On July 19, 2023, DF/HCC’s and UMass Boston’s Student Training Programs – YES for CURE, CURE-Summer Only, SPARC, and U54 – held a virtual networking event to help students explore careers in STEM beyond academia. According to IECD Deputy Associate Director Karen Burn White, the goal was for students to get exposure to individuals and career paths in academic science and medicine, and to learn about educational pathways and opportunities in pursuit of different careers.
Prior to the event, students were requested to choose and submit their top health and life sciences career interests from a select list, and they were scheduled to speak with a career representative in at least one of their top three career fields during the breakout room sessions. Feven Woldesenbet, an alumna of the CURE program and now a program team member, says that she is "truly impressed by the remarkable coordination that drives Beyond Academia and the genuine enthusiasm of career representatives in sharing their insights with students." This virtual event had 106 student trainees and 37 career representatives in attendance with 17 career fields being represented.
"These types of events are golden tickets! It means a lot for me to give back because I know what the impact this had on my career" – Kenneth Maynard.
"These types of events are golden tickets," said Kenneth Maynard, a career coach who represented the transition from academia to the biopharma industry in Research and Development, from bench-side work to senior administrative roles and a variety of distinct roles in pharma. This was Maynard’s first time participating in this event even though he has participated as a career coach at BSCP (Biomedical Science Careers Program) events for over 25 years. Maynard says, "It means a lot for me to give back because I know what impact this had on my career." Such an impact was also felt by Dayana Alay Gonzalez, a student in the SPARC program, and CURE-Summer Only program students Rhys Crawford and Wilmer Huggins Rivera.
"My experience was enlightening," said Rivera "I was able to receive so much inside information that you normally don't get to research about often." Rivera chose Biotech/Pharma - Operations, Science or Health Policy, and Clinical Trials [A] as his top three career fields since he wanted to investigate the other side of the medical/research field instead of it being purely academic. Rivera’s questions were focused more on disparities in biotech and clinical trials, and he says, "it was remarkable to hear that despite the large underrepresentation in both the medical fields and the patient space, professionals are attempting to close the gap between minorities and healthcare."
For Gonzalez, her main takeaway from the event was the realization that there are many opportunities where one can "tailor their career to encompass multiple interests without giving up one for the other." Gonzalez, who chose Scientific Communication, Museum Conservation, and Science/Health Policy, said that her most memorable experience was with Sarah Mastrangelo, a museum conservator who Gonzalez says Ioves the intersection of science and art as she does. "Being a museum conservator is a delicate process," Gonzalez said. "It requires a great understanding of material chemistry and the art style of the painter. It is honorable to recreate and preserve paintings." Gonzalez, Crawford, and Rivera said they met with all representatives from their top three career fields, and they were able to gain valuable insight. Crawford says the general life advice given by the representatives stuck out the most to him.
"Recalling my time as a student attendee," said Woldesenbet "I remember the thrill of discovering the unique career opportunities that were presented and it was wonderful to see that this year’s event sparked the same excitement in our present students." Woldesenbet added, "Beyond Academia serves as a testament to the CURE program's lasting commitment to empowering students and shaping their future."