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Monday, May 08, 2017

Not Just for Undergrads | Inside Higher Ed

Photo: Kimberly Petrie
Photo: Ashley E. Brady
Internships are not a standard part of Ph.D. training, especially in the biomedical sciences, writes Kimberly A. Petrie, director of career development and assistant professor of medical education and administration at Vanderbilt University in the School of Medicine’s Biomedical Research, Education and Training Office of Career Development  and Ashley E. Brady, director of career engagement and strategic partnerships and assistant professor of medical education and administration in the same office, but the tide is shifting.

Photo: iStock/gilaxia

“But how do I know if I’m going to like teaching?”

That was the sentiment expressed by one of the very first postdoctoral fellows to come through Vanderbilt University’s career development office more than 10 years ago. He was applying for teaching-focused faculty positions because he had enjoyed being a teaching assistant and guest lecturing for graduate-level courses, but his lack of significant experience in an undergraduate classroom left him feeling woefully uncertain about his next step. His concern is still echoed by many Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows today, regardless of their career interests, who are in the midst of determining what they will do when they finish their training.

Although internships have long been common practice for undergraduates and many professional students, internships are not a standard part of Ph.D. training, especially in the biomedical sciences. But the tide is shifting. With support from the National Institutes of Health’s BEST program, many colleges and universities -- including Vanderbilt through its ASPIRE program -- are now beginning to organize and promote internships for their trainees. This culture change is also evidenced by internships being offered as an integral part of NIH training grants and by career-development programming being touted as a valuable strength of the training environment in fellowship and training grant applications. We are hopeful the trend will continue and that institutions will increasingly recognize the value of internships and experiential learning for Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows, especially for those considering nonfaculty careers.

While our experience has been with Ph.D. trainees in the biomedical sciences, the employment landscape has been shifting over the past several decades for Ph.D.s across all disciplines. As such, using an internship as an opportunity to explore a career path, gain transferrable skills and network can be beneficial to Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellow, regardless of field.

Source: Inside Higher Ed