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By Nia Walker ‘16
You might be wondering whether pursuing a formal higher education after college is right for you. Then there is considering if you want to continue on with your formal education immediately after throwing your graduation cap into the air. Finally, you might be deciding what sort of further formal education will best suit your interests. Theseare complex and important decision, and it is one that not everyone gives the amount of thought it deserves.
Until recently, I had not seriously considered a path other than receiving a Ph.D. in science. I knew from a young age that I wanted to somehow be involved in science throughout my life. My thoughts used to be along the lines of, “I don’t want to be a doctor, but I love science. So it looks like research and/or academia and attending school until I’m thirty is what I’ll be doing.” My previous understanding of scientific pursuits has, subconsciously, been largely fueled by the people in science I have personally known and come to look up to. Now I will readily admit that I have had limited exposure to serious and rewarding careers in science.
However, college has taught me a great deal to this regard. What I am about to share with you is one of the things I quickly learned after trying on my first lab coat, pulling my first all-nighter to finish a research paper assignment, and preparing my first agarose gel from scratch for electrophoresis. There truly is a lot out there in the world to explore. As simple as this idea is, my point is that science can literally be found everywhere. It is in everything we do and everything we haven’t yet done. Traditionally, fields in science are easily categorized into either clinical or basic research, but there are countless ways to pursue careers in science that are much less discussed.
Looking into other science careers has allowed me to make a more informed and confident assertion concerning my current decision to pursue a Ph.D. To that end, I have done quite a bit of research on other potential jobs and listed six of them below for you. Perhaps you are looking for a career to dedicate your time to before going on to higher degree, or maybe you are thinking that these jobs are enticing enough to become lifelong careers. Either way, I hope these six “unconventional” pursuits spark new thoughts and more tough conversations for you concerning how and if graduate school or medical school may fit into your life’s plans.
1) Scientific Consultant
This sort of consulting provides clients with scientific and oftentimes creative solutions to environmental and social challenges. Scientific consultants have the unique opportunity to build upon their careers at the pace they desire. Consulting relies heavily on problem solving, independence, good skills in multitasking under time pressure, and a constant openness for learning.
2) Lab Technician
Lab technicians are charged with making sure laboratories run as efficiently as possible. They primarily manage samples, data, and materials in laboratories. This may be a great path for someone interested in staying connected to scientific research without being directly responsible for analyzing information and coming up with subsequent conclusions or for those who want to boost their research repertoire before going on to graduate or medical school.
3) Science Teacher
The world can never have enough dedicated and passionate individuals interested in sharing their scientific knowledge with their peers and younger persons. There are numerous options for those captivated by teaching (for example: Teach for America, teaching abroad, or aspiring to become a teacher at an elementary school or a college).
4) Science Writer or Journalist
Science writers and journalists have the responsibility of relaying important scientific news and discoveries to the general public in a way that is both relevant and accessible. From blogging for National Geographic to writing for the NY Times, there are many fitting places for people interested in science writing and journalism. (A great way to get some experience in this is by writing for The Scientista Foundation!)
5) Science Museum, Zoo, or Aquarium Worker
Whether it is direct animal care or maintaining technological exhibits, workers in science museums, zoos, and aquariums all have the opportunity to educate the public and help cultivate more specific interests in young people.
6) Science Librarian
Similarly to science teachers, there will never be a time when there are too many science librarians. They primarily assist researchers and students with locating the most accurate and important information available. Science librarians are individuals who also have easy access to the most updated scientific information available.
Are you interested in looking into this topic further? Here are some great resources.
Science Writer or Journalist:
Science Museum, Zoo, or Aquarium Worker:
Juliet Snyder '15
As fall semester comes to a close, many Juniors have to confront this question – should I do a thesis? For students in STEM, deciding to do a thesis can seem like a long and confusing process. Every mentor has their own idea about how useful or necessary a thesis is and almost no one agrees. However, most can agree on one thing. Do not do a thesis because you think that a thesis is what you are “supposed to do” or because you want to add it to your resume.
Here are great reasons to write a thesis.
1) A thesis allows you the unique opportunity to deeply delve into a project during your undergraduate career and experience the scientific process within a small microcosm. From creating a project idea to carrying out the research to writing out a paper, writing a thesis is a small glimpse into the academic process.
2) If you are considering doing a PhD or MD/PhD, a thesis is a great way to see if research is for you and it’s a good subject to talk about during interviews.
3) It is a wonderful way to create a strong relationship with a faculty mentor who can offer professional advice, write letters of recommendation and provide insight into the world of STEM.
4) Writing a thesis helps you develop invaluable skills that can aid you in whatever career path you choose – whether it is just perseverance and diligence or it is a specific scientific technique.
So the decision to write a thesis means you have to ask yourself some question: will the satisfaction that I get from writing my thesis alone be worth the time, stress, and worry? Will writing a thesis help inform me about what career or academic path I want to pursue after college? If the answer is no, then there may be better ways to spend your junior and senior year. If the answer is yes, then continue reading!
So what do you do now?
1) Find a lab
If you haven’t already found a lab, now is the time to do so. Winter break is a great time to meet with professors and PIs. Your academic advisor can also be in invaluable resource when it comes to finding PIs to contact. Be upfront with the labs you are interested in and tell them you want to do research in their lab for your thesis – often that will inform their decision and ensure that you have a better experience. It is important to find a lab with a topic you are interested in but the most important factor is finding a good mentor. A good mentor can dramatically improve your thesis experience. You should be in a lab by the spring semester of your Junior year.
2) Junior Thesis proposal
Most are due around the end of Junior year, so get started thinking now about what topic you want to explore. Your PI or mentor within your lab can be incredibly useful in this process. How much autonomy you have in your project is very much dependent on the lab that you join, so consider how much autonomy you want when going through the lab selection process.
3) Enroll in a research course
Most concentrations have the option to count research as a class for two semesters. If you need a fifth class or want more time to pursue research during the fall of your senior year, consider asking your concentration advisor about this option. It can help free up additional time for research and allow you to dive more in depth into your topic.
4) Research and Write!
Now you have started on your path to research! More on the thesis writing process will come in later articles, but right now the hardest step is making that decision to write the thesis.
Good luck with your decision!
By Juliet Snyder, '15
The deadlines have snuck up on you and have run away for each and every research program you thought you were so smart to bookmark last November. We have all been there – finals and midterms and papers come up. Or perhaps, none of the programs you applied for accepted you. Now what do you do?
The truth is, opportunity has in no way passed you by. While applications and set programs provide structure and welcomed support to the harried college student, there are many other options for Scientistas over the summer.
Research Assistant at a Local University
Although it takes more work and the carefully formatted email, contacting researchers at your local university can be a great option for the summer. Start by looking at the department websites at the local university for researchers who are working on topics you are interested in.
Pick about eight to contact and write them an email. Look out for an article on how to write the perfect research interest email! (Unfortunately, it is a little too long for this article) Tell them of your interest and say you would love to have a conversation with them, offering to talk via Skype or phone.
Volunteer at a Hospital or Aquarium
While this typically involves more dealing with people than zebra fish, volunteering at a hospital or aquarium in your area can give you valuable volunteer experience and people skills. Most hospital and aquarium websites have sections detailing their volunteer opportunities. So simply click away.
Work as an Intern for the Scientista Foundation!
The Scientista Foundation is always looking for a few good women (and men!) to contribute to our team through Business/Fundraising, Web, Social media/marketing, Graphic Design, Writing or Editing. Look under the “Join” tab on scientistafoundation.com for more information.
Volunteer or intern abroad
There are many volunteer programs that offer internships and volunteer opportunities abroad for those seeking medical or research experience. Among those is the organization ProWorld. Although, be aware that many of these groups do require you to pay to cover expenses.
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Final ScientisTalk of the Semester!
When: 4/25, 6-70pm
Where: Lowell Small Dining Hall
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