UCI Affiliation: Postdoctoral Alumna, Neurobiology & Behavior
**Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, New York
Current Industry: Academia
What are your current career goals?
I am focused on obtaining a tenure track position or an industry position. I did my first postdoc in New York and wanted to make a tangential change within the same field [but not exactly the same subject]. I also wanted to move to California, so I identified a lab based on my interests and found a lab that was a good fit.
What skills do you use on a daily basis in your current position? Did GPS-BIOMED activities enhance these skills?
For both [the faculty and industry positions I am considering], I would say hands-on research skills, time management, resource allocation and interpersonal interaction and communication.
Generally speaking, anything that has a bioinformatics or a computational heavy application has pretty broad attractability and interest in both the private and public sectors. I would also say that doing work that is systems, cell or molecularly based is advantageous.
I think part of the benefits of [GPS-BIOMED] were destigmatizing and providing more information about pharmaceutical positions. Certainly, the best way to get a position is through networking and that’s why I really invested in mutual conversations with different folks at UCI and elsewhere, many of which were connections made either officially or unofficially through the GPS-BIOMED program.
Through GPS-BIOMED, I took a class at UCI Extension in project management. That was helpful. [I also spent] a lot of time networking, and talking to people and getting a new mindset.
How did you obtain your position? Which people or experiences helped more than others?
After having gone on a couple informational interviews that were opportunities provided by the GPS-BIOMED network, I was able to start contacting other people comfortably. It was because of GPS-BIOMED that I learned how to effectively network and connect with professionals. I would call people and say, “Can I take you out for a coffee? I’d like to talk about this with you.” People generally like to talk about themselves and their work.
To what extent did your postdoctoral experience prepare you?
I would say particularly for a faculty position, I have a lot of experience supervising and mentoring more junior personnel, preparing manuscripts, preparing and giving presentations in front of large audiences, all of which are the bread and butter skills that are required for success in academia. As far as the private sector, the presentation [and good communication] skills certainly help land the job.
What advice would you give to participants who are new to GPS-BIOMED or who are beginning their career preparation?
If you’re going to put in a 15 hour day, there’s probably going to be an hour of down time somewhere in the middle of that day because nobody works for 15 hours without stopping. So, just organize your day so that your break coincides with an activity that benefits your career. Make time to go to career events. [Get] LinkedIn and connect with everyone you meet.
[I would recommend] the career and networking nights featuring a panel discussion and then round table discussions with individuals afterwards. The reason that’s valuable is because you can actually have a conversation with the people/alumni and then start building a substantially meaningful relationship with the person that you’re trying to connect to.
**At the time of this alumni spotlight Sarah was interviewing for both faculty and industry positions. We are happy to report that she was offered an Assistant Professorship, within the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.