The University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division (BSD) has a traditional culture of academic research with training and exposure focused predominantly on research career paths in the academy. Yet ten years post-graduation, less than one-quarter (~21%) of our trainees become faculty members in a research-intensive institution. When surveyed, 86% of our trainee respondents supported a more concerted effort to prepare them for jobs outside academia and over 90% of faculty respondents believed their mentees should be provided exposure to a range of career options that use their training. A few enterprising pre- and postdocs have begun to capitalize on expanding translational and education-training programming outside the BSD. Major collaborators in these programs include our Booth School of Business (regularly ranked #1 in the world), its Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, and our Center for Technology Development & Ventures (UChicagoTech). The University's new Center for Teaching Excellence has also attracted growing participation. These efforts reflect a culture shifting significantly towards broader engagement with innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration, fueled by trainee demand and the reality of fewer faculty job opportunities. With solid support of the President, Provost, and Deans of the University, we propose a program, Chicago Options-In-Careers Empowerment (my- CHOICE), to systematically provide a BSD on-ramp to link to, legitimize, leverage, and help grow these pro- grams, expanding career exposure offerings to our pre- and postdoctoral trainees. We are partnering with UChicagoTech, Polsky and a vast network of internal and external individuals we call Mentors from career areas including biotech, entrepreneurship, medicine, science policy and law, science communication, teaching, and administration to develop and implement this program. We will greatly expand existing Postdoc and Bio- tech Association seminar series to provide broad career path EXPOSURE, create a range of mini-courses for more in-depth EDUCATION in career domains, and guide trainees to a growing set of opportunities for deeper EXPERIENCE in areas of focus. We will use existing infrastructure, and add no extension to training time. We will also hold a portion of the myCHOICE programming in a new facility, the Chicago Innovation Exchange, an accelerator/incubator/event space, to locate myCHOICE events alongside many exemplars of PhDs pursuing non-academic careers. We have developed an innovative evaluation plan to test the hypotheses that more extensive participation in myCHOICE predicts greater trainee career choice empowerment, satisfaction with chosen career, and improved correlation between the FASEB myIDPCareer Fit assessment and career selection. We seek also to quantify the change in academic cost (the salary/lifestyles trainees would sacrifice to be an academic) as they progress through myCHOICE. We will establish strong bidirectional dissemination mecha- nisms, within and outside the University, to share and learn from other BEST programs. Our proposal enjoys extremely strong institutional support and commitment to sustainability beyond the funding period.

Public Health Relevance

We propose to develop, implement, and evaluate a broad set of learning opportunities to inform University of Chicago biomedical pre- and postdoctoral research trainees about and help prepare them for a broad range of career trajectories. We will evaluate the overall effectiveness of this program, called Chicago Options-In- Careers Empowerment or myCHOICE, and its individual components, then share widely what emerges as best practices and conversely incorporate better practices from other analogous programs at other universities. In this way, we will help our trainees evaluate and choose among the full range of careers in which they can leverage their strong science backgrounds.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
NIH Director’s Workforce Innovation Award (DP7)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-CVRS-B (51))
Program Officer
Labosky, Patricia
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Chicago
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Mathur, Ambika; Brandt, P; Chalkley, R et al. (2018) Evolution of a Functional Taxonomy of Career Pathways for Biomedical Trainees. J Clin Transl Sci 2:63-65