Wayne State was one of 17 institutions nationwide to receive a $1.8 million BEST (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) grant for 2013-18 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help doctoral trainees explore the multiple career pathways open to them outside of academia. While completing their doctorate, participants in the BEST Program can take advantage of additional training that focuses on how their scientific skills, problem-solving abilities and analytical acumen are transferrable to other domains, such as the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, patent and intellectual property law, state and federal government, science communication, and undergraduate college teaching. Our goal is to help prepare doctoral trainees and postdoctoral scientists to meet the needs of the 21st-century economy in a dynamic and evolving job market.
These careers are not "alternative" but are complementary to tenure-track faculty careers in research institutions. The same skill sets are required across multiple pathways. For example, team leaders in big pharma/biotech industry have to write proposals to obtain funds from the corporate leadership to pursue their unit's mission; science communicators must be able to orally, visually and in writing shape public opinion; policy analysts can help inform decision-making by members of Congress; and faculty in a 2-year or 4-year college or a research university have to know how to develop and deliver curriculum. Thus, all of these professional trajectories must be viewed as equally successful outcomes of a doctoral degree.
Programs like BEST have the potential to positively impact the biomedical workforce in the Detroit Metro area and across the state. WSU Graduate School data has shown that half of Wayne State's doctoral alumni stay to pursue careers in Michigan. Helping these motivated, highly trained individuals find satisfying career options can help stimulate economic development and act as an impetus for inventive partnerships between the industry and research sectors in the region. In addition, the federal BEST initiative will enable Wayne State to take a leadership role in transforming graduate education in the biomedical and life sciences.
The BEST program is offered in three phases: 90-minute seminars in the fall of the academic year; daylong Saturday workshops in the following winter; and experiential learning via career exploration or internship on site, usually in the Detroit metro area, during the subsequent summer.
Since the program's inception in 2014, a number of participants have gone on to successful careers in various domains: Dr. Aaron Burr is a medical writer with MMS in Canton, MI; Dr. Seema Shah is a staff scientist at Life Magnetics in Techtown, Detroit; Dr. Zheni Shen is a supervising scientist at Total Toxicology Lab in Southfield, MI; and Dr. Dulmini Barupala is the coordinator of the MedDirect program at Wayne state. Read more about BEST participant success.
- "Transforming training to reflect the workforce" in Science Translational Medicine
- "The origin and implementation of the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training programs: an NIH common fund initiative" in the FASEB Journal
- NIH BEST website
- WSU-BEST blog
- WSU-BEST Steering Committee
The BEST Program at Wayne State is funded by NIH grant #DP7OD018427. Contact us