Wednesday, 25 September 2013

You're all different: Creating your own career

Its 2013 and the economy is not that great. These were the familiar words from Eva Amsen of F1000 research at the recent NatureJobs Careers Expo as she showcased the successful career stories of fellow scientist. Her point being that you may have a plan in mind but the reality is not as straight forward. With her talk themed, 'You're all different: Creating your own career', Eva gave a gripping and engaging presentation on the diversity in science careers.

From academia to science writing to self-employment, Eva shared the journeys of selected scientist and the diverse routes their paths had taken as they embarked on their careers.  Speaking about herself, she told of how her specialty in science and culture looked dim after her PhD when cuts were being made and freelancing opportunities dried up. She had to readjust and ended up in publishing.   

However you interpret this, it summarises how bad things have gotten from as far back as 2006 and the challenges some graduates are still facing today. (Image by byJasonVarney for TheScientist, 2006)

A story that stands out is that of Douglas Prasher who seemed to be on a fairly stable academic path until he could no longer secure funding for his research. He left academia for industry and was doing quite well until he lost his job and ended up as a shuttle bus driver. He made a significant contribution to research during his time in academia but unfortunately missed out on receiving the noble prize in medicine for a discovery he pioneered. He has since been invited back to research. The full story may be accessed here
As extreme as Dr Prasher’s story may sound a lot of graduates can relate to this from their own experiences.    
On the flip side Ethan Perlstein of perlstein lab decided to take matters into his own hands when efforts to secure funds for his research after his time at Princeton and Harvard was becoming difficult. He took the bold initiative of crowd funding to run his own research project on 'the location of methamphetamine on the brain'. He now has an independent lab where he’s researching on various diseases.

For all the attentive attendees the message was clear. We are all different and your career path lies in your hands. People have secured jobs today that were non existent yesterday and some more will do tomorrow just from doing what they love. Eva did an excellent job of highlighting opportunities to create your own career from the success stories of ordinary people. Her talk set the atmosphere for the day as she ended by saying... 

“At a conference the most important things happen in the coffee break. (…) The most important things happen in interstitial spaces, they happen in between, and they happen when we least expect it.” -Hans Ulrich Obrist (art curator)

so off we went networking 

Full lecture slides below 

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