What is the potential of a PhD? How do Princeton PhDs thrive in various industries and sectors?
Built on success in the past five years, this year's "Leading with a PhD” conference, themed “The Change Makers,” invited graduate students to think with graduate alumni on how a PhD brings out their potential as future change-makers.
The one-day conference began from a morning panel session, in which five graduate alumni shared their paths transitioning from graduate students to industry pioneers. From their sharing emerged the important value of the transferrable skills of a PhD, including problem-solving, quick learning, project management, and effective communication.
Trained as a social psychologist, Jan Marie Alegre *15 (Psychology) now works as a product management lead at an educational service provider. Her PhD made her a unique and valuable addition to the many different applied research projects her institution oversees. To Jan, her decision to spend a summer interning in the company while finishing her PhD helped her discover her true passion in life, which is to utilize her analytical skills to take on responsibilities for and bring harmony to the community.
Josephine Lembong *15 (Chemical and Biological Engineering) considered her career path as constantly “jumping spaces.” After finishing her postdoc, she decided to branch out and join a biotech startup as a product development scientist because she strongly empathizes with its objective. The exciting entrepreneurial space allows Josephine to combine her research expertise and project management skill to truly "own the quality of her work” from both the researching and managerial sides.
The journey of Margarita Womack *09 (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) further highlights the affinity of PhD and entrepreneurship. Margarita founded her own food-manufacturing company during a school break of her K-12 teaching career. The initial success propelled her to fully devote herself to managing her own enterprise full-time and add an MBA to her resume. Crossing from research to teaching and eventually to business, Margarita remarked that “my PhD gives me the confidence to reinvent myself again and again.”
After leading the philanthropic department of a mass media company, Matt Krumholtz *15 (English) is currently running his own consultancy that helps mission-driven organizations achieve their social impact goals. While his career seems full of "unplanned opportunities” compared to his cohort in humanities, Matt noted that the ability to conduct narrative analysis and public speaking, which he gained from his PhD training, enables him to help various industries to articulate their social impacts through better storytelling.
Andy Womack *11 (Molecular Biology), currently the director of the federal government affairs department of a biotech company, also highlights the valuable asset a PhD brings to his career lying in between research and society. In particular, Andy considered his PhD experience essential for him to serve as an accountable and effective communicator between scientists and policymakers.
Following the morning panel was the afternoon workshop on design thinking led by Chris MacPherson *08 (Woodrow Wilson School). At the workshop, Chris provided all participating PhDs a brief conceptual walk-through of the procedure of design thinking. Then, students got to practice the application of design thinking in real-life situations. Working with their group mates, participants came up with creative solutions step by step in the Princeton campus setting and presented their work to their cohort.
The afternoon workshop and the morning panel complemented each other. The hands-on exercise of design thinking enabled current PhDs to identify themselves as experienced problem solvers that will thrive in a wide spectrum of roles and careers. Bringing together current students and graduate alumni, this year’s “Leading with a PhD” conference highlighted the diverse ways in which Princeton PhDs create value through facilitating change and innovation.