null Is there life after academia? The RI-MUHC Trainee Career Half-Day explored the options!

Research trainees looking to explore career options outside of academia expressed appreciation for the perspectives they gained at the second annual Career Half-Day for Trainees of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). 

One hundred and sixteen trainees participated in the event hosted by the Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training of the RI-MUHC, which took place on November 24 at the Glen site. In the morning session, six professionals working in clinical trials, venture capital and the pharmaceutical industry shared why a PhD or M.Sc. is valued in non-academic workplaces and offered tips on how trainees can transition to these careers. 

At the networking lunch trainees sat down with 20 professionals from diverse career paths, who fielded their enthusiastic questions. Professionals from organizations including the National Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Space Agency, Charles River Laboratories, NEOMED Labs, Algorithme Pharma, Real Ventures and IC Axon offered the trainees advice on careers outside of academia. Sharing their feedback on the event, the professionals said they found this to be a stimulating and fun opportunity to mentor the next generation.

Students commented on the importance the event had for their career planning. “We need to make students aware of what positions are out there, in pharmaceuticals, industry, government and policy, and what those careers entail,” said Elvis Cela, from Dr. Per Jesper Sjöström’s laboratory. Heather Duncan, from Dr. Kolja Eppert’s laboratory, agreed. “It was crucial exposure to a number of different fields and career opportunities. We’re mainly exposed to the academic track, and we end up losing touch with people who go into industry.”

For Mostafa Ghozlan, supervised by Dr. Jean-Jacques Lebrun, the timing was right. “I’m starting the fifth year of my doctorate now and have figured out that I don’t want to pursue an academic career,” he said. “Meeting people from different backgrounds is eye-opening!” 

What was the personal take-away? Several trainees summarized their new insights.

  • “Take online courses in my free time for certifications! I never thought of listing ethics courses on my C.V. And if you want to work in pharma and you worked at a CRO [contract research organization] before starting your doctorate, keep those people you worked with as contacts.” — Amanda Baumholz, Dr. Aimee Ryan’s laboratory

  • “How to market yourself and explain how your unique skill sets position you as an ideal candidate for a particular job. It was also interesting to hear about entrepreneurial paths that others have taken in Montreal.”— Heather Duncan

  • “Practical advice on moving up the career ladder!” — Elvis Cela

  • “Networking is essential and crucial: we need to attend events, network, and talk to people. Then, be proactive and look for initiatives.” — Mostafa Ghozlan

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—December 2017