Dartmouth’s Graduate Studies Office coordinates a Graduate Studies Externship Program, pairing current graduate students with alumni from Dartmouth’s graduate programs. As part of the program, students spend a day shadowing their alumni host, becoming acquainted with their host’s place of employment and discussing professional goals. For his externship, Justin Richardson, a student in the Department of Earth Sciences, spent the day with Dr. George Linkletter, who has an AB and an AM in geology from Dartmouth and a PhD from the University of Washington. Dr. Linkletter is the senior vice president of the environmental consulting firm, ENVIRON. Justin writes of his externship:
The experience and insight gained from my externship with Dr. Linkletter was invaluable to my career development. Dr. Linkletter is an accomplished scientist and environmental consultant in Irvine, California, who credits his scientific success to his time at Dartmouth College. We began chatting in his office, which had a wonderful view of Orange County and a framed picture of Dartmouth Hall above his computer. As he told wonderful tales of faculty and life in Hanover, I was proud to be at Dartmouth College in the very department where he had studied.
Dr. Linkletter then offered a unique view of research outside of academia; he has worked both as a research scientist and as an environmental consultant. Dr. Linkletter described his research experience and work with consulting firms, all of which showed the applicability of skills learned in graduate school. Afterwards, Dr. Linkletter introduced me to some of ENVIRON’s past and current projects on soil and groundwater contamination. I noted that a consultant approaches a problem very differently from a research scientist. During the two conferences I attended, it was fascinating how their work moved between science, law, and business. Not only do they deal with scientific questions, but they are also held to legal timelines and financial guidelines.
Later in the afternoon, I met with two research scientists and discussed how they navigated from graduate school to a fulfilling profession. A theme emerged in these conversations: if academia does not suit you, do not feel compelled to pursue an academic career. The two scientists currently work on challenging scientific questions. However, they have greater control over where they live and the hours they work compared to when they worked in academia. A consultant’s work is more challenging and stressful than work in academia. The health and finances of residents facing contamination issues rests directly on their ability to properly conduct a study, correctly interpret the results, and act based on those results. However, Dr. Linkletter emphasized that the size and function of environmental consulting firms differ; some are small, personable firms, while others are large institutions with many employees.
As the workday came to a close, I was happy to know that working in consulting can be so captivating and rewarding.