20 years in America – from brain drain to scientific immigrant

If my memory serves me well it is 20 years this week since I came to America as a Postdoc at Eli Lilly in 1996. The pharma industry was not looking great in the UK and I figured getting some experience in another country was worth a shot. I had not planned to be here longer than a couple of years to do some in vitro work on CYP2B6, but then I ran across computational chemistry approaches and that lead to a career direction change.

The 20 years have continued in that vein with job changes every few years initially, slight direction changes until finding something of niche in the modeling, software, drug discovery world. Its hard to predict what will be next but I have gained some valuable life experiences along the way in no particular order.

  1. Collaborate broadly, inside field, outside field
  2. If its not working move on, don’t ever look back
  3. Write, talk and get your ideas out there
  4. Be positive, connect others
  5. If its interesting do it, if its not kindly decline
  6. Bring along others and encourage them
  7. Don’t be afraid to get out of your field of expertise frequently
  8. Embrace technology and look for new applications
  9. If anyone asks for help that may lead to the next career move
  10. Connect the dots, because you might be the only one doing it

The pharma industry has changed in these 20 years and in a way many of my projects and jobs have illustrated this, I have been fortunate to meet and work with people who have been responsible for some of these efforts.  In recent years the shift to work on rare diseases and be inside organizations that are patient or parent lead, to me represents the next logical step.

It just remains for me to thank my colleagues at Eli Lilly in 1996 that made America so welcoming (Dr Steven Wrighton and Jim Wikel who were brilliant mentors) and all my collaborators and clients since then.

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