From Industry To Academia

Laura Pirro, PhD

E045 How Can the Agile Approach Work in Research? Between Academia and R&D in Agriculture

Dr. Laura Pirro is an Italian chemical engineer, who obtained her PhD at Laboratory for Chemical Technology of Ghent University at the end of 2020. Currently, Laura works as an R&D engineer at Yara Sluiskil, in the Netherlands, in the field of agricultural products.
In this episode, she will tell us more about several aspects which characterized her professional life choices so far and some lessons learned on the way.
Here are some highlights:

Not everybody is ready to start a PhD at the same time. After obtaining her master in 2014, Laura decided to work in the chemical industry for a couple of years, to get a taste of the ‘world outside of academia’, before deciding whether to commit to a post-graduate study. During this episode, we will discuss the pros and cons of such a decision.
Your PhD is not only about your own research. During her doctoral studies, Laura got engaged with numerous activities which went beyond her specific domain of study, including an initiative to bring the Agile philosophy for project management into academic research projects. We will ask her about how this initiative developed and what added value Agile can have for doctoral and post-doctoral researchers.
Finding two jobs in the year of the pandemics: mission (im)possible? As the end of her PhD was approaching, Laura had to search for her way back into the chemical industry…but a few pitfalls came across, including getting fired after only three weeks because of financial instability of the company that hired her. We will explore with her how to evaluate the options at the end of your PhD, and how to get back on your feet if the professional world punches you in the face.


E037 Becoming R&D Data Scientist as a PhD in Twitter Analytics: From Industry to Academia and Back

Dr. Neha Gupta holds a PhD in the Data Science (2014-2018) awarded by the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK. In her PhD research she applied data mining, geospatial analysis, and statistical Big Data techniques to understand sentiment behind the social media (Twitter) data. Her research work tries to uncover the behavioral traits of people as perceived through social media channels. Before pursuing her PhD program, she worked as an IT professional in variety of software development and test management roles building bespoke software for multinational companies (Bharti Telecom group, LG Soft, India, TEOCO and Avon Cosmetics) across India and the UK.
Coming from an academic family and inspired by her father, who was a Professor in an Indian University, she wanted to explore a possibility of pursing an academic career. Therefore, to follow her aspiration she took a career break to take up PhD studies in Big Data in the UK. She did couple of Data Science consultancy roles at HSBC UK and UCAS alongside her PhD since she was always passionate to explore the application aspect of research. In the process of doing her PhD she became an applied researcher that not only expanded her software development experience with interdisciplinary data science skills but also opened new dimension of possibilities that exists in academia. She was able to perceive the challenges as well as opportunities available in Universities with a mature outlook. During her PhD studies she found her passion in teaching due to which she obtained Teaching Qualification required for higher education sector in the UK and got awarded with Associate Fellow of Higher Education Academy. Soon after her PhD she worked as a Teaching Associate at Warwick Business School which she recognizes as a very rewarding experience. Therefore, she continues to explore similar teaching opportunities in higher education where she could teach and share her knowledge alongside her applied research work in corporate sector. Currently, she works as a R&D Data Scientist in AGCO Corporation, Stoneleigh, UK where she is applying her research experience and cutting-edge data science knowledge to evaluate business forecasting models to predict supply chain demand trends. In this webinar, Neha talk to us about both her transitions: from several years of work in IT industry to academia and back. Why did she choose to do a PhD and how she value that experience? What are the challenges she faced as a mature PhD student in academia and how she blended her industrial experience and networking skills with research knowledge to manage the expectations of PhD program? She shares with us how she realized that research intensive academic publication path was not for her and that she would rather be suitable for either a teaching-based role in academia or in an applied R & D focused role in corporate sector. She shares with us how her PhD journey has been transforming and self-realizing experience for her and how connecting and sharing ideas with people, networking has helped her to create positive experiences in her life and career journey.


E034 What Is Special about Academia? How to Help PhDs Do Better Science?

Dr. Jonathan Weitzman is a full-professor of Genetics at the Université de Paris and the founding director of the Center for Epigenetics and Cell Fate (UMR Epigénétique et Destin Cellulaire). He trained at the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford, UK. He worked at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA and was a faculty member at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Jonathan has a background in signal transduction pathways and expertise in gene regulatory networks and epigenetic contributions to disease. Jonathan has authored over 60 research articles and reviews and published two books for a lay audience.

Jonathan is also passionate about teaching and is heavily committed to training and mentoring young researchers; he directs the European Masters’ in Genetics (Magistère de Génétique) at the Université de Paris and the Ecole Universitaire de Recherche G.E.N.E. Jonathan has led many interdisciplinary initiatives including the Laboratoire d’Excellence “LABEX Who Am I?” a research consortium focusing on questions of identity, the Académie Vivante, an innovative Art-Science teaching initiative and the “Dance Your PhD” graduate project. He is the co-host of the podcast “The Lonely Pipette; helping scientists do better science” (

E017 How To Jump From Pharma Industry to Academia? How To Build International Research Projects?

Dr. Jeffrey C. Glennon’s story is very different from typical career stories in academia. After completing his PhD in neurophysiology at University College Dublin, for nearly 10 years, he was working as a pharmacologist in the pharmaceutical industry post-PhD at Solvay Pharmaceuticals. He developed a successful career in this area, but decided to continue his career in academia.

In 2010, he returned to academia in the Netherlands and later in Ireland. Today, he works as a Senior Conway Fellow and Assistant Professor at the University College Dublin. He is a neuroscientist linking experimental psychology to biological mechanisms with a track record in industry and academic settings. His academic interests are in rule making / rule breaking processes in cingulate cortex that govern rational versus emotional decision making. As a translational neuroscientist, he seeks to implement basic and preclinical efforts into clinical practice relevant to patients. On a more fundamental level as an experimental neuropharmacologist interested in disease mechanisms, he has been examining the role of insulin signalling and particularly a class of potassium channels regulating insulin release in relation to behavioral inflexibility.

His interest in cross-disciplinary teams has resulted in the leadership as lead-Principal Investigator of a 5.4 mln Eur Dutch public-private consortium (funded by TI-Pharma) encompassing Dutch universities, university hospitals, and pharmaceutical partners. Further, he has led a 4.5M euro EU Commission FP7 funded consortium (MATRICS) on conduct problems. In addition, he has been involved both as work package leader and partner in six Horizon 2020 / Marie Curie ITN funded / EU Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) II consortia focused on neurodevelopmental disorders, adult psychiatry and psychiatric conditions in neurological and somatic disorders (type I myotonic dystrophy and type II diabetes).

In summary, Jeffrey is an integrator. This pertains to people, research groups, complementary expertise, research ideas, and visions. This ability to integrate across people and topics to create platforms in which they can create new research together. Today, his wide contacts in both academia and industry allow him to build international networks across a range of expertise areas both in academia, in small-medium enterprises (SMEs), and major Pharma. This has led to novel translational treatment opportunities not only in Pharma but also in robotics. On a personal level, he has an innate curiosity over science and people, what motivates them, and how to develop them both as a person and as strong members of productive, effective multi-disciplinary teams.

In this webinar, Jeffrey told us about both his transitions: to the pharmaceutical industry and back. Why did he choose academia after all? What are the pros and cons of this choice? How does he stay positive no matter what? How to create your own opportunities?

E006 From Assistant Professorship to Deep Tech Startups. Peter Lewinski on PhDs in Financial Market

Dr. Peter Lewinski is a University of Oxford graduate with Postdoc/Assistant Professor in economics from the top business schools, with hundreds of citations and 8 years of experience in AI. He is a recipient of Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship for his PhD at the University of Amsterdam. After his PhD, he worked as ING Bank director of the Credit Risk Modeling department and London Mayfair Fintech associate. Currently, he works as a management team member in four Amsterdam deep tech startups, driving sales/business development (earlier: R&D).

In this webinar, Peter told us about his unusual journey from his Master’s studies at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, to where he is now – management teams of four deep tech startups at a time. Why did he quit his position as an Assistant Professor in a prestigious business school? Why did he choose to take a loan in a bank to do yet another Master’s program after quitting his Assistant Professorship position? Why did he choose to work under the radar and not promote himself on the media? What is the only thing that you cannot buy with money? In this webinar, he told us all this, and much more!

E003 From Managing Teams in Telecomm Industry to PhD. How Do Projects Differ Between IT & Academia?

Dr. Maciej Jedynak holds a PhD in Computational Neuroscience (Cum Laude), an MS diploma in Computational Physics (Cum Laude), and a Postgraduate diploma in IT systems design. Before his Master’s studies, he was also working as a Research Assistant at the University of Iowa.

Maciej was never faithful to one single domain; during his studies he coauthored a publication on complex networks, only to move to the field of particle physics, where he did his Masters and stayed for one more year of PhD studies, working for CERN and BNL experiments. Being faithful to unfaithfulness he quit and moved to industry, where he earned a long track record of IT projects. In particular, he has years of experience in telecommunication companies where he worked as an IT Specialist, responsible for IT project development, from requirements analysis to maintenance on production. Currently, Maciej works on human brain functional tractography at Grenoble Institute of Neuroscience as a postdoctoral researcher and a member of the Human Brain Project European collaboration.

In this episode, Maciej reveals why he decided to leave his well-paid and diverse job in the Telecommunications industry to embark on the academic journey. What are, in his mind, the similarities and differences between the academic and the industrial life? How to make sure that you will work for someone whom you enjoy and respect? How to actively (rather than passively) look for jobs?