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Dr. Rebecca Weingarten

Bio photo of Dr. Rebecca Weingarten

Staff Scientist @ National Institutes of Health (NIH)

I am a microbiologist at the Clinical Center at NIH. I spend most of my day at the lab bench performing experiments to better understand how antibiotic resistance is spread among pathogenic bacteria. I also get to attend seminars given by world renowned scientists to learn about other research topics (like Ebola!). I do spend some time at my desk reading journal articles, writing papers and protocols, and analyzing data.

How I Got Here

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Undergraduate Degree(s): Biology
Graduate degree(s): PhD in Microbiology
Favorite class(es): Human physiology
Moving from college to career:

I went directly from my undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to a PhD program at North Carolina State University. I spent 5 years as a postdoctoral fellow before my recent transition to a permanent position at the NIH.

While you need to earn an undergraduate degree in science (of your choosing), it is more important to get experience in a research lab. I was hired as a dishwasher in a plant pathology lab my sophomore year. By my senior year, I had earned a summer fellowship, completed a research project and became a published author. That was what got me started on my career path.

Career influences:

During my undergraduate research job, a postdoctoral fellow told me I had a knack for science and that I should get my PhD. Apparently, it didn't take much to influence my career path!

The Ups and Downs

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Pros: A career in research is often times exciting and always changing. As a researcher, you get to plan your day and your schedule can be flexible. Microbiology, in particular, is an expansive field. You can focus on infectious diseases, agricultural, environmental, industrial, health promotion like probiotics and vaccines, and many more.

Cons: Experimental failures are the norm not the exception. Depending on the experiment, hours can be long and some weekend work is common, particularly early in your career. There are too many PhDs in the life sciences. Finding a job after your postdoctoral training is challenging. Only get your PhD if you are sure it is required for your career goals.

Recommendations

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Interested in a career in science? Apply for a lab tech job and see if you like it. Explore your options first - don't just jump into a post-graduate degree program like I did.

Interested in this Career?

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MAJOR ≠ CAREER

Your major does not always determine your career path. Many graduates pursue careers outside their field, depending on their interests and experiences.

EXPERIENCE + DEGREE = CAREER

It’s not just your major that matters! Make yourself marketable by gaining a variety of experiences in college. Read a few inspiring stories by professionals whose experiences led to great careers.

Contact a Vick Center career counselor today to find out how you can turn your major into a career.