|Career Neuron by Dr. Immy Smith, |
Dr. Lique Coolen, a Professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, talked about how to have The Talk with your advisor about leaving the bench. She acknowledged that it's often a difficult conversation for trainees to begin. She explained that it is also difficult from the advisor's perspective.
Principal investigators (PIs) specialize in research and in teaching trainees how to do research. They've also invested a lot of time and money into your training and may worry about your commitment to your research project if your career goal has moved away from the bench. Some may be disappointed to hear that you don't want to follow in their footsteps. Furthermore, most PIs don't have the expertise or the contacts to help you obtain your career goal. So what can you, as a trainee, do to make this an easier conversation?
When to have The Talk
Dr. Coolen said as long as you have a good relationship with your advisor you should have the talk as soon as you've made your decision to go down a different career track. If you have a poor relationship with your advisor or if if your PI is known to be difficult with trainees who plan to leave research then it's best to wait to discuss it with them. In the meantime, seek out other mentors who can help you. It's always, always good to have more than one mentor.
Just popping into your advisor's office and announcing that you want to explore other career options is probably not the best plan. Instead, do some legwork to pinpoint which career interests you most. Dr. Coolen emphasized the importance of using an Individual Development Plan to explore career options. An IDP can help you narrow your list based on your interests and skills.
Another important part of preparation is to work out how you're going to manage completing your research project and manuscripts while exploring other careers. Map out how you'll balance the two and bring it with you to the meeting with your advisor.
The Talk will seem less intimidating if you come to it well prepared. Advisors want their students to succeed and will help point you in the right direction. But you get to take the steps to get there.
Here's a list of the other speakers in the Careers Beyond the Bench session. Expect another post tomorrow on this topic and at least one other post about science.
Session chair: Elisabeth Van Bockstaele
Paul Calvo, Patent Attorney at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein, and Fox in DC
Lique Coolen, Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology & Anatomical Sciences, University of Mississippi Medical Center
Rae Nishi, Professor of Neurological Sciences at University of Vermont
Pier Giorgio Pacifici, Sr Account Manager and Sr Business Dev't Manager at Enzo Life Sciences
Sally J. Rockey, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH