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Environmental Factor, June 2012

NIEHS Biomedical Career Fair attracts area trainees

By Darshini Trivedi

Adam Ruben, Ph.D.

Ruben talked about how his education and his experiences as a graduate student led to a multifaceted career as author, humorist, and scientist. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Young scientists at 15th Annual NIEHS Biomedical Career Fair

A packed room of young scientists enjoyed the comedy-filled keynote address. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

More than 350 participants gathered April 27 at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) main campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C., for the 15th Annual NIEHS Biomedical Career Fair.

The Biomedical Career Fair has been part of a long-standing tradition at NIEHS, and is focused on providing young scientists with an opportunity to explore a myriad of job choices and expand their professional networks. As in previous years, this event was organized by postdoctoral fellows from the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA) and the EPA, with support from the NIEHS Office of the Scientific Director.

The event began with opening remarks from William Schrader, Ph.D., NIEHS deputy scientific director, and David Thomas, Ph.D., of the EPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory. A highlight of the career fair was a keynote address from Adam Ruben, Ph.D., a scientist at Sanaria Inc. and author of the book, “Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School.” Ruben delivered a comedy-filled presentation by drawing from some of his own experiences as a graduate student, while also giving hope to aspiring scientists by talking about his current successful job in the real world.

A positive and encouraging message for young, aspiring scientists

The overall goal of this year’s career fair was to showcase Ph.D. scientists who have transitioned into a career within the last two to three years. “We want to emphasize to our attendees that, yes, you can still be successful in obtaining a job in this current economic situation,” said Ashley Godfrey, Ph.D., co-chair for the planning committee and an NIEHS postdoc. Former NIEHS postdocs (see text box), who have recently moved on to achieve successful positions in a variety of career tracks, traditional as well as non-traditional, were one of the main highlights of this year’s event. When asked about her overall impressions of the career fair, NIEHS postdoc Kymberly Gowdy, Ph.D., said, “This is the best career fair I have been to so far!”

The program for the day was packed with several panel discussions showcasing a variety of careers, as well as career development workshops designed to help the attendees develop the skills and obtain the necessary tools for a successful job. The planning committee was thrilled to invite back Diane Klotz, Ph.D., former director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows’ Career Development, who departed last year to accept the position of director of the Office of Training and Academic Services at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. Klotz, a career development expert who was monumental in the planning of the previous career fairs, presented two workshops titled “Finding your Career Path” and “The Industry Job Search — Navigating Towards Your Next Opportunity.”

The planning committee brought back the popular one-on-one curriculum vitae/resume consultation sessions by career experts, and also hosted a networking lunch and afternoon reception to provide the participants an opportunity to meet informally with panelists, workshop leaders, other career fair attendees, and many exhibitors from local and regional companies and organizations. 

(Darshini Trivedi, Ph.D., is an Intramural Research and Training Award fellow in the NIEHS Laboratory of Toxicology and Pharmacology.)


Jeff Sunman, Ph.D.

Sunman discussed his career transition from the bench to patenting, one that involved extracurricular training in patent law and networking at the Biomedical Career Fair.(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)


Andres Larrea, Ph.D., with a career fair attendee

Larrea networked with a trainee, while offering useful career advice as attendees visited exhibits.(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)


Diane Klotz, Ph.D.

Klotz, who completed her postdoc at NIEHS, talked to the audience about taking control of their own career paths.(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)


Tracy Clement, Ph.D., Marsha Cole, Ph.D., and Katie Burns, Ph.D.

NIEHS fellows Tracy Clement, Ph.D., left, and Katie Burns, Ph.D., right, took advantage of the networking session to get more one-on-one career advice from Marsha Cole, Ph.D., a Careers in Research-Intensive Schools panelist.(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)


The 2012 NIEHS Biomedical Career Fair Planning Committee

The 2012 NIEHS Biomedical Career Fair Planning Committee comprised of fellows from NIEHS and EPA. Shown left to right, back row: Christy Powers, Ph.D. (EPA); Stela Palii, Ph.D.; Shep Martin, Ph.D. (EPA); Brant Hamel, Ph.D.; Staton Wade, Ph.D.; and co-chair Ashley Godfrey, Ph.D. Shown left to right, front row: Sabrina Robertson, Ph.D.; Bhargavi Rao, Ph.D.; Maria Shatz, Ph.D.; co-chair Darshini Trivedi, Ph.D.; and Cynthia Holley, Ph.D. Not show in picture: Teresa Green, Ph.D. (EPA) and Rachel Goldsmith, Ph.D.(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)


Career Fair showcases former NIEHS trainees

Hearing about how other fellows made the transition from training to careers is an important part of career development programs. But for NIEHS fellows, this year’s Biomedical Career Fair was even more meaningful, because so many panelists were former colleagues at NIEHS, including members of the following panels:

  • Careers in Teaching-Intensive Schools — Shweta Trivedi, Ph.D., teaching assistant professor at North Carolina State University
  • Project/Program Management — Thaddeus Schug, Ph.D., a health scientist in the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training
  • Science Outreach — Jana Stone, Ph.D., scientific coordinator at the Duke University Center for Systems Biology
  • Careers in Research-Intensive Schools — Chris Geyer, Ph.D., assistant professor at East Carolina University
  • Science Communications — Heather King, Ph.D., senior science communications specialist with MDB, Inc.
  • The Business of Science — Jeff Sunman, Ph.D., patent agent with Alston and Bird LLP
  • Field Applications — Andres Larrea, Ph.D., field applications scientist with Pacific Biosciences
  • Careers in Small Biotech — Kelly Mercier, Ph.D., applications scientist with LipoScience, and Patrick Robertson, Ph.D., scientist II with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies
  • Clinical Research — Joan Packenham, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Human Research Compliance


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