Growing up, I never knew I wanted to become a scientist. My story might be the similar to yours…
I’ve always loved learning and as long as I was learning something, I was having a good time. This pretty much describes my philosophy through college. If I had to do it over, I would definitely change some things about my college experience. I got my bachelor’s degree in biology concurrently with my master’s in biomedical engineering because it seemed like a good idea to get them both out of the way. I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with only a bachelor’s degree and I didn’t want my parents to convince me to go to med school.
Fortunately, after graduation, I got a position as a research scientist for a pharmaceutical company. This was a game changer for me. I loved it!! I loved the work environment and the people. I was learning so much and not just from textbooks. Doing experiments and getting results that were actually important to the company’s bottom line. To date, still one of the best experiences of my life.
After two years, I found myself asking what’s next? Where can I go from here? I eventually wanted to be a project leader involved in the decision making process of target identification and validation or assay development. However, without a PhD, I considered my options: stay and hopefully continue to work my way up or go back to school and get a better scientific foundation. Obviously, the title of the blog tells you I went back to school.
Got my PhD in pharmacology, yet another amazing experience. I’ve called graduate school a cocoon. I think until recently, most grad students were wrapped up in this oblivious world of learning (at least the lucky ones with good mentors). Everyday is a new opportunity to learn and innovate, and if you fail..that’s ok! Go back, reevaluate and try again. Five years and 2 publications later, I was ready to be done. At this point I was 75% sure that I didn’t want to go into academia, but I still wanted to learn and establish myself as an independent scientist. I decided to do a postdoc..but I wanted to do research in a different area than my graduate thesis.
So here I am, 10 years after college, 2 years into a postdoc…..trying to get out into the real world. Like all other experiences in my life, I have to admit that I’m lucky by most standards. As a postdoc, I’m fortunate to be at the top institution for cancer care in the world. I have a great mentor, and I work with some pretty cool people. The resources for postdocs here are also pretty amazing, in my opinion.
I set a pretty firm deadline for myself to be finished with my postdoc fellowship in about 2 years. The “about 2 year” mark is fast approaching, so I’m currently juggling, finishing up 2.5 publications with my job search. It’s definitely challenging, but I’m optimistic and plan on sharing this experience of navigating this journey from postdoc to doc with real job (lol) with you.