Resume job title dilemma

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Resume job title dilemma

Postby James Tyler » Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:46 pm

I have a BS in microbiology. As an undergraduate, I was a research assistant in an academic lab for 6 months. After I finished undergrad, I attended a Ph.D. program for about 1.5 years and then dropped out without getting any degree. In grad school, I rotated in a bunch of labs and joined a lab very briefly. After I dropped out of grad school, about half a year later (in May 2012), I started working at a company as a research assistant, which is where I am now.

My titles (from past to present) are: “undergraduate research assistant”, “graduate research assistant/rotation student” and “research assistant”. I am worried that for future positions, the fact that I attended grad school will be a red flag for employers or some of them will see me as over-qualified or over-ambitious or they’ll think I leave the position early to go back to grad school.

Should I change my graduate school title on my resume? If so, what should I change it to? On my resume, should I not make it evident that I attended grad school and just tell them in a phone interview or in my cover letter? Or also don’t mention it in my cover letter? Also, should I change “undergraduate research assistant” to just “research assistant”?

Here is what the grad school part of my experience section looks like:

Graduate Research Assistant/Rotation Student, June 2010 – Sep 2011, University X
-Assisted with mouse colony maintenance and genotyping of mice.
-Knocked down the expression of specific microRNAs in kidney cells to investigate the role of microRNAs in kidney development and pathogenesis of kidney disease by measuring the expression of specific genes through qrt-pcr.
-Transfected cells with a plasmid encoding the DC-HIL receptor in order to investigate the association of downstream signaling adapters with DC-HIL by performing co-immunoprecipitation.
-Used knockout mice to determine how toll-like receptors influence B cell immune responses by measuring their antibody secretion and differentiation in response to toll-like receptor stimulation by performing ELISAs.
-Infected mice with Francisella tularensis, and measured their immune response by measuring their bacterial load in organs and survival rates to investigate their mechanisms of host resistance.

This is basically the rotation projects that I did and my project for the lab that I joined very briefly. Should I make changes to this section aside from the title? Like the amount of rotation projects listed etc.
James Tyler
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:48 pm

Re: Resume job title dilemma

Postby Rich Lemert » Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:07 pm

You could list your graduate work in your resume as "continuing education" - or something similar, but I think it would be beneficial to include it because it does suggest experience beyond the BS level. I don't think you can call it "experience", though, because you did this in an educational advantage.

I would also address this in your cover letter. You could say something like "enrolled in PhD program at XYZ for 1.5 years before deciding that I was happier as a technician." This should suggest to the reader that you're not going to leave soon to go back to school, but he's still probably going to ask you about it in an interview just to make sure.

The other suggestion that I'd make is to change your 'passive' project descriptions to something more 'active'. To take just one of your entries (the one that I have some idea of what you're talking about), I would rewrite it along the following lines:

"Measured bacterial load and survival rates in mice infected with Francisella tularensis to measure their immune response and investigate their host resistance mechanisms."
Rich Lemert
Posts: 2472
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

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