Undergraduates Learn About Careers and Graduate Study in Biology at the Field Museum

About 50 undergraduates and recent graduates attended the Careers and Graduate Studies in the Biological Sciences workshop in Chicago, 6 September 2014. Co-sponsored by the Field Museum and iDigBio, the workshop brought together an impressive cadre of presenters and collections managers to introduce students to the importance of biodiversity collections, as well as the importance of careers in the biological sciences. With about 30 professional scientists on hand, students had plenty of opportunity to ask questions and discuss interests with working biologists and collections professionals.

The workshop began with a continental breakfast for early arrivers, followed by a series of inspirational talks featuring Shane Campbell-Staton, PhD candidate in herpetology at Harvard, Hank Bart, Curator of Fishes at Tulane, and Gabriela Hogue, collections manager of fishes at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

One of the day’s highlights included two sets of 13 collections tours, each with limited numbers of students to allow plenty of time for questions and discussion. Tours focused on a variety of vertebrate, invertebrate, plant, and paleo collections, each under the tutelage of one or more accomplished Field Museum professionals. Since most participants had never been in the “back-of-the-house,” the tours served to broaden student understanding of the important role museums play in biodiversity research.

Afternoon sessions highlighted an array of topics, including Corrie Moreau on women in science, Dena Smith on finding a career path in the biological sciences, Claudia Segovia-Salcedo on her personal pathway into biology, John Bates on opportunities for international travel, Roland Roberts on the continuing challenges of describing biological diversity, and Pam Soltis on contemporary methods in assembling and using the tree of life.

Near the end of the day, ten students were randomly selected to receive a $25.00 Amazon.com gift card, and all students were treated to a reception and mixer to allow more time for interaction with facilitators, speakers, and collections managers. Students were encouraged to make personal connections, develop mentorship relationships, and follow up with workshop leaders following the workshop.

Plans are underway for a more intensive shadowing activity at the Field Museum to allow students an enhanced understanding of collections, museums, and the important avenues available for biodiversity research. iDigBio thanks all of our speakers, the enthusiastic participation of Field Museum staff, and Kasey Mennie, Education and Outreach Program Coordinator at the Field for coordinating Field Museum participation and ensuring the success of the workshop.