HARTFORD, CT, July 10, 2013 – Katharine Spencer ’08, thought that she knew exactly what she wanted to do once she graduated from Trinity – obtain her Ph.D. But after one year in graduate school at Boston College, Spencer, who majored in chemistry at Trinity, realized that she was not happy. It turned out that her best-laid plans were the wrong plans.
So Spencer followed her heart. She transferred to Boston College’s School of Education and became a high school chemistry teacher, spending the first year at a public school and the last three years at a private school. She has absolutely no regrets and is happy as a clam.
The moral of the story: Be flexible. Don’t stay wedded to a career path when it takes you in the wrong direction. And do what makes you happy, even when it forces you to deviate from your original plan.
For Spencer, teaching high school chemistry has fulfilled her “passion for teaching and for being a scientist.”
Spencer’s story was among those related Tuesday by four young adults, each of whom majored in the sciences at Trinity. The four participated on a lunchtime panel whose theme was “Preparing for the Workplace, Post-Trinity.” Their remarks were followed by round-table discussions with current Trinity students who are participating in the 2013 Summer Science Program.
|Michael Chung '11, Patrick Mostyn '08, Katharine Spencer '08, and Sean Mansoory '11|
In addition to Spencer, the other graduates were Sean Mansoory ’11, a biochemistry major working as a market analyst at Boston Biomedical Consultants; Michael Chung ’11, a biology major completing a stint in AmeriCorps; and Patrick Mostyn ’08, a neuroscience major employed as a clinical research coordinator at The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Chung also thought he knew what he wanted to do upon graduation, but ended up veering off into something entirely different. At first, he landed a job doing Schwann cell research but, as a former EMT, he missed community engagement. He wanted to make a difference by working directly with people rather than working at a distance doing research.
He then applied to AmeriCorps, a national and community service organization that places more than 80,000 Americans each year in nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups.
He’s spent the past 10 months in Hartford as a nutrition coordinator for mostly young children, as well as doing some fundraising. Now that his community service stint is almost behind him, Chung intends to go to medical school.
On the other hand, Mostyn had planned to attend medical school after he left Trinity but he decided to explore other options. He decided that he wanted to be a part of a team and work collaboratively. He landed a job at The Dana-Farber Cancer institute, where he’s helped run clinical trials.
“Our main goal is to get experimental drugs to the market,” he said, by winning approval of the Federal Drug Administration.
In thinking about what he wanted to do after graduation, Mansoory said he felt a need to combine his interests in business and health care, although he also thought about going to medical school. However, an earthquake struck while he was taking his exams for medical school, which he interpreted as a sign that he shouldn’t be a doctor. Thus, he ended up as a market analyst at Boston Biomedical Consultants, where he’s analyzed the competitive landscape for companies. His goal is to get his master’s degree and engage in some type of bioscience enterprise.
All four of the graduates said that a willingness to be a team player and work cooperatively with others is an asset in both landing a job and in the workplace. Mostyn said he learned about teamwork at Trinity as a member of the swim team. Mansoory noted that he cherished those “long nights in Clement” working with classmates. Spencer said being able to work with partners in science labs proved very helpful.
“In a lab you’re around people who are working on similar missions and have similar goals,” she said.
The alums were divided over how useful internships and studying abroad were to students who major in science, but they all agreed that failure was not something to be feared and that taking some time off to explore, observe and experiment before going to graduate school was something to be embraced.
“My Ph.D. program gave me a lot of clarity,” said Spencer. “It showed me that I made a mistake. I thought I was a failure but then I realized what a gift teaching was.”
They also agreed that being happy in what you’re doing and being willing to take on challenges are crucial in your work life.
“Scientists tend to be risk-averse,” Mansoory told the Trinity students. But I’d advise you “to take risks.”
To see pictures from this event and others from the Summer Science Program, visit the photo gallery on flickr.