Students pursuing research consider careers in academia

Undergraduate research can often serve as a springboard into the professional field

· October 30, 2012, 11:53 pm

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During a season of senior research presentation sessions and research grant deadlines, students are thinking about jobs in academia in the long run.

The Center for Undergraduate Research and the Joseph Wharton Scholars Senior Research Seminar organize presentations to pique students’ interest in research and a potential career in academia later on.

According to Director of Career Services Patricia Rose, a successful academic career involves “students doing advance work with faculty.”

“Faculty can provide excellent advice on which are the best doctoral programs to apply to [and] prospects down the road,” Rose said.

Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Ralph Rosen said, “Doing research as an undergraduate, students get a taste for what real research feels like and entails.”

“That’s where people get bitten by the bug,” Rosen added. “The initial exploration of what it means to have a career in academia happens at [the] undergraduate level.”

Many say a career in academia was a mixture of a plan that developed over their academic trajectory and an interest that formed over time. Many students’ interests were developed primarily through exposure to research as an undergraduate.

“From my experience, students who immediately want to go into academia have had some sort of exposure to that particular line of work in the past — perhaps through research of some sort in earlier years,” College junior Emma Hoffman said. Hoffman is a part of the University Scholars program, which is focused on undergraduate research.

College junior and University Scholar Anna-Marie Babington said that few students go to college seeking a career in academia “because it is so often the inspiring professors or classes one takes during college that give someone a desire to enter academia.”

Finding a job in academia requires schooling beyond the undergraduate level.

“I think that immediately post-college, there may be a certain comfort of going into academia because it allows one to delay actually finding a job,” Babington said. To get a job in post-undergraduate academia, students typically enter graduate school and then teach while doing research with the aim of obtaining tenure.

With the current job climate, academia could be a difficult career option to get into.

“I would imagine that many fields are difficult to enter in the current job market, and I would agree that academia can be a difficult field to enter even without the current job climate,” Hoffman said.

Rosen said that students need “a thick skin” in the academia and research career field. As students progress in the field, they are judged on the ideas they propose, he added.

However, some believe academia is a fulfilling career path regardless of difficulty.

“I hope that students don’t give up on the idea of academia,” Hoffman said. “I feel that though it can be difficult to enter, it can provide many rewards once you are settled in a position.”

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