Went directly from her Bachelor’s degree to a PhD at Harvard
Ekaterina Maslova was accepted to do a Doctoral degree at Harvard School of Public Health straight after gaining her Bachelor’s degree. Today, she is making a career in industry, at AstraZeneca in Cambridge, UK.
Ekaterina Maslova doesn’t think the university world appreciates its young researchers enough: at least, she herself couldn’t see the way forward after finishing her postdoc at Statens Serum Institut. ‘It’s a long way to a good job. There are lots of rungs on the ladder, and it’s a hard climb at best’, is how she explains her move to her present career job in the life science industry in July 2020.
"She sees no conflict between jobs in the industry and in academia - she works closely with colleagues at the universities – and she does not see the situation today as being like the old idea where, once someone went into the industry, there was no way back. ‘I think that mentality is rapidly on its way out’’
She returned to a previous research field – respiratory disease and asthma – and was appointed Associate Director of Epidemiology at AstraZeneca in Cambridge. Specifically, she works on upcoming drugs (Phase 3 and up) and on extending the indication for an older asthma product.
The post of Associate Director, Epidemiology, is a vital scientifically driven position within the Global Medical Evidence Generation team, accountable for driving scientific and operational aspects of real-world evidence (RWE) studies for AZ products across Respiratory and Immunology (R&I). These studies include observational and interventional studies on burden of disease, unmet need, and comparative effectiveness, utilising real world data. Other responsibilities include vendor management, developing and maintaining relationships with international experts and collaborative groups, and strategic guidance on evidence development to the Medical Evidence and Medical Affairs teams.
No conflict between jobs in industry and academia
She sees no conflict between jobs in the industry and in academia - she works closely with colleagues at the universities – and she does not see the situation today as being like the old idea where, once someone went into the industry, there was no way back. ‘I think that mentality is rapidly on its way out’, she says.
For example, she sees great potential in cross-learning – with close collaboration between industry and academia – and in her job she is glad in being able to use many of the skills she has brought with her, not only from her previous workplaces in government and academia, but also from the DDA. ‘What we were taught about strategy, communication and management comes in very handy for me now, not least because, in my current job, I very much have to take my own decisions’, she says.
But there are big differences between working in industry and working at a university. ‘You have more responsibility in industry, and people listen when you propose new areas of activity. They think the suggestions are interesting in academia, too, but realising ideas is often limited by lack of funding’.
She is very enthusiastic about the industry’s use of data. There is a strong focus on the quality of data management; there are clear procedures and transparency. With the growing use of digital solutions, there is also a lot of innovation around how we use data to generate insights in the digital age.
And then there is another big difference: in industry, much more attention is paid to employees’ work-life balance. ‘For example, I personally have had extra staff brought in during a busy period, and that really is a big advantage’, says the researcher, who has to balance her work with life in a family with a young daughter.
If the DDA gets a grant enabling it to implement a version 3, part of the plan is to set up a collaboration so that young researchers get the opportunity to work for 6 months in the industry while still studying for their PhD. ‘Super idea’, she says. ‘It is smart to let us meet the industry early’.
Birth cohort brought her to Denmark
Ekaterina is Swedish, from Växjö in southern Sweden, but she went to the USA while still very young and undertook her Bachelor’s degree there. She is in the unusual position of not having a Master’s degree: she was accepted to Harvard School of Public Health as a PhD student straight after her Bachelor’s degree. She studied dietary intake and lifestyle factors during pregnancy, and in connection with that she became aware of the fantastic possibilities of the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC). She went on from there with support from, among others, Professor Sjurdur Frodi Olsen, a consultant at Statens Serum Institut, and Professor Allan Vaag, Head of Type 2 Diabetes Biology Research, PI and Consultant at the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen.
In 2014, with their support, she received a grant from the DDA. Since then she has researched widely and not exclusively in relation to diabetes. The headlines she subsequently helped to create include:
‘Low protein intake during pregnancy is related to lower insulin resistance among GDM exposed children’
‘Maternal protein intake in pregnancy associated with higher offspring blood pressure 20 years later’.
And now it is people living with asthma, people with breathing difficulties – including patients with COVID-19 and its late complications – who are benefiting from Ekaterina’s abilities.
Associate Director of Epidemiology, AstraZeneca, Cambridge, UK
See Ekaterina Maslovas CV and contact information on her LinkedIn profile
See Ekaterinas job description here