PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Melanie Schaffler (Hosted by Merck – Neuroscience)

In the spring of 2022, 34 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 the professoriate. Melanie Schaffler, a PhD candidate in Neuroscience, was placed as a Fellow with Merck’s Neuroscience department. Read about Melanie’s experience in the CEF below!

Headshot of Melanie SchafflerDescribe your experience working with your host:

The fellowship was virtual, but my host did a really great job connecting me with people at Merck in different positions. I told him about how I was considering leaving bench research, and he connected me with several people who started in research, and then transitioned into other roles. I was able to hear about their career paths and get their advice on transitioning to industry.

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

Before CEF, I was leaning heavily away from bench science. After meeting with current scientists at Merck and people who have moved away from the bench, I have a better understanding of and am more open to industry scientist careers. I also got more comfortable with informational interviews and reaching out to people.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

I met some great people at Merck through CEF and plan to keep in touch with them for future advice.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

The CEF workshops are great. You get a lot of great tips from the career center staff, and feedback on your LinkedIn and resume from other people in in the program.

I think that my resume and LinkedIn are so much better now, and I have a better understanding of what my strengths are and how to talk about them.  The CEF provides a structured way to get your application materials in good shape, helps you form relationships with non-academic mentors, and teaches you how to get the most out of informational interviews.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

It’s a really good way to start or boost your post-grad preparation. You can start building your network and get lots of tips about the job application process. The grad center staff is GREAT and the structure of CEF encourages you to take advantage of all the grad center resources.

By Jacob Myers
Jacob Myers 2021-2022 PhD Professional Development Fellow, Career Exploration Fellowship Program