(76j) A New Graduate Level Seminar to Prepare Students for the Next Step in Their Careers

Fleming, K., University of Washington
Richards, J., University of Washington
Pozzo, D., University of Washington
Pfaendtner, J., University of Washington

A new graduate level seminar to prepare students for the next step in their careers

Kelly Fleming, James Matthaei, Jeff Richards, Danilo Pozzo, Jim Pfaendtner

Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Washington

Seattle, Washington, 98105, USA


     Many doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers who apply to become faculty candidates when they graduate are not prepared for the rigorous application and selection process. Candidates must give one or more hour long seminars on their past and future research, which many have never done before.  Additional challenges come in the form of a rigorous 1-2 day interview, making small talk and meeting with potential colleagues in both social and professional contexts.  In 2011, the graduate students in the University of Washington (UW) Chemical Engineering department designed a seminar to help bridge the gap between graduate school or postdoctoral research and applying as a candidate for first permanent positions.  The seminar series takes place each summer and is comprised of 7-8 students and postdoctoral researchers from around the country.  In an effort to maximally impact the graduate students at UW ChE, all facets of organization, selection and execution of the seminar are executed by the students themselves.

     Applications to the seminar are comprised of an abstract, C.V., and a letter of recommendation. A team of four “lead” students are selected each Spring to handle receipt and organization of applications.  Thereafter a panel of ~15 current grad students is selected to complete a daylong meeting in the style of an NSF review panel.  An explicit goal of this step in the process is to exposure our grads to some of the most accomplished young scholars in the field who are actively seeking permanent positions.  Our hope was to help the graduate students self-calibrate and provide a wide basis for comparison in terms of things like publication and presentation records. 

     During the first year of the panel students were faced with the difficult task of balancing strictly quantitative scoring metrics with other valuable factors such as contributions to diversity or qualitative “intangibles”. To facilitate a professional and fair process, the UW ADVANCE program was asked to provide workshop to our students during the 2nd and 3rdyears.  The workshop helped the students address the issues in a constructive way and more fairly make panel selections of people who excel in a broad range of metrics.

     This poster reviews quantitative analysis of surveys given to three populations:  1) the graduate students who attended the seminar, 2) graduate students who served on the panel and 3) the selected speakers who visited UW to give the seminar. All groups gave enormously positive feedback, stating that the seminar helped them prepare for interviews and their future careers. All the students involved wanted to continue the seminar in future years.  We also use the poster to review the structure and organization of the new seminar and provide perspective on how the concept could be translated to other departments or institutions.