Shaping your career, also as an educator – goals for a young scientist

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‘Future teachers are those whom you see as your best students, whom you dream will get a PhD and then do what? Teach.

And they are those who are going to go into business and industry and will spend a great deal of their time mentoring other people in their work places as teachers; they too, are in the midst of a teaching environment.

If we don't meet this challenge of taking the pedagogy seriously, I fear that fifty years from now people will look back on our era as the period in the late 1980s and early 1990s when we had the opportunity in less than a decade to educate two-thirds of the teachers who would teach for the next thirty-five years, the period when we had this extraordinary opportunity to make a difference in education.’

Lee S. Shulman (1989 National Conference of the American Association of Higher Education)

Although these comments were made over 30 years ago, they are still valid in many aspects.

PhD graduates of today compete for the rarest and most competitive jobs in academia, a job market which is shrinking in many countries, specially after COVID-19. Yet most of the training in a PhD emphasizes research, above all, and the curriculums are designed according to the professional needs for a job at a research university.

PhD students are highly resourceful people; however, they may not be aware of the need to nurture their skills beyond research. Thus, as educators we should guide them in readjusting their mind-sets to recognize the different career pathways and equip themselves on their way to graduation.

The below list of tips, for short-, mid- and long-term goals of a PhD student, are some ideas that may help young researchers in shaping their career, also as an educator. They were presented in a practical session on teaching/education at the  2021 FEBS YSF, introduced here

Short-term

  • Follow the activities of the FEBS Education Committee
  • At FEBS Congresses, do not miss the Education Plenary Talk, Education Special Sessions and Education Posters session
  • 'Watch', visit, post and promote the FEBS Network Educator channel (free online resources & tips & networking)
  • Create Google alerts for educational keywords you are interested in
  • Subscribe to e-bulletins, e-news, issue alerts of journals related to education (FEBS Open Bio Education Section, IUBMB's Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, CBE—Life Sciences Education, Medical Teacher, Academic Medicine, MedEdPortal, etc.)

Mid-term

  • Follow and read about the exciting developments in educational research
  • Take advantage of teaching opportunities and traditional department activities such as journal clubs and seminars to build on teaching skills
  • Interact with your Society’s education group and its activities
  • Sit in a class taught by experienced teachers and get an idea of what it takes to be a good teacher
  • Attend education seminars, workshops, etc. (many bursaries are available)
  • Embrace educational technology
  • Volunteer to teach at science museums, high schools, etc.
  • Apply to work as a teaching assistant at summer schools of universities
  • Encourage yourself and your peers/mentors to present an education poster at coming conferences and FEBS Congresses

Long-term

  • Find a balance between teaching and research
  • Get feedback and reflect on your teaching
  • Mentor high school and/or undergraduate students
  • Work on your teaching portfolio as well – write your own teaching statement (philosophy), list your teaching experiences
  • Recognize good education policies and create more awareness of the importance of education and educational research among life scientists

Top image of post: by ijmaki from Pixabay

Ferhan Sagin

Chair, FEBS Education Committee, Ege University, Faculty of Medicine

Atherosclerosis, inflammatory diseases, biomarkers

Comments

Go to the profile of Ali Burak Özkaya
25 days ago

Invaluable advice, shared in such a concise manner. I know this piece focuses on individuals but I think we should also talk about the part the PhD awarding institutions must play to support the future career of their students. I believe that PhD candidates must receive formal training in educational techniques, assessment and evaluation as an integral part of their PhD education.