Biomedical Science and Engineering PhDs are faced with a dwindling number of faculty openings, and therefore, an increasing proportion of trainees conduct research in non-academic venues such as the private sector and the government, and yet another substantial number pursue non-research careers in the broad health and life sciences industry. Predoctoral and postdoctoral training programs provide little formal training for nonacademic jobs, and faculty trainers poorly understand the non-academic paths themselves. Biomedical PhDs are therefore unaware of the opportunities that may exist outside of academia, and lack many professional skills that sought after in these sectors of the job market. To address these gaps, we will establish the Rutgers Interdisciplinary Job Opportunities for Biomedical Scientists (iJOBs) program, open to predoctoral, postdoctoral, and recent Rutgers alumni in all biomedical sciences and engineering disciplines. For trainees, the iJOBS program begins with site visits to partnering companies and monthly networking events with working professionals to learn about various professional options. Participants then receive formal training via courses and shadowing experiences in core professional skills (such as communications, performance management, and team building) and in one of five professional tracks of their choice: i) science and health policy, ii) business management, iii) intellectual property management, iv) clinical and regulatory sciences, and v) health and science data analysis. Each participant is assigned a professional mentorship pod consisting of their research faculty advisor, iJOBS program faculty member, and an external mentor from industry, who assist the trainee through their individual Professional Development Plan. Several months prior to graduation, trainees work jointly with iJOBS staff and Rutgers Career Services for application package development and interview skill support, participation in career fairs and assistance with job placement. Finally, employed alumni of the program are invited to give back by providing mentoring and shadowing opportunities to current trainees. An external assessor will evaluate the program on an ongoing basis using data provided by trainees, faculty, and external mentors to determine its strengths and weaknesses. Simultaneously, the assessor will monitor changes in the supply and demand needs for PhD graduates, so that the program activities and areas of concentration can be adapted to the constantly evolving job market. Workforce data and iJOBS best practices will be disseminated to educate our faculty about the changing needs of our students and postdoctoral fellows. We will also disseminate this information nationally by publishing research articles and opinion pieces, collaborating with other existing BEST programs, and holding annual symposia to encourage dialogue among other universities and the bio-industry. The iJOBs program will enable flexible and informative exploration of careers outside of academia by trainees, and strive to increase cooperation between academia and industry so that a new workforce model for biomedical trainees can emerge.
The Rutgers iJOBS program will better prepare biomedical PhDs for research careers in government and the private sector, as well as for research-related areas (such as research management). With fine-tuned professional skills and perspectives, Rutgers iJOBS trainees will be professionally mature and well-prepared to meet the challenges of their career choices, and thereby, contribute most effectively to the greater US biomedical research and development enterprise, and its goal of advancing human health and welfare.