The 85 percent – Marcella Lucas

On June 5, 2012 by Grad Forum

Lucas_research_award_feature_editedThe Student Notebook essay offers insight or opinion from a Dartmouth student or trainee. Marcella Lucas is a Ph.D. student in the Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine. She was president of the Graduate Student Council in 2010-2011 and is now a coordinator of the International Graduate Mentoring Program. She is currently completing her Ph.D. and plans to pursue a career in health-care consulting.

 After three years studying biochemistry at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, an additional year as a scientific intern at Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center, and three years as a Ph.D. student, I have a lot of experience doing research.

My current research, though, is not going to end up in a scientific journal. Like many Ph.D. students, I am exploring what I might do with the advanced degree I will eventually receive.

Only about 15% of people who earn a Ph.D. in the sciences will become a tenured faculty member. So what happens to the other 85%? What happens to Ph.D. students who decide that academia is not for them? The truth is that their options are endless, but Ph.D. students often underestimate the importance of their degree, how much they have to offer, and the opportunities available to them outside academia.

If you ask Ph.D. candidates what they plan to do after completing their degree, you will likely hear that they are going to look for a postdoctoral position—or “postdoc.” After all, that is traditionally what new Ph.D.’s do. After two or perhaps three postdocs, maybe they will become a junior faculty member and start climbing the academic ladder.

At some point along the way, however, many students realize that they do not want to follow the traditional route and become an academic scientist—and I’m one of them. That’s why as I have pursued my scientific research, I have also worked on professional development. My extracurricular activities over the past few years have enriched my experience at Dartmouth. They have also helped me to understand my strengths and weaknesses and given me better insight into what might make me competitive on the job market.

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