career development


Although university-driven research projects provide a rich academic research experience for PhD candidates, a variety of recent studies indicate that many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career options for current Ph.D. graduates will be outside academia. Recognizing the impact of these trends in employment opportunities  for Ph.D. holders, NSF has made improving graduate student preparedness a priority for FY 16-17.


The graph above indicates that the percentage of doctoral candidates in the life sciences with a “definite commitment for employment or a postdoc position” as they approached graduation declined to the lowest point of the previous 20 years. Source: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2015. Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2014. Special Report NSF 16-300. Arlington, VA. Available at

Hosting a new supplementary funding opportunity is one way MCB supports this agency priority goal. The “Improving Graduate Student Preparedness for Entering the Workforce, Opportunities for Supplemental Support” (NSF 16-067) supplemental funding opportunity was announced in June 2015.

“There is very little formal training [for graduate students] in even recognizing the diverse career options available” to them, observes Dr. Linda Hyman, Division Director of MCB. “The bio-sciences community needs a change in training that hasn’t happened in many years.” The decision to provide this opportunity for supplemental funding is data-driven, adds Dr. Hyman, based on information in a published by the National Institutes of Health in 2012.

NSF 16-067 was intentionally written in broad terms to encourage junior scientists and senior students confronting the urgency of addressing “what’s next.” The supplement provides PIs with an avenue for encouraging their students to explore careers outside academia. The funding may be used to attend professional development courses, serve in an internship in the private sector, or build specialized skills that could help them be more competitive in the job market in arenas such as public policy, communications, industry, and technology transfer.

“This supplement helps PIs provide professional development opportunities for their students  in areas that may be outside their comfort zone,” says Dr. Hyman. “Our hope is that the community will use the supplement to expand awareness of and increase preparedness for the many career options available to new graduates.”

Principle Investigators who are current MCB awardees are encouraged to explore non-academic career development and NSF 16-067 with their students. Supplemental requests will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis. Requests should be made no later than April 3, 2017 for FY 2017 consideration.