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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / April 2018 / Learning New Things Opens Up New Opportunities

Learning New Things Opens Up New Opportunities

Career Story by Kavita Berger, PhD, Scientist at Gryphon Scientific and previous Associate Director of The Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy

I often have thought that I benefited from luck throughout my career. I have had fun and intellectually exciting jobs, at which I met a lot of people who work on very interesting topics. And, for so long, I thought these experiences were a result of luck. But, while speaking to a friend about this blog, she reminded me that although luck may have played a part in my career path, I was instrumental. I took the initiative to learn new things, interacted with people in all sectors, faced my fears of public speaking, and sought to collaborate rather than compete. According to my friend, these traits opened new opportunities for me and led me to where I am today.

In graduate school, I quickly realized that I did not want to pursue a career in laboratory research. Although I enjoyed learning about the science, I was not excited about the constant grant writing and competition within and outside the laboratory. But, like so many other scientists who explored other careers in science, my graduate PI did not have experience with non-academic scientific careers and provided little guidance to me. (Recently, she has expressed her support for my career choices and said that she is able to discuss other careers in science with other graduate students since I, and several of my peers, chose non-academic careers.) I was left to figure out what I wanted to do after graduate school and decided to try applied research, instead of basic research. As a post-doc, I learned about new life science fields and disciplines, which eventually would shape my career, unbeknownst to me. But, at the time, all I knew was that a career in academic research was not for me.

This decision led me to explore different career options, and fortunately, my husband and I chose to move to Washington, DC, a city with all sectors and career choices. I began speaking to people who worked in grant making, science writing, and teaching. I asked about their job activities, and the best and worst parts of their jobs. As we were planning to move, I met a young woman who was doing an internship in a Congressional committee. She introduced me to her peers on the committee, who also happened to be AAAS Science and Technology Policy fellows, from whom I learned about science policy as a career option. She introduced to one of her colleagues at AAAS, in its former Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy, who took time to speak to me about science and security policy, a field I had never known about before. I was so intrigued by this field that I applied for an internship. Fortunately, my interest in exploring science and security policy, along with the growing interest in biosecurity in the mid-2000s and my life science training, resulted in my hire as a full staff person to the Center. From that time on, I took opportunities to learn about different biosecurity and related topics, identify gaps in policy, and initiate projects and collaborations to address some of the gaps. These experiences provided new opportunities to work on different, but related, topics at a small business.

Throughout my career, I have recognized the importance of learning from and partnering with experts from different sectors and in different fields, and of making (and taking) opportunities that enable me to apply knowledge and skills and cooperate with partners on efforts to address new risks and threats in biosecurity. Please join me at noon on Wednesday April 4 in Saunders Research Building in Room 1406 to learn more about my Career Story. I’ll also be leading some interactive activities. And the pizza will arrive at 1 pm if you’d like to join me for more conversation and

Tracey Baas | 3/26/2018

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