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The New Issue of Opportunities to Explore is Out Now!

Monday, April 8, 2024

Read the April 8-April 12, 2024 Issue

Nazish Jeffery ’21M (PhD) On Responding to Rejection and Her Path to Science Policy

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Listen on Apple, Spotify, or YouTube Music.

Nazish Jeffery, a 2021 graduate of our Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, has charted her career path at the intersection of science and policy. Currently serving as the Bioeconomy Policy Manager at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington D.C., Nazish is a local native from Henrietta who has now successfully transitioned from graduate trainee to a vital role in science policy.

She bridges the gap between scientific research, policy formulation, and implementation, drawing on her experiences to address challenges within the scientific community and advocate for policies that promote innovation and support the scientific ecosystem.

Her prior role as a scientist in process development at Bluebird Bio in Cambridge, Mass. enriched her understanding of commercial and operational challenges in scientific research and solidified her passion for integrating science with policy to effect meaningful change.

Nazish's progression from graduate student to science policy highlights the importance of exploring interdisciplinary fields and being proactive in career development. Venturing into industry after her PhD, her role as a process development scientist broadened her insight into the business side of science. Her journey exemplifies the power of intentional career planning, the necessity of adaptability when facing professional challenges, and the crucial role of effective communication in advancing science and benefiting society.

Key Takeaways

Explore Interdisciplinary Fields: Embrace the merging of your interests to forge a distinct career path. Nazish's discovery of science policy—a field that marries her passion for science with her interest in policy—underscores the significance of delving into interdisciplinary areas that resonate with your personal and professional goals.

Network and Engage: Forge connections within and beyond your academic environment. Actively seek opportunities to understand various career paths and nurture mentorships and support networks that foster your growth. Nazish attributes her success in pursuing alternative career paths to the encouragement and support from her mentors.

Adapt and Be Resilient: Prepare to navigate and surmount the hurdles inherent in competitive arenas. Rejections can test your self-perception and determination. Nazish's experiences of facing challenges along her journey stress the need for resilience, flexibility, and the readiness to seize new opportunities when they present themselves.

Develop Your Skills Strategically: Cultivate a diverse skill set that is relevant across multiple roles. Nazish's progression from academia to industry, and subsequently to policy work, illustrates the importance of versatile skills like communication, program management, and an understanding of industry intricacies.

Communicate Effectively: Develop your prowess in articulating complex scientific ideas to varied audiences. Proficiency in communication is vital not only in science policy but also in any profession that requires making your work comprehensible to those without a scientific background.

Top Quotes

  1. [05:02] "I really do love science, but I like the translation of science a little bit more. It kind of pushed me into pursuing what my passion was, which was science policy."
  2. [05:44] "We're bridge builders between communities, especially for people working in academia and industry in the sciences, helping them voice the challenges they're facing on a day-to-day basis in their field, and potentially helping them figure out ways that government can step in and help alleviate those problems, provide more funding, or provide more opportunities for innovation."
  3. [17:29] "It's all about how you market your skillset. There's a lot of research and it's really scientific, but there are many other things we're learning along the way that apply to many different jobs."
  4. [29:19] "The best thing you can do is talk about your science to people who don't know science. If you want to grow your communication skills and better understand your own work, the best way to do it is to try to explain it to someone who doesn't know any science at all."

Connect with Nazish on LinkedIn.

Ian Krout ’22M (PhD) on Honing Your Skills Beyond Research

Monday, February 26, 2024

Listen on Apple, Spotify, or YouTube Music.

Ian Krout, a 2022 graduate of our Toxicology Ph.D. program, currently serves as a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University School of Medicine and an assistant professor at Kennesaw State University.

In this episode, he discusses his current role as a bench scientist, primarily focusing on sequencing and data analysis, contributing to research investigating how pesticide exposure may interact with the gut microbiome to influence the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

Reflecting on his academic career, Krout explains how he discovered the Toxicology program at the University of Rochester and why he chose it for his graduate training, highlighting the program's focus on collaboration, interdisciplinary work, and professional development. He also shares his experience in finding the right postdoctoral opportunity, emphasizing the importance of setting goals, seeking feedback from committee members, and exploring research that aligns with one's interests.

Krout offers advice to graduate students, encouraging them to maximize their educational experiences by leveraging available resources and embracing opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Key Takeaways

Intentionality in Career Planning: Take a deliberate approach to identifying and applying for postdoctoral opportunities. Setting clear goals and aligning them with your career aspirations helps you prioritize programs that offer meaningful advancement opportunities.

Utilizing Resources: Use the resources available at academic institutions; from career talks and workshops to faculty committees, you can gain valuable insights and personalized feedback on potential career paths.

Networking and Collaboration: Engage with your peers and faculty members in the academic community. Prioritize a collaborative environment and foster connections and partnerships with those around you. Be proactive in your engagement and take the initiative to maximize your learning and networking opportunities.

Reflective Practice: Introspection is crucial for your academic development and personal growth. Seize opportunities to develop and hone your skills beyond research so you can adapt to new roles and responsibilities, becoming a more well-rounded scientist.

Living in the Moment: Remember to appreciate the present while focusing on future goals. Enjoy your academic journey by finding a work-life balance that allows you to approach your studies enjoyably and sustainably. Value your holistic development as both a person and a scientist.

Key Quotes

  1. 06:56: "...the Toxicology program...being really unique and opposed to the other programs that I looked at and the fact that they focused on collaboration and interdisciplinary work as opposed to competition and sort of trapping yourself in one discipline, which I found with a lot of the other graduate schools I looked at. And so with that focus on collaboration, it made the program really welcoming and it made it so that interdisciplinary work could occur between labs, between graduate students even.
  2. 08:38: " I made it a point to try to take advantage of any career professional development opportunities that came my way. And a lot of that happened through myHub with Eric Vaughn and Elaine Smolock at the Writing Center. I participated in a number of career talks and professional development workshops that really allowed me to see the breadth of opportunities that were available for PhDs and hone in my own career aspirations. So utilizing all of these things made me just a more well-rounded scientist, not only because professionally I looked better, but I was taking the skills that I learned in things such as leadership and management workshops back to the bench."
  3. 09:00: "I also took part in the science communication group Thinkers and Drinkers, where we were able to focus on how do we communicate our science to individuals outside of the scientific field. So, not only was I doing the research, but I was working on how to communicate that research to others to make it so that my Ph.D. was not only at the bench but was also interactive with translating that research to individuals who are the constituency of the research that we're completing."
  4. 13:09: "Knowing what my goals were and knowing what I wanted to achieve in the next three and next five years really made it so that I could sort through my options as next steps and find something that fit my role."
  5. 21:08: “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people like Eric and Elaine. If you have an idea or you have something you need help with, they're amazing and more than willing to help. … reach out, get involved, do as much as you can."

Research Update from Steve Dewhurst

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Dear colleagues,  

Twice a year—in February and in March—the Office of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) at the School of Medicine Dentistry (SMD) hosts "Discover UR SMD Weekend" for applicants to our PhD programs. The event provides an opportunity both to showcase research at the Medical Center, and to reflect on what makes UR a special place.

Highlights of SMD’s research activities in 2023 include a total of $265 million in research funding, and some 382 newly funded clinical trials (315 of them industry-supported)—underscoring the impact of the CTSI’s Office of Clinical Research, which is led by newly recruited director, Ashlee Lang. A related highlight is the growth of cancer-related funding at the Wilmot Cancer Institute to a record high of $30.3 million, including $13.1 million in support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

While funding is essential for the conduct of research, it is not what makes SMD special. Our special sauce, to use a signature phrase of one of my favorite people at UR, lies in the combination of our unique resources, our institutional culture, and above all, our people.

In that regard, new SMD Dean and URMC CEO, David Linehan, sets the tone. I’m excited that my new boss is an accomplished physician-scientist with a two-decade history of continuous research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But, I’m even more excited that—in the words of my colleague, Calvin Cole (assistant professor of Surgery)"he is a very caring individual" who "leads with his heart." If you haven’t already, check out Dr. Linehan’s message to all of our learners.

One of the best parts of Discover UR SMD Weekends are the dinners that faculty members host in their homes. Nathan Smith, associate dean for Equity and Inclusion in Research and Research Education regularly gathers students and faculty in his home because "it creates an environment that is warm and inviting, making it easier for visiting students, current students, and faculty to connect with one another." That experience was borne out in the words of one applicant who emailed Nate to say that "I was genuinely impressed by the sense of camaraderie and inclusivity within the program's group. The conversations I had with faculty and fellow applicants left me with a strong sense of community and belonging."

Finally, Discover UR SMD Weekends also provide an opportunity to put the spotlight on our amazing learners. A few examples include:

Steve Dewhurst, PhD 
Vice Dean for Research, SMD 
Vice President for Research, UR   

* To report a concern about improper or unethical behavior, please call the Integrity Hotline at (585) 756-8888. You may also report concerns online.

2023 SMD Research in Review
Download: Highlights of SMD’s Research Activities in 2023