one of my main mentors throughout my Ph.D.

Picture of Microbigal's Jon and Tess with Guest speaker Stephen Bolaris at Yosemite Park.

But how did he get there?

He got his bachelor's of science from the University of Arizona in 2009 and computer science but very early on he knew he wanted to be a bioinformatician and did a bioinformatics internship at the Chromatin Database in Tucson, Arizona. From here his journey moves westward. He was faced with the decision: academia vs. industry. Ultimately he chooses to go into industry obtaining a job as a QC Analyst at MedImmune Vaccines. But in 2013 he reevaluated his academia vs. industry decision and went to the University of California Riverside to pursue a Ph.D. in Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics. Five years later, he graduated in the winter of 2018 from the University of California Riverside. Here he was faced with the decision again and he once more needed to reevaluate, does he go on to become a professor? Does he leave academia for inustry? Ultimately the debate of academia vs industry lead him to industry. Since then he's worked as a bioinformatician at BioConsortia and Bio-Rad.

Stephen's Choice

When I knew Stephen at UCR he was always so passionate about teaching and mentoring. He was willing to drop everything and teach me how to build a computer from scratch. He was the social butterfly of the program, constantly trying to find new ways for the Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics students of UCR to come together. Every year I knew him he would sign up to be a mentor, guiding first-year Ph.D. students through the ins and out of being a graduate student. He helped develop an outdoor hiking social group for graduate students. He was even a volunteer science fair judge for K-12. Stephen is one of the most amazing, nerdy, helpful, and passionate people I know and I'm so excited for you to meet him as well. I trust his advice and mentorship above all else and really consider him like my older bioinformatics brother. This is why I wanted to ask him the question that's been bothering me for so long, Academia vs. Industry and I hope you find his advice as helpful as I did.

Stephen is very passionate about giving advice. He encourages you to make the right decision for yourself. But he also wants you to know how he made that decision so you can make the right decision as well.

The Academia Vs. Industry Debate

Academia vs. industry is a debate I hear of all too often among undergraduates, PhDs, and even post-docs. Even people I know who have left the ivory tower and enter the workforce whether 6 months ago or 30 years ago, the question comes up, should I go back to school? Could I have been a professor? Was industry right for me.

There are a number of careers for microbiologists in every field you can think of. For many people with advanced degrees, the question of academia vs. industry is huge! Everyone is asking it and so many people expect you'll go become a professor or a teacher at a college. Many struggles to transition into the industry because they don't have the network and receive poor support from their academic mentors who often push them to stay within academia and don't entertain the academia vs. industry debate.

This is not an easy decision as oftentimes you can not flop back and forth on a whim. Once the decision is made, it can be very hard to get back on the other path. How did Stephen make his decision? What are the differences between academia vs. industry?

What's the difference? Why does it matter? Find out in the video below!

What are your thoughts? What path do you want to take or, if you are in one of these fields, what have your experiences been? Let us know by commenting or sending us an email.

If you are interested in learning more about careers in microbiology, check out our career corner page.

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