How I Chose My Major and Genetics PhD

How I Chose My Major and Genetics PhD

For me, a genetics degree meant two things:

  1. It was new, groundbreaking, and to me- incredibly interesting
  2. It was a way to open doors to many possible career fields

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 truly how to learn and seek out credible resources, all of this I learned during my time working on viruses during my PhD. 

Building off genetics, I then started building my expertise in microbiology. Having a solid education in one of the country’s best Microbiology Departments (yes, of course I’m biased, Colorado State University is my alma mater), means I have a broad knowledge of everything from bacteria to viruses to parasites and vector biology. Here’s just a few examples of other routes I could have taken with this training. If I had stayed in academia, I suspect I would have gone into the world of microbiomes and the potential interplay of genetics and epigenetics on how microbial communities symbiotically exist within us. If I had gone into a pharmaceutical career, I would have loved to build off my knowledge of microbiological gene expression systems to develop novel treatments.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is an incredible amount of potential with the availability of interdisciplinary degrees in science. The key is to pick something you are truly interested in. 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 in fact cannot wait to see the results of your work, then you are in the right field. So in short, find something that you love, something that when you talk to your friends and family about you get animated and you just can’t help but share your enthusiasm.

Photo credit: Chris Schneider