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Next steps? Nontraditional student w/BS & MBA. Interested in molecular biology, research, laboratory

molecularbiologymolecularbiology 4 replies1 threads New Member
Hi, all! I'm new to the forums.

I'm not sure exactly what next step to take career-wise. I appreciate any input.

The background... I have a B.S. in Psychology from a state school in Ohio and an MBA from Purdue University. I also attended a web development bootcamp in JavaScript and Ruby on Rails. I've mostly worked in accounting since graduation, but I've never been passionate about it. I didn't like programming as a career either (although it sure comes in handy!). Looking back I didn't have guidance and I chose my fields of study (and unis) for the wrong reasons.

Goals... I'd like to be a researcher/scientist in the area of genetics and molecular biology. Specifically I'm interested in "non-living" DNA in our environment, which can include eDNA and viruses, and how this nucleic acid interacts with with a living genome (RNA or DNA segments being taken up by and incorporated into a living organism). So essentially I'm curious about the mechanisms that alter a genome that don't include things like reproduction or mutation.

Stats... I think I had a weighted 4.1? HS GPA, 1330 SAT, 31 ACT, 670? GRE, don't recall GMAT. Undergrad GPA was... ummm... cum laude. MBA was 3.3 (had a medical issue midway through and had to cram coursework to graduate on time).

I'm really a science nerd at heart. I'm also artistically creative and love to learn. Ideally I would be surrounded by people who are driven by inquiry, are willing to admit when they are wrong, and aren't corrupted by a profit motive.

Current location... Ohio. Age... mid 30's. Financials... Have quite a bit of savings but want to be frugal.

Constraints... I have a medium dog and a senior cat. I have seasonal affective disorder so I need a sunny location. It doesn't need to be warm all the time, but it can't be cloudy often (e.g. the Pacific Northwest is out), perfect weather for me is 50's and 60's and sunny. I don't mind snow as long as it's sunny. Prefer progressive and innovative cities.

I'm open to many things. I enjoy traveling. I like the idea of going to school overseas or studying abroad. I'd get another B.S. or master's if that's the best route, or take coursework in preparation for applying to PhD programs.

Any help with creating a picture of my next steps would be wonderful. What PT jobs to look for, what cities to move to, what universities and programs to look at, what companies I might be interested in, etc.

Thanks in advance!




edited June 26
12 replies
Post edited by ccadminkris on
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Replies to: Next steps? Nontraditional student w/BS & MBA. Interested in molecular biology, research, laboratory

  • boudersbouders 2686 replies187 threads Senior Member
    I'd look for something to do with the bachelor's in psychology. You can get into academia or health care as a psychometrician or genetic counsellor or maybe a school psychologist.

    Don't do a PhD in molecular biology or genetics. Here's many reasons why: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/12-reasons-not-to-get-a-phd/#:~:text=A PhD takes twice as,well into establishing themselves professionally
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30768 replies197 threads Senior Member
    You also could pick a couple universities with decent research programs in your area of interest, and get yourself a job at one of them in accounting. Make certain that you can take classes for free as a staff benefit, and work your way through to wherever it is you eventually decide you want to be. For that matter, if you are completely missing out on the general biology/genetics/molecular bio/organic chem, etc. time on staff at a community college that has tuition perks for staff members could work for the first part of the process.

    There is a crying need for people who like science in the administrative part of the bio-tech industry. Your MBA might be able to help you enter the industry at that level. You wouldn't get to spend all of your days pipetting things in the lab, but you would be a key part of the field. Look into that option too.
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  • molecularbiologymolecularbiology 4 replies1 threads New Member
    edited June 7
    bouders --

    After reading that link... I found the idea of being a PhD student appealing!

    It is especially appealing for someone like myself who is considering becoming a professor.

    Being paid to teach undergraduates, grading papers, holding office hours, being mother hen to undergrads! All the while following my own intellectual curiosity. Sounds ideal.

    Getting that teaching experience while having a mentor who has done it all... sounds ideal!

    And if positions are moving to PT professorships... then it would make sense to have a job in industry while moonlighting as a professor.
    edited June 7
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  • molecularbiologymolecularbiology 4 replies1 threads New Member
    edited June 7
    happymomof1 --

    I like the idea of working for education institutions that also provide free tuition to staff. Being in the business office would give some behind the scenes insights into some of the innerworkings of the university. Although I wonder if I might also qualify for a position like academic advisor.

    And yes, I like the idea of working in management in industry. And I like the idea of working my way up to it. Wouldn't want to go into management without having experienced the day-to-day first.
    edited June 7
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7902 replies84 threads Senior Member
    I am as big a fan of multiple / sequential lives as you will find on CC, and I *loved* doing a PhD as a "mature' student. That said, you need to be clear about facts on the ground. Starting with:
    Being paid to teach undergraduates, grading papers, holding office hours... I see it progressing from me attending classes to me learning about the research in my field to then completing my own research.

    That is straight-up fantasy from the middle of the last century! Aiming to teach at university level these days is as high-risk a career path as being an artist. Almost half of university instruction is now given by adjuncts. Do a little noodling around the realities of that life.
    I'd like to be a researcher/scientist in the area of genetics and molecular biology.

    Would you though? Do you have lab research experience? it really doesn't suit everybody, and a lot of it is slow, tedious and repetitious (like a lot of accounting really).

    To get there you need a PhD, and to get to into a PhD program you need the relevant coursework and some research experience. One way to test the theory would be to do the legwork on what a PhD program looks for (typically an undergrad degree in X/Y/Z subject, usually including some specific coursework). You could enroll as a non-degree student at your local college, take a couple of those classes and see if one of the profs will give you a research internship- ideally full-time for 10-12 weeks. But....
    I'm curious about...

    I think that this is the key quote in your whole post. You have a lot of interests and your imagination gets caught by different ideas. It is entirely possible that you will never find the "one" thing that is your passion- b/c your innate curiosity is your actual 'passion'!

    If so, think about ways of using the interests that you have developed and following them. I think that's what @happymomof1 is suggesting: combine your interest in the field (you have obviously done a lot of reading on the subject) and your objective qualifications.

    Start by doing some research (!): figure out which organizations- from big companies to national labs to startups- are doing interesting work in the "non-living DNA" field and look for ways to work with them on the business side of the organization, using your existing qualifications. As an example, I have a non-scientist friend who is living out his childhood fantasies as he attends every SpaceX launch as part of his job- b/c of his role in the management side of the organization.

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  • molecularbiologymolecularbiology 4 replies1 threads New Member
    edited June 7
    collegemom3717...

    Per your first point...

    I'm not sure we're discussing the same thing. My was... how the article describes the grunt work of being a PhD student actually sounds enticing to me.

    I did not say I want to be a tenured professor.

    How you quoted me... Is that not exactly how the article that was linked describes the grunt work of being a PhD student? Are you saying that PhD student do not teach undergrads, grade papers, hold office hours?

    edited June 7
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13628 replies32 threads Senior Member
    edited June 7
    Does the life of a starving artist sound enticing to you? Because for many of the people in the field, the lifestyle is similar (with less glamour and less freedom/more bureaucratic hassles). Low pay, little job security, long hours.

    Also, all that (teaching undergrads, heading papers) may _sound_ great, so try it first if you can. Try to find an adjunct role teaching accounting (at a CC or elsewhere) or something. See if all that is stuff you'd actually like.

    We all have fantasies, but they often don't match reality. You have some good advice here to use the skills you do have to enter companies in fields you say you're interested in.
    Go do that and also, I would add to try to earn and save up as much as you can to retire as early as you can. They you're free to do whatever. And dabbling in molecular biology may turn out to be a lot more fun that actually working in a lab for low pay and the uncertainty of whether your head person can still get grants to fund your position while you have rent to pay.
    edited June 7
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  • boudersbouders 2686 replies187 threads Senior Member
    Teaching undergrads is not the main job of a PhD student. The main job of a PhD student is to get a thesis finished. That requires doing research, which more than likely has to be repeated multiple times, or doesn't work out at all. Have you ever done a biology or chemistry lab course at the university level?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7902 replies84 threads Senior Member
    Apologies, @molecularbiology - I thought you meant you were interested in becoming a college prof.

    How much teaching / TAing, grading papers and "office" hours PhD students do varies a lot by subject, by program and by the student's package.

    Almost all PhD students do at least a term with students, as one of the 2 defining characteristics of a PhD is knowing a subject well enough to teach it (the other is making a unique / novel contribution to your field). Sometimes, as with collegekid2 (now gradschoolkid), it is 1 semester only, and the rest is RA (research assistant). For others, as with the gradschoolkid's beau (different field, same uni), the requirement is higher.

    The way PhD funding typically works is that you are given a tuition 'discount" and a flat stipend (STEM stipends that I am familiar with range from $15-30K/academic year, depending on the field, the school, and how much they want you). That stipend covers your required TA/RA hours (typically 15-20 hours a week); you do your own required classes and research in the rest of your time. Extra TA time is hourly (@~$7-12/hour; with a defined number of hours per course; typically there is a limit as to how much you can do per term, b/c you are supposed to be doing your own coursework & research as well. In the grad schools that I know best, grad students don't have private offices- they have desks in a shared space- so "office" hours are held in common areas (or, if a small cohort in the shared space, they work out a rota), such as empty classrooms, subject lounges, etc. Obvs, that can vary a lot by school and field.

    Tbh, most of the linked article doesn't reflect my experience, though I do know people who have had some of them. The worst is the supervisor who exploits students and slows them down to keep getting the cheap labor. Second worst is when your supervisor moves uni when you are partway through and following to the new uni isn't an option, or a funding cut late in the process. And, you might genuinely enjoy teaching/grading/helping problem undergrads, etc - but when it gets in the way of you doing your own research, so that you can finish your degree and get going on your post-doc so that you can get going on your researcher post so that you can get to senior researcher so that you can be the one coming up with the research questions, getting projects funded etc, it can be very frustrating.

    I agree with @PurpleTitan: get some on the ground experience- research, teaching- to see how it suits you in practice. Although I don't buy the 8 years part of the linked article, a PhD is a long haul. It is a research degree, it is by definition narrow, and you want to be really sure that you like both your topic and the research process enough to stick it out for a at least 6 years (for you, as you will need at least a year of UG coursework to make you eligible, and at least 5 years for the PhD itself).
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30768 replies197 threads Senior Member
    I like the suggestion above that you look for a teaching gig at a community college. Your experience certainly would qualify you for one of those. Lesson planning, teaching, office hours, student advising, etc. are basically the same no matter what the content area. That would be a good way for you to find out if your real interest is at the classroom level. Also, since community colleges are focused on teaching, any research you do on your own time would be up to you. That means that you could read all the biology journals you feel like with your faculty library access.
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  • molecularbiologymolecularbiology 4 replies1 threads New Member
    edited June 12
    Okay. I'm looking into moving to the SoCal or Raleigh areas. Will be visiting this month. Is there any good info out there comparing the two when it comes to job options and quality of life?

    I'll definitely try out the teaching and/or working in accounting at an academic institution suggestion while I buff up on reading.

    Another option I may try is going for a corporate accounting position at a tech firm, reading up, and then going for a management position.
    edited June 12
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7902 replies84 threads Senior Member
    COL in Raleigh is a lot less than SoCal....
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