The Steps To Becoming A Biomedical Scientist
The objective is to complete your graduate training at one institution, followed by postdoctoral training at one or more institutions, and then move into your first independent position. For information on how to pursue dual training as a biomedical physician scientist (MD or MD/PhD), please refer to "The Road to becoming a Biomedical Physician Scientist in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine" by Avrum I. Gotlieb (brochures available from the American Society for Investigative Pathology and online at www.asip.org).
How you accomplish your training may be the result of a carefully crafted career plan or by simply taking advantage of opportunities that appear as you follow your training. Usually it is a combination of planning and serendipity. Never lose sight of your ultimate goal and realize that there are several different pathways that will get you there. Your own personal circumstances are important in determining the steps you take along the way. Remember that although the end is important, the journey must be pleasant, fun, and as direct as possible so that you continue to advance in your career and do not become stuck in any one position. The traditional steps to becoming a biomedical scientist are described in more detail below.
Obtaining an undergraduate education is in many ways the first step to becoming a biomedical scientist. This is the time to explore your science interests and gain a well-rounded education. A science major is preferred, but not necessary. In preparation for graduate school, you want to use this time to acquire laboratory experience, as well as communication, writing, computer, and public speaking skills. It is also helpful to gain teaching experience, such as serving as a laboratory assistant for a science course. In addition, any research experience gained during this time period is highly beneficial and advantageous for your application to graduate school. Explore summer undergraduate research opportunities offered through various universities, medical colleges, and national agencies, such as the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) through the MARC Program of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). ASIP currently offers a special Summer Research Opportunities Program in Pathology (SROPP), which is linked to the FASEB MARC Program and provides mentorship from established ASIP principal investigators. Many of these programs, such as ASIP's SROPP, offer a stipend, so they can be competitive. Visiting a laboratory and shadowing a biomedical scientist is also a great way to gain exposure to the research environment and to network with other scientists. As you approach the end of your undergraduate education, start to look at graduate schools and identify programs of interest. Determine which undergraduate courses are required so that you have time to fulfill all requirements for application. Take the GRE, prepare your curriculum vitae, obtain letters of recommendation, and prepare for your interview. Meet regularly with your mentor to discuss your interests and what opportunities are available, and know the deadlines for applications. If you need time and are not ready to jump into a graduate program, consider applying for a technician position in a lab. This will give you time to think about your next step, and in the process valuable research experience and skills will be gained.