What happened to Life Sciences?


It’s been a while since the term life sciences last appeared in the mainstream media. Most recently, it appeared somewhat in the form of “green chemistry” in this CNA report talking about GlaxoSmithKline opening a facility in Singapore and sponsoring some scholarships.

The scholarships are for studies in green chemistry and public health policy.

Green chemistry? Shouldn’t it be the broader “life sciences”?

Remember the billions of tax dollars invested in this “forefront” of a “new wave of scientific and technological advances”? And remember the media talking ad nauseam every other day about this new and exciting industry, glorifying the wonders that bio-life-scientists would bring to mankind?

I believe thousands of impressionable bright students who would otherwise become great doctors and lawyers have decided then, impressed by those media reports and maybe Philip Yeo’s charm, to embark on this path to life sciences glory … hopefully not to get a test tube cleaning job at the end.

We haven’t since heard much about life sciences in the mainstream media. Nothing of the glorifying sorts, but only some minor news about certain nobel-quality scientists returning to work for us or some green chemistry scholarship.

But from non-mainstream media (i.e. the Internet), I read something of interest. The following is an extract from a reader’s blog:

“Fancy reading (the Dean saying) about how the department of life sciences ‘will be more comfortable with a hundred less (students reading life sciences)’… According to multiple sources, a graduate with an engineering degree is well suited for a career both in the realm of engineering research and in the financial sector. The same set of statistics reveals that a fresh engineering graduate is more likely to be on a higher payroll than a fresh science graduate.”

What happened to life sciences? See discussions and post your comments too.


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  2. Well, the media talking ad nauseam back then did not promise big bucks, gleaming sports cars or luxury condos. If that particular fellow did not select his or her course of study base on their genuine interest, they have only themselves to blame. ‘Cleaning test tubes’ isn’t that bad a thing so long it aligns with your interest, ya?
    By the way, I personally feel that an undergraduate degree no longer works like a licensure or somewhat in today’s context; it can only be seen as training for one’s fundamental intellectuality i.e. to read, write, speak and argue (rhetorically).
    Less than 10% of most undergraduates (prob the ‘good’ honours grads’) make it through life very comfortably (in terms of remuneration) without a postgraduate education…. What’s everyone else’s take?

  3. What Ah Keong said is very true for the life science industry. Specifically referring to hard core research work, you will need a minimum PhD degree to be allowed to exercise your own idea. Any degree less than that, you will have to follow other people’s idea.

    Going back to the topic why life science is so quiet now… Let’s just say that the hype has quiet down because
    1. the government has achieved the aim of attracting young talents to the field and
    2. many foreign pharmas have started to set up base here.

    So the challenge now is to see if the life science hype really can be a pillar of economy. By nature of the industry itself, that will take many years to materialize and to bear fruit. We will have to wait and see.

    Many local venture capitalists are not use to the idea of “large capital, very long term investment” required in the pharmaceutical industries. Patience is a virtue in this game.

  4. It had been 4 years after my graduation from local uni.

    I am doing biomedical sales now and still remain in the LS industry.But many my friend leave the industry total and become Financial Advisor, Real Estate Agent, teachers and etc.

    Only small % with strong interest proceed further for PHD. But it is not easy, and have to study many years to have that title.

    Those remain in LS without strong interest feel struggle without direction remain inside the industry. It is a hard time when your friend who are in finance and engineer become manager.

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  6. Life Sciences is always a big gamble but with very big payoffs. Despite the media hype there are only a handful of players which do strike it big. Many of the smaller companies can only hope to be bought out before their cashflow disappears.

    Many people leave LS as well due to the so-so pay, very long working hours, and often lack of job satisfaction.

  7. Parents should harness their children’s interest when they are still young so they will know what they want for their career. Let them choose something they like & just be happy. As a parent, do not have those traditional thinkings that your children must take care of you when you are old or give you allowance when you retire. Work hard & save more for your own retirement.

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