Introduction

I'm Rohan Kumbhare, originally from Pune, India, and I ventured to the United States in 2014 to pursue my Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. Presently, I'm employed at Prime Medicine, a gene-editing company, where my focus lies in the synthesis of oligonucleotides and messenger RNA. My responsibilities involve designing and refining methods and protocols to enhance the synthesis process. I have a keen interest in acquiring new techniques that can be applied to innovative projects, and I'm always eager to expand my skill set at work. As a child, I enjoyed watching chemistry experiments at school. In high school, I eagerly attended weekly chemistry labs, finding them to be engaging puzzles. After high school, I joined a dual degree program where I was studying for my Bachelor’s and Master's in Science (B.S.-M.S.). In my freshman year in this program, while choosing my major, I naturally gravitated towards chemistry due to its captivating nature. Despite the diversity of majors at my institute, I was lucky to have a group of friends who shared my passion for organic chemistry, enhancing my undergraduate experience. In my final year, I worked on a project designing thiol-mediated delivery systems for small molecules, blending classroom knowledge with practical application. This hands-on experience revealed the impactful potential of chemistry in solving biological problems. This early research marked the beginning of my journey of exploration in science. Upon finishing the dual degree program, my path led me to pursue a Ph.D. My motivation for this decision lies in my desire for continuous learning and engagement in diverse, interdisciplinary projects utilizing chemistry as a versatile tool. The choice was also influenced by the decision of many of my friends, who similarly opted for Ph.D. studies across different institutions worldwide. I successfully gained admission to the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. As I entered graduate school in the US for my Ph.D. studies, I was clear to join an academic group with an emphasis on utilizing chemistry for biological applications. During my Ph.D. studies, I worked on several projects with a focus on medicinal chemistry and chemical biology. These projects (and related coursework) gave me an opportunity to learn and apply new concepts for therapeutic purposes. After my graduation, I joined NeuBase Therapeutics in Pittsburgh and started working on the design and synthesis of new peptide nucleic acid (PNA) monomers. After a year, I expressed my interest in learning solid-phase synthesis utilized in PNA synthesis. My interest was positively received, and I had an opportunity to learn new skill sets. By the end of my stint at NeuBase Therapeutics, I got an opportunity to utilize the knowledge I acquired during my Ph.D. studies and learn new skill sets like process development for the synthesis of small molecules and PNA oligomers with several project completions even with the new skills I acquired. I joined Prime Medicine and moved to Cambridge, MA. I started working on projects involving small molecule chemistry I previously had the experience for. However, soon I was moved to different projects (due to the changing company priorities) which required learning new skill sets. Some of the projects involved developing enzymatic processes involved in the synthesis and modifications of oligonucleotides. Here, I had a chance to expand my skill set and successfully apply the knowledge to some important projects. So, I started working in small molecule chemistry and now I’m working with oligonucleotides. In short, there is no linear path to career progression. Be open to different possibilities and grab any opportunity to learn new things. Remember, all companies are adopting new approaches, and the skills required today may not be highly valued in a 5-year time.

Biochemistry

career options

A degree in chemistry or biochemistry opens doors to a wide array of exciting and impactful career paths. Whether you're inclined towards laboratory research, communication of scientific concepts, entrepreneurial ventures, or project management, there are diverse opportunities awaiting exploration. This table outlines various career paths for individuals with chemistry or biochemistry backgrounds, providing a brief description of each role along with suggested degree requirements. From research scientists and scientific writers to patent agents and biotechnology entrepreneurs, this overview aims to guide aspiring professionals in understanding and navigating potential career trajectories within the field. Additionally, I've included the role of a Scientific Program Manager, shedding light on the responsibilities and qualifications associated with managing scientific programs or projects. Explore the possibilities and find the path that aligns with your passion and professional aspirations.

1
Research Scientist
2
Scientific Writer/Communicator
3
Patent Agent
4
Scientific Project Manager
5
Scientific Program Manager
6
Tenure Track Research Professor

Biochemistry

 skills

What are the main hard skills you use on a daily basis in your current job?

1
Wet Lab Skills

Utilization of a range of wet lab techniques used for synthesis, purification, and analytical testing of small molecules, peptides, and oligonucleotides using various techniques. Experienced in experimental design, ensuring accurate and reliable data collection, and adapting protocols to specific research needs. Knowledgeable about laboratory safety protocols and measures. These skills were acquired during my Ph.D. studies and then worked in industry after graduation.‍

2
Scientific Communication

Written communication skills for composing comprehensive reports, research papers, and documentation of experimental procedures. Verbal communication skills to effectively convey complex scientific concepts during team meetings, presentations, and discussions with collaborators. Tailor communication for diverse audiences, including scientists, non-specialists, and stakeholders. These skills were acquired during my Ph.D. studies and then worked in industry after graduation.

3
Stay Abreast of Scientific Knowledge

Actively engage in continuous learning and stay informed about the latest research publications, methodologies, and technological advancements in the field. Participate in conferences, seminars, and workshops to broaden knowledge and maintain relevance in the rapidly evolving scientific landscape. These skills were primarily acquired during my Ph.D. studies and then applied in my career after graduation.

4
Project Planning and Management

Proficient in project planning, including defining clear objectives, milestones, and timelines. Skilled in resource allocation, overseeing budgets, and coordinating with team members to ensure efficient project execution. Experienced in utilizing project management tools and methodologies to enhance collaboration and meet project deadlines. These skills were acquired during my Ph.D. studies and then worked in industry after graduation.

5

What are the main soft skills you use on a daily basis in your current job?

1
Effective communication

In my current (and previous) role, I rely on a set of essential soft skills that contribute significantly to my daily effectiveness. Effective Communication stands out as a cornerstone, as I engage in constant collaboration with team members, stakeholders, and colleagues. Whether I am conveying complex scientific concepts, discussing project updates, or contributing to team discussions, clear and concise communication is paramount. I developed this skill through active participation in group projects during my academic years, where I honed my ability to articulate ideas and findings to diverse audiences.

2
Adaptability

Adaptability is another crucial soft skill that comes into play regularly. The nature of scientific work often involves navigating unexpected challenges, changes in project scope, or sudden shifts in priorities. Being adaptable allows me to approach these situations with a positive mindset, adjusting strategies and solutions swiftly to ensure project continuity and success. I cultivated adaptability through exposure to diverse research projects during my academic journey, where I learned to quickly adapt to new methodologies and various challenges.


3
Collaboration

Collaboration is an integral part of my work, and Teamwork is a soft skill that I utilize daily. Working on multidisciplinary projects requires effective collaboration with individuals possessing diverse skill sets and backgrounds. Being able to contribute positively to a team, share insights, and leverage collective strengths is essential for achieving common goals. I developed my collaboration skills through various group projects, both in academia and industry, where I learned to appreciate and leverage the strengths of team members.

4
Time Management

Time Management is yet another soft skill that plays a crucial role in maintaining productivity and meeting deadlines. Juggling multiple tasks, experiments, and project responsibilities requires effective time prioritization and organization to ensure that each aspect of the work receives the attention it deserves. I refined my time management skills through the challenges of managing coursework, research projects, and extracurricular activities during my academic journey.

5
Problem Solving

Problem Solving is a soft skill that is exercised regularly in the scientific environment. Whether troubleshooting experimental issues in the laboratory or addressing unforeseen challenges in project execution, the ability to analyze problems critically and devise effective solutions is essential for ensuring the smooth progression of research endeavors. My problem-solving skills were developed through hands-on laboratory experiences, where I encountered and addressed various scientific challenges, enhancing my ability to think critically and creatively.

Rohan

’s personal path

Tell us about your personal journey in

Biochemistry

:

After completing my Ph.D., the job search process proved to be a challenging journey. Throughout my final year of doctoral studies, I proactively engaged in networking efforts, attended university career fairs, and utilized online platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed to explore relevant job opportunities. However, the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 significantly impacted the job market. Many companies were either closed or had to cancel job openings, creating a tough environment for job seekers, especially recent Ph.D. graduates. Aware of the importance of gaining experience, I also actively sought postdoctoral positions in basic sciences but encountered difficulties due to the pandemic's disruptions. Despite persistent efforts, it took nearly three months around my Ph.D. thesis defense before I secured my first job. During this period, the stress was heightened by visa constraints, emphasizing the urgency to secure employment. I ultimately obtained my first job through LinkedIn jobs, although I received a response two months after my application. During my job hunt, I underwent numerous interviews for postdoctoral positions, with limited opportunities for industrial roles due to workplace restrictions amid the challenging phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. For postdoctoral positions, the interview process followed a linear structure, starting with an introductory chat with the Principal Investigator (PI) or academic group advisor. Subsequently, I presented to the entire academic group, followed by individual discussions with group members. In contrast, the interview process for industrial positions exhibited variability based on the specific roles applied for. In the case of my successful job application, the process involved an initial discussion with Human Resources (HR) personnel, followed by presenting my academic background and Ph.D. work to the team I would potentially be working with. The final stage consisted of another conversation with HR personnel to finalize details, following a positive response from the team. Navigating through this job search process proved to be demanding. However, this experience taught me the importance of resilience and keeping an open mind while exploring various avenues in the job search process. It underscores the reality that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to finding the right job, emphasizing the need for a positive attitude and perseverance throughout the process. By the time I was looking for a job change, I was well-equipped with the know-how to transition to my current job.

What would you tell your younger you regarding building your current career?

If I could offer advice to my younger self about building my current career, I would emphasize the significance of embracing opportunities outside my comfort zone. I would encourage myself to be fearless in pursuing new challenges and acquiring diverse skills, as each experience contributes to professional growth. Networking would also be a focal point, emphasizing the importance of cultivating meaningful connections within and outside my field. Building a strong network opens doors to mentorship, collaboration, and valuable insights. Additionally, I would stress the importance of resilience in the face of setbacks and failures, viewing them as opportunities to learn and adapt. Lastly, maintaining a balance between ambition and patience would be crucial—setting ambitious goals while understanding that career trajectories often involve incremental progress and unexpected turns. Overall, I would reassure my younger self that the journey is as valuable as the destination, and each step contributes to the person and professional I become.

Final thoughts & tips

In conclusion, here are key thoughts and tips to consider as you navigate your career path. Embrace challenges beyond your comfort zone for personal and professional growth, and actively build a robust network with peers and mentors to foster valuable connections. Resilience in the face of setbacks is crucial, as failures can serve as invaluable learning experiences propelling you forward. Aim for a balance between ambition and patience, recognizing that career journeys often involve incremental progress. Remember that the journey itself holds value, and each step contributes to your overall development. Importantly, acknowledge that there is no singular method for finding jobs. Keep these principles in mind and remain open to the diverse lessons and opportunities that come your way.

Rohan Kumbhare

Rohan Kumbhare

Biochemistry
Build Fellow
Open Avenues Foundation
Open Avenues Foundation

Rohan Kumbhare is a Biochemistry Fellow at Open Avenues Foundation, where he works with students leading projects in Biochemistry and Chemistry.

Rohan Kumbhare is a Scientist II at Prime Medicine where he works on mRNA and oligonucleotide chemistry.

Rohan Kumbhare has 3 years of experience in small molecule chemistry, peptide nucleic acids and oligonucleotide chemistry. He has a prior experience in Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology with a focus on small molecule chemistry, peptide nucleic acids and oligonucleotide chemistry.

He holds a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry.

A fun fact about Rohan: My birthday is on 10/10, my dad’s birthday is on 10/11 and my mom’s birthday is on 11/12.

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