Panels shed light on careers in science

Rebecca Black, Ph.D.

By Abby Weingarten

Aspiring scientists have a vast job market to navigate after they graduate from New College, so Rebecca Black, Ph.D.is giving them an edge.

The assistant professor of chemistry has organized two career panel discussions as part of her fall course entitled “Chemical Research, Careers and Communication,” from 3 to 4 p.m. Tues. Nov. 3 and Tues. Nov. 10 via Zoom. Each panel will feature five to six professionals who started out with a chemistry, biochemistry or biology major during their undergraduate years—and went on to pursue extremely varied career paths.

“We will have a good mix of careers represented, in the hopes of showing students that there are many career paths and options, depending on their interests,” Black said. “It’s great to do this virtually too because I’ve been able to invite anyone from anywhere in the world to speak, and we have some really great people participating.”

So far, the panelists include a CEO and lead scientist for a startup company; a scientist at Coordination Pharmaceuticals; an Argonne National Laboratory chemist; a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) postdoctoral researcher; a software engineer at Oracle; a high school science teacher; a nurse practitioner; three resident physicians (in integrated vascular surgery, family medicine and general surgery); and a refugee resettlement agent.

Black will be moderating the panels, but she envisions the sessions as more question-and-answer-based and steered by the attending students.

“I want whoever comes to the sessions to help drive the conversation. And the panelists are all solid people who will give good advice,” Black said. “I’ll probably start by asking them questions like: ‘What did you think you’d be doing at this time in college? What are you doing now? And how did what you thought was going to happen change over time?’ I want to show college students that you don’t need to know right now what you’re going to be doing in the future right.”

Incorporating career planning and exploration into her classes is a priority for Black, who has worked alongside the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) at New College to build this type of job preparation into her curriculum.

“I want my students to really recognize that the skills they’re learning in all of their classes at New College are transferrable. I want them to learn how to market those skills, and to know that having goals are important but that it’s OK that goals and plans change throughout life,” Black said. “For most college-level students, they come in with something they’re interested in but haven’t even thought about how their interests can translate into a career. A lot of times I’ll hear, ‘I didn’t even know this job existed,’ so giving them the space to do this exploration has helped them a lot.”

In the same spirit, Black has been co-coordinating New College’s Natural Science Seminar Series this year with Erika Diaz-Almeyda, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and environmental studies. The series is held from 4 to 5 p.m. Mondays on Zoom, and it has brought in speakers from across the globe.

Last year, the organizers (Elizabeth Leininger, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology; and Brad Oberle, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and environmental studies) hosted a poster session within the series for students to present their research to the campus community. A panel discussion followed about research experience for undergraduates.

“This term, we have reimagined (in a virtual world) how best to have our awesome student researchers share their research results from summer 2020 or current projects,” Black said.

The goal is to host three Student Research Showcases from 4 to 5 p.m. on Mondays (Nov. 2, 9 and 16). The seminars will take the format of several Pecha Kucha (“chit chat”) presentations—a fast-paced format that uses 20 slides or images that are displayed for 20 seconds each. This will allow for ample question-and-answer time with all of the seminar presenters.

“This is a great, no-pressure opportunity for students to discuss what they’re excited about and what they’ve been working on,” Black said.

Students interested in participating in the research showcases can claim a presentation slot here and/or email Black at rblack@ncf.edu or Diaz-Almeyda at ediazalmeyda@ncf.edu.

To participate in the Natural Science Seminar Series, click here

To attend the “Chemical Research, Careers and Communication” panel discussions, click here, and for more information about the panelists, click here

Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.


Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is the state's only legislatively designated Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in liberal arts and sciences, a master’s degree program in data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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