Xin Yan (PhD ’17, Chemistry)

What is your current profession/job? What did you study at Yale? When did you graduate?

I currently work as a research scientist in drug discovery at Merck Research Laboratories. I studied theoretical and computational chemistry at Yale, and graduated in August, 2017.

What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/ or rewarding?

I enjoy the opportunity to work in the frontier of pharmaceutical research and being able to directly contribute to the development of new therapeutics for human diseases. I also find it a great privilege to work in a team of extremely talented and passionate scientists in my current role. The biggest challenge I encountered so far during the transition from academic to industrial research is the pace of research. Academic research has more flexibility and freedom in terms of time-management, while in the industry projects are moving very fast and I have to try my best to make responsible decisions in a timely manner.

How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?

My graduate studies at Yale have trained me to be an independent researcher and critical thinker, qualities which are very much valued in research and development in industry as well. My PhD journey also deepened my interests in using my scientific training to solve highly interdisciplinary problems in medicinal chemistry, which made me become resolute in pursuing a research career.

What are the main skills that you acquired as a PhD student which help make you successful in your current career?

There are too many skills and experiences that I harvested during the PhD years that I am grateful for. The most relevant ones to my day-to-day work now are 1) the ability to generalize knowledge from literature and observations from experiments to form deductions and conclusions that guide the decision making process. 2) the ability to interpret scientific languages to effectively communicate and presenting ideas.

Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school (either through part-time work, volunteering, networking, or other forms of training)?

My experience as a member on the executive board of Woman in Science at Yale (WISAY), graduate fellow in Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunities (now OGSDD), and media coordinator for Student and Alumni at Yale (STAY) greatly improved my communication and leadership skills. I have also attended many career-related networking and panel discussion events organized within Yale which significantly influenced my career decisions. Therefore, I highly encourage current students to take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities offered by Yale to improve professional and social skills.

What is the biggest challenge that you face in transitioning to different working places / cultures? What do you suggest current students do to prepare for those challenges?

I think the need to make a quick and smooth adjustment to new working style/cultures is one of my biggest challenges for the current transition as well as for future ones. It requires me to step out of my comfort zone and learn from others’ feedback. I think graduate school is a great place to meet people with diverse backgrounds and get exposure to a wide range of different research and professional experiences. I encourage current students to spend some time outside the lab to explore broader social groups and events that Yale has to offer.