An integral aspect of my career trajectory has been consistent involvement in some form of scientifically-based extracurricular activity which I believe has considerably impacted my career path. Unbeknownst to me, involvement in these activities and interactions were polishing my networking skills and setting the course for my scientific career. While a number of my experiences happened before graduate school, perhaps the flavor of my experiences will be useful to you as it is never too late to learn an alternative way to build your network.
Each consecutive summer through high school, I built scientific experience through programs focused on science and/or medicine. Two programs that significantly developed my networking skills and ignited my true interest in the field of medical sciences were: INVESTING NOW and Medical Explorers.
INVESTING NOW focused on providing academic support in math and science through high school and Medical Explorers, which I joined through my association with INVESTING NOW, provided students a real world glimpse into the lives of medical professionals through shadowing, seminars, and networking opportunities. These two programs lit the scientific fire within me, and assisted me in exploring the many options for a career in science.
Many summer programs followed, including the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences, and two consecutive collegiate summers in the University of Pittsburgh’s Summer Pre-Academic Enrichment Program. By the time I was headed into my sophomore year of college, I had a pretty hefty resume, and connections throughout the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. At this point, I was certain I wanted to attend medical school.
The tides began to change my sophomore year when, during a chemistry class, a visiting scientist came to speak about his scientific research projects at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His enthusiasm for his craft and research drew me in completely. I found myself networking with him, and asking if I could work in his lab that summer.
A bit caught off guard by my forwardness, he informed me that he did not have adequate funding for a student. Yet, he encouraged me to apply for the Summer Pre-Graduate Research Experience conducted at the University and, if accepted, my research project could be conducted in his lab. I believe that I was a shoe-in for the program, as I came with a predetermined preceptor.
So, there I was, back in the lab, seven years later, but this time with a totally new perspective and foundation. While I was not doing cutting-edge experimentation in this lab, I found myself enthusiastic, filled with questions, and encouraged in the environment. After that summer, I was pretty sold on a career in scientific research.
However, in a last ditch effort to feed my desire to go to medical school, I returned to the UNC-CH the following summer as a rising senior to attend their Medical Education Development Program. Five stars goes to this summer experience which provided a truncated simulation of your first year in medical school, though, not enough to sway my interest in the lab.
I decided that since I was headed toward a career in scientific research, I wanted to be involved in its entire splendor, and, so I applied for a post-baccalaureate position at the NIH. Promptly after graduation, I moved to Maryland and began doing research at the National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Being in the fast-paced dynamic research environment of the NIH was exhilarating. The lab I worked in had a collaboration in place with investigators at the National Cancer Institute.
Through this, I was able to interact with cancer researchers, and networked my way into a second year fellowship through the Cancer Research Training Award program. Truly inspired by the research advances occurring around me, I decided to pursue a career in the field of cancer research.
I began my doctorate in Molecular Medicine, Oncology Track, at The George Washington University in 2005, and what a life-enriching experience it was. In graduate school, I learned so much about myself, made amazing life-long friendships, and realized my passion of using science to serve the public. However, and even more notably, I realized that a full-time lab career was not a part of my long-term goals.
With this clear understanding, and just beginning a translational research-focused postdoc, I decided to take a course at Montgomery College called the Chief Scientific Office Boot Camp. This course, which is offered by SciPhd, opened my eyes to leveraging my network and utilizing my “hard” and “soft” skills to market myself for a career outside of the lab.
As a result, I began discovering what I truly loved about science, while expanding my network by reaching out to individuals with careers I was interested in, and conducting informational interviews. In the end, I realize my interest lies in understanding the process by which a scientific idea actualizes into an approved clinical product. Now, I have found my way into the world of regulatory affairs as an NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force Fellow in Regulatory Review and Research. It has been an amazing journey thus far, and I am looking forward to where I can and will go in the future.
Lisa Sproul Hoverman, PhD has a BS from Carlow University and a graduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh on the kinetics of Kinesin motor proteins. In her Postdoc at Penn State University, she examined the kinetics of DNA polymerases. She has since formed her own company in scientific and medical writing services. Dr. Hoverman’s largest long-term Client is the Microsoft Health Solutions Group where she serves as one of three Senior Grant and Proposal Specialists as part of the Business Desk in Sales.
Copyright Lisa Sproul Hoverman, PhD
Published with permission