The University of Chicago

Program Title: myCHOICE

Key People: Erin Adams, Ellen Cohen, Victoria Prince, Julian Solway, Abby Stayart, Michael Tessel, Alan Thomas

Program Summary

myCHOICE benefits from a broad based steering committee that includes representatives from the UChicago Biological Sciences Division (BSD) postdoctoral association, graduate student dean’s council, and diversity committee, and from the UChicago biotech association, Center for teaching, Graduate Student Affairs office and Provost’s office.

The myCHOICE program is open to all graduate students and postdoctoral scientists pursuing biological sciences training at UChicago. Programming emphasizes both career exposure and professional development; career exposure covers ten general areas based on the myIDP (Individual Development Plan from Science Careers) categories. These are shown below in the Figure under E1, colored according to the visual spectrum. Exposure areas include such broad topics as Industry, Tech Commercialization, Entrepreneurship, Medicine/Healthcare, Business of Science, Law, Communication, Teaching, and Administration, and also provides exposure to Academic Research. myCHOICE is characterized by a three phase training plan based around Exposure, Education and Experience (E1-E3) of the above topics. The E1: Exposure seminar series “What can I do with my PhD” is open to all participants including those from other institutions. E2 and E3 level programming requires a myCHOICE application, including completion of the myIDP.


Among the unique features of the myCHOICE program are the inclusion of guided mentorship from alumni and friends of the institution and “outstanding leveraging of internal and external resources and the experimental nature of the plan with hypothesis testing” (quoted directly from the Resume and Summary of Discussion from peer review).

Internal resources include the Booth School of Business, the Harris School of Public Policy, UChicagoTech, and the Chicago Innovation Exchange (the location of some myCHOICE events). External resources include MATTER (a Chicago based healthcare innovation center), the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and several local industry partners.

The myCHOICE innovative evaluation plan is designed to test two hypotheses.

  1. More extensive participation in myCHOICE predicts greaterPhD and postdoctoral scientist career choice empowerment and satisfaction with chosen career.
  2. More extensive participation in myCHOICE predicts improved concordance between myIDP Career Fit assessment at training exit and actual career selection.

A survey of UChicago BSD graduate students after just one quarter (3 months) of myCHOICE programming has indicated that 90% of students are aware of the program and 70% have already attended at least one event.

Beginning Strategies

In our E1: Exposure phase, implemented in Fall 2014, is a weekly seminar series entitled “What Can I Do With My PhD?” that aims to expose PhD and postdoctoral scientist to a range of careers based broadly on myIDP categories (see figure below). The series highlights professionals from across the career spectrum, many of them University of Chicago alumni who have leveraged their training to pursue careers outside of academic research. In the four months since its introduction, ”What Can I Do With My PhD has hosted 19 events (approximately one per week) and featured 29 guest speakers, representing fields including Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals, Consulting, Entrepreneurship, Science Communication, Research Administration, Liberal Arts Teaching careers and many others. The series also strives to incorporate professional development workshops on topics such as negotiation, conflict resolution, and organizational leadership. Event attendance and anonymous survey feedback collected after every event confirms that the seminar series is a resounding success.