[GradFUTURES Podcast] Season 1, Episode 3: Telling the Scientific Story: A Conversation with Jason McSheene *15

Oct. 14, 2022

In our third episode (Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyAudible, and Pocket Casts) Hellen Wainaina (GS, ENG) talks with Jason McSheene, *15, a Medical Science Communications Specialist at Meditech Media. Jason earned his PhD from Princeton’s Department of Molecular Biology. While at Princeton, he created and co-hosted a podcast, “PhD in Progress” with his peers to  have honest, authentic conversations about their professional perspectives and aspirations.

Jason talks about fulling his purpose, to champion education, equity, and empathy, through a myriad of  professional and personal opportunities: “Something that I have stumbled upon and that people, much wiser I am, have known for a while is: you don’t need to address all your passions and interests with one thing.”

In order to break the expectation that his career would fulfill all of his passions, Jason says he first had to recognize when he was having fun in graduate school. He recalls studying how the professors he admired were able to do their work. "I loved their work, but I [realized] I can't write grants all day, everyday," he says. Rather, than pursuing the research professoriate path, Jason chose to focus on what he enjoyed doing. "What I did love: I loved giving lab meetings even if I didn’t have all the data. I enjoyed the process of trying to create a story behind the science," he says. "I enjoyed putting together presentations, I enjoyed the scientific story.”

Knowing his personal commitment to biomedical research along with his passion for science communication and scientific literacy, Jason has pursued multiple paths to fulfill his purpose. It has taken both his professional work as a medical writer and his involvement with the Board of Education in Hamilton Township, NJ,  where he was elected and serves as a board member, to live out his values. He advises incoming and current graduate students to be honest with themselves: “No one is going to be able to tell you what you should do or shouldn’t do. Take the time to really understand, or at least acknowledge, when you’re having fun and what is resonating with you.” He maintains, “Figuring out those trends in one's life is fundamental to living a life that you feel is being lived more well than not.”


The official GradFUTURES podcast launched on April 1, on the final day of the 2022 GradFUTURES Forum. 

Led by Princeton graduate student Hellen Wainaina, the GradFUTURES podcast centers on the futures of PhDs: both those in training at Princeton, and Princeton graduate alumni who are in and beyond academia. The podcast tells the professional development stories of graduate students, graduate alumni, and those who partner and collaborate with them. 

The podcast is available on a range of platforms, including Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyAudible, and Pocket Casts.

Following each conversation, be sure to listen to Dean Eva Kubu's reflections and advice!


Transcript: GradFUTURES Podcast Episode 2

00;00;04;29 - 00;00;40;11

Hellen

From the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School. This is GradFUTURES Conversations exploring graduate student futures and all things professional development. I'm your host, Hellen Wainaina, a new media fellow at the Graduate School and a student in the Department of English at Princeton. Today, I'll be speaking with Jason McSheene. Jason McSheene is a medical science communication specialist at Ameritech Media, where he focuses on strategic communications and education of essential information about clinical trials for health care providers.

00;00;40;28 - 00;01;11;08

Hellen

His commitment to biomedical research, combined with his passion for science, communication and scientific literacy, has started a unique career path as a medical writer. Jason has served as the associate medical director at Apothecary, a global medical communications agency, and in 2019 he ran a successful campaign and was elected to the Board of Education in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, where he continues to serve as a school board member.

00;01;11;29 - 00;01;42;23

Hellen

In addition to promoting scientific literacy, he is committed to championing education, equity and empathy. Jason earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Molecular Biology in Developmental Biology in 2015 at Princeton. While at Princeton, he created and co-hosted a podcast, Ph.D. in progress for graduate students and postdocs interested in exploring careers within and beyond academia to promote personal and professional development.

00;01;43;07 - 00;01;44;29

Hellen

Jason, welcome to the podcast.

00;01;45;07 - 00;01;51;22

Jason

Well, thank you for having me. Wow. It feels like you did a lot of homework on me that I was not prepared for that. But thanks for that intro.

00;01;52;24 - 00;02;16;16

Hellen

It's a great pleasure to talk to you. I mean, in a way, you are what you created with your peers. The podcast in Progress is ahead. It was ahead of the curve, definitely ahead of the institutional curve. I mean, you just sort of started this endeavor. Can you cast your mind back to that time and talk about what was happening and what drove you to launch a Ph.D. in progress?

00;02;16;27 - 00;02;47;02

Jason

Yeah. So, I had been a lifelong radio lover, like this morning talk show radio. You know, nothing that crazy. So, when podcasting kind of came around in the mid 2000 or so, I was kind of already all in at that point. There weren't really that many podcasts to begin with, you know, there. But the cool thing that podcasting kind of afforded were more niche shows, right?

00;02;47;02 - 00;03;17;25

Jason

So I found shows on video games. I'm a big nerd, so they're video game podcasts or Star Wars podcast. I loved all of that stuff. And at the time there were only a few, few months ago around, so I kind of listened to them as much as possible. But back in 2014 or so, when we did the podcast, you know, I had been listening to kind of businesses shows and self-development and personal and professional development shows, but I never heard anything that was really geared towards graduate students.

00;03;19;11 - 00;03;42;19

Jason

And if they were, you know, they were good shows, but they weren't really saying the types of things that we want to say. And really our goal with the show was to provide those kinds of tools that I heard really that were provided for business professionals, people at within my age range and experience age range but were an industry and I wanted to bring that over to academia.

00;03;43;18 - 00;03;56;14

Hellen

Yeah. Can you remember some of the like conversations that you had just as an example for our listeners? Like, what were the gaps for you guys that you were like, Well, we need to talk about this, you know, community.

00;03;57;14 - 00;04;24;28

Jason

Yeah, there were I mean, there were a lot. So, you know, it wasn't a long it wasn't a long running show. We did about 20 episodes. And then by that time, most of us were already finished with our Ph.D. and kind of doing new things. But, you know, those conversations were those ones that we tried to have with our friends when we're outside of lab and we're just hanging out on a Friday or Saturday night at our graduate student bar or what you might be familiar with or not.

00;04;25;08 - 00;05;09;11

Jason

But, you know, it was those conversations of what do I want to do with my life when I grow up? It was the conversations of, you know, is what I'm doing here important or not? It was that conversation of How do I choose which lab I want to be in after doing my three rotations or four rotations that we had to, you know, it was just those common conversations that I think what we wanted to do were kind of open that up to people outside of Princeton because I and my friends Nicole and Abigail and Kelly Mosa, we really had, I think, positive experiences overall.

00;05;09;11 - 00;05;41;00

Jason

And we also know that a lot of people didn't necessarily have a great positive experience. And we want to kind of give some shelter to those conversations and really allow them to breathe. So, you know, it became the big question. I think the kind of general question that the podcast was trying to answer was how do you explore those opportunities beyond academia when we're kind of siloed a bit?

00;05;41;00 - 00;06;11;26

Jason

And I think the ways to approach that were really trying to reach out to people that we could talk to that were willing to speak with us, many of whom had been through graduate school or were associated with higher ed in some way or another, but some weren't. And, you know, I think the important part was really just stretching beyond what we expected or what we believed were expected of us.

00;06;11;26 - 00;06;39;07

Jason

So having those thoughts of and really giving yourself the permission to explore, you know, when I was thinking in grad school, do I want to become a professor? I was looking at what the professors around me were doing and I loved their work. But also, I was like, I can't write grants all day, every day. Like, that's just not me.

00;06;40;14 - 00;07;07;26

Jason

What I did love, I loved giving lab meetings, even if I had no data, even though it was stressful, you know, I'd be like, Oh my God, my lab is going to kill me because I don't have all this, all the data or anything like that. I liked giving presentations to the to my department. So in Mobile, we had grad student colloquium where, you know, residents were invited to give their work and actually were kind of required to.

00;07;09;22 - 00;07;33;29

Jason

And those are great experiences, even though every time was not a hit for me. I definitely remember raising up there one time. It's not a good presenting experience, but I enjoyed the process of trying to create a story behind the science. And so, kind of looking back on how I got to explore my career was thinking of the things I enjoyed the most.

00;07;34;08 - 00;07;54;13

Jason

I enjoyed putting together presentations. I enjoyed creating the scientific story. I did not enjoy getting into lab at 8 a.m. to get my experimental fish ready and then staying in lab till 3 a.m. to be on the microscope and then trying to do it the next day again to just get data. That was not my favorite part.

00;07;55;24 - 00;07;59;06

Hellen

No chance. Long, arduous.

00;07;59;27 - 00;08;27;00

Jason

Yeah. I mean, and it has its pros and cons. I mean, everything does, right. So even though, you know, in my experience, grad school was very open to what I was trying to do with it, it didn't have those sharp edges and boundaries necessarily, that kind of can push you along very hard. So, you know, there are definitely times in which it was difficult for me to come into a lab every day.

00;08;27;00 - 00;08;51;12

Jason

And I think every grad student, especially in the middle to near the end, kind of struggle with that a little bit. And I realized at that point, you know, there are things attributed to my work that I want, like I want to work with a team, I want to be able to create something tangible in a way that doesn't take necessarily three or four years to create.

00;08;53;02 - 00;09;01;08

Jason

And so kind of taking in all those factors, like it just kind of pushed me towards industry and figuring out how to take my interest there.

00;09;02;00 - 00;09;19;22

Hellen

Well, even as you were talking about giving the presentations, like you sound very jovial, you're very excited. What about that aspect of your work was really exciting for you? Like you look happy.

00;09;20;04 - 00;09;55;04

Jason

Yeah, I no, it was a good time. I mean, I had good times. I think, you know, there's a lot there's a lot that kind of goes into it and it's not, you know, it's not sunshine and rainbows all the time. It's it is challenging work. But for me, putting together the presentations I got to, one, do lots of things in PowerPoint, which to this day I actually do professionally and make really I mean, I'll say I make really nice professional PowerPoints that health care providers use to educate other health care providers.

00;09;56;14 - 00;10;44;07

Jason

I, I, you know, I had to contextualize my work, which was basically zebrafish genetics in a way that was understandable by people who've worked on flies, who worked on yeast, who worked on bacteria, who worked on, you know, tree evolution, things like that. So, you know, there is kind of the frame setting. And I think overall, I just enjoyed, you know, after all was said and done and kind of getting some lab experiments done, sitting back and looking at the data and understanding where it all fits and how it kind of really added to the a new piece of the puzzle to help the field overall.

00;10;44;25 - 00;11;15;19

Jason

And I you know, I've done lots of introspection lately, and one of my one of the things I personally enjoy a lot is supporting others. And I think presenting work or creating the presentations more specifically than necessarily being up there was my way to support the field and support my lab because, you know, the, the better-quality work I did and better quality work I was able to present or write into a grant.

00;11;15;28 - 00;11;28;06

Jason

The more you know, funding our lab might receive or the more notoriety our field might receive. And you know that that's wow. I saw myself as a graduate student.

00;11;28;06 - 00;12;09;27

Hellen

I mean, that about sounds like purpose. That sounds like it's meaningful work. Like it's all sort of embedded in there thinking about just the things that you are interested in, which is scientific literacy, empathy and equity work. Can you maybe say a little bit more in regards to how all these themes are sort of have created this path that you have or, you know, are have been a way to create a meaningful career as you sort of get out further and further away from the PhD process itself.

00;12;10;14 - 00;12;39;02

Jason

Yeah, those are good questions. So I think something that I more stumbled on and I people a lot wiser, much more wiser than I am and have known for a while is that you don't need to address all your passions and interests with one thing. Mm hmm. And, you know, if. If you know in your heart, you're an academic, and that's what you love.

00;12;39;02 - 00;13;08;07

Jason

And you love that pursuit of. Of, you know, research, notoriety and first discoveries and, you know, getting published as much and as frequently as possible. And that's your thing. That's totally great. It's the self-awareness that that matters to me. So, you know, I was able to it's kind of a fun story how I got my job.

00;13;08;07 - 00;13;34;17

Jason

But the short version was that my former co-host on the podcast, Abigail, had reached out to me and said, hey, I'm going to meet this lady named Joel. And she's my friend from some exercise class. She's going to talk to me about medical writing. And at that point, I had been looking for a job and I was kind of trying to get myself a postdoc.

00;13;34;17 - 00;14;02;07

Jason

And then the thinking that would be a good way to transition, but nothing was really panning out. So I was like, sure, let me go to the local neighborhood restaurant, one of them in Princeton. And so we kind of met and had dinner. And the lady, Joel, was someone I actually recognized because years before I graduated, someone had invited me to give a talk to the Princeton Alumni Area Alumni Group.

00;14;02;07 - 00;14;24;17

Jason

And so, I happened to stumble into that. That's a whole other story. But I stumbled into it and I said yes. It was saying yes to an opportunity that was kind of unexpected and random. And this lady, Joel, was there years before I met her again for dinner. And I remember her because she had cool hair and she had a really big personality and talked to me about diabetes.

00;14;24;17 - 00;14;50;17

Jason

And that's what I wanted to actually go into, because a lot of my family has diabetes, and I was always interested in learning about it. So long story short, it was like just saying yes to that opportunity to give a presentation during an alumni, not lunch. That's really solidified my path into medical writing, which is something I didn't even know existed much before I had that lunch.

00;14;51;24 - 00;15;09;01

Hellen

What was the shift in terms of so once you discovered and had this conversation with Joel and learned about the position, was that an immediate shift for you between like, okay, I'm not doing postdocs anymore. I'm yeah, this other direction.

00;15;09;25 - 00;15;29;25

Jason

I think, you know, I had decided a little bit before that, but it wasn't more than a couple of weeks before meeting Joel. So, you know, I'd been on interviews and, you know, things were looking good and so, you know, they are just some companies had to pick another candidate over me or just things didn't work out, which is fine.

00;15;31;05 - 00;16;02;03

Jason

So, I was exploring different types of opportunities that were in the same realm of kind of supporting the scientific side and in the industry in pharma, pharmaceuticals and biotech. And there's a ton out there that, you know, I think that's the hardest part. That's one of the hardest parts about transitioning out from academia is that there's so much out there that you don't understand and and just haven't been exposed to, you know.

00;16;02;06 - 00;16;51;01

Jason

So, like and it's for all fields. It's not just for science and not just for, you know, any kind of major for example, right? Like when I think of lawyers, I think of people who go to litigation, maybe people who are doing contracts, you know, on the school board side, if there are lawyers all the time protecting rights of students, protecting, you know, school boards, everything like that, I never thought, hey, if I go or if I work with a company, a pharmaceutical company, they have lawyers who are somewhat scientific savvy or science savvy that really try to mitigate the risks and make sure that everything is as good with the FDA and regulatory agencies.

00;16;51;01 - 00;17;28;22

Jason

And, you know, that's a path that if someone was wanting to go to law school and also like medical science, you know, that would be a cool role for them. Right. And just, you know, there's a hundred of those possibilities. There are creative people. So graphic designers who I work with daily who are in charge of making those pretty graphs, those awesome interactive like protein ligand, binding, cell signaling pictures and movies that you might have seen before on TV where it's like 3D models flying in from all over the place.

00;17;29;03 - 00;18;17;22

Jason

You know, those are that's a combination of having artistic talent or skill that you've developed, both probably, and being able to understand is when people like me say, Hey, I need two cells, one's a neuron and one's a blood cell, and I need them kind of trying to interact some way or another, you know, that's a good all those interactions, all those all those domains of expertise are things you don't see interface that often, especially in academia, where everyone you're surrounded by is either doing their own work or you're working with them, but they have a very specific skill set that helps you further along a project, but not really outside of, you know, the general field that you're working in.

00;18;20;12 - 00;18;25;27

Hellen

Do you have a sense of what like what that word means for you and in your role now.

00;18;26;23 - 00;18;28;00

Jason

What the translation part.

00;18;28;02 - 00;18;28;11

Hellen

Mm hmm.

00;18;28;16 - 00;18;55;00

Jason

Yeah, it's funny because it, it all rolls into each other. There's not, you know, it doesn't from in my life it doesn't feel like there was a really firm stopping point. And then I really jumped into something new obviously. Like obviously I finished my dissertation, I graduated, I graduated, I did the whole thing. There's a big ceremony.

00;18;55;00 - 00;19;18;11

Jason

We went out to sushi dinner afterwards. Like, that's fine. I started a new job. I had a sushi dinner before that. I like sushi a lot, but you know it. I'm still the same person kind of going through and I threw out graduate school. You know, at the beginning I was like, okay, well, do my best to learn everything about the field.

00;19;18;18 - 00;19;59;28

Jason

And then at the end of graduate school, I'm like, Okay, I know this very little bit about this, this broad field and that's all I'm equipped to know and maybe make some connections across, which is good. I think you know the translating the graduate students’ skills like it's increasingly I am thinking not so much graduate students skills but life skills overall because you know, it's, it's everything I was doing even it like in graduate school it wasn't just the, the research parts or anything, it was the being able to commute as the paying rent on time.

00;20;00;11 - 00;20;26;18

Jason

It was everything involved in living during that time as a graduate school student or doing graduate research that made my current work possible. It included, you know, I made it a priority in my graduate student life. And we talk about this on the podcast, too. One of my favorite episodes was the Dating in grad school. Really funny going back, you know.

00;20;26;18 - 00;20;43;21

Jason

But I had made it a life priority because I was like, you know, I, I don't want this time, I don't want to look back on this time and be like, Oh, man, I did so much work and I'm really proud of it. But also I was very I don't want to think back to a time where I might have been very lonely.

00;20;44;08 - 00;21;10;14

Jason

And so, you know, thankfully, I had like good experiences. And I met the woman who became my wife years later. And I think that was really important. And again, that was part of my graduate student experience. And it's really hard for me to separate that all out because it all kind of still rolls along. And, you know, I still I still have a boss.

00;21;10;14 - 00;21;15;24

Jason

I still have one on one meetings with them. I still have responsibilities to them and people I'm training.

00;21;16;04 - 00;21;16;12

Hellen

Right?

00;21;17;01 - 00;21;41;20

Jason

Yeah. So it's hard for me to answer that, but I think you know, it's I would caution against like thinking, okay, once you once you leave your current lab or research group, that's, you know, life is over and you're doing something new. Even if you are doing something completely new, even if you're even if you're a professional musician and the subway of New York City, like.

00;21;42;02 - 00;21;46;14

Jason

Right, perfect. Like you still have those experiences that that mean something for sure.

00;21;48;10 - 00;22;13;08

Hellen

Yeah. That that the life experiences that you're having now are integral to who you are as a person and how you're going to move once you're headed and you have your doctor title and out in the world that that and I think that's also part of sort of breaking down this idea that what we do in school is somehow separate from what we can do and be in the real world, quote unquote.

00;22;13;24 - 00;22;41;05

Jason

Yeah, exactly. And, you know, it's not just school. It's you know, in my professional life, it's the same kind of thing. I'm like so learning skills that are translating into what my home life is and what my home life, you know what? I'm working with my family or really trying to figure out how to, you know, get projects done around the house that kind of works the other way.

00;22;41;05 - 00;22;45;17

Jason

It kind of works into how I communicate with my team at work. Yeah.

00;22;47;02 - 00;22;57;07

Hellen

Well, I, I feel like I'm really curious about this and in the sense that, you know, it's been 13, 14 years since you started.

00;22;57;07 - 00;23;28;14

Jason

Okay, let's not just think about it. And actually, I had a dear friend who is, again, a, you know, a a well, she was my lab mate at Princeton, and she came in she was my age and came in with a one year old baby girl. And I went and I told her this just the other day. I'm in awe of how she did everything and seemingly kept it together.

00;23;28;14 - 00;23;50;12

Jason

And now she like again, like just so beyond me, what she's accomplished. And I don't know why I just said this would be said to make me think about it, but. Yeah. Huh. Sorry. What would you say? I think about my friend now and just how proud I am. She does.

00;23;50;17 - 00;23;53;02

Hellen

Well, I'll be your next guest.

00;23;53;02 - 00;23;56;08

Jason

Yeah, you might. I'll definitely let her know.

00;23;56;15 - 00;24;19;08

Hellen

Yeah, I was just going to ask, you know, well, at least as someone who's sort of in the program now, it really can seem like the value of my time that I am spending here and now is going to be measured by, you know, the job that I get after publications or whatever I do next year. And that feels really rigid.

00;24;19;08 - 00;24;37;03

Hellen

So I'm curious, you know, having spent some time accommodating or acclimating to being Doctor MAXINE and having the path that you have now, like what is the value of your PhD you currently?

00;24;37;03 - 00;25;10;02

Jason

Yeah, that's a good question. So, you know, obviously in my professional life, you know, for medical writers, it's generally common to have an advanced degree. So, most people at my current company are PhDs and my previous one, there are a lot of PhDs and PharmD so far, pharmacists, which makes sense. Right. And they are you know, there is a lot that I think comes from a patient.

00;25;10;03 - 00;25;51;26

Jason

So, like, for example, when comparing to pharmacies who have a different path, it's not it's not really a 1 to 1 comparison of what we do, but their strengths and weaknesses. So like strengths for patients are being able to think long term and feel understand like where different projects go along, the kind of understanding of a field or getting something done and being able to do that deep research and wide research of, you know, figuring out what kinds of information you need and where to get them and how to how to obtain them right.

00;25;51;26 - 00;26;26;07

Jason

Farm dyes, for example. And just to throw it out there for contrast, you know, they don't necessarily have the five, six, seven years of research under their belt. So, you know, working on long projects isn't necessarily what they're used to. But on the flip side, they've both more often than not have had patient experience. So, like have interacted with patients on some level and they are intimately acquainted with or acquainted with the different medications that are available.

00;26;26;07 - 00;26;56;22

Jason

So, if you say a drug name, they know exactly what it does and you know how much to take. And all those parameters, which as I see, like unless you're working on a specific disease, you probably don't know that necessarily, right? Yeah. I guess in the bigger picture of like, what does a Ph.D. mean to me? Like, I and I think everyone, you know, my friends, Abigail on the Hill, Kelly and even Alexa join the podcast a little later.

00;26;57;03 - 00;27;43;25

Jason

You know, the group of us, we're always of the opinion that Ph.D. is just really a demonstration that you've understood how you learn, or at least you've put a lot of time into figuring out how you learn. And maybe it's not ever a complete journey, maybe don't always get there all the way. But you have spent a lot of time understanding how you learn the best, and I think that's more important than any of the actual scientific information, because I can always go relearned that if I if some magic spell were cast on me and I forgot all the factual data of science, but I retain my experience of understanding how I

00;27;43;25 - 00;27;49;07

Jason

learned. I think, you know, I could get by again, right. It would be challenging, but I could get by again.

00;27;49;09 - 00;27;55;28

Hellen

I think that's something that I'm still working on. Yeah. How did you feel when you were offered?

00;27;56;22 - 00;28;31;04

Jason

I was like, I'm done, you know, I so I was I finished in about six and a half years or so. So I, I felt ready to be done. And I, you know, that's kind of how everyone feels. I imagine, you know, you especially if you've worked on pretty much the same project or same path for a long time, which I did.

00;28;31;04 - 00;28;51;27

Jason

I was just kind of ready to move on and bring my talents somewhere, even though I'm sad. Like, you know, I still live near Princeton. So, every now and then I stop by and kind of walk through the old spots, and but everyone I knew is kind of away from there now, other than some of the professors who are still there all the like.

00;28;51;27 - 00;29;14;19

Jason

I had some undergrad friends from nerdy video game clubs and now they're all like postdocs and some are becoming professors and they're doing other cool things like working at startups, you know, all these things that, you know, for me, I was just I was ready to be done and kind of move on and excited. I was excited to, to see a new setting.

00;29;14;29 - 00;29;15;27

Jason

Mm. For sure.

00;29;17;06 - 00;29;23;15

Hellen

Well, I mean I feel like I've just sort of exposed how early in the program I've had so far.

00;29;25;10 - 00;29;26;01

Jason

That's perfect.

00;29;26;07 - 00;29;35;04

Hellen

By year five I will have another conversation and then my tune will have changed that.

00;29;35;10 - 00;30;01;25

Jason

Yeah. A It's funny because I'm just thinking back to like when we did our in-progress podcast like I think it was near that last year, year and a half or so, we're like, okay, we just, hey, we still get our or do our last experiments, guys, okay, we can hang in there. We're tired. And it was like kind of actually recording the show was kind of our refuge for a bit.

00;30;01;25 - 00;30;33;25

Jason

It was like, all right, well, we do it on 2 p.m. on Wednesday. We finished your experiments like, or you set them up or whatever. Okay, cool. Let's do it for an hour. Let's get out an episode or whatever. So, I think you get that reflected on some of some of the episodes for sure where and part of the podcast I think was to kind of give that feeling and information to people who are more junior in their graduate studies for sure.

00;30;33;25 - 00;31;05;18

Jason

Let them see, hey, it's all kind of temporary, even though even when we're like feel like we're struggling a bit. Obviously, we, we all finished up and finishing doesn't necessarily mean that you get your piece, do you, if you felt like, you know, exiting the program, which, you know, some people choose to and we had a one of my favorite episodes was with my friend Doug, who wasn't in Mobile, but he was in the Princeton graduate school and he decided to leave.

00;31;05;22 - 00;31;30;06

Jason

And I think that was it was great because it was, you know, a move in self-awareness and, you know, he has lived quite a life. He's lived in Europe, in Africa. And that's has done like software startup company, like he's done a lot of really cool things. And it's those stories, again, that we really wanted to convey to people that, you know, there isn't that one path that I think you're kind of alluding to.

00;31;30;06 - 00;31;56;06

Jason

There. You know, there's definitely not that one singular path for everyone, but it is on us to explore those opportunities because there's no one, you know, not your boss, not your parents, not your younger siblings. They're not going to be able to push you to do anything. I mean, they can push you to do stuff, but like, that's not really going to be the satisfying, satisfying path for you, for sure.

00;31;56;22 - 00;32;04;01

Hellen

Definitely. Do you have any final parting words of advice?

00;32;04;01 - 00;32;38;05

Jason

Oh, man. So many more hours of let's see, parting, parting words. So, you know, for now, when we think I would say totally be honest with yourself and graduate school, if that's where you are now or if you're, you know, thinking about coming to graduate school, just talk to people and listen. There's shows like this wonderful one.

00;32;39;08 - 00;33;09;20

Jason

And, you know, now there are more graduate student podcasts. So definitely like explore and get some opinions, but no one's going to tell you what you should do or shouldn't do. Just take the time to really understand or at least acknowledge when you're having fun and what is resonating with you. Like when I was giving presentations that, you know, I had worked on, and I knew back and forth and backwards and forwards and I knew all the data.

00;33;09;20 - 00;33;43;13

Jason

I knew the answers to questions like that was really fun for me and that might not be fun for everyone. I know it's not fun for everyone, but I know it sometimes. It wasn't super fun for me, but really just figure out those trends and someone's life I think is fundamental to I hate to like I hate to say happiness because like cap was happiness mean but like too fundamental to a life that you feel is being lived more well than that.

00;33;44;00 - 00;33;50;23

Hellen

Mm. Having confidence maybe in your life that you're in. Yeah. Yeah.

00;33;51;01 - 00;33;51;17

Jason

Totally.

00;33;53;04 - 00;33;57;29

Hellen

Well Jason this has been so great. Thank you for joining us.

00;33;58;10 - 00;34;00;23

Jason

I had a lot of fun. Thanks for the invitation to come.

00;34;01;21 - 00;34;27;24

Eva

Thank you, Hellen and Jason, for that great conversation. I'm Eva Kubu, associate dean for professional development and director of GradFUTURES at the Graduate School. After every episode of the GradFUTURES podcast, I offer a few key takeaways for our listeners about ways they might apply the advice and insight shared by our guests in this episode, graduate alumnus Jason McSheene.

00;34;27;24 - 00;34;58;01

Eva

His story highlights how blending your personal and professional passions and interests can lead to increased fulfillment, happiness, success and impact in your work and life. I remember when Jason and his peers launched their PhD in Progress podcast and thinking back then how impressed I was with their ability to curate topics and have honest, authentic conversations about the importance of graduate student professional development.

00;34;58;14 - 00;35;36;04

Eva

At a time when many institutions, including Princeton, were just beginning to invest in this area, they helped catalyze a sort of grassroots movement on this topic, and in so doing, they were elevating their own voices and skills while providing sage advice for their peers. Jason described a process of exploration and introspection that led to self-discovery and a deep understanding of his values and his purpose and the ways he could translate those, as well as his skills into professional and volunteer work.

00;35;37;05 - 00;36;11;07

Eva

When looking back at his career trajectory, there were common themes that he was able to deftly weave together in his why, as he describes himself as a champion of education, equity and empathy. That sort of clarity and confidence that comes from having a growth mindset and making time for professional and personal development. It also comes from intentionally building connections to the vast social and intellectual ecosystem on campus beyond your department.

00;36;12;00 - 00;36;49;12

Eva

My colleagues at Grad Futures assistant deans James Van Wyck and Sonali Majumdar recently wrote an article for Inside Higher Ed entitled Shape Your Ph.D. In that article, they advised graduate students to intentionally approach their Ph.D. experience as a way not only to gain disciplinary training and expertise, but to build interdisciplinary skills, collaborations and connections by embracing the many resources programs, potential collaborators and mentors available throughout the campus ecosystem.

00;36;50;18 - 00;37;22;14

Eva

So how can you get started? First, make time and space in your schedule for exploration, introspection and creativity. For example, get involved in a graduate student organization or in another volunteer organization. Attend guest lectures outside of your department. Participate in an experiential fellowship. Or internship. Or take on a passion project to learn new skills and forge new connections beyond your discipline.

00;37;24;16 - 00;37;52;29

Eva

Pay attention to what energizes and excites you as you go through your daily routine and begin embracing new experience. Keep a record of those moments and look for patterns and gaps. Think about your values and whether you feel your values are aligned as you go through different experiences. It may sound trite, but you will be happiest when your interests, skills and values are in alignment.

00;37;53;25 - 00;38;27;23

Eva

Jason mentions how investing time in causes that he cared about also helped him to find meaning and purpose, both personally and professionally. Third, take note of who the people are that you admire and why. Take time to learn more about their journeys and the skills that help propel them forward, or how they navigated successes and challenges. Lastly, intentionally look for connections between your research and trends in other fields.

00;38;28;18 - 00;38;58;08

Eva

Jason recognized that he enjoyed writing, narrating and storytelling and fused his passion for radio to launch a podcast with his peers. Ultimately, using his skills to educate, elevate and advocate has become a central theme of his career. We all have multiple interests and passions, and in some cases, we may be able to infuse those in our professional pursuits in other cases.

00;38;58;23 - 00;39;27;02

Eva

Expressing those passions may help us increase our creativity and productivity as well as our personal well-being and find a healthy balance between work and life. Thank you for listening to the Grand Futures podcast. We look forward to bringing you another great conversation and more advice about graduate student professional development in our next episode later this fall.

00;39;28;07 - 00;39;51;06

Hellen

The Grad Futures podcast is hosted, and executive produced by me, Hellen Wainaina, editing and audio engineering by Francine Henry. Special thanks to Peter Krause. For more about GradFUTURES and the podcast, visit Gradfutures.princeton.edu. Thank you for listening. Till next time.