Congratulations on graduating from college – now what do you do with that STEM degree?

Maybe you are graduating from college but feeling a little uncertain about the future? Some of your friends may be headed to graduate or medical school and others may be starting jobs with pharmaceutical or biotech companies. It may seem that everyone else has a career plan, but you are not alone, and you have plenty of time to explore career options to put your science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degree to use. Actually, taking a little time off to get some real world experience and help define your career goals can be more beneficial in the long run than jumping into grad school or a job that puts you on the wrong path… So, here’s your post-graduation homework: ten career development activities that will help you find a STEM career path that’s just right for you.

1.  Postbachelor/postbaccalaureate positions – consider a postgraduate research position or internship to test out different career fields, expand your skill sets and enhance your resume. Here is a short list of programs offering positions to recent college graduates (performing an internet search for “postbaccalaureate research programs” will yield even more results):

Oak Ridge Institute of Science Education

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postbac IRTA program

NIH Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP)

Pathways Program at USAJobs.gov 

2. Certificate programs – some STEM careers (e.g., medical technology) require an additional degree program beyond the bachelor’s degree, so read up on education qualifications for any career paths of interest.

3. Professional science master’s programs – check out these graduate degree programs that teach students business skills along with advanced science courses to prepare students for careers in science management areas. There are also degree programs specific to entering engineering management.

4. Online professional communities – join an online community for career prep information, posting your resume and viewing job postings. Most professional societies maintain a career portal accessible from their main web page (e.g., MySciNet from Science Careers).

5. LinkedIn.com – create a free profile and start building a professional network, join professional and science groups and search job postings.

6. Career counseling center – check out your school’s career center and make an appointment with a career counselor to discuss career options in your field.

7. Career fairs – ask your local career center about ongoing career fairs and look up resources for resume and interview preparation from online career centers (e.g., University of California-San Francisco and NIH).

8. Faculty mentor – make an appointment to speak with a close faculty member that can point out your positive skills sets and offer career advice.

9. Informational interviews – conduct short interviews with professionals working in careers that interest you to learn more about entering that career path.

10. Job search engines – make a list of job search engines and check the sites on a regular basis or set up alerts for keywords. Even if you are not looking for a job right now, you can gain a lot of information about jobs open in your field and see what qualifications are needed to land that dream job. I like to keep a text file of website addresses to periodically check out jobs in my field. Here’s a few STEM-specific job sites to add to your list:

Science Careers

Nature Jobs

BioCareers

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)

Medzilla

BioMed Central Career Network

*Editorial note: This post was originally published on the ‘Science Mentor’ blog. Check out sciencementor.wordpress.com for more career development activities and tips. (c) Donna Kridelbaugh

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Receive a $10 gift card to Restaurant.com!*

Successfully submit two reviews on RateMyPI.com** and receive a $10 gift card to Restaurant.com.* Please help the scientific community by reviewing your PIs, peers, co-workers, employees, and employers on RateMyPI.com. Reviews only take a few minutes to complete and are easy to submit.

We have taken a hiatus from blogging while we work to improve RateMyPI.com. We are getting ready to ramp back up with new posts in the coming months focused on career-oriented topics, including how to become a medical science writer!

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 50

The Cassini orbiter has taken photos of a large river system on Saturn’s moon, Titan.  The European Space Agency and NASA have deduced the image shows flowing water, making this the first photographic evidence of a river system beyond Earth.

German researchers have discovered that to fold long strands of DNA into specific shapes (cylindrical, brick-like and cog-like) requires a specific constant temperature for each design.   This technique has reduced the folding time from days to minutes thus making the possibility of DNA nanotechnology realistic.

A group of chemists has successfully developed a non-toxic organic Lithium ion battery using purpurin to react electrochemically with lithium ions.  Extracted from the Madder root and commonly used as a dye in fabrics, purpurin showed similar charge/discharge properties of other conventional inorganic cathodes without the environmental concerns.

Developmental biologists generally agree that human limbs evolved from fish fins and now new research using zebrafish supports a genetic mechanism.  Researchers from Spain increased the activity of Hoxd13 at zebrafish fin tips, leading to the formation of rudimentary limb structures instead of fins.

New research based on the adhesive properties of mussels has led to the development of a bioadhesive gel that can adhere itself to the inside surface of blood vessels.  This bioadhesive gel could be injected into people with atherosclerosis to help prevent rupturing of blood vessels and subsequent blood clots leading to a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have reprogrammed individual patients’ T cells with an HIV-derived lentiviral vector encoded to recognize CD19 proteins commonly expressed on tumor cells.  In a recent Phase 1 clinical trial, 9 out of 12 leukemia patients receiving the treatment are in remission.    On the downside, the T-virus has been created, which never works out well for citizens of Raccoon City.

Have a Great Weekend!

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Is sensationalization of scientific findings unethical?

Gary Marcus recently published in The New Yorker entitled “Neuroscience Fiction”.  It presents neuroscience as a science littered with inconsistencies and inaccurate data, referring mainly to PET and fMRI brain imaging studies.  As a neuroscientist I take an exception to this.  I am also surprised that Gary Marcus, an author of several scientific papers and a professor of psychology at NYU, does not have a better grasp on how to critically review scientific papers.  The established peer review process is good, but it simply ensures sound scientific technique and interpretation of the data, not independent reproduction of the findings.  Within any of the vast number of scientific disciplines it is easy to find papers that seemingly contradict each other.  This is not something that is neuroscience specific and if you carefully read the papers, including the methods section (gasp), you can often determine the source of their inconsistencies.  When dealing with emotional responses to an image (regularly done in fMRI studies) you can get vastly different responses from two different subjects in the same study where every methodological detail is identical.  For example, one person may see a dog as a soft adorable cuddly animal while another person that was recently bit by a dog could experience intense fear.  Now, if someone else does a seemingly similar study, but uses different images or in a different order or with different thresholds and parameters, it is not surprising that these two studies could yield very different results.  That isn’t to say that something cannot be learned from comparing the studies and outcomes. 

The problem isn’t with neuroscience or science in general.  Scientists must publish and present their results so they can be scrutinized by other scientists, reproduced in an independent lab, and alternate explanations, interpretations, and theories (or further support) can be established.  Problems arise when the findings are sensationalized through irresponsible reporting and the scientist is either not able to or simply does not accurately portray their research to the general public.  Scientists need to learn to be cautious when disseminating their findings to the general public.  They should be careful to emphasize that their new, cutting edge discovery has the potential to do this or lead to that, but that it doesn’t actually accomplish it yet. There is a breakdown in communication between scientist, reporters and the general public and I see it every day on CNN, The New Yorker, and many other popular new sources. 

Tell us what you think…Is this a problem?  What can be done about it?  Should sensationalized findings be considered scientific/ethical misconduct?

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