All posts by Gina Stewart


On the Boulevard of Broken Grad-School Dreams


Alternate single cover of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” by Green Day

In a recent New York Times Magazine article, Eileen Pollack asks, “Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?” She recalls the isolation of her own experience as a physics student at Yale in the late 1970s and concludes that little has changed. The reasons why so many women still give up on science careers are the same ones that led her to walk away nearly 35 years ago—a lack of encouragement, lack of expectation, and lack …


No Means No

Please join me in giving a standing ovation to Danielle N. Lee, writer of the Urban Scientist blog for Scientific American. In case you’ve been under a rock (or pile of urgent work) for the past week or so, an anonymous editor at Biology Online asked if Ms. Lee would become a regular blogger for his organization. When Ms. Lee inquired about the details, including compensation, and then declined to become a contributor, the editor asked her, “Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?” Ms. Lee…


Teacher’s Pest

On the March 10, 2013, episode of The Simpsons, the child scholar Lisa Simpson has her first encounter with a teacher who (*gasp*) doesn’t like her.

Recently I was summoned to my son’s middle school for a minor disciplinary issue, and to retrieve my son and his offending mobile phone (which he was using to notify me of a major accomplishment in music). I offered a quick apology to his teacher, a firm disciplinarian. Once we were in the car, my son observed that she is the only teacher whose favo…


The Geography of Hiring in Alternate STEM Careers

Do you know where you’d like to live? To borrow from Aesop, are you a city mouse or a country mouse or perhaps, like me, a suburban mouse? What kind of weather do you enjoy, or wish to avoid, whether that’s blistering heat or months of dark, snowy days? Do you prefer the indoors, or do you crave fresh air?

I am truly surprised by how few students receive career counseling that urges them to consider not only their aptitudes and skills, but also what kind of whole life they want to live. Because …


Beyond the Bench: a Career in Technology Transfer

Becoming a technology-transfer professional is a great alternative career for people with advanced degrees in the STEM fields. Technology transfer is the process of commercializing research, including evaluating a discovery for its commercial merit, protecting a discovery via patents and copyrights, and licensing it to either a start-up or established company. Professionals who work in universities’ tech-transfer offices frequently have formal training in science, law, business, or all three.



Picture Yourself

Have you seen the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video that went viral this spring? The three-minute video features the FBI-trained forensic sketch artist Gil Zamora, who was hired by Dove to draw portraits of women—one based on their own description and another based on the description of a “friendly stranger,” someone with whom the woman has just had a brief conversation. The artist is behind a curtain and can’t see any of the women.

The results are fascinating when the pairs of portraits are displ…


From Ph.D. to Patent Lawyer

This post is the first in an occasional series about specific alternative career paths for STEM Ph.D.’s. I probably know 50 Ph.D.’s who are now practicing intellectual-property law; it’s the most-followed alternate path among my colleagues. A few of them decided on that career path during graduate school, but most turned to intellectual-property law later, after deciding that they’d had enough time at the bench but still wanted a job that would allow them to use their scientific background.



Soft Skills for Scientists

You’re a science Ph.D. seeking a job outside academe, but you’re not sure you have the requisite skills. The good news is you’re probably more prepared than you think. Nonacademic hirers want people who are self-starters and who can work independently. You already possess all of these skills, and more.

As a Ph.D. scientist, you’re capable of asking and answering important questions that build on current knowledge and advance our understanding of our world. You’re accustomed to coming up with and…


Choosing an Adviser Who Can Help You Leave Academe

Many, if not most, doctoral students enter graduate school with the hope of becoming faculty members. But graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley recently hosted a conference, titled “Beyond Academia,” that focused on landing nonacademic jobs. The conference sold out.

According to a Berkeley news release, “a study published last year in the journal Science suggests that only 20 percent of U.S. doctoral students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will land …


Why You Need a Mentor

Do you have a mentor? Not an academic adviser, but a true mentor—someone who has an interest in helping you develop your career path, combined with the seniority and perspective to be helpful. In my opinion, every college student and every professional needs one, and it’s preferable if you don’t report directly to your mentor. A mentor can explain the subtleties of your chosen career path to you, and can help you navigate rough spots along the way.

I called my undergraduate mentor when, in my se…