A genetics degree meant two things to me:
1. It was new, groundbreaking, and an incredibly interesting approach to looking at human function and behavior.
2. It was a way to open doors to many possible career fields (+flexibility).
When I decided that grad school was the next step, I realized I wanted something that built off my undergraduate degree, but that was more specialized and had tangible impacts to real people. For me that was moving from basic science research in genetics to the genetics of how viruses interact with cells they invade. Interestingly, I no longer work with viruses, but now work in human genetics, but everything I learned about advanced techniques in genetics research, how to present scientific research, and how to truly learn and seek out credible resources -- all of this I learned during my time working on viruses during my PhD.
Completing a PhD is incredible, but it's no cakewalk. If you are absolutely invested and find yourself 110% dedicated to the research because you can’t wait to see the results of your experiments, then you are in the right field. If you have any level of hesitation, maybe you should choose something different. So, find something that you love. Something that when you talk to your friends and family about it, you get animated and you just can't help but share your enthusiasm.
With that in mind, if you are interested in a similar career path, I recommend a few things to get you started.
- Volunteer at a local museum to get the lay of the land.
- Find ways to demonstrate excellence in both professional communication (talks at national and international science conferences and meetings) and in general public communication. This can be tricky -- you need to be creative to find ways to get experience in this. Connecting with local organizations that serve the public and offering up your expertise can be one way to start getting public communication of science on your resume.
- Try your hand at grant writing. So many students think they want my job so that they don’t have to write grants. News flash! I work on grants just as much as I would if I had stayed in academia. So go out there and start writing and applying. It’s great practice and you never know, you just might be selected!
- Finally, be the best scientist you can be: do the work, with integrity, publish to establish yourself, and build a support network of peers and mentors to help you through the rough times. If you love the discovery of being a scientist, stick with it. It’s worth the ride!
Curious to hear more about my career as a scientist? Book me to speak at your next conference or event!