Learning from Industrial Expertise: A Change in Perspective  

By Cecilia Read, Summer Research Program in Biophysics 2014 participant

When I think of industry, I think of cubicles and an endless amount of paperwork that consumes any livelihood you might have had at the beginning of the work day.  As an undergraduate in the field of biomedical engineering, industry is a very real possibility for me after college.  However, the mental image I’ve developed of industry since entering my field of interest has pushed me from even considering it as an option after I graduate; I would rather continue in academia.

My view on industry changed with the visit of Dr. Deborah Thompson and Dr. Drew Applefield, two employees of the Biotechnology Center in North Carolina who came as speakers for the Biophysical Society Summer Research Program I am participating in.  They provided great insight into what to expect if entering industry, the benefits of an academic background in industry (basically having a Ph.D.), and how to prepare an application for a job in industry.  They each talked about their personal backgrounds and finding their passion in industry.  While one was involved with organizing internships and industrial research, the other worked in advising new businesses and individuals looking for employment in industry. They spoke about finding a balance when choosing what field of industry to work in and the importance of recognizing “What I want” versus “What I bring” to the work place.  Each had their own perspective that made the presentation informative and useful.

When talking about what stood out from the presentation, my friend, Amanie Power, another student in our summer program, reminded me of the speakers’ most important advice: be aware of your own transferable skills.  What exactly did they mean by this? Each person has skills that they may not initially view as important for other fields of work.  In actuality, many skills are transferable; as Amanie describes, “skills that are good for anything.”  It’s hard to see one’s own skills as good for everything, but it’s important to recognize and highlight transferable skills, because they can be used for every setting.  My other friend and fellow student in the Biophysical Summer program, Olivia Dickens, described the whole experience in the most direct way possible:  “it was the best speaker presentation we’ve had all summer… they came, they presented, and they left.  They were well prepared and said exactly the right information that was useful for us.”

I still want to pursue a degree after my undergraduate experience, but I am no longer as opposed to industry as I was before.  Both Dr. Thompson and Dr. Applefield did a tremendous job in enlightening my misconceived notions about industry.   Industry is now no longer a negative alternative to academia in my mind; it’s just another option that can lead to future adventures, with its own kind of fulfillment.

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