Start a Company, Create Your Own Job! – Advice on Managing the Academic Career

May 9, 2013

Given reports that fewer recently minted life-sciences Ph.D.’s are landing full-time academic jobs while more are spending an increasing number of years as postdocs, it may be time to consider some alternatives. One alternative is to create your own job. If you are a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow working on a project that has potential commercial value (i.e., it could result in a product that someone will buy), consider turning the project into your first job. How?

First, disclose your idea to your university’s technology-transfer office (Technology Licensing Office at MIT]. The personnel there can help you determine whether your idea has merit, and whether it can be protected by patents, trademarks, or copyright. If you are conducting your research at a university, the university probably has ownership rights; and if your idea is a good one, the university may file for intellectual-property protection on its own dime. Fortunately for you, it is obligated by U.S. law (under the Bayh-Dole Act, aka the Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act) to share the proceeds with inventors, who typically receive 25 to 35 percent. To read more about these strategies, take a look at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s page on creating your own job here. Photo by Brian Taylor for The Chronicle.

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