Scientists pursue a wide range of fulfilling careers that are personally meaningful and critical for society. These include therapeutics, business, consulting, publishing, and policy, among others. Our training program aspires to reflect the breadth of knowledge, skills and relationships necessary to achieve professional success in students’ chosen career. We recognize that many students will not pursue the path of becoming postdocs and then professors. Unlike many programs, we characterize non-academic routes as standard, and even desirable, outcomes of PhD training. We never use the phrase “alternative careers”, since it implies that becoming an academic is the norm. Our communications course (SB212) emphasizes skills that are essential for almost any science-related career, including public speaking, presenting data, and communicating clearly to a variety of audiences.
The PQE1 experience also provides a creative opportunity for students to develop and use new computational skills. Of the 16% of students who have left the program without a PhD, approximately 50 percent have gone on to successful careers in software engineering or data science. Of graduates, 22% are now employed in technology startups or other areas of data science.
Individual Development Plan (IDP): Systems Biology students are required to complete an IDP meeting with a mentor of their choosing at least annually. The mentor may be their Dissertation Advisor, a member of their DAC, an alternate Harvard faculty mentor or a professional from industry. The IDP discussion provides students with the opportunity to think about their training objectives, their progress towards them, and to set and/or refine goals for the future with their mentor. Students bring a completed IDP form to the meeting with their mentor, and use the form to help guide the meeting. Students must report on the completion of their IDP conversation to the Program Coordinator by February each year.