During my senior year of high school I decided that I wanted to be a research biologist. From there it was a straight path; I got my bachelor’s degree in biology, while also working in a lab, spent a year at the NIH after graduation, and then started at NYU for a PhD program in biomedicine.
Two years in I decided to leave. Not only was I not happy with what I was doing in the short term, I wasn’t happy with where it would take me. Leaving school with my masters was a difficult decision, and absolutely right for me, but figuring out what to do next was even more difficult.
I still wanted to be involved in science, I still loved biology, but being in a lab just didn’t fit. How do you do science without being a Scientist?
Searching for advice
Because I only had research experience on my CV, and I was opting to not continue lab work in any form, I didn’t know what I was looking for, never mind how to find it.
I sought out as much advice as I could from other students, postdocs, professors, friends of friends, blogs, anyone and everyone. Because I only had research experience on my CV, and I was opting to not continue lab work in any form, I didn’t know what I was looking for, never mind how to find it.
Searching for a job is difficult at the best of times, but when you don’t know what you’re looking for? Seemingly impossible.
On the whole, the job advice I got was either vague or was only helpful in retrospect. Much of it left me more confused about my future than I was before. What exactly are those jobs that are supposedly so plentiful for graduate students? Typing ‘science communication’ into a job search engine gave me search results that were broad, baffling and relatively useless.
Where I work now
By what still seems like sheer luck, I actually found a job that would utilize my experience and involved my interests. For more than a year now I have been working as a Journal Development Editor at BioMed Central, working mainly with microbiology journals.
Seeing as I got my masters in microbiology, it’s been a pretty good fit. Working at a desk, instead of at the bench, has been great. I get to keep up with the latest research, in a much broader context than as a student, attend conferences to meet with our editorial boards and other leading researchers, and work towards improving the lives of researchers and citizens alike.
More than that, and outside of the obvious publishing experience, I’ve gained experience in marketing, science communication, content management and social media. I’ve also come to discover just how vast the world of science is beyond the lab.
So much out there
The web of scientific careers is bigger than most people realize, and definitely bigger than most graduate students see on a regular basis or are even made aware of.
The web of scientific careers is bigger than most people realize, and definitely bigger than most graduate students see on a regular basis or are even made aware of. Although career training in graduate school is getting better, there’s still an entrenched feeling of two opposing monolithic choices for students: ‘lab research’ or ‘other’.
These two options are not separate, and they’re significantly more than just two categories. Since I started at BioMed Central, I’ve learned about new science jobs nearly every day. Both jobs that I’ve never heard of and jobs that I knew about, but didn’t know that they could revolve around science. I love finding out about these like-minded people, people who love science but aren’t ‘Scientists’.
Using our experience to educate others
I still think back to the difficulties I had looking for a job two years ago, and I wish I could tell the person I was then everything I know now.
I still think back to the difficulties I had looking for a job two years ago, and I wish I could tell the person I was then everything I know now. But since we haven’t invented that technology yet, I am going to share this knowledge with others who are currently going through it.
I am very happy to announce a new series all about careers in science. Previous posts on our network have touched on career exploration, but with this series I want to delve deeper into what these careers truly involve.
Science is not a solitary pursuit, but a team effort, made up of teachers, journalists, policy makers, publishers, as well as researchers. But how does this team work? What do they do and where do they do it?
Starting right here at BioMed Central, our next post will identify and explain four job types in our publishing team, and how the employee’s previous experience lends itself to their current day-to-day tasks.
Beyond that we’ll have in depth interviews with people in science policy, outreach, teaching, communications, art, administration, technology and probably more publishing. We want to explore every nook and cranny of every sector you’ve heard of, those you haven’t, and then some.
Do you have a job in science that you love? Know someone who can’t stop talking about their science career? Comment below or email me at email@example.com if you’re interested in participating in our series.