Jacqueline McDermott PhD'18, Molecular & Cell Biology: Assistant Director of Graduate Recruitment and Retention, College of Engineering, Purdue University
Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?
As a PhD Candidate at Brandeis, I not only had the ability to perform really exciting molecular neuroscience research in the Paradis Lab, but I also had the opportunity to act in many different leadership roles outside of the laboratory. Some of those roles included being a co-chair for Women in Science Initiative (WiSI) events, recruiting for Brandeis University’s Life Science and Physics doctoral programs nationally, and being invited to share my opinions at a GSAS Dean’s office panel. I found that I really enjoyed working in this capacity outside of the lab, so when I finished my PhD I decided to apply to similar high level administrative positions. Currently, I work as the Assistant Director of Graduate Recruitment and Retention in the College of Engineering Dean’s Office at Purdue University. In this setting, I use my training and experiences from Brandeis to engage and support graduate students during their Master's and Doctoral studies, with a specific emphasis on underrepresented minority students and preparing graduate students for faculty careers.
What services and/or resources did you use while at Brandeis for your career search?
The most helpful resources for my career search at Brandeis were my program administrators, professors, and external organizations. I originally thought that I was going to become a professor but I quickly learned that there were a lot of different avenues one could pursue with a PhD. A summer career seminar organized by Piali Sengupta brought alumni to talk about different career paths taken by Brandeis Life Science graduates. I then became more involved in two Boston organizations (Association for Women in Science and Healthcare Businesswomen's Association), which allowed me to become better acquainted with the lives of people working in biotech. Finally, it was the support of my administrators in the Life Sciences that was the final push. Along the way, other organizations also helped guide my path including, WiSI, interfacing with the Center for Career and Professional Development, and a new career oriented group popping up in the Life Sciences (CDS).
What skills from your Brandeis degree have you found most valuable in your current work?
The number one aspect that I bring to my current position is the ability to recognize what current graduate students are going through and then implement the appropriate programming to help them succeed. Other translatable skills that I find valuable include: leadership and organization, attention to detail, multitasking, and more.
What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their job search?
Start Early! Depending on the position that you apply to, you could get a decision back as quickly as a week or it could take a couple months.
Never underestimate the value of networking. You might not always get a job by networking, but you will expand your knowledge of a given field, position requirements, and/or company.
Do not ride the momentum. Be true to yourself, take some time to self-reflect, and find your best next step. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain.