UMMS tech tool helps scientists navigate career path

AAMC recognizes innovative ‘myIDP’ web site as leader in the field

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

September 11, 2013
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GSBS student Sneha Gupta ’14 (left), discusses her individual development plan with Cynthia Fuhrmann, who has been recognized by the AAMC for developing an innovative online career planning tool for biomedical scientists. Gupta, who is studying cytokinesis in the biochemistry & molecular pharmacology laboratory of Dannel McCollum, PhD, is keeping her options open but “leaning toward industry.”

Careers in science aren’t what they used to be. Less than 25 percent of doctoral-level scientists trained in the United States will find jobs in academic research—a fact that leaves many biomedical sciences graduate students perplexed over what path to take after long years of study.

“Few trainees will end up on a traditional path as a tenure-track research faculty member,” said Cynthia Fuhrmann, PhD, assistant dean of career development for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UMass Medical School. “Fortunately, PhDs contribute broadly to science and society in a variety of other career paths. These include research and other scientific roles in industry and government, education, communication, policy, law and the business of science.”

Formerly a research scientist herself, Dr. Fuhrmann is an academic administrator on a mission to help scientists chart a rewarding path in the new world. Along with colleagues across the country, she developed myIDP, an interactive online career-planning tool for biomedical trainees. She worked on the tool with collaborators at the University of California San Francisco, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The online tool helps graduate students, postdocs and even mid-career scientists set and reach career goals. Users can evaluate their skills, interests, and values, and identify which scientific career paths best match them. The site also helps them set annual strategic goals and provides articles and resources to guide them through the process. There is no charge to use the site, which since its launch just over a year ago has registered nearly 35,000 users—roughly equivalent to one-half of the U.S. postdoc population.

myIDP was recently recognized by the American Association of Medical Colleges with the 2013 Building Bridges and Spanning Boundaries Award for Innovative Institutional Partnerships in Research and Research-Focused Training. The award identifies bright spots and disseminates innovative ways to create and sustain institutional partnerships in research and research-focused training.

“Building on a strong foundation that already exists at UMass, our goal is to be ahead of the wave in creating a structure that prepares our trainees for their next steps,” said Fuhrmann. “We will continue to innovate and to act.”

Related link on UMassMedNow:
Newsmaker: Career Planning Tool Wins AAMC Award