In graduate school, we spend most of our time on our research, teaching, and improving skills that we hope will be useful in the future. However, many of us are unsure about what careers are available to us, what these jobs entail, and how to make ourselves better candidates for these careers. So then how do we appropriately plan for a future that is still up in the air?
One of the main mission goals of the Huck Graduate Student Advisory Committee (HGSAC) is to provide information, resources, and events to graduate students to help in this very daunting decision making process. The HGSAC often collaborates with multiple organizations to bring speakers from various fields to talk about their diverse careers, and to meet with graduate students to answer our questions, as part of our Career Exposure Seminar Series.
Last month, the HGSAC and the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) department co-hosted Dr. Peter Emanuel, a Penn State BMB alum, to talk about his position as Acting Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC). Below are several questions that Dr. Emanuel addressed during his seminar.
What is ECBC?
Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center is a biodefense facility where 1,500 personnel work towards protecting troops and civilians by developing technologies aimed at detecting, neutralizing and decontaminating chemical and biological agents. They are the nation’s provider of innovative solutions to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats.
Why do research for the military?
When you work with the U.S. government, you are able to see the results of your work and know the people who use your products. Dr. Emanuel emphasized the unique opportunity that this work provides you, in that you are able to implement an idea into a product in a short amount of time, and oversee each step of the process along the way.
What kind of work could a PSU science graduate student do at ECBC?
If a graduate student were to apply for the National Research Council Fellowship, they would work for 2 years at ECBC or a related center, where you would lead your own project(s) as the principal investigator. This would include creating your own product and licensing it. Some of the projects that are ongoing at ECBC include volatile organic compound identifier products and storing information in bacterial DNA.
How is working in a biodefense lab different from working in the pharmaceutical industry?
Working at pharmaceutical companies can be more constraining than working in a biodefense lab, especially since you cannot share too much of your science when you’re working in a pharmaceutical company. As compared to a majority of big pharma companies, at ECBC you get more ownership of your product. You can patent and share your products with others.
What are some perks of working at ECBC?
Working at ECBC, you get to reinvent your career pretty regularly and you get to oversee the many stages that your product undergoes. You also get to collaborate with diverse groups such as academics, engineers, scientists, government, and information technologists.
What do you look for in a job candidate?
ECBC looks for people who are good at learning, good communicators, and hard workers. Also, you have to be a national U.S. citizen.
Dr. Emanuel was able to meet with graduate students for breakfast and lunch, providing a platform for students to ask their own questions. I should also note that at least 3 people who met with Dr. Emanuel were able to get interviews. So, in the future, look out for these opportunities via email (from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com), on our HGSAC website, and on our facebook page.