Meet Jaden Spring 2022 Campus Ambassador

Jaden Richardson is a junior at the University of Hartford studying biology and pre- pharmacy. He graduated from Freeport high school in NY in 2019.

While writing this piece, I stopped to reflect on what keeps me going and why I wanted to be a part of the medical field, specifically pharmacy. Being the oldest of three and the protector of my little brothers, compassion and my constant desire to help others was almost innate .

Growing up, my first dream job was definitely to be an astronaut. The thought of space’s vastness and striving tounlock its limitless bounds was something that always intrigued me. Similarly to my fascination with space, the unknown aspects of the study of medicine and biological sciences is what mostly intrigues me about the field.

In the third grade is where my big shift from astronomy to my love of medicine came to fruition. My third-grade teacher at the time was a person who took the study of animals very seriously. The class at the time had a turtle named Benji. Benji was a very interesting turtle in that he had a large abscess on the side of his face. Throughout the school year, all my classmates would take turns feeding him and giving him his medicine. Now, at the time none of us knew what the medicine was for but we still willingly gave it to him in order to help .This was a pivotal point for me in that it subconsciously made me more interested in different types of treatments out there andtheir effects on living things. My turn came towards the end of the year and the week I was feeding him, his infection was almost completely gone. The whole class cheered and I was seen to be the hero of the year for saving Benji. From then on, I knew I wanted to work with medicine and save others like Benji. This way of playing doctor evencontinued at home and to this day. When anyone in my family gets sick, I’m the first one everyone goes to for help.

As my education furthered, my love for science continued to grow. I took more science classes in order to learn as much as I could and it became like an obsession to me. Being as competitive as I am, in high school I began taking part in science fairs and outside research. This influenced my decision to come to college in hope thatI can continue my passion.

Currently, I am an undergraduate junior at the University of Hartford as a biology, pre-pharmacy major.The deciding factor for me in going this route was when I had a

conversation with a family member who is recently new to the field. His overall passion for the impact he was making on his patients on a daily basis inspired me to want the same career. I’ve envisioned working in a hospitalbecause that’s where I believe some of the best work is done in this field.

Therefore, as an aspiring pharmacist, something I hope to accomplish or gain out of this career path is totruly impact people’s lives through medicine and science.

-Written by Jaden Richardson


Meet Mariangelie Spring 2022 Campus Ambassador

This Spring Mariangelie Beaudry was selected to participate in Beyond the PhD’s Campus Ambassador Program. She graduated from Agawam High School in Agawam, MA in 2019 and currently is a a junior at the University of Hartford studying biology.

The earliest age that I can remember wanting to be a part of the medical field was at the age of eleven in my health class where we learned basic anatomy. I was fascinated by everything that I learned and had looked forward to that class every week. Keeping in mind that my love for the sciences was growing, the following year my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

Once she had been diagnosed, I began to ask lots of questions about the types of things she was going through. I was curious about the symptoms she was experiencing, the treatments she was receiving, and in what ways it was also affecting all of my family members. As time had progressed, I had noticed that there was not a lot of awareness about pancreatic cancer and it was not talked about enough. As a twelve-year-old, I went to my town hall and met with the mayor to see in what ways I could make a difference and bring more awareness to pancreatic cancer. After a couple of meetings, I was able to work with the mayor and declare November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month in my town. I was really proud of the awareness that I was able to spread for my grandma before she passed away. 

In the following years, I continued to follow my passions with biology and other sciences in high school. In the back of my mind, I was always thinking about the more knowledge I could have to better understand the body and what my grandma had experienced. Afterward, I was also thinking about the effects of cancer in my family line and how that plays a role in genetics. In my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity of going back to the junior high school I had attended and working with my teacher that had taught me science in seventh grade. I loved that I had come full circle and was able to help students at that age with labs and provide any guidance that I could from my perspective. 

Now, currently a junior at the University of Hartford, I realize even more how much I enjoy working with people and being able to provide advice from my point of view and the knowledge that I have. I am currently a biology major and have been enjoying all of my science classes thus far. On campus, I have had more opportunities to work with people such as being a tour guide where I am able to guide prospective students around campus and give them an insight into campus life as well as specialize in the biology labs. On top of that, I am an orientation leader where I get the opportunity to help the incoming first-year class get acclimated to being on a university campus and get some of those first-day jitters out. Lastly, I am a member of the student government association where I get to work with other students and be an advocate of the student’s voices. I enjoy that club especially because it allows me to bring to life my other hobbies in politics that I do not give as much attention to sometimes. 

Currently, I am planning on going into a program after graduation where I can work with people, teaching them about genetic disorders that could potentially affect them in their lifetime and in what ways they can cope with it. I am aspiring to educate people and positively impact their lives. I am hopeful that I can help as many families as possible and I am very excited to see where else my journey takes me. 

Written by Mariangelie Beaudry

An International PhD Student’s Guidebook

Vaishnavi Warrier is a graduate student pursuing her PhD at Boston College.

This article is part of the 2023 September International Student Perspectives Collection.

I came to the United States in the fall of 2020 in the heat of a global pandemic. Needless to say, the pursuit of achieving an advanced degree came with its own share of difficulties that were added to by the state of the world. Leaving the comfort of my home and family to come to a new country was one of the most exciting yet formidable steps that I had ever taken. My journey, like that of any other international student, was filled with excitement, fear, and hope but above all, it was a journey to discover my passion for research and in turn, discover myself.

When I came to the US, everything seemed difficult at first. My bank balance was scarce, house was small, self-esteem was low, and the support of friends and family was not immediately at hand. Nonetheless, I soon realized this is how millions of people start out their dreams in this country. I, at least, have an opportunity to learn something through this process. I promised myself that things will get better, I just need to keep working hard. And so, I started my journey as a non-immigrant graduate student in the United States.

For me as an international student, adjusting to the educational system, understanding the teaching techniques, and gaining the requisite technical and communication skills proved to be a bit of a learning curve. In the initial days, I even confessed openly that I envy my peers who could write interesting articles, give great presentations, and even express themselves so confidently. Nonetheless, I soon realized that one of the key features that would help me achieve those qualities is adaptability. As long as you are adaptable and approach these hurdles with an open mind, the gradient of the learning curve will become less and less steep. I simply started approaching these peers of mine and speaking to them at length about a diverse array of topics, in the hope of improving my communication skills. Most of my lab mates and classmates were truly friendly and considerate, which made me really enjoy these conversations. Our shared love for science, food, and sitcoms actually made me open up to them and work on my vulnerabilities. Giving presentations and discussing science does not seem to be as daunting as it once used to.

While support from friends helps you navigate smoothly through a PhD, the most important aspect of your doctoral journey is to choose the right advisor/mentor. Choosing the right person to work for is often more important than even choosing the right school or the right topic. Your advisor has to be someone you can approach with your concerns and questions, especially when you are an international student and cannot apply to several scholarships (due to rules and restrictions surrounding residential status). Most cases of dropping out of a PhD program stem from an unhealthy relationship between an advisor and their student. For an international student, the period where we have to choose an advisor can really be a period of anxiety and stress. We have a lot at stake which makes us overly cautious while choosing someone. It has to be someone who not only supports our scientific ambitions and ideas, but also understands our visa situation. We need to choose someone who comprehends that we might have to take longer periods of time off to visit our home country, prepare us for the job market in the United States, and most important of all, someone who would not exploit our visa status and obligations for their own personal gains. Personally, I have been really fortunate to find an advisor that understands these requirements. I can not only openly communicate with him about my struggles and shortcomings, but also brainstorm my ideas to achieve scientific advances.

Despite having these benefits, I still face a number of failures and experience moments of frustration each day of my PhD. Some days my experiments fail, my ideas get rejected, and I just don’t find myself motivated enough to keep working on my project. It is completely normal to go through such emotions during your PhD, but the most important thing in all of this is to keep working on yourself. As philosophical as it may sound, it isn’t easy to like every aspect of your work every day, but the key here is perseverance, to show up every day to work, to convince yourself that the research you do will benefit society and shape you as an individual that your future self will be proud of.

Each individual has a distinct PhD journey, and my small piece of advice would be to craft your own strategy for how you would approach your day-to-day hurdles to make your journey as smooth as possible. My experiences as an international student may or may not have been more difficult than my peers’ but each of us has and will go through a unique set of struggles that we deal with in our own inimitable ways to rise up to the challenge. To be a PhD student is to not just have an end goal in mind but to learn, grow, and take enjoyment from the journey that will lead you to your final goal. For me, things did get better.

Vaishnavi is a 4th year graduate student pursuing her PhD at Boston College. She studies the microbial interactions of the human nasal microbiota. Her interests are microbiology and protein biochemistry. Vaishnavi pursued her Master’s in Biotechnology from Dr. D.Y. Patil University, India. Outside the lab, she enjoys hikes, traveling, music, and dance.

To Master’s or PhD: a beginner’s guide to North America

This article is part of the 2023 September International Student Perspectives Collection.

Here are a few things to consider while applying to graduate programs in the US and Canada. And yes, applying to a master’s program differs slightly from applying to a PhD program. In this article we will discuss our experiences applying to master’s and PhD programs, but this is not a fact sheet.

  1. US News is a good resource for narrowing down your options regardless of what type of graduate programs you are interested in applying to. Use those filters wisely.
  2. You don’t have to apply to the same field you received your undergraduate/master’s degree. If a graduate program catches your eye, look at their requirements. Often, you will either meet their program’s prerequisites or if you do not, you may have to take a few extra courses. It is also sometimes helpful to email the program coordinators if you have any questions or concerns.
  3. Applying to graduate schools is an expensive and time-consuming process. Many master’s programs do not offer teaching assistantships or stipends (few do), whereas most PhD programs in science offer either options or both and will cover your tuition for the duration of your degree. Because of this, PhD programs are often more selective compared to master’s programs in accepting students. Few PhD programs do not take international students based on funding sources since international students are not eligible for many NIH-funded grants on an F1 visa. While ten schools might be a good number of each to apply to for a master’s, consider applying to more programs will increase your chances of getting invited for an interview. Interviews are also another difference between master’s and PhD programs. Almost all PhD programs have an interview process before offering you a formal acceptance, whereas with most master’s programs, often may not interview candidates.
  4. Many schools have waived the GRE requirements. Like the application process, standardized tests are expensive. Check the requirements before taking your GRE. You will save valuable time and resources if these test scores are optional.
  5. Some programs are more selective than others and only accept a handful of students. For example, neuroscience PhD programs are notoriously selective, whereas biomedical PhD (umbrella) programs may accept more students. However, there is an overlap between labs and research, and applying to biomedical science programs won’t limit you from doing neuroscience research. Choose your program wisely. I wish I had done this before I started applying to PhD programs.
  6. If you are getting paid as a student, you must pay taxes. If you own a car, you may have to pay property tax depending on the state. Keep this in mind as you plan. Save some money in your rainy-day account just in case.
  7. There are many excellent schools and programs that are less well-known in and outside the US. Do not be disheartened if you do not get into your top-choice school.
  8. Graduate school is expensive, and certain cities (Boston, New York City, anywhere in California, Seattle) have a high cost of living. Consider these factors as well when you choose your schools. The stipend offered may differ based on the cost of living but the NIH does have cap’s on what graduate students can make during their training.
  9. Reach out to alums on LinkedIn. Many people are responsive and love to offer advice or talk about their experiences. The worst that can happen after you reach out is you will be ignored.
  10. Sell yourself and your experience. If you have work experience, write about it in your personal statement, but most importantly, make sure to list it and your skills in your resume. Highlight your accomplishments. Your work and research experience are vital for PhD programs because they show your interest and passion. Don’t be afraid to make yourself stand out. Keep your resume to one page unless it’s a CV and use action words. Follow the simple rule of show, don’t tell. If you worked under a professor or had an independent project, or worked after your undergrad, write about the skills you acquired and tailor to skills to fit the program you’re applying to. Your skills are transferrable. I am a pharmacy major doing my PhD in neuroscience. Don’t be afraid to branch out.

If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in Canada, here are some considerations:

  1. You cannot directly apply to many PhD programs with a bachelor’s degree. Instead, you will need to apply to a master’s program with an option to transfer to a PhD program after 1-2 years. This would require a research proposal to be submitted and approved by your advisory committee.
  2. Enrolling in a master’s degree in Canada usually comes with financial assistance in the form of both teaching and research assistantships. Hence, if you would rather have a master’s degree, you will not have to worry about securing a loan or working part-time to fund your living costs.
  3. The master’s programs in Canada are more research based with much importance given to your thesis project. You would be expected to present at conferences and contribute to manuscripts even as a master’s student. This also has the added benefit of having a minimal course load as most of your time is dedicated to lab work.
  4. As the course of these master’s programs is determined by the pace of your dissertation research, you should not be discouraged if it takes longer than two years to finish your program. Many students graduate after 2.5-3 years in the program.
  5. Unlike in the US, you must apply to a program after finding a PI willing to support you financially. Upon secure admission to a lab, you would apply to the program. This would also mean sending well-crafted emails to multiple professors describing why you like their research and how you are a good fit for the lab. It would be wise to begin this process 4-6 months before the program application deadlines.
  6. There are no rotations even for a direct entry PhD student (if you have a master’s degree). You would be in your dissertation lab from day one of your program. This could be advantageous as you do not waste any time before stepping into your research. However, it doesn’t leave you much room to easily transfer to another lab in expediting circumstances. So, it would be pertinent to reach out to former and current trainees from your lab to assess the lab environment and see if you are a good fit for the lab (and vice versa).
  7. For international students, the fee is higher (although cheaper than in the US), and the tuition is not covered by the graduate school, unlike in the US. However, some universities, like the University of Manitoba, offer the International Graduate School Entrance Scholarship that would reduce the fee to at least the amount that local students pay.
  8. Although most federal scholarships have citizenship requirements like the US, there are prestigious PhD fellowships such as the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and a fair amount of provincial and university fellowships open to international students.
  9. Students in the same program are not guaranteed to have the same stipend. Negotiations between individual supervisors and students usually decide upon the stipend. They can vary based on how much funding the student has already secured and how much the supervisor is willing to pay.
  10. One advantage to studying in Canada is that fellowship stipends are non-taxable. Since you would also be paying fees and have additional financial obligations such as rent, you could file for tax returns and receive refunds.

This article was co-written by Sai Nivedita Krishnan and Deepa Anjan Kumar

From International Student to Resilient Future Physician: My Journey of Personal Growth and Cultural Exploration in the USA

Bernard Ofosuhene is a senior health science student at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts.

This article is part of the 2023 September International Student Perspectives Collection.

As I reflect on my journey as an international student, I have realized that this journey is more than just pursuing a degree; it is about personal growth, too. Leaving behind my family to embark on my academic journey in a foreign land was a difficult decision to make. Having arrived in the United States in the pivotal Spring 2020 semester when the pandemic had begun to unfold presented me with a unique set of challenges than what international students usually face. During this time, most colleges, including mine, were forced to transition to fully remote instruction and on-campus housing was closed. The daunting task of adapting to new instructional modalities and new culture were hurdles that I had to overcome.

My initial days in America presented me with lots of boundaries. Everyone had begun to practice a new culture, social distancing. I thought I had entered a world full of isolation and anxiety. The challenge of adapting to an academic environment where all my instructors and classmates were virtual ones seemed like an irony to me. In the supermarket, I had to keenly look out for marks that said 6ft apart so that I didn’t cross my boundaries. Not every seat at the restaurant or on the bus could be used; I always had to double-check to make sure I was not violating the seating rules. In fact, everything around me was about rules and precautions. Despite the dual challenges of an unanticipated outbreak of a pandemic and the usual adjustments international student face upon arrival in the United States, one important lesson I learned was resilience.

            Amidst these times of uncertainty, my career aspirations evolved. I had the privilege to serve as a contact tracer during the Covid-19 pandemic. My task involved following up with positive cases and their close contacts. Being at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic, I developed an ultimate passion for healthcare. I want to pursue a career in medicine. As a contact tracer, I came across different people with diverse backgrounds and identities, and I began to experience the new America. Each person I interacted with gave me a unique sense of cultural experience. This role also exposed me to some healthcare disparities among different groups of people in the United States. With the desire to improve healthcare accessibility, I am driven to serve the underprivileged and marginalized populations as a healthcare provider in the future.

            I began to have a better experience as COVID-19 cases declined, and things were back to normal. On-ground academic work had resumed, and engaging with my peers from various parts of the globe gave me a comprehensive view of the world. An integral part of being an international student is getting to learn about the rich traditions, beliefs, and perspectives of other students. From engaging in traditional games to sharing meals with other international students, I have come to appreciate the importance of diversity in any academic setting. I found classroom discussions more meaningful as they gave everyone the opportunity to share their unique experiences. These interactions gave me a sense of belonging to my academic community. With time, I have come across helpful instructors who have contributed to my academic achievements. Striving for academic excellence while being away from home could be challenging, but with the support of people around you, it can be achieved.

            In conclusion, my journey as an international student has transformed me into a better person. It has been a journey of personal growth, career discovery, and cultural exploration. Each challenge I faced along the way has forged my character and prepared me to withstand greater challenges I may encounter in my career. I am committed to using the lessons learned and the knowledge accrued to serve my community.

Bernard Ofosuhene is a senior health science student at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts. Originally from Accra, Ghana, Bernard is wrapping up his studies at AMC and is graduating in December 2023. He is currently engaged in Clinical Research at UMass Medical School and is planning on applying to both medical school and MD/PhD programs in the US with the ultimate goal of becoming a physician-scientist.

9/14 Event: Navigating Visas, Education, and Employment in the United States

Join Beyond the PhD in welcoming Dana Bucin on September 14th from 3-4 pm ET. Dana Bucin is a partner and chair of the immigration practice at Murtha Cullina.

Dana R. Bucin is a partner and chair of Murtha Cullina’s Immigration practice. She represents businesses and individual clients on a wide range of immigration matters, including green card applications, work visas, student visas, foreign investor visas, asylum, naturalization, religious work visas, and various other employment and family-based immigration matters.

As an immigration attorney with a business/corporate legal background, Dana’s experience includes counseling foreign investors and entrepreneurs on setting up businesses in the U.S. or investing in existing U.S. ventures and obtaining a visa or green card based on such investment or entrepreneurship pursuant to the E-2, L-1 “new office”, H-1B “entrepreneur” and EB-5 visa options.

Dana regularly provides multilingual legal representation in English, Spanish, French and Romanian. She also has a basic knowledge of Italian, German, Hungarian and Latin. She is often quoted as an expert by publications such as Bloomberg/BusinessWeek and the Hartford Business Journal on immigration law topics.

Dana is always very active on social media. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

We welcome you to reach out to Dana if you would like legal advice by booking an appointment click here.

🌍Global Minds: Celebrating Diversity and Success – September International Student Spotlight📚✨

This month at Beyond the PhD we are focused on international students. International students often bring unique perspectives and experiences that enhance the overall academic environment. Their different educational systems and approaches to learning diversify classroom discussions, encouraging critical thinking and the exchange of ideas. Collaborating with international students also exposes local students to different learning styles and challenges them to broaden their horizons. By interacting with individuals from different backgrounds, students gain valuable intercultural communication skills and develop a global perspective that is highly sought after in today’s interconnected world.

Beyond the PhD will share the stories of a few international students throughout September, including undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs. We hope that their stories inspire, educate, and want to help you enact change in the world. Then on September 14th, we are hosting Dana Bucin an immigration lawyer from Murtha Cullina LLP to discuss visa types, application processes, and how international students can start preparing early for visa success.

We invite international students to submit a photo and blurb of themselves working or doing science or studying what they are passionate about. More information can be found here and photos can be submitted here.

Beyond the PhD hopes to help you on your educational journey to finding your STEM career.

Cloudy with a Chance of Hermit Crabs

On a rainy evening this spring, the Boston Celtics and hermit crabs had a serendipitous encounter. Now, hear me out. I know you think that sentence sounds ridiculous, and I completely agree. However, I do have a point to all this, and I will get to it eventually, but first, let me take you on a journey that I went on a little while ago.

It all started with back-to-back overtime losses for the Celtics in March. If, like me, you are a Celtics fan, you just let out a sigh! You know the losses that I am talking about. So, it is very understandable that my mind drifted to those losses as I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York State and not moving an inch. Neither Jose Gonzalez nor Kodaline, my two favorite artists, placated me, so I switched to my next option- Radiolab.

Since I felt a little crabby, I figured I would listen to the podcast episode “Crabs All the Way Down.” And like many Radiolab episodes, this one did not disappoint. Within the first 5 minutes, I had multiple TIL moments (aka. Today I Learned). I will give you one right now. Did you know that (nearly) all hermit crabs you have encountered on boardwalks were captured from the wild because it is apparently impossible to figure out how to mass-breed them in captivity? Yeah, neither did I. As you can tell, this episode had me hooked. Not even this guy, Dr. Chris Tudge, who had spent years studying the reproductive biology of these somewhat adorable creatures, had an answer. Answers remained elusive until artist Mary Akers came along. And this is where our journey begins.

After her last kid moved out of the house, Mary, like many parents, experienced “empty nest syndrome.” Spoiler alert- a pet hermit crab filled the void in Mary’s life. It was offloaded onto her by a friend, and as the new owner of the tiny creature, Mary’s first plan of action was to figure out how to care for hermit crabs. She was heartbroken when she found out where all the hermit crabs came from but was fascinated to learn that they could live for decades if you sprinkled them with love and care. And so, she decided to buy more hermit crabs and form a “crabitat” in her daughter’s bedroom.

Mary named the crabs, brought them shells, fed them, observed them every day, and spent a significant amount of time with them, so much so that she noticed one of them walking funnily one day, only to discover that her hermit crab was carrying eggs. She built multiple pools for the pregnant crab to choose where to lay her eggs, and once the eggs hatched, she used a turkey baster to replace the dirty water, and at this point, you would think, YAY! Right? Hermit crab lays eggs, eggs hatch, hermit crab babies grow up, ergo, more hermit crabs. Wrong!

Unfortunately, after a while, all the newly hatched hermit crabs died, and no matter what Mary did, they did not survive. Mary was understandably devastated but was determined to care for those tiny crabs, so the following summer, when one of her crabs was carrying eggs, she decided to build a different kind of tank, grew another type of seaweed, and also built a ramp to mimic a hermit crab’s journey from the ocean to the land. And then Mary did the unthinkable, “she decided to not only stop caring as much but to also become the ocean.” I pulled that phrase from the podcast because there is no other way to describe what she did, and it was powerful how she phrased it during the episode. Mary stopped treating the tiny crabs like delicate creatures and instead chose to simulate what they would experience in their natural habitat. She became the ocean.

She agitated the tank, mimicked those rough tides, and slowly, one day, she saw a tiny hermit crab cross that line from the ocean onto the land. Mary had succeeded- she added over 200 hermit crabs to the world that summer. She succeeded when scientists who studied this creature for a living failed. Dr. Tudge, a leading expert in all things hermit crabs, was naturally awestruck by what Mary had achieved. And it all comes back to that phrase- she became the ocean. It was more than just rocking the tank back and forth. The water had to be changed, and oxygen levels had to be maintained, etc. But Mary figured that out. Armed with nothing but a turkey baster and absurd levels of determination, this artist, and a loving mom of three, achieved the impossible. She had successfully mass-bred hundreds of hermit crabs.

One look at Mary’s blog will tell you the hours spent observing, recording, detailing, figuring out alternatives, and, most of all, the care involved in this process. If you work in a lab, it will remind you of your countless failed experiments and detailed lab notebooks, the seemingly unimportant things written down with the hope of finding that “AHA!” moment, the feeling of despair when nothing is going your way, and the urge to give up. Most of all, it will remind you that sometimes, when things seem dire, it is okay not to care. The point of all this was not to convince you to mass-breed hermit crabs but to remind you that while science is fraught with failures, science is for everyone. There is a scientist inside all of us, and you do not need a PhD to be a scientist. Be meticulous and persevere like Mary, and you will succeed. But most of all, be curious!

I will now sign off with this AI-generated image of a hermit crab wearing a Boston Celtics jersey (or at least what my friend’s bot thinks it would look like).

Preparing for a Career at a Teaching-Focused Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI)

If as a grad student, you are anything like I was, then you likely know you are already interested in becoming a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI). This article is for you. If you haven’t even heard of a PUI before, don’t worry, this article can still be for you!

Having gone to a small, public, liberal arts college myself, the mentorship I received during my undergraduate career was paramount to where I am today. I knew that once I finished my doctoral training, I wanted to give back to students by providing the same level of support that I had received. As a first-generation college student, nobody in my family knew what careers in science were all about, nor did I, nor was I even interested in first about careers in science. I can go on for days about my own journey, but I thought I should stay focused (for once) and talk about my own personal advice and some advice I was given about pursuing a career at a PUI (primarily undergraduate institution).

What is a PUI? Primarily undergraduate institutions are often smaller colleges or universities that differ greatly from larger research universities – the type of school you may be pursuing your graduate education at. PUI schools can be either private or public, offer different types of resources both for faculty and students and have varying levels of research present at the college or university. As a professor at a PUI, your role is often multi-faceted. You are faced with a heavy teaching load, typically a 4-4 or a 3-3 if you are lucky. Those numbers correspond to the number of classes you teach each semester. If you teach at a 4-4 college, this means you teach 4 classes (typically 12 credits) in the fall and 4 classes (typically 12 credits) in the spring.

At my current institution, I am responsible for a 4-4 teaching load. Also depending on the size of the college, these classes may all be the same, or may all be completely different, as in my case. Something that many people are unaware of is that at these smaller colleges, you likely will be teaching subjects outside of your comfort zone, something that takes some time to get used to. Depending on the size of the school, you may have to be a “jack of all trades”. For instance, at my college, I teach half biology and half mathematics due to my occupational background prior to graduate studies. My experience is not unique though. My friends and colleagues at other institutions have backgrounds in cell biology or neuroscience, but end up teaching classes like microbiology, anatomy, physiology, or nutrition, even though they did not specifically study in those areas. You may be thinking to yourself, “How can I teach a class in an area that I don’t have a specialty in?” The answer is—you have a Ph.D.! Therefore, you are one of the fastest learners out there. You spent the last x-number of years of your life learning material quickly and efficiently to prepare yourself for any number of questions from your committee. In reality, that is not much different than you preparing a lesson plan to teach a class on muscle physiology, even if you are a geneticist.

How do you get a tenure-track position at a PUI? When applying for graduate schools, I focused heavily on schools with teaching assistantships. However, I ended up getting accepted to schools without teaching assistantships and pursued my Ph.D. in a research-intensive program. My biggest piece of advice: get as many opportunities to mentor students as possible! Most programs also allow you to get experience as an adjunct professor or teaching assistant at other local colleges. Finding the first job is ALWAYS the hardest. Nobody wants to take the risk of hiring a Ph.D. student without any formal teaching experience. Once you get that first one though, the others come far easier. I was extremely fortunate in that I was an adjunct for only 3 semesters before I landed my full-time tenure track position. Others aren’t as lucky, but never give up!

What is it like working at a PUI? Again, everybody has a different experience, and this is especially dependent on the school that you work at. I personally find my career beyond rewarding. I love teaching others about things I know and inspiring interest in things students never thought about before. Those ‘aha’ moments are the reasons I stay in this profession. Beyond your heavy teaching responsibilities, I mentioned earlier, you are also required to participate in department and general faculty meetings and participate in service to the college. This typically looks like serving on college committees, which vary in time commitment and participation requirements. You also have advising responsibilities on top of that. Oh, and if you think that’s enough, you also have your scholarly activity. Scholarly activity is defined as contributions to research in your field or research on teaching pedagogy. This is can be one of the hardest components to accomplish, depending on your institution. Some institutions have fantastic laboratory spaces, others do not. A common thread is that most department budgets do not pay for research. Also, most small institutions do not have animal facilities or fancy equipment that you’ve become accustomed to in your R1 institution’s laboratory spaces. When preparing for a career at a PUI, do a mini “literature review!” What things have been done at the college previously? How expensive is your research to get off the ground and running? A key to success in your research agenda is to link it to classroom learning. This will not only make it easier to get funding through your college, but students will be able to apply what they are learning in class to a hands-on project. Your responsibility is to give undergraduate students real, hands-on experience. A huge piece of advice that I was given when thinking about the research agenda was to keep it simple. Think: what skills will students gain from participating in research with you?

Even though every occupation comes with its own challenges, I personally find that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. If I were given the chance to start over, I still wouldn’t trade my position.

Did you find this article helpful? Are you interested in teaching at a PUI? Connect with me on Linkedin. I’d love to hear from you! And don’t forget to follow Beyond the Ph.D. on our socials at beyond-the-phd.com for more career guidance and other STEM-related content!

The Importance of Making and Maintaining Connections

While you may or may not always be on the job market, it is not only important to make connections, but to maintain connections with your network that you have made. Your network as a whole should be different from a “friend group”. Your network should have people that you have worked with, people that you have met through professional means (networking, conferences, etc), and individuals that you want to be like. What makes a good network? I believe that the best quality of your network is not quantity, but quality. It is tempting to connect with every individual in your company on LinkedIn and most times those individuals will connect with you, but what good does this do for you? If somebody asked one of these random connections what your best qualities are, they will likely respond with “not a clue”.

So, who should you network with and why? Off the bat, you should connect/network with your current team/department and past teams/department. You have worked close with this group of individuals and staying connected with these individuals (whether personally or through an online networking tool such as LinkedIn) will allow you to stay up to date with your past lab mates or team members career developments . If you worked in a similar department, staying connected can help you see various career trajectories of your colleagues without doing much research on your part.

If you are completely new to your field or you are entering the job force after completing educational training, who should you connect with? The best way to make these connections is reaching out to individuals on LinkedIn who have careers that you are interested in. If you want to learn more with who you should/how you should reach out, check out our article on “Using LinkedIn to create your brand and network”.

If you put the time in to making connections through LinkedIn you will find yourself with an arsenal of connections on LinkedIn. Like any social media website, it is important to stay engaged on the professional networking platform. This doesn’t necessarily mean posting content every day. It is important to not “spam” your network. Instead, consider creating and posting content as well as liking and celebrating posts made your network members. This can lead to a potential gateway to conversations. Another way to stay engaged with your network is to schedule in person or virtual one on one check-ins with members that you would like to create deeper connections with such as professional mentorship relationships. If your connections are local, grab a coffee or a beer. If they are more distant, schedule a quick zoom meeting and have a virtual coffee or lunch meeting.

Having face-to-face contact, whether in person or online, builds a stronger relationship with your connections. If you are anything like me, it may be hard to continue to reach out to individuals online. Tools like Refer.com can allow you to track your contacts and remind you to reach out to specific individuals based on time periods you set. Depending on the type of contact, this should determine how often you should try to engage with them. Also remember to be respectful of your contacts schedules.

An article posted in the Wall Street Journal titled “Take your search for a job offline” states that 80% of job openings are never publicly advertised. Many times your connections on LinkedIn will know of employment opportunities so staying connected could enable you to be a VIP in learning about a position before the opportunity goes out to the public. Following up with connections over the years, pruning current contacts, and maintaining vibrant relationships can give you an edge when looking for employment opportunities. However, don’t treat your network solely as “what they can do for you” and a one-way relationship, but try to think of value you can provide to your connections. In a recent article published in Harvard Business Review, the authors dive into the importance of maintaining professional relationships including listening to your members and what they need. This could be as simple as sharing a connection’s post if they are looking for something, or even providing your own expertise in a subject matter. Provide this service to your network without requiring something from your network.

What’s the take-away message from this article? Make meaningful and helpful connections via social media, and engage with these contacts over the years. Share your successes, your insights, and thoughts. Take time to help others and don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself. Now, go back to your social media platform and take some of this advice. Happy Networking!

🌍 Oh, the places you’ll go! ✈️

Outside of science, one of my passions is to travel and experience new places, cultures, and food. While it may not seem that a career in the sciences or signing yourself up for more school by pursuing a PhD would allow the time or means to explore this interest, I have found that my scientific career has led to many opportunities to travel that I may not have had otherwise. So let me tell you about a few of the ways I have been able to travel within my PhD.

One of the most obvious ways to travel throughout your PhD is to attend conferences or workshops that allow you to enhance your professional development and scientific knowledge, but also give you the opportunity to explore new places. Attending scientific conferences and workshops in different cities or countries can be a catalyst for networking and collaboration. These events bring together researchers, scientists, and scholars from around the globe, creating an environment conducive to knowledge exchange and fostering professional connections. Conference travel has taken me from places like Washington, D.C all the way to Lausanne, Switzerland. One of my favorite conferences took me to Parma, Italy! This conference was very specialized for my field of study and allowed many chances to network with companies pursuing similar lines of work, present my research during the week, and receive some of the best feedback on my project. Outside of the conference, I could explore the city, take in the wonderful sites, and fill up on pasta topped with Parmesan cheese from the source! This was the perfect blend of professional development and personal interest. While not every conference takes place in remote, idyllic places, there are plenty of amazing conference opportunities that can also align with your travel interests.

Another way I was able to travel during my PhD was through a collaboration with two labs in Rome, Italy. Through this project, I traveled to and worked in Rome for three months, learning new skills and working on a really cool project. This opportunity was packed with new experiences. Outside of the progress I made on the project, the best takeaways from this opportunity were experiencing a new mentorship style from the PIs there (and further understanding what I would look for in future employers!), making friends in a different country despite language barriers, and fully immersing myself in a new lab culture. The sights I saw and the excursions I went on were unbelievable and without this collaboration, may not have been possible.

While these are the experiences I had during my PhD, there are many other ways for you to get out and see the world. Two other examples that I want to highlight are looking at international PhD programs and post-doctoral positions in cities that you want to experience long-term. I have seen many peers thrive in these types of environments and it may be the best way for you to combine your passions for science and travel.

One big question in all of this is, “How do I pay for it?” My experiences were funded through my research grant, since most grants allot funds for travel related to the research project. Additionally, many PhD programs and research institutions offer funding opportunities for students to present their research at conferences or conduct fieldwork abroad. Take advantage of these resources by exploring grants, scholarships, or fellowships specifically tailored for travel-related expenses. Keep an eye out for departmental or institutional travel grants that can support your scientific and personal exploration.

Sometimes a science career can become overwhelming or monotonous, but having the opportunity to travel within your career, often on someone else’s dime, can re-spark your passion for science, like it did for me. It’s crucial to strike a balance between academic commitments and personal growth. Visiting new places, immersing yourself in different cultures, and experiencing diverse perspectives can broaden your horizons and enhance your understanding of the world. Exploring scientific conferences, research facilities, and collaborating with experts from different regions can provide fresh insights and open doors to new research avenues. So, get out there and enhance your scientific knowledge while seeing the world!

Join Us as a Fall 2023 Campus Ambassador for Beyond the PhD! Apply by September 15

Are you an enthusiastic and driven student looking for an exciting internship opportunity? Look no further! Beyond the PhD is seeking talented undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows to join our Campus Ambassador program for the upcoming semester.

As a Campus Ambassador, you’ll have the unique chance to represent Beyond the PhD and make a meaningful impact on your campus community. Here’s what the program has to offer:

🌟 Disseminate Event Information: You’ll be at the forefront of spreading the word about our engaging Career Discovery Seminars, career development workshops, and more. Your responsibility will include distributing fliers and other promotional content through captivating social media posts. Create your own or share some of ours! Get ready to showcase your marketing prowess and connect with peers who are eager to explore career options. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!.

🌟 Organize a Seminar: Take charge of organizing one seminar during the following semester following your internship. From selecting compelling speakers to coordinating logistics, you’ll have the opportunity to shape an event that empowers students to unlock their post-PhD potential. This hands-on experience will develop your event planning and leadership skills. You might get to meet some professionals in the field that just may just help you on your journey!

🌟 Grow Your Professional Network: Join a dynamic team of fellow Campus Ambassadors and the larger Beyond the PhD Team who are all dedicated to fostering your professional growth. Collaborate, brainstorm, and strategize with peers on innovative ways to enhance our outreach efforts. Along the way, you’ll build valuable connections, expand your network, and gain insights into the professional workplace.

If you’re excited about championing the Beyond the PhD mission, expanding your skill set, and making a difference in the lives of students, we want to hear from you!

🔎 Eligibility Criteria:

Current undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral fellow at a university or college

Passionate about supporting PhD students in their career exploration journey

Excellent communication and organizational skills

Active presence on social media platforms

📆 Program Duration: Fall 2023 Semester (starting in August, 2023).

Ready to embark on this incredible opportunity? Apply now to become a Fall 2023 Campus Ambassador for Beyond the PhD! Show us why you’re the perfect fit by submitting an application using the link below. resume, a brief cover letter highlighting your interest, and any relevant social media handles.

📧 To Apply: https://forms.gle/6pB6cxPGeZDxpmep6

Join us in shaping the future of career exploration for PhD students and create lasting impact on your campus community. We can’t wait to have you on board as a Beyond the PhD Campus Ambassador!

Note: Deadline to apply is September 15

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