The Graduate School


NIH Career Symposium Poster
C. Heard
Written by C. Heard

Rebecca Ward, PhD attended the 11th Annual NIH Career Symposium in May of 2018. Here is refection on the experience.

As a recent graduate from the Biomedical Science PhD at Augusta University, I have found myself overwhelmed at the opportunities that a PhD can go into. Luckily, I had the chance to attend the 11th Annual Career Symposium at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD on May 18, 2018. The symposium hosted almost 1000 students, post-doctorates and fellows to learn more about careers in science ranging from careers in academia, industry and non-bench jobs (see table below to see the topics for these sessions). With short-term goals to enter into science communication and the eventual goal to pursue a career in science policy, I attended the sessions focused on non-bench careers.

While I had originally thought I would be heavily networking and talking to people for a wide variety of companies, I was pleasantly surprised to attend sessions with panels containing 3-4 individuals at varying stages of their careers. Each panelist introduced themselves and how they got into their current position, then the session was opened up to questions from the audience. In the first session I attended, Careers in Science Education and Outreach, I walked away inspired. The panelists (Brian Garrett from SMASH-Morehouse, Alison Pearce from the Audubon Naturalist Society and Adam Ruben from Sanaria, Inc.) showed me science outreach can be more than just a career and differs based on where you want to make an impact. In the session focused on science writing and editing, it was urged that we write as much as we can, get feedback from a variety of people and keep reading articles written by other individuals. As for the panel focusing on science policy and advocacy, they encouraged to participate in outreach to the community, not necessarily just school related events, and fine-tune communication skills.

I attended this symposium with Dr. Nicole Klee, a postdoc in Dr. Clinton Webb’s lab. While we attended some of the same session, she also participated in a few sessions focused on industry. Towards the end of the symposium, data blitz presentations on topics ranging from interviewing, resumes/cover letters and negotiating your offer (to name a few) were offered. It was during these 20 minute sessions when Nicole and I ran into Dr. Patricia Cameron, the Vice Dean of the Graduate School at Augusta University. Dr. Cameron was participating as a panelist during the “Maximizing Yourself as a Faculty Candidate” session. We attended a data blitz session together and discussed how informative the symposium was to each of us. It was exciting to see a familiar face and have Augusta University represented at this career symposium.

I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the NIH Career Symposium. I only wish I had attended earlier in my graduate school career. It is a free event and although far away, completely worth it. What would I have done differently if I had the knowledge I gained from this experience? I would have done more demonstrations for elementary/middle schools, judge science fairs and even start a blog or podcast. I would have taken the time to take a writing course or written more short pieces (like this). To graduate students and post-docs, I would recommend attending this event in the future. If you want to keep up with this event you can go to the OITE website ( They even have a career blog you can follow: Whether you want a more traditional career in academia or are in pursuit of alternatives, this career symposium can be beneficial and thought-provoking and I would highly recommend attending in the future.

NIH Career Symposium Sessions

Academia SessionsIndustry SessionsNon-Bench Sessions
Transition from Postdoc to FacultyIndustry: Research and DevelopmentCareers in Science Education and Outreach
Research at Universities, Government and Non-ProfitsCareers in Investment and ConsultingCareers in Science Administration
Teaching Intensive Faculty CareersGetting Started: The Transition to IndustryCareers in Science Writing and Editing
Maximizing Yourself as a Faculty CandidateFinding the Right Size CompanyCareers in the Federal Government
Career Options for CliniciansBreakaway Careers in IndustryTechnology Transfer and Patent Careers
  Careers in Science Policy and Advocacy
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