Summer Science Program Participants Consider Postgrad Study and Career Options

Alumni Return to Trinity College to Advise Student Researchers about Grad School, Jobs

​Hartford, Connecticut July 11, 2017 – Trinity College’s Summer Science Research Program, offered through the Interdisciplinary Science Center, affords students the opportunity to work closely with faculty members while learning how to conduct real scientific research. Throughout the summer, students involved in the program gather to attend weekly lectures or panel discussions on various topics.

​(Above) Trinity alumni Emily Allen ’08, Chris Gromisch ’11, Andy Weisenfeld ’11, Youna Kang ’13, Jessica Fortin ’14, and John Stiller ’14 speak to current research students (below).

Two recent discussions welcomed alumni back to campus to talk to current undergraduates about preparing for life after Trinity. The first panel discussion, which took place on June 20 in the Albert C. Jacobs Life Sciences Center’s Boyer Auditorium, featured alumni Emily Allen ’08, Chris Gromisch ’11, Andy Weisenfeld ’11, Youna Kang ’13, Jessica Fortin ’14, and John Stiller ’14. They shared tips on preparing for graduate studies based on their own experiences, ranging from Kang’s story of going back to school to study pharmacy, to Weisenfeld’s transition from pursuing a religion major to becoming a veterinarian.

The panel on June 27, also in LSC, focused on preparing for the workplace after graduation. The featured speakers were Will Servos ’06, Kim Riggs ’07, Michelle Murphy ’14, and James Graydon ’15. Servos and Riggs talked about their climbs up the career ladder, whereas Murphy and Graydon talked about their first jobs after Trinity.

Even though each discussion had a different focus, one common topic to emerge in both was the necessity of balancing life on and off the clock. Servos said that the need to have a work-life balance caused him to eventually leave a job. “With one of my longest running jobs, I was on call all the time. I worked in a facility that never shut down, and the more senior I became, the more it didn’t feel like I had a boundary between work and life,” he said.

For those who pursued the graduate school path, keeping a balance was also important. “No one wants a doctor who is a robot,” Weisenfeld said. “You want someone with a good bedside manner, and unless you have friends and hobbies, you don’t develop that. In grad school and beyond, you have to make an effort to make time for yourself.”

Science Center Director Alison J. Draper, who runs this summer program, said she values the alumni panel discussions because students can better relate to alumni in terms of their post-Trinity experience. “The alumni have been in exactly the same shoes as the students in the audience. They all did summer research. They all understand what the environment is like. They have a lot more credibility than we do as faculty,” she said.

(Above) Alumni Will Servos ’06, Kim Riggs ’07, Michelle Murphy ’14, and James Graydon ’15 talk to students (below) about preparing for the workplace after Trinity.
Photos by Helder Mira.​
Draper said that the alumni panels are highlights of the program each summer. “It’s what students remember years later,” she said.

The weekly lecture program as a whole began 14 years ago, when Trinity received a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Draper said that because the different science departments are in separate buildings all across campus, it is important to build relationships across the sciences. “In some research labs, the work can become kind of lonely, especially if it’s a student working alone in a lab, so these weekly events are a way to help anchor that social life,” she said.

Draper added that summer is a convenient time for students to think about their future. “For the students who are here doing research in the summer, they’re not taking classes, they don’t have a lot of pressure on them, so they finally have the time and space to just think about where they’re going and what they want to do,” she said.

Engineering and physics major Akrit Mudvari ’18 said he plans to apply to graduate school after Trinity, but he also valued what he heard from the alumni who went straight to work. “It’s always a good idea to hear from people about what that transition feels like. Regardless of where you go after undergraduate, you’ll eventually go into the job market,” he said.

Electrical engineering major Ahmed Eldmerdash ’20 isn’t quite sure what he wants to do after Trinity, but he said that he liked being able to hear from alumni who dealt with the same choices. “It’s really helpful as a rising sophomore, because I still have the time to plan. It gives me a guideline on how to prepare,” he said.

This year’s Summer Science Research Program will culminate with presentations given by students on July 18.

Written by Matt Grahn