SfN.org Illuminates Neuroscience Career Paths
One of the best ways to explore career issues and paths in the field of neuroscience is to talk with peers about their experience, especially on a topic like a career outside of academia or how to secure that next postdoctoral fellowship. But how do you find the right person to talk to and when do you find the time?
A new set of videos, career development resources, and career path profiles in SfN’s new NeuroJobs Career Center gives members a way to learn from their colleagues about a wide range of topics at their own convenience. Some videos and resources explore paths beyond academia while others tap current postdoctoral members for insights into their experiences. Additional tools focus on getting papers published, mentoring, and responsible conduct.
The resources are the latest arrival of SfN’s expanding set of online programs for members, which is taking place through the leadership of SfN’s Professional Development Committee. Over time, the program will add more professional development and training resources for members worldwide, including videos and original topical overviews, as well as live and archived webinars on vital topics to members.
Careers Beyond the Bench: Videos and Profiles Discuss Life Outside of Academia
“My career has been anything but a straight line,” said Katja Brose, editor-in-chief at the journal Neuron, who was featured in a video exploring her career in scientific publishing. Other featured career profiles range from teaching elementary and secondary science to writing about science for the public, as well as working in biotechnology, government, and as a science advocate on Capitol Hill.
Brose said she initially wanted to study biology and art, but got her bachelor’s degree in evolutionary biology and ecology. She worked as a technician in a molecular biology lab at MIT before winding up in a neuroscience graduate program in San Francisco. She advises students to keep an open mind when navigating a career path. “There are some people who know from the day they’re born what they want to do,” Brose said. “Don’t get too locked in to that mindset. Find the things that you’re good at, the things that you like to do, and look for opportunities that will allow you to expand on that.”
The concept for these career resources grew from the “Careers Beyond the Bench” sessions offered at the SfN annual meeting. The popularity of these sessions evidenced a need for more information about the expanding opportunities in neuroscience for members around the globe, a theme that has also emerged consistently from SfN member surveys.
Each video offers the viewer a sneak peak at what it’s like to do that job — and hopefully some insight that will help the viewer evaluate a similar career path. In one video, Bill Martin, the senior director at Theravance, a San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company, said that working as a scientist for a company has some distinct differences from working in an academic setting.
“The fundamental difference between academia and industry is really individual versus team science. While we are all individual scientists to some extent, when you practice science in an industrial setting, you do it in the context of a team,” Martin said. “That daily approach of ‘it’s not just my ideas, it’s the ideas of a team I am executing’ is a real difference.”
Martin said practicing science in industry also means keeping the business side in mind. And although that appeals to him, he recognizes it’s not for everyone. Martin counsels those considering a career in the for-profit world of scientific research to survey the landscape before making a decision.
“Companies have different cultures and styles,” said Martin. “Ask questions of other scientists working in those companies to see if their interests align with yours. Can you see yourself working in that kind of environment?”
Tips for finding a postdoctoral position, mentoring, publishing
In a new section that will help members “navigate” career stages, a first video features reflections from four postdoctoral fellows. Topics include help in beginning to research a postdoctoral position, with particular attention to those graduate students who live outside of the United States, as well as ways to maximize a postdoctoral experience. Challenges are also candidly addressed. Future topics in the navigating career stages will include additional programs tailored for established scientists as well as younger student and postdoctoral members.
Additional resources available in the NeuroJobs Career Center include a video on research misconduct in publishing, also featuring Katja Brose of Neuron, and a presentation from Verity Brown of the University of St. Andrews focused on getting a paper published, and other resources from the Neuroscience 2012 panel on paper publishing.