Kevin Johnson (PEMM) meets Amy Jensen (PEMM '10) for the 2015 Externship

One of the many career development opportunities offered by the Dartmouth Graduate Studies office is the externship program – a day-long version of the more familiar internship. The externship offers students a short, practical experience in their area of research or career exploration. The Graduate Studies Office does a great job of matching current graduate students with an impressive network of graduate alumni in professional positions.

This year I participated in the program and spent a day at the Norvartis Institute for BioMedical Research (NIBR), a division of the large pharmaceutical company Norvartis in Cambridge, MA. Another student, Rebecca Crepeau (MCB), and I were matched with PEMM alumnus Amy Jensen, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Ophthalmology division at NIBR. Dr. Jensen was an excellent host.

Despite her demanding schedule, Dr. Jensen set up an entire day to show us what a career coming out of PEMM looks like. She provided us with a tour of Norvartis’ facilities, described her post-doctoral position at a pharmaceutical company, discussed how to make life transitions after graduate school, deployed valuable career advice, and a set-up a meeting for us with the head of the NIBR post-doctoral program.

We were also treated to lunch at a local restaurant where Dr. Jensen shared some cherished memories from her time at Dartmouth. Overall, the externship was a fantastic experience. The opportunity to peer into the professional world provided me with a true sense of the work atmosphere and a more concrete idea about what an industrial post-doctoral position might be like.

As a fourth year student my coursework is now complete, my thesis research is finally starting to come together, and the idea of graduating is starting to lose its abstract quality. Nowadays, a question that I am frequently asked is “What’s next?” At the moment, I still don’t have a solid answer for that question. While I get daily exposure to one potential career path— academia— exposure to alternative careers can be a rare event during a PhD. Through this externship I was able to gain first-hand experience of another career available to PhD candidates. Most importantly though, I discovered that the Dartmouth Graduate Alumni network is tangible and the Alumni are very apt to aid current students however they can.