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The Biomedical Engineering Graduate Student Society (BMEGS-SA) for the joint Biomedical Engineering program between The University of Texas San Antonio and UT Health San Antonio is a graduate student society that is focused on creating a space for graduate students needs to be represented, and to offer them networking and professional development opportunities, as well as social events to foster collaboration between the students and faculty.
To that end the BMEGS have been holding a monthly luncheon with a featured speaker each month, to allow for a conversation between the students and the speaker about how they have come to their current position, what important experiences they went through to reach that stage and to share any valuable wisdom and information they can to encourage the student’s future career paths after graduate school.
This month’s speaker was Dr. Andrea Giuffrida, Vice President of Research at UT Health San Antonio. Dr. Giuffrida spoke to the BME graduate students, which consisted of Master’s and Ph.D. students as well as postdocs, about his life experiences and the opportunities that he came across that led him to the position that he is at now.
He spoke about how sometimes luck plays a role in our experiences but also highlighted the importance of being brave to take up the opportunities that are offered to you, along with hard work.
There was an interest in what various career paths are available to students after graduate school from the students and Dr. Giuffrida spoke about the skills that one gains by doing a PhD that they may not think of such as critical thinking and approaching a problem, and communication skills in presenting and writing up data and how these are valued skills that can be translated to various careers. He also advised the students on the importance of interpersonal skills and maintaining good relationships with all those that you meet which will increase your visibility and how this helped him in his current position. Networking is key according to Dr. Giuffrida. He spoke about the Rule of Three, where one shouldn’t leave a conference/event without having at least met 3 people and exchanged business cards.
He spoke about writing out a personal development plan of where you want to see yourself, your goals for the next few years, signifying that when you put thoughts to paper is when one begins to actually make a plan and realize what is possible and what is not, as well as making an assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses.
When prompted by the students about jobs in the industry he spoke about the skills that graduate students have and how those can be leveraged and he advised the students to look for informational interviews with people who hold the job title they’re interested in to learn about the day to day activities to see if it’s something they can imagine doing, and he highlighted that one should not choose a job simply based on pay.
Dr. Giuffrida emphasized that you truly need to love what you do and be happy at the end of the day while balancing all the priorities in your life. He told the students to take risks when they are young because if a mistake happens it is easier to land on your feet and not your back. He also said that one must be proactive in searching for opportunities and if luck doesn’t knock on your door then you need to build a door.
This article was written by Alia Mallah, a student in the Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. program. The “Beyond The Bench” series features articles written by students and postdoctoral fellows at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.