Alumni Q&A

Judith Merritt, Ph.D.

Director of Research and Development, Glycobia Inc.

Did you end up at the job you envisioned yourself at when you graduated from the MCB program?

I'd say it is very close. I wanted an industry position, but I didn't imagine that I'd be working at such a small company. There were only two of us at the outset and we've since grown to five employees. It has been exciting to watch things develop from the very beginning.

What parts of your MCB education, besides the science, did you feel was most important?

The science in industry is often team-oriented and requires you to communicate clearly and coordinate research efforts for multiple people and/or projects. Both working in partnership with other researchers and providing training are important aspects of my job. The mentorship I received, in addition to the opportunity to train graduate and undergraduate students were important parts of my MCB education that helped me develop my own leadership style.

Do you have any words of wisdom for current students to help them fulfill their career goals?

Use graduate school as a time to explore your interests and gain experience. Talks and RIPS are great places to learn about other areas of and approaches to research, and there are other education and networking resources available at Dartmouth to help you identify/pursue your career goals after graduate school.

Is there anything about the program you would like to see changed or modified?

Very few PhDs remain at the bench forever. More exposure to the other aspects of a career in science (e.g. teaching, business, intellectual property, grant writing etc.) could be useful.

Brooke Jude, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology, Bard College

Did you end up at the job you envisioned yourself at when you graduated from the MCB program?

I began my position as a visiting assistant professor at Colby College two weeks following my Ph.D. defense.  I was always interested in teaching in a small liberal arts college (SLAC) - as I had attended one (Colby!) as an undergraduate.  As an undergraduate, I enjoyed the ability to work directly with faculty during the academic year as well as in the summer and intersessions, and do primary research throughout my college career.  I was lucky enough to return to my alma mater, and land a full time to teach position that would also give me research space, students, funding, and a strong mentor to guide me through the first year in this new position.  It was this experience that helped me to get my current position as a tenure-track assistant professor at Bard College.

What parts of your MCB education, besides the science, did you feel was most important?

Two things really stand out.  The first is the opportunity to constantly present your work in front of a group. Research In Progress presentations, journal clubs, program meetings, lab meetings, and conferences all helped prepare me to speak in public (skills I now need when I am lecturing to students).  The second was the opportunities to mentor students in the lab- whether they were undergraduates, SURF students or rotation students in the MCB program, this experience taught me an enormous amount about teaching others how to do scientific research.  

Do you have any words of wisdom for current students to help them fulfill their career goals?

If you want to teach following graduate school, I would get involved in teaching as much as possible!  I did this by serving as a TA in microbiology my second year of MCB, but also by grading as much as possible for undergraduate courses (this allows you to learn about different types of exams and questions on exams, a key component to any course you'll have to develop as a professor), giving guest lectures in courses when you can, and taking as many workshops on teaching through Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL).

Is there anything about the program you would like to see changed or modified?

I would have loved to be able to teach more within the undergraduate college at Dartmouth!

Graduate Q & A

Aime Levesque, Ph,D.

Associate Professor of Genetics, University of Hartford

Did you end up at the job you envisioned yourself at when you graduated from the MCB program?

This is exactly what I had planned to do when I entered graduate school originally. I always wanted to teach undergraduates and run a small research program involving undergraduates. However, when I graduated, I was considering a career in pharmaceutical research. I did a 3-year post-doc in pharmacology and toxicology and ended up deciding I couldn't stand doing straight research for the rest of my life.

What parts of your MCB education, besides the science, did you feel was most important?

Considering that I am teaching undergraduates now, I guess the most important was the TA'ship I did in my second year, teaching genetics lab. From that experience, I learned the value of using C. elegans as a model organism for teaching in a genetics lab and have implemented an experiment involving C elegans here. However, spending one semester as a graduate TA really did nothing to prepare me for full-time teaching, particularly lecture teaching. I suppose in a way, journal clubs and RIPs prepared me for public speaking, but there is a big difference between giving a presentation and teaching.

Do you have any words of wisdom for current students to help them fulfill their career goals?

Spend some time researching different careers and if possible, find ways to get experience or exposure in that field. If you are interested in teaching, try to find some real teaching experiencing by teaching a lecture section of a class. I realize this is difficult to do at Dartmouth but look into teaching as an adjunct at Colby Sawyer College or another nearby school if your thesis advisor will allow it. If any students are interested in learning what it is like to teach at the undergraduate level, I'd be happy to talk to them.

Is there anything about the program you would like to see changed or modified?

There should be a program for students interested in teaching at the undergraduate level. Something where you learn about teaching pedagogies, lecture prep, syllabus planning, etc. Maybe even something where you get to do at least a few lectures in an undergraduate class. Nothing takes the place of real teaching experience, but anything that gives you a head start would be nice.