Accelerate your scientific career: Be The Whole Scientist

The Whole Scientist

At the Jackson Laboratory, we’re always looking for ways to improve the training experience for our Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scientists. So when we speak with alumni, we like to ask them about the biggest surprise or challenge they encountered when they transitioned from a training position to a “real job”. The answers to this question are varied, but there are two common themes: management and communication.

Ph.D. students and postdocs are great researchers: they’re experts in their field, technically skilled, and able to lead a project from start to finish. But few Ph.D. students or postdocs gain much experience recruiting or building a team of people, discussing research with non-experts, or mentoring other trainees.

If you’re a student or postdoc and have gained some of these away-from-the-bench skills, you’re in great shape for the next step in your career – because what trainees tend to experience as they move into professional positions and “real jobs” is that it’s management and communication skills, rather than their technical at-the-bench skills, that they use most. This is equally true for trainees who pursue traditional tenure-track faculty positions as well as those who move into research and non-research positions in the pharmaceutical industry, biotech, government, or non-profit organizations.

If you’re a student or postdoc and think you’d like to develop your professional skills further, The Jackson Laboratory’s The Whole Scientist course is for you. The Whole Scientist course is a week-long residential series of workshops and discussions that takes place on our Bar Harbor, Maine, campus, in the heart of beautiful Acadia National Park.

The Whole Scientist course guides participants to identify their professional skills and strengths and learn how these fit with various career options. Through in-class exercises and follow-up practica throughout the year, trainees fill in gaps in their professional skills, preparing them to take the next step in their careers. Course participants expand their professional network, too, sharing experiences and advice with participants from institutions around the country.

This year, The Whole Scientist course takes place from May 15-19, 2017. The course is supported by a generous grant from the NIH, which, together with JAX’s Courses & Conferences program, provides comprehensive scholarships. . If you have questions about the course, contact a member of the JAX Genomic Education team at 207-288-6278 or or

Melanie Sinche is an educator, writer, and career counselor with more than 15 years experience working with and advising graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in university, non-profit, and government agency settings. Her work at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine focuses on the career and professional development of all trainees through the development of novel educational programming. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniesinche.