“Nuggets of Knowledge”


My father is the collector of trivia.  Our family calls these little known facts his “nuggets of knowledge”. These nuggets are bits of information that are enlightening and concern a wide array of subjects. One of my favorite nuggets of knowledge is that when an alligator is running after you, you should run zigzag because they are unable to make quick turns when they are chasing their prey and thus are unable to catch up to you. When dad tells us one of his nuggets of knowledge they often seem to come out of nowhere and rarely do we think they will ever come in handy in our lives, however, you never really know about that.  This may sound a bit absurd but, one time on a family vacation, my family actually put this nugget to use. We were staying in Florida for a few weeks and we decided to go to the beach.  Not unheard of when you go to Florida, right? Well it just so happened that while we were on our way into the water, we spotted a sign that read, “Alligators may appear from time to time, enter the water at your own risk.” Now we didn’t see an alligator that day but we were all running zigzag to the car after we saw that sign.  You may wonder how this relates to my current internship. You see, I have come to view all of my education about the research field to be “nuggets of knowledge” some of which may not seem to make sense to me now but will probably we incredibly useful in the future even though it may not serve my immediate needs but it will help me make adjustments for pursuing a career in research.

Being a part of the medical science research field is very competitive and difficult to excel in so this week I decided to sit down with my boss, Dr. Ron Seel to ask some questions about how someone new on the scene can achieve her goals and what types of careers are available for undergraduates. Some of the advice he gave me was pretty eye opening, interesting and new.

My conversation with Dr. Seel caused me to rethink some of my initial ideas or plans. For example, I asked him about what types of positions are typically available for recent graduates in the research field. His response was that for undergraduate students it is very hard to get employment but that research laboratories really only hire people with MDs and PhDs. He also told me that with a Master’s degree you can typically get a position as a grant manager, data manager, or be an editor of a journal. But if you have a PhD you could either work as a research coordinator or have a junior level position. When he told me about the duties of a research coordinator I realized that it was the role I wanted to have in the research field. A research coordinator typically manages one or more studies, writes reports for the IRB (international review board), creates participant consent forms, recruits participants for studies, is involved in data collection and entry, and helps with writing grants and literature reviews.

This answer has caused me to change my graduate school search because he said that those who only have completed a Master’s degree are typically not as involved in the research process. Originally, I was leaning towards competing my Master’s after graduating from Dickinson College and then possibly going back to school to get my PhD in the future. But now I have an understanding of what graduate program I should look at for the career I want to pursue.

While interviewing Dr. Seel, one of my questions led to a surprising response. I had recently found out about an experimental psychology program that is offered at some graduate schools I am currently looking at. When I asked him if he thought if it would be a good major for someone wanting to enter the research field or if he thought neuroscience or psychology would be better, his answer surprised me. He told me that by getting an experimental psychology degree would only inhibit my ability to have another job as a backup plan. While this makes sense, I originally thought that by getting my graduate degree in experimental psychology would help me gain the skills and training that is necessary for a career in the research field thus making it easier to get a job in the field. However, he thought differently. Dr. Seel proposed that it would be better to get a PhD in clinical psychology, that way one could work as a clinical psychologist on the side while also conducting research.

Now that Dr. Seel has given me advice about how I should go about getting the career I want, I have realized that I need to make some adjustments. For starters now I need to look at graduate programs that offer a PhD in Neuroscience or Psychology. He also told me that he looks for research experience in recent graduates’ resumes and to include a published journal article they have co-authored. Dr. Seel has agreed to let me co-author their upcoming journal article about the “bio-psycho-social” treatment that Shepherd Center has been involved in. I am excited about being able to co-author a published journal article and will definitely add it to my resume.

Now that I have received advice/ nuggets of knowledge about my career path and how I can achieve my goals I know how to make my dream of becoming a part of the research field a reality.

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