Matthew Nelson (MS, PhD, 1999) did his thesis work with Charlie Sing on developing novel statistical methods on identifying gene-gene interaction. He currently leads the Genetics group at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), strategizing in pharmacogenetics and using disease genetics for drug discovery.
Since he was very interested in using his PhD degree in Human Genetics and MS degree in Statistics for practical applications as a graduate student, Matthew ventured into industry jobs after graduation. His first job after graduation was working at a small start-up company in Ann Arbor. He then became the Director of Statistics at Sequenom, a medium-sized company before becoming a staff scientist at GSK. Matthew went through a series of promotions: manager, director, head of Statistical Genetics, and head of Genetics.
Matthew listed several differences between working at a university and at a company. In industry, employees need to understand the business model and their abilities. Employees also need to find where their scientific curiosity and the needs of the company overlap, so it is important for employees to be flexible and to work well in a team.
“You need to find the intersection between [your] curiosity and the needs of the organization. You also need to be flexible to work well with other people at the company.”
Matthew suggested that students and trainees interested in pursuing industry jobs should get first-hand experience working in industry. He also emphasized the importance of the department alumni database for those who are committed to helping the current students and trainees.