Boston University

Program Title: BU’s BEST

Key People: Chelsea R. Epler (former member), Linda E. Hyman, Holly Nguyen, Barbara M. Schreiber

Program Summary

BU’s BEST launched with a goal to “re-engineer the biomedical training pipeline”. The working strategy is to achieve this goal by using information from the biomedical job market to help inform curriculum development. Implementation of new curricular offerings should better prepare trainees for the diverse set of biomedical careers available to them.

BU’s BEST serves approximately 750 doctoral students and 350 postdoctoral rexearchers as the program is open to any trainee who wants to participate no matter how far along he/she is in training. Programming is binned into six broad career tracks. Using analysis of the job market as the driver of career/professional development, BU’s BEST enables students and postdocs to fulfill the needs of the current market as well as the future biomedical workforce. The Labor•InsightTM tool developed by Burning Glass Technologies uses state-of-the-art software to identify jobs, their locations, and so-called “hard” and “soft” skills required for various career pathways. Moreover, trends in jobs and skills can also be studied.

BU’s BEST programming is presented at four levels which allow graduate students and postdocs to first reflect on their career interests, explore a number of different careers, enhance their skills and knowledge base, and finally experience these careers with shadowing and internships. Examples of how students and postdocs might work through the programming include first participating in workshops and career coaching sessions including working through an IDP, all of which help them reflect on their needs and interests as they consider the biomedical workforce. Labor•InsightTM data enable students and postdocs to see what types of jobs exist and the trends in these job offerings over the past few years as they determine how to proceed. Through “Career Exploration” seminars, doctoral students and postdocs hear from local working professionals about their career paths, as well as network with them after the seminar in the explore phase. Once a student or postdocs has become interested in a career track, he/she can then use the offerings in the enhance phase to hone in on skills identified using Labor•InsightTM as those most sought after in their career track of interest. Finally, BU’s BEST provides a way for graduate students and postdocs to experience a given career to gain further insight and skills. These internships are targeted at 5-10 hours per week so as not to impact time to degree for doctoral candidates or postdoctoral research training time.

While focusing on the trainees’ experiences, it is equally important to provide a university culture that supports and engages this new curriculum. Communication to faculty and university leadership that focuses on workforce trends and student/postdoc experiences and attitudes is a critical strategy to overcome potential barriers to attaining and sustaining success. A monthly newsletter as well as face-to-face discussions with faculty at their departmental meetings help to keep the dialog open.

Beginning Strategies

We are advancing two ground breaking software tools; one will provide a regional and national analysis of job opportunities and future job trends in biomedical related fields and the other will allow scientists to have their hands on the pulse of the biomedical job market, helping them to identify skills required to pursue specific career paths.