GSICEbreaker Event helps grad student and postdocs plan exit strategies from academia

The biennial GSICEbreaker event on November 12th, brought together over 200 graduate students, postdocs to meet with UCSF alumni and friends from a diverse array of career paths. The purpose of the event was to help facilitate networking between UCSF trainees and PhD professionals, many of whom are UCSF alumni, in a wide range of careers outside of academia. GSICE (Gradudate Student Internships for Career Exploration) is a program that provides graduate students with a series of workshops on career and professional development with the goal of providing graduate students with resources and opportunities to do an internship somewhere outside of academia while in graduate school.

As less than a quarter of all UCSF trainees end up in tenure track faculty positions, according to data collected on both UCSF graduate students and postdocs, providing trainees with opportunities to talk to professionals about their jobs, and how they transitioned out of academia is a critical need for the UCSF community. This event provided trainees with an excellent opportunity to get in-depth information and further contacts from people with careers that they are interested in pursuing and exploring.

The event featured a diverse range of PhD professionals who were grouped into categories like industry research, data science, communication, policy, and non-bench academic, intellectual property, and business-related careers. Each group was color-coded on attendees ID badges to allow people interested in a particular career track to find one another. A few notable examples of attendees included Dr. Vivian Siegel, Director of Education and Outreach at the Broad Institute, who gave a keynote address that encouraged trainees to “follow their passion.”  Other event attendees were people from diverse positions like editors at PLOS, computational scientists in healthcare, and the managing director of the STEM initiative at Teach for America. A few examples of companies represented at this event include Genentech, Morrison and Foerster, Novartis, and 23andMe.

Overall, the event was a huge success. The atrium was full of bright minds connecting with other bright minds and realizing that a whole range of choices exists outside the academic bubble for UCSF trainees. In addition to this event, the UCSF Office of Career and professional development (OCPD) plans to continue to hold other smaller events to facilitate personal conversations around career developments and small group sessions. “This format seems to work well,” said Thi Nguyen, who works in the OCPD. Additionally, OCPD plans to expand their services to work more closely with Social, Population Science and Nursing PhD students.