Academic Research

Careers in Academic Research involve not only research but also the training of young scientists. These positions are typically in research-intensive institutions and also involve teaching and mentoring responsibilities. Positions range from Principal Investigator, who manages a laboratory and research program, to Staff Scientist, who remains at the bench but often coordinates and manages a larger project. While much of the training during a Ph.D. or postdoctoral position is focused on academic research, many trainees start their academic positions underprepared for the management, communication and budgeting requirements of these positions. A key feature of the myCHOICE curriculum is a professional development series that will address these topics, thus better preparing trainees for their transition into independent positions.

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Examples of institutions where you could work in this field:

R1 Research Universities
Liberal Arts Colleges
Medical Centers

Examples of job titles that you might find at those institutions:

Associate/Assistant Professor, Principal Investigator, Staff Scientist

Professional societies that are relevant to this career category:

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), Society for Experimental Biology, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), American Academy of Environmental Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, American Society of Human Genetics.

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Alumni Working in Academic Research

Mark Anastasio

PhD Medical Physics 2001
Professor, Biomedical Engineering Washington University in St. Louis

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
As a graduate student I actively pursued a variety of research topics outside of my thesis topic, which provided me with a broad training that facilitated an independent research career. I also assisted my doctoral advisor (Prof. Xiaochuan Pan) in preparing funding applications to acquire grantsmanship skills.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
As an established investigator, my daily activities include mentoring students and post-doctoral fellows in my lab, teaching courses, and exploring new ideas with collaborators and colleagues. In addition, I have to attend to activities related to grant writing, advising undergraduate students, and department service.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is mentoring trainees in my laboratory and assisting them to evolve into independent scientists. Another rewarding aspect is developing new ideas for research projects.

Emina Stojković

PhD Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 2005
Associate Professor, Associate Chair, Department of Biology, Northeastern Illinois University

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
I mentored undergraduate students in research and I was a Teaching Assistant for upper-level undergraduate courses in my area of expertise.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
Each day I am teaching and/or mentoring students, doing research in the lab and participating in service for my department (such as reorganizing our undergraduate curriculum, participating in faculty search/screen committees and/or writing grants).

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is working with students. Majority of NEIU students have part-time or full-time jobs and families to support. Many of them struggle in the beginning. Being able to give students perspective for the future and help them achieve their goals is so rewarding.

Matthew Friedman

PhD Evolutionary Biology 2009
Associate Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences; Associate Curator, Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
Instruction in scientific writing and illustration, training in analytical methods in phylogenetic, paleobiological, and macroevolutionary analysis, and teaching experience as a laboratory teaching assistant and occasional lecturer.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
Teaching in small-group settings of 2-4 students (tutorials), lecturing and laboratory demonstration, supervision of undergraduate and graduate research students, administration of grants and departmental/college matters, and research.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When students–either undergraduate or graduate–are able to master a new challenge, whether that be a difficult concept in an introductory course or publishing their first peer-reviewed paper.