NIEHS career fair showcases career options
By Monica Frazier
The 16th annual NIEHS Biomedical Career Fair took place April 26 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
The event, planned and organized by members of the NIEHS Trainees Assembly and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s postdoc community, was an opportunity to network with and learn from invited panelists and speakers, visit participating vendors, and get advice about curriculum vitae (CV) and resumes from experts.
This year’s career fair was organized with the wide range of attendees in mind, and offered concurrent panel sessions for those following traditional career routes, careers away from the bench, and non-traditional careers for Ph.D. scientists.
Co-chairs Staton Wade, Ph.D., and Kymberly Gowdy, Ph.D., were excited about the varied selection of career panels and workshops the planning committee was able to put together this year. “We really highlighted diverse options and, hopefully, let trainees know where they can fit both within and outside of the traditional research field,” Wade commented.
A motivating keynote
The fair opened with a keynote address by Patricia Beckmann, Ph.D., titled “A Crook in the Road: A Real World Path in Bioscience Entrepreneurship.” She candidly told the audience about her career path, which included academic and industry positions, ranging from technician, to co-inventor of the drug Enbrel, to founder of Biostrategy LLC.
Her presentation was perfectly correlated with the theme of the fair and included details of how she embraced opportunities in different segments of biomedical science, without fear of failure, and sought out challenges to advance her career in entrepreneurship. Failure in a venture, as Beckmann noted, can be utilized as a way to move forward into the future. For many people, she said, “It is best to fail until you succeed.”
Beckmann related entrepreneurship to everyone in the audience, by describing it as an attitude for life. She proposed that everyone is an entrepreneur on some level, whether in the task of determining how to clone a gene more efficiently, or how to get a child ready to go in the morning more quickly. She described all these tasks as levels of opportunity in entrepreneurship.
“My evolution started as a scientist and as an entrepreneur, because I was given opportunity. Opportunity is really important. Look for it and find something that challenges you and your passion,” Beckman said.
Panels and workshops for every interest
Career panels gave attendees opportunities to ask questions of respected members of many different scientific communities, and included sessions on running a successful lab, science policy, contract research organizations, consulting, drug development, program administration, and several other topics. Panelists gave insight into how they broke into their field, what daily life in their position involves, and how attendees interested in a specific path can prepare themselves for that market.
Workshops proved to be very popular among attendees, in such areas as networking, management and leadership skills, the interview process, and knowing an individual’s career value, providing guidance on additional skill sets needed, beyond scientific training, to help get the position desired. Throughout the day, attendees were able to sign up for personal assessments of their CV or resume by career services experts in their market of interest — industry, government, or academic.
Despite the full schedule of events, attendees were given multiple opportunities to network with other participants, panelists, and speakers.
Gowdy summed up the committee’s mission by saying, “We hope that the attendees took away a broad knowledge of what they can accomplish with a Ph.D., and are better able to explore the multitude of career choices available in the biomedical sciences.”
(Monica Frazier, Ph.D., is an Intramural Research Training Award fellow in the NIEHS Mechanisms of Mutation Group.)