Return Prof T's Science Career and Graduate School tidbits...
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This list is not even close to comprehensive!
note: some of these careers don't require postdoc training or even graduate school
A majority of scientists go on to jobs as:
MDs and other medical professions
Staff at NIH/NSF/ other government institute or corporation
Science writing for non-scientists
Other journal or foundation role
Fisheries/ wildlife management or other field position
Patent or other law fields
Consulting (statistics or expertise in a field (genetics etc…))
Entrepreneur or small business/startup (maybe something you developed in grad or postdoc) Check out Mekentosj
Analysis skills used in alternative fields
Grant writer/support --positions at most Universities focus on aiding faculty write winning grants (when a school gets 60% of the amount of your grant; it's very important that they help you write and obtain grants—grantsmanship is a skill)
Professor, research associate, lecturer, instructor, administrator etc. in
academia Many more, and this list is in no particular order...
Research or Teaching Professor in Academia
Large R1 Universities and Medical Schools
Intramural NIH laboratories
Small Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs)
Primary or Secondary Schools—requires additional training
Research Scientist in Industry
Grad school pays you (~$24,000/year plus benefits)
Often 1st year paid as a teaching assistant (TA) and subsequent years may be RA (funded by PIs grant or pre-doc grant)
major commitment, may want to take a year or two and figure it out (be a postbac, do a tech job or do something very different—experience the world!) Make sure a PhD is what you really want (see career options below), what about a Masters (you can always find a Masters program and switch to a PhD if you are enjoying it).
Harvard and other big name programs may have 300+ applicants for <30 spots
Conversely, state universities may accept all that apply (assuming they are qualified) and often have excellent grad programs (and certainly have great faculty)
Taking the GREs
Take a GRE course, you'll learn to take this type of test and improve your score
It's not the only thing that gets you in (undergrad research experiences, publications, and other life-rounding experiences are prized)
How to choose a school/program/lab
What kinds of articles have you read that excite you? (this may provide a good indication of what type of program you should pursue)
Are there particular research areas (maybe from your courses or invited seminar speakers) that you are interested in?
Do you want a broad initial training (rotating in the first year) or to start directly in a lab?
Some programs (e.g., some organismal biology programs and others) require you to find a lab in order to "get into" graduate school—this is very different than molecular biology programs, for example).
Prof Goutte's Grad School PDF
Grad programs at Hospitals
may have more clinical research opportunities
may have fewer teaching requirements
may not have any undergraduate students (for teaching, mentoring, etc..)
may have a much more specialized faculties (fewer opportunities for learning broadly)
may be much more prestigious (more opportunities for publishing in big name journals)
Grad programs at Universities/Colleges
undergrad teaching opportunities (lab TA or lecturer)
undergrad mentoring in lab
more broad research within entire department
diversity of student projects, you learn from your fellow students a lot more in a broad biology dept vs specialized program
Grad programs at Private Institutes
may be much more specialized
may have a lot more money with better equipment and facilities within and among labs
provides different opportunities
Cold Spring Harbor
Marine Biological Laboratory
The Scripps Institute
Janelia Farm Research Campus
Max Planck Florida Institute
Grad Programs Overseas…
Max Planck Institutes
Ludwig Maximilian University
many many others...
Ask for help from other PIs, other students, postdocs, companies, friends and family
Attend many and diverse talks (want to become well-rounded and speak the language of science)
Immerse yourself in your project, this is your life!
think like a scientist
write and review grants
design experiments (that test hypotheses)
analyze data and make conclusions
read papers quickly and efficiently
organize data; papers; and life!
attend meetings and navigate them efficiently
present your research (talks, posters, abstracts, anyone that will listen)
communicate effectively with other scientists (especially those that have no idea about the kind of research you do)
your chance to prove yourself as a scientist
it’s similar to a residency for MDs
spend your PIs money but you must try to get your own funding (shows you can compete for grant money)
publish, publish, publish (your CV is your ticket to a career)
depending where you are headed, actively seek out all needed skills (grant writing, public speaking, teaching, etc..)
build up relationships with peers and colleagues from all over—you'll need them in the future
Try to join a lab with a successful publication record!