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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

August 2020

NIEHS Biomedical Career Symposium attracts national audience

Early-career scientists gained insight from leaders in industry, government, and academia during the virtual event.

Tammy Collins, Ph.D. Before becoming director of OFCD, Collins chaired the NIEHS Trainees’ Assembly, which helped her learn about the needs of early-career scientists. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

The 23rd Annual NIEHS Biomedical Career Symposium drew more than 370 people from around the country July 24.

“The [event] aims to provide trainees and early-career scientists with an opportunity to explore various career options in the biomedical sciences and create a network as they plan for their future,” said Tammy Collins, Ph.D., director of the institute’s Office of Fellows’ Career Development (OFCD). Due to COVID-19, the meeting was held online.

Sharing practical knowledge

Leaders from NIEHS, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), higher education, and industry gave attendees insights into the job market, how to successfully interview, managing conflict at work, transitioning to academia, and more. Fellows signed up for one-on-one virtual sessions with professionals who offered constructive feedback on their curricula vitae and resumes.

Dahea You, Pharm.D., Ph.D., and Mimi Huang, Ph.D., both fellows in the Division of the National Toxicology Program at NIEHS, served as event co-chairs. They collaborated with people across the institute and fellows at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Navigating job market

Presenters provided trainees with a wealth of practical information:

Dahea You, Pharm.D., Ph.D. You, who contributes to Environmental Factor, won first place in the 2019 North Carolina Society of Toxicology President Award for Research Competition. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
  • “An Overview of the Industry Landscape,” by Lori Conlan, Ph.D., director of the Office of Postdoctoral Services in the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE).
  • “Successful Biotech and Pharma Interviewing: Tips from a Hiring Manager,” by Ted Benson, co-founder of Corralling Chaos, a management consulting firm.
  • “Conflict Leadership: How to Lead Yourself and Others Through Conflict,” by Roy Baroff, J.D., faculty and staff ombudsman at North Carolina State University.
  • “Leading and Managing a Research Group  in Academia,” by OITE Director Sharon Milgram, Ph.D.
  • “Articulating Your Accomplishments: Tips for Navigating USAJOBS,” by Collins and Angela Davis, from the NIH Office of Human Resources.

Work well with others

“We’re seeing tons of industry positions that are still open — industry is still hiring,” Conlan said, acknowledging concern about the pandemic’s effect on the job market. She highlighted growth in fields such as artificial intelligence, precision medicine, and the microbiome.

“Innovation is being driven by collaboration between multiple … stakeholders,” Conlan noted. She said that building team skills is important because much of that collaboration involves working with industry partners and academics.

Control what you can

“We are in the midst of a life-changing, unimaginable event, and there are many, many things [we] cannot control,” noted Milgram. “Everything you’re doing to write papers, to work on job applications, to learn new skills from home — those are things you can control,” she said.

Mimi Huang, Ph.D. Huang, also an Environmental Factor contributor, won the Society of Toxicology Food Safety Specialty Section’s 2020 Frank C. Liu Early Career Scientist Award. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Milgram pointed out that at the start of one’s academic career, relationship management is critical. She recommended journaling as a way to keep track of potential mentors and attending faculty events to build social capital. Other meeting highlights include the following.

  • Benson stressed that in an interview, a goal should be to communicate competence but also authenticity and awareness of the organization’s values and mission.
  • Baroff referenced the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury. One takeaway is that it is important to separate people from a given problem. “Disagree on the problem, [but] be civil, be respectful, [and] be polite,” said Baroff.
  • Collins and Davis wrapped up the meeting with an in-depth look at federal hiring, sharing information on the application process and how to convey skills and expertise effectively.

“Kudos to you all for taking the time to invest in your career,” National Toxicology Program Associate Director Brian Berridge, D.V.M., Ph.D., told the audience. “I applaud you for not letting COVID-19 stop you from having some virtual networking and interaction.”

(Jesse Saffron, J.D., is a technical writer-editor in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

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