Thi Nguyen is the career development programme director for graduate students and postdocs at the University of California, San Francisco.
What is your scientific background?
I have a PhD in Neuroscience and my area of research was neuroscience and inflammation using animal models of neurodegenerative disease. Most recently I studied the intersection of inflammation, metabolic disease and neurodegeneration during my postdoctoral appointment at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
Why did you decide to leave the bench?
This new career within academia was a natural transition for me. As a postdoc, I started organizing career panels and events to help the people I was doing science with. Now as a PhD career advisor and programme director for career development at UCSF, I design, conduct and evaluate programmes specifically for scientists. I collaborate with researchers and counselors, and support scientists at a research-intensive institution everyday, and find that incredibly rewarding.
Why did you decide to start working as a career advisor?
I get the opportunity to help postdocs and graduate students prepare for career paths of interest beyond the bench such as consulting, policy or scientific communications. I came in as a former postdoc, so my experiences inform me about the barriers scientists may face in exploring career options and looking for jobs. I am particularly passionate about helping clients present themselves well during the application process, from resume to negotiation.
How do you want to help scientists in their careers?
When scientists figure out that they can’t or don’t want to continue in academia, I want to help them explore non-academic careers and navigate the application process. The decision to leave academia can be a tough one, whether you figure it out early in your career or not, so I also offer co-counseling appointments with colleagues in the office to discuss both academic and non-academic career paths. I want to help scientists explore careers in science, network, and apply for jobs in a way that is comfortable for them, because individuals approach these processes differently (i.e., as an introvert or extrovert). I design workshops and online resources with this in mind. In my position, I have the opportunity to talk to recruiters and employers in diverse career fields and use that information to help postdocs and graduate students present themselves well in the application process. I also coach clients on how to have positive interactions with alumni when exploring new careers and transitions.
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
I work remotely from Boston; 3,000 miles away from the UCSF office. I contribute to the team through teleconferencing and my advising appointments are via Skype (which is convenient for those early birds in SF). Our office jokingly calls me the UCSF-East Coast office.
Thi has kindly offered four questions to you, our readers, to vote on. Cast your votes for your favourite, and in one month you’ll see the answer.