Today’s post is written by guest blogger, Elizabeth Smith, PhD, Field Client Support Specialist at Promega
As a person of color (POC), I would like to share my story to raise awareness on how important diversity programs are in my community and how they helped to shape my career. My hope is that it will inspire the younger generation and provide insight into a different perspective. Growing up, I always felt like there was something great out there for me to achieve. As a young child, never did I imagine that I would have what it takes to obtain a PhD. This was not on my radar as a young student, and not something that I thought would ever be in my future. I did not see people that looked like me reflected in this space, so I never considered it early on.
I knew that I wanted to go to college with a science focus, but I did not really explore what life would look like or should look like after that. What I was sure of was being involved in science in some way. Whenever, someone asked my younger self, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer would always be, “A Scientist!” All throughout elementary and high school, I focused on science related courses and did very well. This enabled me to apply for and receive a full undergraduate scholarship.
At this level of my education, I felt like I had to prove to everyone, and even myself, that I belonged here. That I was deserving of this scholarship and placement at the university. That I was good enough to receive a bachelors.
A recent PNAS article tracked the careers of
scientists in three different fields based on research paper authorship. They
found that, over a 50-year span, there was a dramatic reduction in how long
scientists remained in each field, which they termed “survivability.” More than
half of the scientists that started out in the 1960s published in their field
for an average of 35 years, while about half of scientists starting in the
2010s published in their field for an average of 5 years1. Tracked academic
researchers were classified into three categories: transients (authors who had
only one publication during their career), dropouts (authors who stopped
publishing at various career levels), and full-career scientists (authors who continue
to publish in the field). Overall, the data showed that there are an increasing
number of transients that contribute to scientific papers. Thus, the authors of
the PNAS article concluded that the demographics
in those academic fields are shifting toward scientists who leave the field
quickly. The observed increase in the number of scientists who are temporarily
in academia makes sense, given the number of PhDs relative to the limited
number of faculty positions and permanent staff scientist roles. However, the
terms “survivability,” “transients,” and “dropouts” give the impression that
leaving academia means that these scientists have ended their career or failed.
If you’re a student in a research lab, discussing career options with your PI can be a tricky topic to navigate. Whether real or perceived, many students feel they cannot bring up the subject of a career in industry with their PI because they will lose credibility as a serious researcher. In labs where thinking about careers outside of academia is taboo, students can’t get all the information they need to decide what career path is right for them.
This dilemma became very clear a few weeks ago when I served as a panelist for a career workshop about jobs in industry at the iGEM 2018 Giant Jamboree. The workshop participants were extremely engaged, and we fielded questions well after the official end time. Since I know there are other students who could benefit from information about science-related careers in industry, I’ve compiled some of the questions and answers from the workshop. Continue reading “Building a Career in Science: Academia or Industry?”
Today’s blog is contributed by guest blogger Caitlin Cavanaugh, Client Support Consultant with Promega North America.
Recently, I began a new role as a client support consultant at Promega. In this role, I’m responsible for all technical and sales support for the Promega portfolio in the New Jersey and Philidelphia area.
Before coming to Promega, I worked in a lab at a start-up company right out of college, then made my way into sales, where I worked for a leading life-science instrumentation company for thirteen years.
This post could easily start out as an ode to ’90s alternative music (of which I’m a huge fan). That new and totally different sound (a la Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Nirvana, etc.) in the 1990s eventually made its way into the mainstream as it gained popularity. (I have to say that I got a shock when I recently heard some Pearl Jam on “classic rock” radio stations. But I digress…)
Why isn’t the same true for science career paths? Science careers outside of academia are still referred to as “alternative.” In a previous post, I highlighted statistics from a 2012 NIH report that found that only 20% of recent life sciences Ph.D.’s go on to become faculty members1. That means that 80% of recent life sciences Ph.D.’s took the “alternative” path. It seems like the academic path could now be viewed as the alternative to the mainstream, but somehow there’s an underlying stigma associated with straying from a path which few can travel down successfully.
For this posting, I had promised to include some commentary on ACTION.
What can someone pursuing a doctorate in the biosciences DO during that time to widen the possibilities of employment in the future? In general, the process of obtaining the doctorate has been criticized for taking too long and not doing enough to prepare students for what they will do when they graduate. Considering these criticisms, it seems wrong to create additional check-boxes on the student to-do list leading up to graduation. Therefore, these things are not in addition to what is already expected, but are instead the same things that are already happening re-focused. Continue reading “Broaden Your Horizons While Pursuing Your Doctorate—You Will Be Glad You Did”
Though my work is primarily in the area of biotechnology, my doctoral degree is in education. Over my next few posts, I thought that I would share some of the findings that came out of research I conducted for my dissertation. It’s been over two years since graduation and much of this is still not published, though on my honor it’s in the works…I focused my study on understanding knowledge transfer at the doctoral level. I was able to complete this work due to the generosity of many doctoral students, recent graduates and mentors across the country. This research was not funded in any way, but I believe it is of great importance given the socio-political context we are all functioning in as learners and professionals. Also, many studies that are similar to the one I did are funded, with a great deal of money I might add. So, without further ado, let me start by introducing the concept of knowledge transfer and why developing knowledge transfer skills are important.
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