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NIH Holds First Annual Career Symposium

By Stephanie Nick McElhinny
May 2008

NIEHS Trainee Assembly Chair Stephanie Nick McElhinny was among the postdocs from NIEHS attending the NIH Career Symposium.
NIEHS Trainee Assembly Chair Stephanie Nick McElhinny was among the postdocs from NIEHS attending the NIH Career Symposium. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

The NIH held its first annual Career Symposium April 9 in the Natcher Conference Center on the NIH Bethesda Campus. The event provided an opportunity for NIH graduate students and postdocs, including a group of 11 from NIEHS, to learn about the variety of career options in science and how to develop the skills necessary to be successful in their future careers. The symposium was sponsored by the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) and celebrated the official opening of the Career Services Center in OITE.

Sharon L. Milgram, Ph.D., senior investigator at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and director of OITE, welcomed the more than 800 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who hailed from nearly every NIH campus. She invited attendees to take advantage of the wealth of resources available during the day-long symposium as well as at the Career Services Center.

After the welcome, Peter Fiske, Ph.D., president and CEO of PAX Mixer, Inc., and speaker and author of several books and articles on alternative careers, delivered the keynote address. Fiske pointed out to the students and fellows in attendance that scientists possess many of the traits and skills that are of the highest value in the outside world. Using humor and an engaging delivery, he shared his advice for making successful career decisions.

Following the keynote address, fellows had the opportunity to explore diverse career options by attending expert panel discussion sessions comprised of over 80 invited speakers. Among the expert panelists in the area of Science Writing and the Media was NIEHS Science Editor Robin Arnette, Ph.D.

The speakers shared their experiences and insights into career opportunities in the following areas:

  • Science Writing and the Media
  • Research-Intensive Careers in Academia and Government
  • Grants Administration
  • Research Careers in Industry
  • Science Policy
  • Undergraduate Institutions
  • Government Careers Outside the Lab
  • Consulting
  • K-12 Science Education
  • Patenting and Technology Transfer
  • Industry Careers Outside the Lab
  • Academic Medicine
  • Science Education Outside the Classroom
  • Clinical Careers
This photo from her first visit to NIEHS in July 2007 shows Milgram, left, talking with NTA leaders Jennifer Adair, Ph.D., seated, and Karina Rodriguez, Ph.D., right.
This photo from her first visit to NIEHS in July 2007 shows Milgram, left, talking with NTA leaders Jennifer Adair, Ph.D., seated, and Karina Rodriguez, Ph.D., right. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

In addition, participants were able to polish their job-hunting skills during sessions presented by OITE counselors and consultants. These career development workshops taught attendees how to balance and manage their time and lead a productive research team. They also learned how to effectively and persuasively communicate, network and interview. Participants were then able to practice their networking skills and expand their own personal network while dining with NIH colleagues and invited guests during both a networking luncheon and a networking reception at the close of the event.

Lori M. Conlan, Ph.D., director of the Office of Postdoctoral Services at OITE/NIH felt that the symposium was an essential event for NIH fellows. She said, "The symposium was an amazing resource for our fellows and students. Where else could they have received so much information in an eight-hour time span?"

The success of this inaugural symposium is highlighted by Conlan's affirmation that all of the goals set by the OITE for this event were met: "to highlight various career trajectories, giving attendees the chance to determine if this is a path they should further explore (or not); to provide networking opportunities; to improve job seeking skills; and hopefully to give hope that there are jobs out there that can fit each individual." The OITE is already looking forward to planning the second Annual NIH Career Symposium.

(Contributor Stephanie Nick McElhinny is a fellow in the NIEHS DNA Replication Fidelity Group of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics.)



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