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Cornell University


Monday, August 24, 2015
Lessons to navigate your future

The synopsis below is shared by Stephanie Hilz, BEST Program participant and Ph.D. candidate in Molecular Biology & Genetics about the 2015 BBS Symposium: "Engage your future in science" chaired by David Gludish and Evgeniya Nazarova. The symposium committee that helped organize the event included Karen Barnard, Heather Callaway, Jennifer Fricke, Erika Gruber, Rebecca Harman, Melissa McDowell, Matthew Pennington, Tam Tran, Jocelyn Wang and Angela Yan.

"A biosciences career panel, moderated by Susi Varvayanis and sponsored by the BEST program, was held at the 14th annual BBS symposium. The panelists, who responded to a number of questions posed by attendees, provided very candid, specific advice from the perspective of academically-trained scientists who have since traversed different career paths. There was a recent PhD graduate who had joined a startup, a newly-hired tenure-track professor, a postdoctoral fellow, a biotech CEO whose career began leading a government research lab, and, inversely, a current leader of government research programs whose career began working for a small biotech company. While providing useful field-specific tips, such as the importance of starting 6-12 months in advance when applying for an academic postdoc, the panelists also echoed many common threads of advice regardless of the path chosen: Don't underestimate your own know-how when you are entering new territory. Creativity and the ability to work as a team can be just as important as technical skills. And most of all - sometimes your path is more serendipitous than planned, so always look for opportunities and learn from every single one of your experiences, as you never know what lies ahead."

Photography by Michael Carroll


  • employers look for a can-do attitude, the ability to learn new skills, and creative problem solving
  • even if you don't know what you want to do there are things you can do now as a PhD student or postdoc, like learning to communicate and gaining broad technical knowledge from another field (perhaps even in entrepreneurship)
  • networking=relationships (Do stay in touch with your mentors, labmates, and other contacts)
  • your references should know what you do in AND OUTSIDE the lab
  • in a job interview, work to communicate the potential of your contribution to a project
  • don't give up easily if it's something you really want
  • convey a positive attitude and passion for what you are doing