Today was a busy day: began with an 8am deans’ breakfast and wrapped up with a workshop on negotiating job offers. I am pleased that they went really well and thought I would share a little of what was addressed at both, starting with the morning meeting and then discussing the workshop in a later entry. To provide some background on the meeting, it was a convening of the graduate student deans from local institutions that sponsor Science Alliance memberships for their students and postdocs. We like to hold these meetings to get feedback from the schools and ensure that our goals are in alignment. I presented to the group the key areas where I think Science Alliance best serves the career development of science PhDs. The following are my top five objectives for future programming (this list is tweaked a bit based on feedback from the meeting and not necessarily in any order):
- To disseminate information about nonacademic career options. Knowledge about career options and career guidance are certainly lacking in most PhD training programs and I have already presented why it is so crucial. Therefore it should be no surprise that filling in this gap is a priority for me and why I am so enthusiastic about this blog and my pet project, the soon-to-be launched video podcast series on PhD career paths.
- To provide cross-institutional networking. Being geographically located to the same city is not enough to break down the invisible barriers between institutions; there need to be formal opportunities for students, postdocs, and faculty members across the different campuses to meet and interact. If you need evidence as to why networking is so vital to one's career, I have seen estimates that up to 70-80% of jobs have been obtained through networking. What is more, by increasing your pool of networks, a more diverse set of information and resources becomes available to you. In addition to the many workshops, seminars, and panels Science Alliance hosts every year at the New York Academy of Sciences, we have also held mixers for graduate students, postdocs and summer undergraduate researchers, and regularly hold meetings with the academic leadership and administration.
- To link scientists to groups outside academia. The Academy, of which Science Alliance is part, has a number of connections to business and industry that could be used to foster the career development of scientists interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. The upcoming Leveraging the Scientific Mindset for the Business World is a perfect illustration of this: I have liaised with the group InSITE to not only provide an introductory seminar on business but, more importantly, a unique opportunity for science PhDs to gain extensive experience through their entrepreneurship fellowship program, which is opening its doors to science PhDs and inviting applications for the fall admission cycle (the program has historically enrolled business and law students exclusively). There is plenty of room to expand in this arena and I have many more ideas I would like to explore.
- To address topical issues in graduate education and STEM careers. It is imperative to address problems like the under-representation of women and minorities in STEM careers or the extreme time-to-degree lags, and I would like to see Science Alliance play a role in driving these discussions. We are starting by cosponsoring an event in June on Innovating and Updating the Medical School Curriculum, and I hope to extend this to graduate school curriculum, as well.
- To perform outreach to our members both online and in person. Outreach is essential as I believe there is generally a lack of awareness of the resources that do exist and how to best utilize them and when. I am attempting to make these resources more visible through this blog as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I also plan to visit campuses to speak about basic career planning, networking, and preparing for the job market. Then, for the obvious reason that our members are not exclusively located in the NYC metro area, delivering content via the web is also important simply to ensure our non-local members have access to the programming (minus the networking opportunity); therefore, going forward most of our live events will also be available as webinars.
I was pleased that the deans (from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Columbia, CUNY, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York Medical College, NYU, Polytechnic Institute of NYU, Rockefeller, and SUNY- Stony Brook) agreed with these objectives. One even commented that the most important contribution Science Alliance can make is to meet objective #1, providing nonacademic career options. Indeed, these basic science departments recognize the great need but are not well-equipped to address it and therefore look to Science Alliance to continue to fill in this gap. Overall, I think this is a pretty good list that provides career mentoring in ways that capitalize on the strengths of Science Alliance as an entity that lies outside academe with the ability to convene people across institutions and fields.
What do you think about my list- do you agree? Is there anything you would add?