PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Priyanka Chatterjee (Hosted by the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter)

In the spring of 2021, 44 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated virtually in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization to learn about different careers beyond academia. Priyanka Chatterjee, a PhD student in Cell and Molecular Biology, was placed as a Fellow with the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter. Read about Priyanka’s experience in the CEF below!

Describe your experience working with your host:

I was partnered with Dr. Ashley Wallace at the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter. I wanted to focus on learning about Education and Outreach in science, and I had a wonderful experience with Dr. Wallace. I spoke with Dr. Wallace about her career trajectory as well as two of her colleagues. She also introduced me to two virtual summer programs that she was designing for high school students. Together we brainstormed ideas on how to improve the programs and adapt them for the virtual summer. Then, we actually implemented the ideas that I had over the course of three months. I had a lot of fun and learned about planning and organizing programs for students. I am continuing to meet with Dr. Wallace and will be working with her with throughout the summer.


What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?

I learned about how a science professional in Education and Outreach organizes programs and events. I got to speak to Dr. Wallace’s colleagues in the field and learned about management positions as well.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

I was curious about Education and Outreach as a career option, but did not have as much exposure before CEF. The CEF experience showcased a potential career path for me that I am now interested in pursuing in my future. I have also gained a few contacts in the field who will help me along my career path.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

The most valuable part of my CEF experience is getting to learn from Dr. Wallace. She has been an excellent mentor, and it’s been incredible experience planning the summer programs alongside her. I’ve witnessed some of my own ideas being implemented in the actual programming, and it’s been very exciting.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

The CEF is a low-stress way of learning about new career fields. It will pair students with a mentor in the field, which increases our contact network.

By Helen Pho
Helen Pho Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs