What did you study at Yale, and what is your current profession?
I am currently the Administrator of Career and Professional Development at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC, NY. I design programming to help MSK’s 800 + PhD students and postdocs transition into fulfilling careers. These programs include skill development events that cover topics such as fellowship writing, leadership development, and communication. They also include career development events such as interviewing, resume writing, and networking. I graduated with my PhD in Genetics from Yale University in 2012. I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Dan DiMaio, where I studied DNA tumor viruses.
What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/or rewarding?
The best part of my job is the opportunity to help young scientists find success and happiness in their careers. The job search process can be both intimidating and stressful. I help reduce uncertainty and stress by providing guidance on how to set and achieve manageable career goals. Believe it or not, my role does not have obvious challenges. However, I miss the thinking deeply about complex biological questions. I do not miss working at the bench.
How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?
My final year of graduate school, I settled on Science Policy When I first started my PhD training, my primary goal was to become a professor at a small liberal arts college such as Providence College, my Alma mater. However, by my third year of graduate school, I realized that I was not passionate enough about working at the bench to pursue this career path. During my last two years of my PhD, I began researching career paths that excited me. I did this with support of Yale’s Career Services Office, which at the time was part of the McDougal Center. I also received support from the Yale Science Diplomats and Jackson Center for Global Affairs. By my 6th year and it was a career path with the most potential. Because I did not have the experience necessary to be competitive for these positions by the time I was set to graduate, I decided to conduct a strategic postdoc at the NIH in Bethesda, MD. My thought was that a postdoc in the DC area would allow me to network and learn about science policy. After a brief but rewarding postdoc experience, I made it to the final round of one the popular science policy fellowships. At the same, I was also offered a job running career development at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). For a variety of career and personal reasons, I ultimately accepted the job at NYAS and declined the final interview for the science policy fellowship.
What are the main skills that you acquired as a PhD student which help make you successful in your current career?
Written and oral communication skills are crucial to my career success. I honed these skills as a PhD student thanks to the excellent mentorship from my mentor, Dan DiMaio. Moreover, although I do not conduct science research anymore, it is crucial that I understand science as well as the experiences and values that scientist possess. This allows me to relate to the young scientists that I mentor. It also allows me to brand their skill sets when they apply for jobs. Finally, I am keenly aware of the deficiencies in science training. This allows me to create programs that supplement the skills that scientists are not receiving at the bench.
Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school?
Yes. During my sixth year of graduate school, I participated in the Virtual Student Foreign Service internship program at the US Department of State. I collaborated with the US Embassy in Mongolia to evaluate Mongolia’s science education system. I was also one of the first members of the Career Network for Science PhDs at Yale. I helped to organize a career panel as well as recruit mentors for the program. These experiences helped to differentiate me from my competitors when I applied from my first job after my postdoc. On interviews, I spent more time talking about my work with the US Department of State than my PhD and postdoc research.
What advice would you offer PhDs who are interested in your line of work?
If you want a job in Academic Administration, start volunteering now. If you are graduate student, join the graduate student council or government. If you are a postdoc, get involved in the postdoc association. You could also volunteer for CNSPY or the Office of Career Strategy. To maximize your time, focus on developing skills that you are not developing in your research.