Oct. 18, 2016 | A doctoral degree in biomedical sciences is just the first step along a career path that can lead to lots of different places – many of them unexpected.
“Make the most of your Ph.D. and let your passion drive you. Take risks, fall, get back up – most of all, enjoy the journey,” said Dorothy Graves, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of Research and Publications, Division of Medical Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine in the UAMS College of Medicine.
“This is my career path,” Graves said, showing a slide covered in a network of intersecting lines. “It’s not the least bit linear. It includes a lot of different types of work. I learned something from each of these jobs, and most of these skills – I still use them today.”
Graves was one of three UAMS alumni and six total guest speakers at the 16th annual UAMS Graduate School Career Day for Biomedical Sciences on Oct. 6 at the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute. Several of the speakers discussed their careers and gave tips for students looking to chart a similar course.
“We are happy to be able to showcase what UAMS alumni have gone on to do with the education they received here,” said UAMS Graduate School Dean Robert E. McGehee Jr., Ph.D. “Our graduates do a variety of amazing things, and events like this allow us to highlight that while giving current students access to practical information about how they can grow their careers.”
About 150 people attended the event, which was geared toward UAMS students and faculty and undergraduate and graduate students from across Arkansas and surrounding states.
Graves’ journey led her into science journalism, freelance editing and other communications work. Now her role at UAMS includes facilitating research, editing and tracking scholarly work and managing projects. Since 2007 she has hosted Science Café, which is a combination of a live event and radio show in which panelists interact with the public on science topics.
UAMS alumna Laura MacDonald, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Hendrix College in Conway, gave tips for students who want to become teachers.
“What you’ll find in the teaching profession is that you are a teacher first and a researcher second,” MacDonald said. “Teaching is not a fallback career. If you go into teaching, teaching needs to be your passion and the reason you get up every day.”
MacDonald advised would-be teachers to make sure their advisers know that they want to pursue teaching so they can receive extra training. She said to approach people who have the job you want and ask them how they got there. She advised students to do postdoctoral work at a different institution from where they studied in order to show some variety on their resumes. And she urged them to publish, network and gain teaching experience.
Sandra Harris-Hooker, Ph.D., vice president and executive vice dean for research and academic administration at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, talked about how she advanced into a leadership role.
“Opportunities build on each other, with the last steps in your career moving into more leadership and executive roles,” Harris-Hooker said. “It all happens because you see things that need to happen around the workplace.”
Thomas Groves, a third-year Neurobiology/Developmental Sciences Department student, is doing research on traumatic brain injuries. He was interested in Graves’ work communicating science to the public.
“I’m interested in translating the work we’re doing from the benchtop to the real world,” Groves said.
Other speakers and sessions included:
- Meredith Zozus, Ph.D., associate professor and vice chair for Academic Programs, Biomedical Informatics, UAMS College of Medicine, on The Information Revolution in Biomedicine
- Nathan Vanderford, Ph.D., MBA, assistant professor, Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology, assistant director of Research, Markey Cancer Center, assistant dean for Academic Development, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, on Administrative Careers in Academia
- Kevin Coker, M.S., J.D./M.P.H., CEO of MolecularMatch, on Industry Opportunities: From Startups to Fortune 100
- Kristen Sterba, Ph.D., associate dean, UAMS Graduate School, with a Career Development Workshop for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows on Communication and Work Styles