Academia–Industry Transitions: Q & A with Ye Zhao

Many geochemists have transitioned from academia to industry, or vice-versa, during their careers, and sometimes back again or more than once. The EAG Communications Committee recently interviewed geochemists who made the move, to find out how they made the transition and to ask their advice for others in the community who may be considering a similar change.


Here, we hear from Ye Zhao, a Senior Product Specialist and Business Development Manager at Nu Instruments, Ametek Inc. Visit the EAG blog to read more interviews in the series!

Ye Zhao – Senior Product Specialist & Business Development Manager, Nu Instruments, Ametek Inc.

What is your job?

I work for Nu Instruments, AMETEK Inc., a multinational corporation manufacturing high precision analytical instrumentation, serving the Earth, Environmental, Nuclear and Life Sciences sectors. As a Senior Product Specialist & Asia Pacific Business Development Manager, I’m responsible for the product management, new business development and collaborations with academia.


How did you get your job?

While doing my first post-doc, I was considering a career change to the instrumentation industry. After uploading my CV to recruitment websites, an opportunity arose as I was approached by a headhunter for an Application Scientist position at Nu Instruments. I went to North Wales for an interview and got the job.  And here I am, still working for Nu 9 years later.


Did you initially plan on this career at the onset of your PhD?

It wasn’t something I had planned for at the beginning. I started my PhD in hope of becoming an academic. But as much as I enjoyed my own research topic and the guidance from my then supervisor, with time going by I gradually woke up to the idea that I preferred width over depth in knowledge, which makes a career outside of academia, at the interface between science and business, something involving multi-disciplines, more appealing.

What advice do you have for PhD students who are thinking of leaving academia?

Do your research, make a list of bullet points of the pros and cons of leaving academia, to help determine what’s best for you. Do you know the outside world well enough to be sure this is the right step? Don’t leave academia just because it asks for commitments – academia or industry, hard work will always be a key to success. You may no longer be under pressure of publishing in industry, but you will need to learn to adapt to a fast-pace work environment, be target-driven, be able to work with different people, and deliver strong results. It’s a change of life style. Make sure you know what you are about to dive into.


And if you still believe this is the right path for you, then create a LinkedIn account and connect to alumni in your dream industry, try and gather as much background information as you can. Go to career services at the University, they can be quite helpful. Go to conferences in your field and talk to the exhibitors, most of them will be happy to give advice. It’s a big step, so be prepared. Above all, finish your PhD, if possible. You made a commitment, complete it before moving on – it will serve you well in the long run.

Interview conducted by the EAG Communications Committee