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Undergrad Seeking Career Planning Advice

PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2016 10:13 am
by M. Policard
I'm currently a Biological Science major, graduating in December and I'm interested in pursuing a research career. I participated in a summer research fellowship at my home institution when I was a sophomore and enjoyed it immensely. Since then, I have been working in the same lab at my home as a research assistant. I assist the graduate students with some of their experiments, take care of some general lab maintenance duties, and also have my own project to work on. The projects are exciting, the work is challenging, and the people I work with are friendly. Recently, I was named a co-author on one of our publications. I am trying to plan what's next after graduation. I don't believe my GPA,a 3.1, makes me competitive for any professional or graduate programs. I am planning on applying to master programs and a few post-bac programs, such as the NIH PREP, which essentially is a research apprenticeship. I am still determining research interests, but I do know I want to contribute to biomedical research as it relates to human diseases. I am not interested in academia. I also know that I want to do something involving applied sciences more than basic science. I have no idea what to study in grad school or a particular field I want to focus on in a career. I find myself easily enthusiastic about different areas of research and would like to pursue a career that involves interdisciplinary work. At the same time, I value service to others and impacting societal problems is definitely an attribute I would like in a career.I am also concerned that a career in research will not allow me the flexibility or time for other endeavors such as traveling or having a family. While my GPA may or may not reflect it, I have a love for learning and science. I believe if I set my mind to it I can achieve a doctorate. I am willing to complete the education for it. I have read countless forums, blogs, and articles. There are so many ways to be involved with research that I didn't know existed. How do I navigate it all to make decisions in career planning? I want to be realistic, make wise choices in choosing what to study, and make myself more competitive. However, I also do not want to limit myself and explore my potential. Between taking classes and research, I don't have much availability for a job at the moment, what can I do to become more competitive for grad school or employment? How do I gain more insight about the current trends in a career involving biomedical research?

Re: Undergrad Seeking Career Planning Advice

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2016 3:15 am
by D.X.
Hi M. Pollard,

Aye, ok reading your post, you're all over the place. Key take ways, you want applied science, you want non-academia, you question Research, and you want to travel and have a Family, you like interdiciplinary work, and you potentially want to have societal Impact with a desired to pursue futher education?

If that assessment is right, why don't you look at the allied health professions. Look at Pharmacy as a first step. Alot of great career Options there (not at all just wall mart, much more than that actually), you would have Access to industry (to include health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies), and goverment Jobs (i.e. Health Technology Assessment, Health Economics), and when you want to back off, you can pull the parachute and go work for your local hosptial pharmacy or wall mart with decent income part time.

Also look at Physical therapy, Physcian's Assistent, etc, or Nurse. But in my opinion, the Pharm D is the best Option i would recommed you look at that as its the most empowering among the allied health roles - at least from a US Point of View, can't comment on ex-US here.

If additional education is not your path, try looking a Patient organizations and non-profits/NGOs.

Good luck!


Re: Undergrad Seeking Career Planning Advice

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2016 7:25 am
by D. Martin
I agree that you are a bit "spread" with your post. However, do not worry about GPA (unless your goal is CalTech, MIT or Harvard..) You can get into many decent schools with a 3.1 GPA. For example, GRE also has importance (esp if you do well in the subject GRE). This was not as important i my PhD institution as it is in my current institution. Rec Letters and being part of a paper are also key and will offset the GPA.
Regarding traveling and family, a PhD requires you to be dedicated, so traveling to explore the world is not an option (you should really think about getting a PhD and traveling) however, you can have a family and still go on (short) vacations. I did my PhD while been married with a Kid, so it is doable.

If you like research, I do not think PharmD is the best option. I guess Pharm Sci, Med chem (maybe, depends the program and your adviser) and material sciences give you the option to do something interdisciplinary and more translational. If you want to chat more, just sent me a private message

Re: Undergrad Seeking Career Planning Advice

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2016 10:59 am
by Craig B.
Based on your description of yourself, I see no reason not to apply to grad school right away. If you have a long track-record with your undergraduate lab, including a publication, and can get a strong letter of recommendation from your current PI, you should be competitive. GPA matters, but there are a lot of things that can offset it. Were you at a school that has a reputation for not inflating? Is your in-major GPA higher than your total? Did you have an upward GPA trend in your later years?

Lots of people have concerns about work-life balance and graduate school. Certain departments/colleges have reputations for being more "hard core" than others, but the biggest deciding factor is your individual mentor. Some expect you to be in 7 days a week, others have families of their own and totally understand the challenges that makes. It's just key that you work independently and productively when you're in the lab. Want to spend time abroad? Compete for a Fulbright Program.

Re: Undergrad Seeking Career Planning Advice

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2016 8:44 pm
by Dustin Levy
Given your uncertainty in which particular field you'd like to study, I recommend targeting graduate programs offer a first-year lab rotation program where you get to spend a period of time in 2-3 groups before making a formal decision on whom to work for. Programs that require you to lock in on a specific advisor from day one may not be a good fit for you. I'd also expect programs that offer a rotation program to be a bit more flexible in the type of students they accept, so your concerns about your GPA may be less relevant, particularly if you have a good in-major GPA or upward trend as Craig suggests.


Re: Undergrad Seeking Career Planning Advice

PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:59 am
by M. Policard
Your assessments are all pretty accurate. I am all over the place. However, I am certain that I want to be involved with medically-relevant research. A career as an Allied Health Professional is something I briefly considered but didn't think there would be opportunities to be involved with research. I never even thought about a PharmD so I'll look into it. The concern about a work-life balance is a bit of forward thinking on my part but something I wanted to keep in mind. What I am getting from this forum is that I can still be a strong applicant for a graduate program even with my GPA. I do plan to take the GRE in August, so if I do well on that I think it would offset my GPA as well. I do feel like completing a master's program first would be best because I feel like I need to reinforce some of my undergraduate coursework. What are your opinions on this?

Re: Undergrad Seeking Career Planning Advice

PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2016 10:59 pm
by D. Martin
A MS in not needed (an almost non sense). In Science you get admitted into the PhD program directly, and the classes you take will reinforce everything. Moreover, most schools offering MS and PhD will ask both student to take the same classes. I do recommend you to go to universities websites and read about their PhD programs. Curiosity and being informed are two key attributes of good graduate students.

Re: Undergrad Seeking Career Planning Advice

PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:13 am
by D.X.
Just a quick note about PharmD, I agree with D.Martin, its not the best path for wet-lab Research, however, if you're interested in clinical-level and outcomes Level Research which can have some Impact (i.e. Patient Access to medication vis a vis formulary, coverage decisions, policy etc.) then can be a path - not to mention Access to careers in Pharma in clinical development Level R&D functions, i.e clinical, medical affairs etc and other governannce functions such as Drug Safety where one is routinely engaged with health authorities. The good part about Research with that PharmDs can do, is that it can be fast as one is doing alot of data-mining, i.e. Claims data, Electronic Medical Records databases extraction etc. Point is, not all Research is done by PhDs. And some of that other Research can infact weight very heavy and can have more direct Society, patient Level Impact n the short to mid-term than any wet-lab Research (generally in the much longer term if any relevant and applicable findings).

You can even find some Nurses involved in thier own Research - whereas their audience maybe other Nurses, some clinicians do pay Attention etc. So Point is don't be limited to think Research is only in the Domain of a PhD, and certainly don't think that Research is only wet-lab.

And this goes for anyone really looking at science careers - science is every where, not just in biology or chemistry or at a bench.