Breaking Bio Bonus! #AltActober Round Up

October has come to an end, and with it our little #AltActober experiment for this year. Looking back, I think it’s fair to say our month-long exploration of careers outside the academy was not only a success, but also a lot of fun, and gave us an easy excuse to talk to some really fabulous scientists doing a broad range of cool things. I know that I learned a lot by speaking with them, and I hope that you found it useful and entertaining to listen to as well.

One of the things that we tried to do across the month was get specific advice from each guest for anyone who is currently sitting at their desk right now and contemplating whether they want to keep going in academia, or maybe whether it’s time to start looking elsewhere for a successful and fulfilling career. Seeing how there are probably more than a few listeners out there right now contemplating such a move, I thought I’d compile all the given advice in one handy, easy-to-share place so people can refer back to it when they need to.

Ariel Zych, Education Manager (Public Radio) (Ep 89)

  • Network: “Have a coffee with anyone you can who has a job even remotely similar to what you want.”
  • Moonlight: “Try out some of the skills, behaviours, or activities that might be associated with the career that you want to jump to.”

Dr. Nate Dappen & Dr. Neil Losin, Wildlife Filmmakers (Ep 90)

  • Have a Buddy or Support System: “Do it with a buddy if you can; it makes such a difference in keeping your motivation up, in just making the logistics of doing something different even possible in some cases.”
  • Experiment: “Start doing it while you’re a grad student, and start trying to do it well and at a professional level while you’re a grad student.”
  • Start small: “Great way to get practice, to get connected with other filmmakers, and to get some credibility when you move into the field.”
  • Take some chances: “Big festivals help you get connected to other young filmmakers who are trying to find connections and build a community.”

Dr. Kelley Remole, University Administration & Outreach Professional (Ep 91)

  • Figure out what you’re interested in and go after it: “I think that people figure out what they’re going to do for a PhD asking themselves that exact question, and they shouldn’t think that’s the last time they’re going to ask themselves that question.”
  • Reassess your situation regularly: “Am I doing what I’m really good at and what I get a lot of fulfillment from?”

Dr. Stephanie Kadison, High School Educator (Ep 92)

  • Network & volunteer with established organizations: “I recommend doing after-school mentorship programs if you have the time and your PI allows you to leave the bench for that many hours a week.”
  • Keep an open mind: “You never know which opportunities will come your way!”

Dr. Sheba Agarwal-Jans, Journal Publisher (Ep 93)

  • Self-reflection: “I think it’s very important to sit back and really, really look at yourself and see what it is that you enjoy to do.”
  • Work on your CV: “The academic CV is not going to work in industry!”
  • Network: “Go to job fairs, look at the different companies that you think are interesting, and attend industry seminars.”
  • Make yourself memorable: “What you want to do is make an impression on somebody.”
  • Practice Interviews: “I think interviews in industry are very, very different than they are in academia.”

So there you have it, the advice from all of our #AltActober guests on how to prepare for a world outside academia!

If you found this series or any of the advice from our guests helpful, please let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@BreakingBio), and be sure to use the #AltActober hashtag! And if you’re considering taking a jump of your own out of academia, good luck, and maybe one day you can come back and tell us all about your own journey on a future episode of Breaking Bio.

– Morgan

BB 93 – Behind The Scenes at Elsevier with Dr. Sheba Agarwal-Jans #AltActober

Dr. Sheba Agarwal-Jans went from submitting & reviewing papers as a post-doctoral fellow to managing multiple journals as a publisher for Elsevier. She joins us for the last instalment of #AltActober to share her journey and provide some insights into how mega-publishers function.

Show notes:
Elsevier Publishing Campus –

Follow Sheba:
Twitter – @ShebaAJ –
Twitter – @MicrobeTweets –
Website –
LinkedIn –

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BB 91 – Putting Brains to Many Good Uses with Dr. Kelley Remole

Dr. Kelley Remole, Director of Neuroscience Outreach at Columbia University, talks about her #AltActober experience working as an educator & administrator after finishing her PhD.

Show Notes:
Neurodome –
Brains in the City –
Brains @ AMNH –

Follow Kelley:
Columbia University Neuroscience Outreach –
Twitter – @notjustbrainsci –
LinkedIn –

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Episode 89 – Public Radio & Education with Ariel Zych #AltActober

For a long time, the assumption has been that once you get your PhD it will only be a matter of time until you’re offered a professorship, ideally on the tenure track, and that any other career outcome is a disappointment. However, this depiction of traditional versus alternate academic careers is shifting, especially in light of recent data showing a mere 10-20% of people graduating with a PhD in science actually end up with faculty positions in the academe! So with that in mind, for the entire month of October, Breaking Bio will be bringing you interviews with people who jumped from the academic career track and into the world of Alt-Ac, a series that we’re oh-so-cleverly calling #AltActober. We’ll be talking to a broad range of people, all with diverse backgrounds and who have gone on to find successful & fulfilling careers outside the “normal” career trajectory presented to PhD students and post-docs.

Ariel Zych, Education Manager of the Science Friday Initiative, helps us kick off #AltActober, by explaining why she decided to leave a funded PhD position to explore the world of teaching, education and non-profit outreach, and how she ended up working for one of the most successful popular science media franchises in North America: Science Friday.

Show Notes:
Sylvia Earle
SciFri’s #ExplainTheSun
Ariel’s work on Jadera haematoloma


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Twitter – @Arieloquent –
Science Friday Science Club –


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Breaking Bio Episode 69 – Getting semi-social with Dr. Sandra Rehan!

We talk to Dr. Sandra Rehan of the University of New Hampshire about her work on the evolution of sociality, the natural history of bees, and what it’s like to be a new prof!

More info about Dr. Rehan’s work:

Lab webpage:

Twitter: @sanrehan –


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Blog & past episodes:

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Breaking Bio Episode 68 – #SAFE13 with Drs. Clancy, Nelson, Rutherford & Hinde

This week, we sit down and discuss the #SAFE13 project, which is bringing incidences of sexual harassment and assault in scientific field research to light, with the study’s authors: Dr. Kate Clancy, Dr. Robin Nelson, Dr. Julienne Rutherford, and Dr. Katie Hinde.

The #SAFE13 paper is open access and can be read for free –

This week’s guests:
Dr. Kate Clancy, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Research homepage –
Blog –
Twitter – @KateClancy –

Dr. Robin Nelson, Skidmore College
Research Homepage –
Twitter – @rgairnelson –

Dr. Julienne Rutherford, University of Illinois, Chicago
Research Homepage –
Blog –
Twitter – @JNRutherford –

Dr. Katie Hinde, Harvard University
Research Homepage –
Blog –
Twitter – @Mammals_Suck –

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Breaking Bio #65 – Sex chromosomes & Math for Biologists with Dr. Melissa Wilson Sayres!

We sit down to talk about the evolution of sex chromosomes and the diversity of ways organisms determine sex with Dr. Melissa Wilson Sayres of Arizona State University. Dr. Wilson Sayres also explains why math is important for biologists, and how public outreach and engagement needs to become more common from practicing scientists.

Find out more about Dr. Wilson Sayres’ research on her website –
Read her blog –
And follow her on Twitter – @mwilsonsayres

Episode 62 – Aging Sexy Dance Party with Stuart Wigby!

Don’t worry, we’re not the ones dancing. Stuart Wigby (@StuartWigby) from the University of Oxford sits down to talk to us about his work on fruit fly sex, how aging impacts reproduction, and why his PhD students feel as comfortable on the dance floor as they do in the lab!

Be sure to check out Stuart’s former PhD student, Cedric Tan’s “Dance Your PhD” video on Sperm Competition Between Brothers and Female Choice.