When you look back to your PhD days, what advice would you give yourself from where you sit now?
This was one of the questions a panel of University of Tasmania PhD graduates answered in a Zoom PhD career development workshop arranged by our Alumni Relations team.
The workshop provided valuable advice about networking and researching opportunities from three graduates from Australia and New Zealand who have each successfully followed a non-academic career pathway in health professions. Interest was high, with 190 registrations from both postgraduate students and academic staff from the College of Health and Medicine.
University of Tasmania PhD student and alumnus Jake Cashion (BSc Hons 2019) said hearing first-hand from alumni was beneficial.
“I’m pretty early in my PhD – one and a half years in – and it was quite eye opening to hear of options outside academia,” he said.
“The idea of being an academic is particularly glorified because it’s an excellent career path.
“The conversations were comforting because they were a great bunch of alumni, and you can see that there are some pretty cool job opportunities outside of academia, if that’s what people wish to pursue.”
Alumna Professor Tracey Dickson (BSc Hons 1996, PhD 2000), Associate Dean Research Performance from the College of Health and Medicine, said the College would like to do more of these types of workshops, recognising that not everyone with a PhD will end up in a university setting following traditional careers.
“We have to do everything we can to give candidates these skills to make sure these opportunities and pathways are clear,” she said.
“We have an obligation to show them what they can be, what they can do.”
Professor Dickson said the advice alumni can give students, sometimes at a pivotal point of their higher degree, can have a large impact and can be very energising.
“We’d like to make these sorts of workshops a regular feature on our researcher development calendar because it was so well received,” she said.
“With an alumni community spread across so many countries around the world, and now with the technology of Zoom, the world is our oyster in terms of connecting alumni with students.
Panellist Dr Naseem Ali (BBiotech Hons 2010, PhD 2015), a medical affairs professional specialising in oncology with a PhD in immunology, said he was interested to participate because there was a gap in information about non-academic careers in health when he was a PhD student.
Naseem’s top advice to current PhD candidates is to not rule out non-academic careers.
“There are so many ways you can benefit patients and people’s health and lives beyond academia. Do your research and network as much as you can and the opportunities are there”, he said.
Career highlights for Naseem have been working for a global pharmaceutical company with stakeholders and government to benefit people’s health.
“A highlight was being the Australian lead in a clinical trial for a drug for bladder cancer that is now available to Australian patients who are living longer because they can access it,” he said.
Other speakers were epidemiologist and biostatistician Dr Kara Martin (BSc Hons 2004, PhD 2011), who works as a Senior Manager in the Victorian Department of Health, and pharmacist Dr Daniel Bernal (BPharm Hons 2008, PhD 2017), Manager, Scientific and Technical Advisory, COVID-19 Health System Response at the Ministry of Health New Zealand.
For more information refer to mentoring or volunteering at the University of Tasmania.
This article featured in the monthly eNews Alumni and Friends. If you are a member of the University of Tasmania community and would like to receive this publication, please provide or update your email address.