What to do with life after I complete my PhD? This question hits home. Hard. My goal upon entering and throughout grad school had always been to follow the academic path towards a tenured professorship. I’ll give you a bit of background...
I always considered a career as the center and ultimate goal of my educational choices. I constantly ask myself where my passion lies. Over the past few years, I have explored various career options – traditional and non-traditional. I have encountered many obstacles on my way to figuring out a career path, mainly because there are very few career counseling resources available at my institution.
As I approach the final stretch of my graduate program in Sociology, it’s curious to reflect on how my plans for my post-PhD career have changed since I started grad school, fresh out of my undergraduate program. I came to grad school because of my passion for thinking about why different societies are structured the way they are and how our social institutions have developed over time. Like many new graduate students, I entered my program with dreams of becoming a tenured professor at a major research university.
Upon completion of my thesis work this year, I’m preparing myself for an industry position likely within a start-up company. When I say this, people ask me “How do you know?”, “What lead you to decide?”, “Are you sure?” The simple answer is yes, I’m sure. However, this conclusion took 4 years of soul searching, personal reflection, and experimenting (I am, after all, a scientist).
I started contemplating pursuing a PhD in chemistry during my undergraduate study in chemistry at Peking University. I joined Professor Shi’s lab when I was a sophomore. He is an extremely bright and inspiring scientist from Harvard. I loved my undergraduate research as an organic chemist and had a strong desire to lead my own project and invested deeply in chemistry. This experience solidified my choice to pursue a PhD. With the encouragement and help from my professor and labmates, I decided to pursue a PhD in U.S.
Stories of scientific discoveries that changed the nature of our society have always struck a special chord in me. The impact of a scientific principle might not be immediately perceptible, but think hard about it and it can be translated into an idea that can significantly improve the quality of human life. While my decision to pursue a PhD was not motivated by altruistic intentions, the possibility of making a contribution to our society that can change the way we look at ordinary, mundane objects was very attractive to me.
What are your future plans and goals after you receive your PhD, and why?
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