More postdocs than ever

and still not paid very well. The annual nationwide Survey of Earned Doctorates from a group of US government agencies shows that an increasing majority of Ph.D. recipients in the sciences go on to postdoctoral positions, as do the majority of Brandeis Ph.D. recipients in the life sciences, the only disciplines for which I  have statistics handy. The average salaries for postdocs are, as you might expect, less than luxurious when compared to other career paths taken by Ph.D. recipients.

Life science grads and postdocs pack room for Career Panel

On Monday, Brandeis University hosted a Career Panel specifically devoted to discussing job opportunities and career paths for individuals with life science PhDs.  The event, sponsored by the Genetics Training Grant, was organized and hosted by Prof. Bruce Goode (Biology) and was very successful in drawing a crowd, with an audience estimated at 90 students and postdocs,

The professional credentials of the assembled panelists reflected the purpose of the seminar itself: a broad sweep of career paths each making use of post-secondary education in the life sciences.  Beyond professional success, the panel was further notable because it was composed largely of women, most of whom managed families along with their careers.

First, representing the academic research career path, was the likable Prof. Avital Rodal of the Brandeis Biology Department.  As a recent hire, Prof. Rodal was extensively queried about the process of applying and successfully being offered a tenure track academic position.  Prof. Rodal cited receiving her own grant funding as well as a strong record of publication as reasons for her success.  Michelle Hoffmann (Back Bay Life Sciences Advisors) has built a career in business and management consulting and discussed which skills from her academic training prepared her for her success in the consulting industry.  Shoumita Dasgupta is an eight year veteran of the teaching faculty at Boston University and advised the audience on how to obtain relevant teaching experience during graduate training and also described how her own career as an educator has begun to include higher positions (she is now an assistant dean) in the admissions department at the medical school.  Meredith LeMasurier works as an editor for the journal Neuron and provided insight into the process of academic publishing.  Her role in the organization involves assessing the merit of submitted articles in the context of the literature and coordinating the efforts of reviewers and authors.  Finally, Jake Harrison (Joule Unlimited) works as an experimental scientist for a small biotechnology sector company.  Jake noted that, like academia, the small company environment allows him to pursue a rigorous scientific agenda combined with the professionalism of a corporate workplace.

After brief introductory statements from each of the panelists, the floor was open for questions, and audience members were interested to learn about job availability and job security.  Jake advised trainees to invest time in building comprehensive profiles on employment focused social networking sites such as LinkedIn.  Shoumita urged students to build their professional network by talking about their career aspirations often with peers and mentors as opportunities can often arise through existing connections.  Michelle emphasized the importance of putting together a sharp professional resume (different than an academic CV) and doing ample homework before contacting a company.

After the event, attendees expressed great interest in having panels on a regular basis, with panelists from additional areas of the job market. A particular interest was in individuals employed by the government or working in a public health or in health policy related fields.

An over arching theme of the discussion was that jobs in any of the career paths are highly competitive but, nevertheless, many exciting options exist for individuals with PhDs in the life sciences.  Overall, given the highly pertinent career information and the opportunities to network directly with individuals in a variety of career paths, all trainees would be well advised to attend future versions of this career panel.

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