Graduate School Career Day Continues to Grow


Kristen Sterba, Ph.D. and an assistant dean at the UAMS Graduate School, helps kick off the school's 12th annual Career Day for Biomedical Sciences.

Nov. 1, 2012 | More than 200 attendees at the 12th annual Career Day for Biomedical Sciences on Oct. 18 heard about “sex and drugs” research, bioinformatics and a wide variety of other career options open to them.

Hosted at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) by its Graduate School, the event drew UAMS graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows and undergraduates from across Arkansas and neighboring states. Career Day featured speakers and presentations discussing career and education options for Ph.D. graduates.

After introductory remarks by Robert E. McGehee Jr., Ph.D., dean of the UAMS Graduate School, and a brief overview from Kristen Sterba, Ph.D. and the Graduate School’s assistant dean for graduate school recruiting and retention, UAMS’ Sudeepa Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., and Brooke Montgomery, Ph.D., led off the roster of speakers explaining their careers, career paths and other professional alternatives after graduation.

“My favorite public health issues are sexual risk reduction and drug use cessation. That’s what I do. You can’t go wrong when you talk about sex and drugs all day. That’ll get you up in the morning and therefore, that’s my area of research,” Montgomery said to laughter from the audience.

An assistant professor of health behavior and health education in the College of Public Health, for her doctoral dissertation she worked on a sexual risk reduction intervention for rural African-American cocaine users, which was led by Katharine Stewart, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and associate dean for Academic Affairs.

Montgomery completed her master’s degree in the UAMS College of Public Health in 2007 then went on to pursue a doctorate in the Health Promotion and Prevention Research program at UAMS Graduate School. She gave much of the credit for her success to the college and its faculty.

“It’s an apprenticeship-based program,” Montgomery said. “They are all about mentorship. I wouldn’t be here now if it was not for exquisite mentorship. Ever since my master’s degree, people have been investing in me to succeed. Mentorship is key, and it is built into the program.”

Bhattacharyya, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics/Biostatistics, began her educational and professional journey in Calcutta, India, and finished her doctorate at UAMS with stops in between at Texas A&M University and University of Alberta, Canada.

She described the rapid growth in bioinformatics — the application of statistics and computer science to molecular biology — that has been spurred on by genetic medicine. Bioinformatics jobs and related businesses are expected to experience a 25 percent compound growth rate through 2015. That means thousands of high-paying, highly skilled positions, Bhattacharyya said.

Anyone with strong roots in biology and computer programming or statistics should consider taking a career path in bioinformatics, she urged.

“I knew there was a big market for bioinformatics, but I didn’t know how big until she showed us all the different jobs there were to offer,” said Jessica Jenkins, a student at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. “I know some friends of mine who have good biostatistics skills. I’m going to let them know this might be something they would be interested in.”

A special guest was Bill Lindstaedt, Ph.D. and director of the Office of Career and Professional Development at the University of California at San Francisco. Lindstaedt, a nationally recognized leader in career development, led a workshop to help students develop a plan for their career development and how to proactively and assertively set goals and objectives to attain them.

In addition to an afternoon panel discussion and campus tour for undergraduates, Career Day featured:

·         Randy Washington, Ph.D. and senior scientist at Proctor and Gamble, Pharmaceuticals, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, on opportunities for research in the pharmaceutical and health products industry

·         John Lipscomb, Ph.D., toxicologist and risk assessor at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Cincinnati Ohio, on applying research skills in a key government agency

·         Carol Cramer, Ph.D. and professor in the Arkansas State University Department of Biological Sciences and College of Agriculture, on teaching, research and entrepreneurism at a predominantly undergraduate university

·         Idella Yamben, Ph.D. and scientific recruiter at Kelly Scientific Resources in Madison, Wisconsin, on creating career paths in industry

“Students should know that a Ph.D. opens up a diversity of exciting career possibilities for them beyond the traditional options of academia and pharmaceutical industry,” McGehee said. “It’s our responsibility to make them aware of these opportunities. Each year the Graduate School brings in a slate of stellar speakers from a number of disciplines, but for this 12th year we’ve gone even further with a great lineup of incredibly accomplished scientists across a variety of high-level careers.”

It was a record year, with attendees from 18 different undergraduate institutions  and several states.

“The undergraduate advisors keep bringing more and more students each year. Instead of minivans, now it’s buses,” said Dana Gaddy, Ph.D., professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

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