September 22nd, 2018, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

SAPA-GP held its annual Student Career Development Workshop. The goal of the workshop was to teach students networking and interviewing skills and also to give them ideas on the many career opportunities in life sciences.  The workshop included 5 speeches and 6 breakout sessions. We were honored to have 19 distinguished speakers from pharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations, law firms and consulting firms. They provided their insights on the many diverse work opportunities that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows can pursue after graduation. The event was well-received by the community, and tickets were sold out well ahead of the deadline. During the event, we saw heated one-on-one discussion between attendees and speakers, and all our attendees returned with fruitful results and provided very positive feedback.


Keynote speeches


Overview of job opportunities in pharma

We were honored to have Dr. Jim Wang, Head of Regulatory Affairs at Spark Therapeutics, Inc., to kick off the workshop by giving an overview of diverse job opportunities in pharma and biotech. First, he covered the drug discovery and development process and what type of expertise and teams are needed to support each stage. He elaborated on career paths such as project management, biostatistics, medical affairs, regulatory affairs, process development & CMC, market access, legal and patent law. He finished by using his own career journey to encourage the audience to keep an open mind, and embrace various opportunities and different career paths in the future.

Current visa issues

Ms. Valentine A. Brown, JD, Partner of Duane Morris LLP discussed what kind of visa applications international students may be eligible after graduation, including H1B and Green Card application, and how one should prepare for them. Ms. Brown said, even though the new policies are less friendly, one can still succeed as long as we prepare well. Later in the afternoon breakout session, Ms. Brown provided one-on-one help for attendees who had more visa questions.

How resumes are screened by HR

The CEO of GTS Recruiting, Robb Hoyle gave a speech about “How resumes are screened by HR & Key Resume Issues”. During his speech, he explained the differences of the HR screening process in large Pharma and small biotech companies. He also provided great suggestions about good resumes writing and mistakes to be avoided when preparing a resume. In the end, he mentioned the importance of LinkedIn in job searching and how to effectively manage the LinkedIn profile.

How to read a job description

Larry Petcovic, who is the co-founder of, showcased how todecipher a job description and create a tailored resume. The question "How to read a job description?" might sound naive, but we would never have thought of the necessity to tailor a different resume for every job posting. Larry focused on how to create the best resume each time based on the what the job posting was targeting for. He used a job advertisement example from LinkedIn to help us understand the process of mapping a job advertisement to identify our critical competencies such as business and operational competencies. Then Larry went into details about how to dissect the job posting and look for key terms to include in ones’ targeted resume.

High impact communication, networking, and American culture

Dr. David Cragin, Associate director of Chemical Notifications and Registration at Merck & Co. used real life examples of how networking helped students he met in SAPA events landed on great jobs to show the importance of networking. Then he provided practical tips for building your network, such as how to prepare for a 10-second “elevator speech”, dress professionally, and understand American culture. He also showed examples on how to follow up with connections effectively through emails and LinkedIn. In the end, he encouraged students to join SAPA-GP as a volunteer, which can help grow your network and build your career.

Breakout Sessions


Tips for job hunting: resume, interview, and negotiation

In the breakout session, Mr. Larry Petcovic and Dr. David Cragin spoke about “Tips for job hunting: resume, interview, and negotiation”. Larry suggested that the resume should be clear and specific, avoiding exaggeratiion. Dr. Cragin suggested that the presentation at the interview should be easy to understand and it was important to pay attention to the interviewers’ reaction and adjust the answer accordingly.


Alternative career paths: Business Development & Consulting

Many attendees with scientific background are very interested in potential alternative career paths. We are glad to have Mr. Guangyao Yang, Dr. Ling Liu, and Dr. Steve Wu to share their work experiences in business development and consulting. Speakers enthusiastically answered attendees’ questions such as how they should prepare for such positions, what kind of qualifications they should meet for these positions in comparison with science and technology based positions, and which traits of the future employees those companies will value most. The panelists discussed all questions and gave very practical suggestions.


Alternative career paths: Regulatory affairs & Scientific writing

The panelists included Dr. Hui Wang  (Associate Manager at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.), Dr. Yue Liu (Assistant Scientific Director at Chameleon Communications International), Dr. Xianhua Li ( Project Manager intern at DataRevive LLC)  and Ms. Shirley Ruan (Project Manager at Aleon Pharma International, Inc.). The panelists first gave a brief introduction to this field and shared their daily work such as their responsibility and what their work-life balance is like.  Since many participants come from the background of research scientist and did not know much about this field, this was very helpful. Some of the participants even consider swtiching from lab work to regulatory affairs. Accordingly, the panelists introduced the relevant preparation such as the training course and certification. In addition, they shared their own valuable experience of how they started job hunting.

Working for CRO or pharma & Working in China or the US

The President of Alliance Pharma Frank Li, the Associate Scientific Director of The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johhson & Johnson Songmao Zheng and the Market Research Manager of Hisun Pharmaceuticals Liping Xing were invited to the breakout session “Working for CRO or pharma & Working in China or the US” to share their experience and suggestions. They said regardless of pursuing a career path at a CRO or traditional pharma, the solid working capability is always the first thing that matters most. They also mentioned the pharmaceutical industry has been developing rapidly in China nowadays, so it is also a good choice to go back China and build a career there.

Interviewing skills and mock interviews

In the breakout session of "interviewing skills and mock interviews", Dr. Jing Yang (Senior Principal Scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb) and Dr. Dennis M. Gross (CEO & Treasurer of the Pennsylvania Drug Discovery Institute) shared ways to manage stress and how to prepare for interviews. Preparation involves taking an inventory of experiences and the consideration of experience that go beyond the resume. In addition, they demonstrated that you need to change your interviewing style based on the employers’ style of interviewing.  Furthermore, they provided online resources and virtual mock interview software that can be helpful for interview preparation.






Reporters: Liangqiu Li, Xianhua Li, Lin Zeng, Qiangnan Zhang

Editors: David Cragin, Han Dai