August 24, 2001

Career alternatives for biological sciences students discussed

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Cathleen Williams and Louis J. DeFelice speak to the crowd at the seminar, encouraging more minority students to pursue graduate work.

Career alternatives for biological sciences students discussed

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is being proactive in exposing its graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to non-academic career possibilities, said one of the speakers at a recent forum called “Career Opportunities in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences.”

Nancy Wall, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biology at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, earned her doctoral degree at Vanderbilt. She described herself as a “stealth graduate student” – she knew her ultimate goal was to teach at a small liberal arts college, not to pursue a research career at an academic medical center like Vanderbilt. But she feared that sharing that information would cause others to see her as being less dedicated than her fellow students.

“I’m glad to see that times are changing,” Wall said, “and I congratulate Vanderbilt for holding a forum like this.”

Wall shared her experience as a liberal arts university professor as part of a panel session on Teaching and Writing. Other sessions during a day-long symposium introduced participants to careers in Technology Transfer, Law and Consulting; Administration at the NIH and Private Foundations; and Research and Administration at Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Companies.

Symposium speakers and other representatives from pharmaceutical, technical, and management companies were also available for one-on-one discussions at a Career Fair.

“Career opportunities are far broader than they were in the past,” said Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of the School of Medicine, during introductory comments to the forum participants. “I think this is an extremely important program that will be of great benefit to you.”

Vanderbilt’s 450 graduate students and 400 postdoctoral fellows, and students and fellows from Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University were registered to attend the forum, Gabbe said.

This year’s “Career Opportunities” forum built on a successful program held three years ago, inviting more speakers and covering a wider variety of opportunities, said Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training. Jeanette J. Norden, Ph.D., professor of Cell Biology, Larry L. Swift, Ph.D., professor of Pathology, Susan McMillen from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, and a group of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students organized the event.