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150. Rediscover Your Scientific Passion

Nadia wanted to help patients. She had considered going to medical school, but found biomedical research to be an exciting opportunity to develop new knowledge and therapies.

After graduate school, she continued her training as a postdoc. She was on the faculty-track, making plans for her project and her next career advancement.

Then, COVID hit.

She was living and working in New York City as the largest pandemic in a century unfolded around her. She realized she had developed some skills over her years of training – PCR, data management, lab operations – that might make a difference in patient outcomes.

So she pressed pause on her postdoctoral work to start a clinical testing lab that now runs 60,000 COVID tests each week.

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139. Back to School During a Pandemic

In March 2020, the world shut down.

International borders were sealed. Businesses shuttered. Schools locked their doors and students were sent home to learn ‘remotely.’

At the same time, many universities and research labs also closed down for the summer of COVID-19. While a few labs remained open as essential research continued, many scientists froze down samples, trashed cell lines, and went home to spend some quality time with PubMed.

But now as summer wanes, the research labs are thawing out.

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mother reading to baby

098: I’m in Grad School and I’m Pregnant! How to Have Kids AND a Career in Science

It’s no secret that graduate school and postdoctoral training are some of the most intellectually and emotionally challenging periods you will face in your career. Experiments fail, grant deadlines loom, and PIs push you to work long hours to publish or perish.

That’s why many trainees wait to start a family.  Time is precious, and the idea of staying up all night to record your experimental time-points is daunting enough.  Who has time to stay up all night calming a crying baby before rushing back to the lab?

Many students know they want to have kids ‘some day,’ and the six to ten-year grad-school-postdoc training period looms large.  They just don’t want to wait that long to start a family.

But is it possible to have kids WHILE you’re in grad school?

We asked an expert!

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091: Cross-Train for the Faculty Track with the Academic Pathways Postdoctoral Fellowship

Think about your training as a grad student and postdoc – you spend countless hours at the bench, running experiments and reading papers to finish your personal research project.

Now think about your PI or faculty advisor.

Does she spend time at the bench?  Or are you more likely to find her in her office, writing grants, attending departmental meetings, and managing people, projects, and money?

If you’re noticing a mismatch between academic training and the actual work of a faculty member, you’re not alone.  The skills and traits that make us successful students may not translate into making us successful professors and PIs.

That’s where a unique postdoctoral fellowship steps in to bridge the gap: it’s the Academic Pathways program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Their goal is to prepare postdocs for entry-level faculty jobs, with a special focus on increasing diversity at the highest levels of academia.

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