PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Alice Dallstream (Hosted by Merck – Global Digital Analytics and Technologies)

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. Alice Dallstream, a PhD candidate in Neuroscience, was placed as a Fellow with Merck’s Global Digital Analytics and Technologies department. Read about Alice’s experience in the CEF below!

Headshot of Alice DallstreamDescribe your experience working with your host:

During my CEF placement I worked with Omkar Patil, PhD, Senior Scientist in the Global Digital Analytics and Technologies Team (GDAT) at Merck. My host was very welcoming, and I had two informational interviews with GDAT team members where I learned about GDAT’s role in Merck and their work environment. GDAT finds uses for commercially available devices as biological readouts in clinical trials for Merck products. As a Neuroscience PhD candidate who has used biometric tools such as eye tracking and neural recording to supplement computer tasks, my placement with GDAT was the perfect opportunity to learn how research similar to my own is done in the industrial arena.  I also learned how my host and his team members got their positions at Merck and how to find similar positions across industry.

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

While my placement with my host was a great opportunity to learn about industrial research and development, CEF also provided several useful workshops for job searching. Through these workshops, I learned about informational interviews, the Clifton Strengths Assessment along with my personal strengths, and building up my LinkedIn profile. I also met with a Career Services professional one-on-one to help focus my career development, job search priorities, and timeline. 

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

The CEF experience has been exactly the right help at the right time. I am planning to defend by this fall and going to apply to both fellowships and jobs through the summer and fall. CEF has helped me organize my application materials and given me insight on how to find the right opportunities for me in this moment. I also now have a wealth of resources to refer to as I navigate my job search.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

The most valuable part of my CEF experience has been the opportunity to reflect on my motivations, skills, and qualities that would be attractive to an employer and then transform those thoughts into actions. Exploring career options and preparing application materials can be overwhelming. CEF provided several focus points as we worked through different workshops to help me understand what I want, what I can offer to potential employers, and how to communicate that with them.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

While any Penn PhD student can use Penn Career Services on their own schedule, the CEF is a semester long framework that is well organized, concise, informative, and designed to balance with a full-time research schedule all while building a network outside of Penn. Any Penn PhD student who is interested in exploring careers outside of academia should apply.

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