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September 8, 2017
Grad School Fair Encourages Students to Embrace Community, Diversity

Recently, more than 800 students at NIH sought mentorship and advice from school officials representing 136 advanced degree programs across the United States. The 10th annual NIH Graduate and Professional School Fair, hosted by the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) at Natcher Conference Center, provided a full day of speakers offering career planning advice as well as information sessions and exhibits on Ph.D. and M.D. programs.

A school representative explains the different programs of study available to potential advanced degree candidates.
A school representative explains the different programs of study available to potential advanced degree candidates.

“I felt students needed access to mentors from beyond the NIH,” said Dr. Sharon Milgram, director of OITE, who first started the program in 2008. “I wanted to give them access to all of my colleagues across the United States who were happy to give advice and wanted to recruit students.”

Despite the draining process of graduate school admissions, post-baccalaureate fellow Bailey Mallon said she found Milgram’s plenary talk that morning especially inspiring. Her favorite part? When students were tasked to describe themselves in 6 words, composing a “6-word memoir.”

Milgram said she had gotten the idea from Smith magazine, an online publication dedicated to storytelling. The activity gives people a chance to think about what they value and want for themselves. Milgram’s own 6-word memoir was “Great job, can still wear jeans.”

From left, Aaron Saguil from the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Chenits Pettigrew from the University of Pittsburgh, Judith Ned from Stanford University School of Medicine and Melanie Prusakowski from Virginia Tech’s Carilion School of Medicine share advice with students interested in applying to M.D. programs. attendees at the Graduate and Professional School Fair line up to ask speakers questions about graduate school admissions.
From left, Aaron Saguil from the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Chenits Pettigrew from the University of Pittsburgh, Judith Ned from Stanford University School of Medicine and Melanie Prusakowski from Virginia Tech’s Carilion School of Medicine share advice with students interested in applying to M.D. programs. At right, attendees at the Graduate and Professional School Fair line up to ask speakers questions about graduate school admissions.

PHOTOS: DANIEL SOÑÉ

About 100 participants in the audience then provided their own 6-word memoirs (see sidebar), sharing a diverse range of answers including “Queer Chicana, here to excel professionally,” “Global citizen, work for underserved communities,” and “Live now, learn always, be helpful.”

“The staff and I all felt touched by the 6-word memoirs,” Milgram said. “We need to constantly be saying that this is a big community, but it’s also a community that sees everybody’s differences and what everybody is proud of. To make science more diverse and more inclusive and welcoming, we need to constantly stress our shared identities as problem solvers, as scientists and as global citizens, while stressing that we each bring really unique experiences.”

NIH fellows speak with an admissions officer about their interests and receive advice and guidance for considering graduate school options.
NIH fellows speak with an admissions officer about their interests and receive advice and guidance for considering graduate school options.

Joshua Hunt, a post-baccalaureate fellow at the National Institute on Aging, was one of a handful of students who made a special trip to Bethesda from their usual posts in Baltimore.

“It’s hard to be aware of all the opportunities. I came here to try to get a better handle on what other opportunities there are out there that I’m not looking into,” Hunt said. Now in the second year of his post-bac fellowship, he has already begun searching for graduate school opportunities. Hunt said hearing other students’ questions in the sessions helped his understanding of the admissions process.

What’s Your 6-Word Memoir?

Dr. Sharon Milgram, director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education, shared some of the sample 6-word memoirs offered by attendees at the recent grad school fair:

    Antibiotic resistance, let’s not die yet

    Ask questions, solve problems, save lives

    Becoming a blessing by giving myself

    Black girls excel in science too

    Daughter of immigrants, seeking health justice

    Good science can end health disparities

    Lifelong service of medically underserved communities

    NMR spectrometry is the best spectrometry

    Nothing can contain me, even word counts

    Providing culturally sensitive mental health services

    Science as service, learning as love

    Staying determined no matter the storm

    These loans aren’t gonna pay themselves

    Passionate about science, engineering and food

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