NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 10 – Group Leader, University of New South Wales

February 28, 2012

Name: Goli Samimi

Current position: Group Leader, Ovarian Cancer Group, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Location: Sydney, Australia

Time in current position: ~1 year

Postdoc: Tumor microenvironment effects in ovarian cancer with Michael J. Birrer, NCI

My job: I am the group leader of the Ovarian Cancer Group at a medical research institute called the Garvan Institute. I have a joint appointment at the University of New South Wales. So I have grad students from the university and postdocs working in my group. It’s different not being on the bench—my typical day is writing. Lots of writing and lots of meetings. I’m either writing papers, protocols, grants, fellowships or grant reviews. Lots of emails. Typical for what you’d expect for a junior investigator. The hardest part is that I tend to organize my schedule for the week and it’s always thrown off, so I have to get used to not necessarily completing everything I had set out for the week. A necessary skill for sure in this kind of position is time management! Also writing and presentation skills.

My story: I joined the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at NCI after completing my Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego. This is a fantastic program that provides the opportunity for postdoc fellows to spend year one of their training obtaining an M.P.H. I received mine from Harvard School of Public Health in 2006 and then began my research at NCI. I always planned to stay in academia, as I find that the environment stimulates both the investigators and the trainees. I expected to work at a cancer center affiliated with a hospital and a university.  When the time came to search for jobs, I only applied for academic positions, and mainly at R1 universities. When I got a bit nervous about my lack of prospects, I also applied to smaller teaching universities. But after visiting one, I realized it wasn’t exactly the type of research environment I was interested in.

Network, network, network: I made sure that everyone I knew was aware that I was looking for a job. Basically, when I found a job I really wanted, I checked with my contacts to see if any of them knew anyone in the department. Interestingly, the two big positions I was offered in the States were not advertised positions but instead came about from my networking at AACR, which is a big annual meeting for cancer researchers.

Read more about the ups and downs of life Down Under.

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Scientific Seminars and Your Career

February 21, 2012

You know seminars are important, but honestly when is the last time you went?  We know the excuses on why attendance is not a priority.  There are only so many hours to get so many experiments done, and the seminar room is all the way of the other side of campus (and it is raining/sunny/cold/hot), there are no free cookies, it is not a topic you are interested in, etc.

Here are some reasons on why attending seminars is key to your career success, both for now and in the future:

  1. Solving scientific puzzles- you never know when a seminar may lead to an Aha! Moment to solve your challenges
  2. New techniques and procedures- technologies are being developed at a rapid pace.  No one can keep up with them all simply by reading the literature 
  3. Collaborations- could you and the speaker have a common goal that would benefit from a scientific exchange?
  4. Network- make contacts and build relationships, both within the institution and with the speaker.  This helps you to build your networking map (which we will blog about in early March)
  5. Exposure- many faculty attend seminars regularly, this gives you a chance to be seen by them and to engage in intellectual conversations.  This could be a bonus when you need another letter of recommendation, science advice, and more.
  6. Communication- you can improve your communication skills by asking questions and participating in the discussion

Regardless of your career aspirations, you need to be successful doing what you are doing now.  So make seminar attendance a priority.  Who knows where this one hour a week can lead you, both scientifically and career-wise. 

In fact, we will make it a priority too.  See one of the OITE staff at WALS the next two weeks (February 22, 2012 or THURSDAY March 1, 2012).  We would love to have you say “hello” and let us know you are reading the blog.


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 9 – Supervisor, Assay Development

February 13, 2012

This is the ninth in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Kai Cheng

Current position: Supervisor of genotyping services assay development, The Jackson Laboratory

Location: Bar Harbor, ME

Time in current position: 5 months

Postdoc: Mechanisms of axon guidance using a transgenic mouse olfactory system, with Leonardo Belluscio at NINDS

My story: Toward the end of my postdoc, I felt I did not want to do academia as a PI but I didn’t know what I’d really like to do. When I started to talk to people for informational interviews, I had no direction. I talked to my mentor. He said, I cannot advise you if you don’t know what you want to do! I started actively going to OITE for a lot of instruction. I took the Myers-Briggs and tried to form a direction for myself and know what I’d really like to do. It’s a personality test so it won’t tell you that you have to do this or that type of work, but it shows you people who are happy and successful in different fields, what kind of personalities they have. It helps you to think, Do I look like those people? Would I like that kind of work?

I discovered I wanted to go towards an industry setting, technology-based but also service-related. In academia, you have to be able to write grants very successfully. It seems to be endless. It’s not my thing. In industry, you don’t have to write grants. Also they rely a lot on teamwork, which I really like. You talk to everyone and have interdepartmental collaborations and understand the whole pipeline. With OITE’s help, I further narrowed down my direction and tried to combine it with my experience to see what would be a realistic starting point.

Job search frustrations: I didn’t really seriously start looking until I had been a postdoc for 6 years. I sent out some resumés to companies online. Some friends did that and it worked for some of them, but I’m a very unlucky guy—I sent out probably hundreds and never got any responses. So I was frustrated. Then I attended a career fair organized by OITE, and a company had organized on-site interviews with hiring managers. I really liked that company and prepared as much as I could. I did go quite far and got a second interview. Unfortunately I didn’t get that job. I heard that the person who got the offer prepared for 1 year and had 3 interviews before and that was their 4th. So I was thinking, Really, it takes that long? I really want a job now! But it takes time and patience.  Read the rest of this entry »


Helpful Tips to Managing Stress and Anxiety In Interviews

February 8, 2012

Interviews are often essential stepping-stones to the next career stage. You know you are qualified, yet you may worry that you will be too nervous to perform well enough to get the position. If even the thought of the interview makes your palms sweaty and your heart race, believe it or not, that’s normal.  According to some estimates, as many as 40 million Americans suffer from situational anxiety.  As interview season is in full swing, we are seeing and hearing a lot of anxiety from trainees about pending interviews.  With the help of our Career Counselors and our Leadership and Professional Development Coach, we have come up with a few tips on managing your anxiety during an interview.

 Before the Interview: 

  • Develop confidence in yourself. Interviews are important, and may have a say in shaping your future. However, they are not the only criteria under which you will be judged for a position.  You were invited for an interview.  That in itself means you are a strong candidate and the organization you are interviewing with wants you to do well.  Often, anxiety in an interview can be linked to anticipation of the outcome.  The same symptoms of anxiety for someone fearing failure can be interpreted as excitement by someone anticipating success.  Be confident and think positive.   Read the rest of this entry »

Top 7 Reasons That You Should Visit A Career Counselor

February 6, 2012

In the beginning of January, we posted a calendar with monthly steps to move your career forward.  The February task was to meet with a career counselor.  Here at OITE, we have two career counselors on staff.  Anne and Elaine were kind enough to introduce themselves on the blog a couple of years ago.  What makes them an enormous asset for you is that they exclusively advise scientists.  They understand the career dynamics of fellows here at NIH and researchers in general.  They have a wide breadth of knowledge and experience in career counseling and have already helped hundreds of fellows take the next step in their careers. 

Whether you know where your career is heading or not, meeting with a career counselor can help you be more competitive in fulfilling your career goals.  With the help of our two career counselors on staff at OITE, we have determined the top 7 reasons to visit a career counselor.

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