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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
    • Journal editor
    • Science writing for non-scientists
    • Science illustration
    • 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
    • Technology design
    • Analysis skills used in alternative fields
    • Military
    • Advertising
    • 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
    • Private Institutes
    • Small Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs)
    • Primary or Secondary Schools—requires additional training
  • Research Scientist in Industry
    • Pharmaceutical
    • Biotechnology
    • Medical Devices
    • Others…
  • 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)
  • It’s a 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
    • Examples:
      • Cold Spring Harbor
      • Marine Biological Laboratory
      • The Scripps Institute
      • Vollum Institute
      • Salk Institute
      • Janelia Farm Research Campus
      • Max Planck Florida Institute
      • others... 
  • Grad Programs Overseas
    • Examples:
      • Max Planck Institutes
      • Ludwig Maximilian University
      • Helmholz Muenchen
      • Inserm
      • Uppsala
      • Karolinska
      • UCL
      • Cambridge University
      • Sheffield University
      • many many others...
  • Seek mentorship!
  • 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!
  • Learn to:
    • think like a scientist
    • publish papers
    • review manuscripts
    • obtain funding
    • 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)
    • much more...

Postdoctoral Training

  • 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!