Use Your Network to Expand Your Network

This image shows how one can utilize the network they already have to create a larger network

I reached out to Lisa Volpatti because she majored in chemical engineering and did healthcare research at the nexus of chemical engineering and bioengineering like me. Because I am strongly considering a career in academia, I was interested to learn that she also intends to pursue a career in academia. I am interested to learn how she chose this career path. In the same vein, I am interested in career advice pertaining to picking graduate schools, pursuing a graduate degree in a foreign country, and pursuing post-doc’s. Lisa seems to have really great experience in all of these topics, and I would like to hear any advice she has. Additionally because we have interests in such similar fields, I believe networking with Lisa provides a great opportunity to make personal connections that can help me advance through my career. Currently we are setting up a Zoom meeting time to discuss face to face some of the nuances that led to her own career decisions. I am hoping this will help inform my own decision making.

I connected with Dr. Little through my adviser Dr. Rodriguez. I expressed interest in the research I had seen on the Little Labs website applying engineering principles to improving healthcare. Dr. Rodriguez mentioned that one of his former TAs worked in Little Labs and was able to set me up to meet her. We spoke about research going on in the lab and one thing led to another and I was set up in a position doing research in Little Labs with Dr. Nihan Yonet-Tanyeri, who is a post-doctoral researcher. This fledgling research network in turn helped me find and apply for the Brackenridge Program, and I am very grateful to Steve and Nihan for their help.

For other students looking to expand their networks I have a few recommendations:

  1. Reach out to graduate and postdoctoral students. They are doing the hands-on research that you are interested in. Find out what projects they’re working on. Find out what  you will be doing on the project and what is expected of undergrads in the lab. This will help you pick positions that you are interested in and where you can succeed. Success is good for networking.
  2. Be friendly, polite and hardworking. These three traits will make people root for you. People wanting you to succeed helps you succeed.
  3. In my experience using any connections you may have as a starting point is helpful. This can be academic advisers, club advisers, TAs, etc. One of the hardest parts when starting to network is getting your foot in the door. Some of the individuals suggested can bridge the gap between undergraduates and PIs. Use whatever network you have to expand your network (that’s the basic principle of networking).

I have interest in pursuing a PhD after undergrad, and I hope to make connections that can land me with interesting work. I look to my research mentors for career advice that could help me find these positions and make connections. I am also interested in many of the national and international scholarships. I think they could be great opportunities to establish wide networks and gain valuable experience. I hope to use some of my connections formed in the honors college, like scholar mentors to find the best paths.

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