For five years now, we have been spending one week per year in the lab focusing on career development activities that normally tend to get cast aside in favor of research. This year, we experienced many research delays due to pandemic shutdowns/low density and due to moving our lab 1400mi/2250km from Kansas to New Hampshire. It would have been pretty easy to protect our limited time in the lab and skip career development week. But as I’ve written before, the time spent on this activity is far more valuable for our science, motivation, well being, professional development, and optimism than any typical week in the lab could be. Because of a late year push to publish a paper and a new preprint along with the extended virtual ASCB annual meeting, our dedicated week was pushed forward by a couple of months such that we had our debrief meeting the last full work day of the year before folks took off for vacation. This allowed us to fully reflect on all of 2020.

Since we moved this year, we had quite a bit of turnover in the lab and welcomed new members Cameron MacQuarrie (postdoc), Beth Bauerly (postdoc), and Amy Conaway (graduate rotation student). It was fun to introduce them to this annual tradition and also see how existing members of the lab, Brae Bigge (graduate student), Larissa Dougherty (graduate student), and Nick Rosenthal (research assistant), had progressed over the last year in their goals. For those who have seen our previous efforts at this, I usually provide a list of activities and give points for each or any activity they come up with (usually more points for things that are of disproportionate benefit and are a bit out of people’s comfort zones). The winner (this year it was Brae!) gets a prize (this year a gift certificate to this sweets shop). Here’s what the lab had to say this year about their experience.

Brae is a 4th year PhD candidate that relocated with us from Kansas and transferred to the Dartmouth Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate program. She was this year’s winner of our contest.

This year I updated my CV, followed people on twitter, and did the other usual stuff, but this is the first time that I really started thinking more seriously about my next steps after grad school. I did a lot of stuff to help me better understand what a career in academia looks like, I made some concrete goals that will help me get there, and I started thinking more seriously about who I might want to do my postdoc with. This will definitely help me as I prepare to go on to the next steps, but it’s also I think helpful to have something to work towards everyday that’s more concrete than just finishing the PhD.

-Brae Bigge

Nick is a research assistant who has applied to graduate school for the coming year. This week we also overlapped our career development week with our biannual career development meetings where we go over everyone’s individual development plan. That’s what Nick is referring to below regarding our individual meeting.

Career development week this year was great because I got to do a lot of
things to expand my network like updating Twitter and Orcid, making a
google scholar profile and starting my website. It was also helpful to focus onsome parts of the graduate school interview process that I will be going through soon. The most impactful part, though, was the individual meeting with Prachee where we talked about plans for the future and I got a lot of
good advice.

-Nick Rosenthal

Larissa is a 3rd year PhD candidate who also transferred to Dartmouth MCB and passed her qualifying exam late this summer at Dartmouth with her new committee.

This week I found the Science Careers Individual Development Plan very insightful for figuring out what I want to do with my life. While I know I want to do something outside of academia, I’m not totally sure exactly what that is. The IDP plan had me rate various skills and interests from 1-5 and then provided a list of careers that aligned with those answers. It was very helpful to see this list of careers which I hadn’t previously thought about for future career paths. In addition, it provides areas for goal setting and taking actions that are necessary to be successful for these careers.

-Larissa Dougherty

Beth is a new postdoc who was a PhD Student with Matt Gibson at Stowers Institute so while she joined our lab for the first time at Dartmouth, she also made the same trip from Kansas City to the upper valley NH/VT. She had a great idea to visit local high schools along with any interested lab members and give a talk about science/research. She felt (and I agree!) it’s more important than ever to bring scientists into the community.

Career development week gave me the opportunity to step back from my project and focus on other areas of my career that needed attention. I used this time to investigate what resources are available to enhance my career (conferences, courses, time management/organizational tools) and ways to promote science through outreach programs.

-Beth Bauerly

Cameron is our newest postdoc who was a PhD student with Vladimir Sirotkin at SUNY Upstate Medical University. He just joined us in October and as you can see, is in full fellowship application writing mode.

Career Development Week provided me with an opportunity to assemble an extensive list of deadlines for funding and career development opportunities that I am eligible for in the coming year. I was able to find several organizations and fellowship opportunities that I had never heard of before. Having this time to plan for these deadlines in advance maximizes the potential for success.

-Cameron MacQuarrie

As usual, this was a really great opportunity for everyone to refocus their efforts towards their long-term goals and become more well-rounded scientists. I think next year we might crowdsource and update our activity list as well as find some other ways to keep things interesting for everyone. If you’ve implemented this idea in your own lab or have any ideas for activities, we’d love to hear from you via twitter or email!

Categories: Reflections