Archives for posts with tag: career

As a trainee on the NIH’s Chemistry Biology Interface Training Grant, I recently had the opportunity to attend the 1st Annual Career Development conference, which was held in Urbana-Champaigne, Illinois, and featured representation from all the Midwestern CBI programs. Given the changing scientific environment, (training) programs in general need to focus more on the post-graduation outcomes of their students. To this end, conference organizers arranged for five panels focusing on  entrepreneurial, industrial, academic, post-doctoral, and non-traditional careers. Additionally, there were two keynote speakers, Laura Kiessling and Peter Senter, and two poster sessions. 

Probably the most important lesson I learned from the conference was not networking, but rather, that it’s never too early to start planning your career. For most post-docs and many jobs you need to start thinking as early as two years ahead, but more like a year and a half for most positions and places. And that’s where networking comes in. If you’re a graduate student–get yourself to conferences! Start meeting people and making connections. And if you’re an advisor of graduate students–get them to conferences! It’s hard for many of us to ask to go to conferences, but it’s the second-best thing you can do to help your students succeed (making sure they finish their Ph.D. being the first). 

But more on this conference: to put it bluntly, the conference was fantastic. I would consider myself to be relatively well-informed about the post-doc job search process. That being said there were a lot of things that I had no idea about, like industrial post-docs. However, for me the most informative and striking career panel was the non-traditional careers panel. I’ve always planned on a post-doc, but have been a bit agnostic about my career prospects after that. Or rather, not so much agnostic as closeted. I love science; it’s been a huge part of my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. I read journals for fun and popular science magazines for light reading. But what I’m most passionate about is sharing that love–communicating science to non-scientists, advocating for more money for research, thinking about the best structure for our education and research systems, and encouraging as much diversity in science as possible. So I’m coming out of the closet: I want a non-traditional science career. Or at least to have these aspects be a large part of my professional life in the future. 

In part, this has spurred my participation in blogging. I spend a lot of time thinking about these issues, but I need more practice actually writing them. Almost all of the writing I do these days is personal or scientific, and finding the sweet spot in between personal communication and scientific communication is a skill that most scientists (including myself) need to develop. I’m planning on using this medium to keep up to date with current events in these fields, do some background reading, and writing about it. Hopefully, I can learn a lot about myself in the process and make some good connections that will aid me in the future. 


Working on some more elaborated thoughts on the conference, but for now a few quick thoughts/highlights:

  • Anything Laura Kiessling has ever said. Seriously. She’s hilarious. And while she didn’t explicitly talk about it, she has an amazing story of being a high-powered woman in science at a time when there weren’t many. She went into an interview and actually said that she wanted a group of about 20 people and didn’t listen when people were incredulous.
  • Getting to be creative with my TED talk. A note on the student TED talks…they’re a fantastic idea. We put such a premium on being the MOST accurate, MOST precise, and MOST data-filled, but in an interdisciplinary conference this gets you almost nowhere. While we scientists should get familiar with other fields, we also need to take on the challenge of making our ideas more communicable. Forcing scientists, especially students, to think outside the box and focus on how to communicate their ideas is important and this idea of a TED talk is a way of doing that.
  • All the meals. And not just for the food, which was significantly above average, but also for the interesting conversations at the table. 
  • Non-traditional careers panel. Fantastic.
  • Miles Fabian. What a character.
  • Jeff Peng. If you are at Notre Dame, you should make an effort to get to know this guy. Totally irreverent for a professor (I have a soft spot for irreverent professors), which is refreshing, and with an interesting range of experience.
  • Peter Senter and pharmaco-economic distress.
  • Industrial post-docs are a thing. Yup. And you’re pre-cleared for publication.