CLBR Hosts Talk and Workshop for Biology Majors

With the same attentive enthusiasm she has brought in her six months as an advisor at the Center for Life Beyond Reed (CLBR), Julia Burrows led a talk and workshop on Friday, Sept 18 for students wondering what one might do with a degree in biology. “Beyond Reed: Career Paths in Biology” offered an overview of some paths available to biology undergraduates, alongside a sampling of those taken by Reed biology alumni. Throughout the talk, she prompted participants to contemplate their own possible paths, wherever they happened to be in their time at Reed.

Having herself earned a bachelors in zoology and Ph.D. in marine biology and conservation before working in higher education, Burrows outlined the diverse and flexible career paths available to biology majors, highlighting five categories into which many professional biologists fall: healthcare, which along with doctors and dentists includes public health research and officials; government, which includes largely administrative and policy-related work such as grant administration, resource management, environmental regulation, research, or agriculture; industry, such as pharmaceuticals, biotech, or agriculture product development and research; non-profits, which span conservation work (e.g. Sierra Club, National Geographic, or the Nature Conservancy), healthcare, research, public education such as museums and zoos, as well as fundraising and outreach; and finally science communication, a growing field of journalistic writers, illustrators, multimedia creators, and many other roles spanning many of the above categories.

Many of the alumni Burrows showcased had similarly circuitous professional paths, with many working in research technician positions, non-profits, or tangential fields before returning to higher education. Many began in researcher roles before transitioning to administrative positions in government, non-profits, and public outreach.

Burrows went on to lead attendees through the process of contemplating how they might apply their own biology bachelors, as well as considering their own preferences regarding independent or collaborative work; lab, field, office, or campus environment; geographic location; and–the good stuff–pay and benefits.

Emphasizing the process of crafting and articulating one’s own narrative, participants brainstormed to devise a list of some strengths and proclivities earned through a Reed education, including independence in the lab, interdisciplinarity, collaborative project management, and critical discussion of complex topics and practices. Finally, Burrows provided some advice and resources for networking, encouraging students to take advantage of Reed’s alumni network, access to professors (many of whom have not always been in academia), and of course, CLBR itself. Anyone seeking help with identifying connections, reaching out for informational interviews, identifying fellowships, articulating their purpose, or prospecting their own winding professional road need look no further than the advisors at the CLBR.

One final tip from CLBR: connect with Brooke Hunter on LinkedIn! She knows–and this is true–everyone.

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