Last November, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from 14 biomedical research institutions in the New York metropolitan area descended upon the NYU Langone Health campus for a 2-day symposium called “What Can You Be with a PhD?” Launched at NYU Langone in the mid-1990s, the biennial event now attracts more than 1,200 researchers exploring their career options.
During 30 sessions representing more than 20 career paths, a diverse lineup of speakers describe their jobs, recount their career trajectories and answer audience questions. Keith J. Micoli, PhD, assistant dean for postdoctoral affairs at NYU Langone, says the symposium organized by his office reflects the reality that only one in six PhDs will go on to earn a tenure-track position in academia. “Our job is to provide as many resources as possible to allow students to determine what career path is best for them,” Dr. Micoli says.
The two-day symposium is only one element of an expanding support system that offers a wide-ranging menu of career development courses. Through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, for example, NYU Langone Health teamed up to initiate the Scientific Training Enhancement Program (STEP) in 2013 to enhance career-training opportunities for both postdocs and graduate students.
“Through the STEP program, we’ve been partnering with professionals in nonacademic fields to come up with a curriculum to better prepare people for those types of careers,” Dr. Micoli says.
Biotechnology professionals teach courses on the business of science and on biotech structure and strategy; experienced medical writers teach a course on medical writing; and policy experts teach a course on how science policy works.
The arrival of the STEP program coincided with the debut of a career-planning course—the first of its kind in the country—that helps young researchers decide how to use their training most effectively. Sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, the 8-week course has helped more than 300 graduate students and postdocs create customized research and career plans based on their aspirations. “All of these things that we’re doing make us a unique program,” he says, “and help us attract motivated young scientists.”