On July 10, the NIH Graduate and Professional School Fair, organized by the Office of Intramural
Training and Education (OITE), drew a crowd of more than 800 postbacs and summer students eager to explore their options for higher
education at workshops and through interactions
with representatives from 93 different schools from across the country.
This was the first event of its kind put on by NIH and the response from attendees was positive.
“It was hard to believe that this was the first NIH graduate school fair,” said Chris Vockley,
an NHGRI postbac who used the fair as an opportunity to talk to admissions counselors from his top three choices of Ph.D. programs. Javier Cabrera-Perez, a postbac from NIDCR, is hoping that the fair is not only resurrected next year, but goes on to suggest that “the OITE should make it mandatory, or at least allow students
to be excused from work.”
Organizers were enthusiastic enough to fly students from the Rocky Mountain Laboratories
in Montana to join the crowd of attendees
drawn from on-campus labs and research centers in Rockville and Baltimore. The event attracted admissions counselors representing schools from as far away as the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
The fair was housed in the Natcher Conference Center and had events all day. The morning was split into two tracks of workshops aimed at preparing
students for applying to either graduate
or professional schools. Attendees had a chance to learn techniques for writing personal statements and prepare for the admissions process
with a mock interview. Also available was a short session titled “M.D./Ph.D: Is it for you?”
After a cookout lunch, postbacs and summer students had 4 hours to talk to admissions counselors at tables set up around the conference
center. Schools represented included small professional schools, enormous state schools and Ivy League universities. Students were generally
pleased by the variety, but Nick Malecek, a postbac from NIMH, was disappointed by the lack of neuroscience graduate programs represented.
“The fair seemed aimed more at the M.D./Ph.D. crowd,” he said.
Organizers Shirley Forehand and Debbie Cohen and OITE director Dr. Sharon Milgram
are enthusiastic about the turnout and response to the event and have expressed a desire to repeat it in 2009 with even greater success.—