Posted: October 31, 2017

Elective Modules to Broaden Training for Biomedical Scientists


85% of today’s PhD graduates in the biomedical sciences will wind up in a job other than a tenure-line faculty position. The job options for PhDs are varied and exciting, but PhD students and postdocs often lack significant exposure to, and preparation for, careers outside academia, which inhibits their ability to make informed career decisions. Many biomedical training programs do not provide significant exposure to professional skills and topics relevant to a range of careers inside and outside academia. To address this gap, the BRET Office of Career Development at Vanderbilt School of Medicine developed ten non-credit short courses, called Modules, relating to four theme areas: business/entrepreneurship, communication, teaching, and clinical research. Nearly 800 postdocs and PhD students have participated in modules since they began in 2014. These modules included Technology Commercialization (offered 3x), Summer Intensive for Entrepreneurship (3x), Business Principles for Scientists (2x), Effective Oral Communication (3x), Strategies for Strong Writing (3x), Biomedical Research and Media (3x), EQ=IQ= Career Success (3x), STEM Teaching in K-12 Schools (2x), Introduction to Principles and Practice of Clinical Research (3x), and Clinical Microbiology: Applying Your PhD to Patient Care (2x). Faculty support for trainee participation in modules has been overwhelmingly positive, and trainees report the modules aid in their career decision-making and job search, both inside and outside academia. This work was supported by NIH 1DP7OD018423 and a “Career Guidance for Trainees” grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.


Military Families, Career Development, Business, Entrepreneurship, Communication Skills, Professional Development, Graduate Training, Postdoctoral Training, Courses


Kim Petrie, PhD, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Ashley Brady, PhD, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Abigail Brown, PhD, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Kathleen Gould, PhD, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine