Achieving Success in a Career as a Separation Scientist: An Overview of the Chinese American Chromatography Association (CACA) Career Development Workshop at Pittcon

Published on: 
LCGC North America, July/August 2023, Volume 41, Issue 7
Pages: 294–295

Since 2008, the Chinese American Chromatography Association (CACA) has hosted career development workshops at Pittcon, featuring over 65 well-established pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and contract research organizations, and academia professionals. This year’s workshop featured five speakers, all of whom shared valuable insights and advice for individuals at different stages of their careers, including graduate students, early-career professionals, high-level managers, and aspiring entrepreneurs.

For young separation scientists, one of the significant challenges in career development is finding the ideal job to pursue their dreams. This task can be particularly daunting for foreign-born scientists because of additional factors, such as their ethnic backgrounds and cultural norms. Recognizing these challenges, the Chinese American Chromatography Association (CACA) has been organizing career development workshops at Pittcon since 2008 to address these issues. This year’s workshop featured a lineup of speakers with extensive scientific and managerial experiences from academia and industry. They shared real-life examples of career development for individuals at various stages, including new graduates, corporate research scientists, and aspiring entrepreneurs. Several common elements emerged throughout the workshop, including the importance of passion, perseverance, discipline, and strategic planning in achieving success.

Yong Guo, the Chair of Pharmaceutical Science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a 15-year pharmaceutical veteran and 11-year academic professional, delivered invaluable advice for graduate students in his presentation titled, “Where do I go, industry or academia?” Guo emphasized that both career paths have their pros and cons, and that personal interest and passion play a crucial role in the decision-making process. Academic careers offer greater autonomy in defining one’s work and managing time, despite the challenges associated with securing research funding. On the other hand, industry jobs are more application-oriented and fast-paced. They offer various pathways for career advancement, including management and technical roles. Guo highlighted that industry jobs can be demanding but well-compensated, whereas academic careers provide long-term stability and a better work–life balance.

Zhuo Chen, a rising star in the bioanalysis community, shared his experiences as an earlier-stage professional. Starting his career at GlaxoSmithKline after completing his PhD in 2016, Chen has achieved significant success, receiving high internal recognition, top scientific awards, and the Bioanalysis Rising Star award in 2021. He emphasized the importance of building a solid foundation by quickly identifying one’s strengths, expanding core competencies, developing technical skills, finding mentors, building professional networks, gaining hands-on experience in different fields, and proactively seeking opportunities for visibility. Chen also highlighted the importance of adopting a mindset focused on continuous learning and breaking career barriers for young professionals.

Naidong Weng, the Senior Director and Global Head of LC–MS Bioanalysis and Biomarkers at GSK, is an example of a well-developed professional. Weng emphasized that career development should be viewed as a lifelong journey, like marathon running, rather than a shortcut to quick success. He encouraged individuals to set long-term career goals aligned with their passions, ensuring a fulfilling and enjoyable professional journey. Weng also provided valuable advice for overcoming setbacks in one’s career, such as acknowledging feelings, broadening the view of success, strengthening skills, building resilience, avoiding burnout, and taking proactive steps to manage one’s career.

Chengjie Ji, the founder of NovaBioAssays LLC in Boston, shared his entrepreneurial challenges and experiences. He stressed that professionals must approach their work with passion, persistence, self-awareness, and self-motivation to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Ji emphasized that success in business cannot be achieved overnight, and setbacks are inevitable. He highlighted the importance of resilience and determination in overcoming obstacles and staying focused during difficult times.


Lastly, Allan Xu, the founder and laboratory director of Keystone Bioanalytical, Inc., shared his insights on setting goals early, committing to achieving them, and developing a solid technical foundation. Xu also addressed the challenge of employee retention, providing strategies such as sharing benefits and providing additional support such as housing and vacation expenses.

We sincerely appreciate all the speakers for generously sharing their experiences and summarizing the key advice during the workshop. Their contributions have undoubtedly inspired and provided valuable guidance to the participants, fostering their career development in the field of separation science.