How Life Science Career Paths Are Changing - Stacie Grossman Bloom
In Chapter 17 of 18 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, Neuroscience Institute Executive Director Stacie Grossman Bloom notes that with more life science PhDs being awarded then ever before, there is a supply and demand mismatch for purely academic jobs. Bloom notes that people trained as scientists are not aware what else they can do with a PhD. Bloom calls for more scientific or education training for alternative science careers.
Erik: What has your experience taught you about how science careers are changing? Stacie: I think my experiences just being involved in the scientific fields, especially in life science, has shown me that we’re awarding more PhD’s than ever before, there are a lot of people who just by virtue of sheer numbers cannot follow that traditional academic path, cannot end up in that in that ivory tower, and there are a lot of people who are there for either by choice or simply by virtue of the fact that they just can’t compete off looking for alternative types of careers, and by alternative I just mean anything outside of the traditional lab, whether it be academic or pharmaceutical company, biotech, what I see and sort of what I hear is that people trained as scientists aren’t really aware of what the possibilities are for them. What else can you do with a PhD and the truth is you can do a lot, but having the ability to take your skill set and adjust it for a new career, people with PhD’s aren’t being trained to do that, and the academic institutions may be a little bit hesitant to provide that training because the head of the lab wants to train the next Nobel prize winner, I don’t know if they’re as interested in training the next executive director of the NYU Neuroscience Institute, or the next editor of Nature Medicine, they want to get the biggest return on their investment in you, and they’re investing a lot in you, so I think that there’s a great need to educate people with science backgrounds on other things that they can do, alternative types of careers and I don’t think we’re really providing enough of that just yet. Erik: What do you think would help get that process started? Stacie: So that process is starting a little bit. So when you go to a large scientific meeting, there’s usually one session about alternative careers and the room is usually packed and I’ve been a speaker at a lot of these. At NYU, we have a bi-annual event called “What can you be with a PHD” where there are panels of people who are doing really interesting other things, and that event is attended by almost 2,000 people, I think, the last one. So there’s obviously this great need for it and I think also some of the big scientific journals like Nature, I know for example has nature jobs network that’s not just focused on, you know, where to get a postdoc, where to get a professorship, so it’s starting, and I think as more of us end up in high-profile alternative careers and can be mentors to other people, you know, you hope that you’re the beginning of a larger group that’s going to encourage this kind of thing.