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Science, Engineering Students Prepare for Careers in Industry

UC San Diego hosts third annual Industry Interaction Day

June 3, 2019 | By Ariana Remmel 

06032019-industry-day.jpgAhanjit Bhattacharya, PhD candidate in chemistry and biochemistry, presents his research on glycolipids for Industry Interaction Day 2019. Photo by Erica Lennard, UC San Diego Physical Sciences

Students enter degree programs for many reasons, not the least of which is to start a career after graduation. With several graduate programs ranked in the top 20 in the country, UC San Diego produces graduates with highly valued skill sets that can propel them into academia or into the private sector and beyond. To help graduate students understand their options and prepare for careers, the UC San Diego Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, along with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, recently hosted the third annual Industry Interaction Day on campus drawing nearly 100 students, professors and industry professionals. 

The event featured two sessions of industry talks, a series of short presentations by students, and a panel discussion on careers in the private sector. It also offered students networking opportunities that allowed them to explore a transition into industry.

Jessie Moreton, PhD candidate in chemistry and biochemistry, knew she wanted a career in industry since the beginning of graduate school. “The research I do is the same as it would be if I wanted to become a professor, but I’ve been able to go out and do things that are going to help me in industry, like seeking out positions that require leadership and emotional intelligence,” she said.

Moreton is a former president of the Society for Women in Graduate Studies (SWIGS) and won second place in the 2018 UC San Diego GradSlam competition, showing her dedication to developing skills that will be valuable in her future career. She said she is glad to see events like Industry Interaction Day hosted by the university because it takes the burden off students to explore career options blindly.

“In the past, I’ve had to go out on my own and find events like these,” said Moreton.

Sentiments like this are why Professor Andrew Kummel (Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry), Professor Prab Bandaru (Department of Materials Science and Engineering) and Professor Thomas Hermann (associate dean for education and students in the Division of Physical Sciences) began organizing events like industry day.

“In today’s world of hyper-connectivity through the internet and social media, developing a strong professional network is more important than ever,” explained Hermann, “Many students find jobs through their advisor or program alumni.”

The organizers hope that events like Industry Day will help share those connections for students. The opportunity to develop presentation skills through three minute “lightning talks” about their research gave students an exciting way to interact with individuals in attendance.

“People in industry talk about their science very differently than we do,” said Ahanjit Bhattacharya, PhD candidate in chemistry and biochemistry. “They often focus on the big picture and their approach is more dynamic.”

Though Bhattacharya wants to stay in academia, he believes he can learn a lot about effective communication by attending these events. “I think the usefulness of events like Industry Interaction Day are not limited to students who know they want a job in industry,” Bhattacharya said.

For students who are ready to take that next career step, Industry Interaction Day provides direct contact with companies who are looking for new employees. For example, after presenting his research on semiconductor technology as a student speaker, Christopher Ahles, PhD candidate in materials science and engineering, was approached by an industry attendee who thought his research background might be a good fit for their team.

“I’ve always been drawn to work on applied research,” explained Ahles, “so I’m definitely interested in getting an industry job that will let me do that.”

While most students who presented for the event were near the end of their academic programs, Kummel emphasized “there is no such thing as starting too early when planning your career.” He hopes to continue organizing events that bring together students from all stages of their programs and different departments to help foster mentorship and collaboration. The organizers said they plan to expand the career development opportunities offered by including mock interviews and resume workshops.

In the meantime, Kummel and Hermann are working together on another event with Professor Michael Burkart and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry called Pharm-ChemBio Industry Day on June 21, 2019. This event will focus on industry careers for pharmaceutical sciences, biotechnology and medicinal chemistry.