Saturday, June 5, 2010

Focusing on Interdisciplinary Research and Networking

Naresh Sunkara - Postdoc, University of California, Berkeley

As a postdoctoral fellow interacting with and mentoring graduate students at UC, Berkeley, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on two subjects that could help you enhance your grad school experience: Interdisciplinary research and networking!

The significance of research at the boundary of different scientific fields to research at graduate school has increased dramatically in recent years. Interdisciplinary research entails exploring, learning, and mastering more skills in more than one scientific field in the typical time frame of graduate school (5–6 years). Although this can be a greater challenge, it may provide more career options after grad school. I want to emphasize this point because of the changing face of the pharmaceutical industry, along with the emergence of new careers in biotech, other related industries and government, which are looking for scientists with a broader expertise in science.

Once you choose your adviser, decide on the research topic, and get through qualifiers, you should start NETWORKING! Most of us hope that our mentor will be able to place us somewhere after graduation. Your research adviser should not be your only connection to the scientific world! You need to have mentors other than your graduate adviser and your committee to guide you in pursuit of your career goals. Try to network with researchers who are willing to guide you professionally. One important place to network is at the national meetings, where you can efficiently develop professional relations.

To be successful during and after graduate school, in addition to their scientific skills students should make a conscious effort to develop their social and networking skills.

Naresh Sunkara completed his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

1 comment:

Morgan said...

Networking is extremely important, but remember that connections are mutual. Don’t wait until your final year of graduate school to finally start talking to successful scientists around you. They will feel that they are being used. The best letters of recommendation come from close working relationships over several years.