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Maryland colleges join effort to collect data on biomedical students' career outcomes

The Baltimore Sun

December 14, 2017


With so few biomedical graduate students going on to find jobs in academia after earning their degrees, two Maryland universities are joining a coalition of research institutions to track their career outcomes and inform prospective students.

“Our students who are in graduate programs want to know what their future might hold,” said Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “We have a responsibility as universities to give them more information about the market trends and where the jobs are.”

UMBC and the Johns Hopkins University are among nine colleges that have committed to publishing data about how long it takes students studying life sciences to graduate and what these students go on to do after graduation, among other metrics. The Coalition for Next Generation Life Science will release the first round of data in February.

The move is partly a reaction to the “mismatch between the supply of biomedical doctoral students seeking academic appointments and the available tenure-track positions in the United States,” wrote the university presidents and chancellors involved in the coalition in a joint article published Thursday in Science.

“We’re trying to lead an effort to get all research universities to post data publicly so students interested in this training will have a transparent sense of what they’re getting into,” said Peter Espenshade, Johns Hopkins’ associate dean for graduate biomedical education and one of the coalition leaders.

Only about 10 percent of U.S. biomedical trainees will find tenure-track positions at American institutions within five years of completing their Ph.D.s, though far more enter the job market looking for one of these positions, according to the coalition. Many end up spending years in postdoctoral fellowships, with little room for advancement into academia.

Those students likely will end up pursuing employment in other industries, including pharmaceutical, government and science communication jobs, “but only after having made irreversible investments in what is often more than a decade in training for academic jobs that do not exist,” the Science article states.