Are you a postdoc or graduate student who has constantly been advised to network but have no clue where to begin or how to approach? Trust me when I say this, “You are not alone.” There are many postdocs and graduate students who have no formal help with resume crafting, interview preparation, or networking. Ironically, networking is a crucial element in building and developing one’s career.

Thankfully, we have some enterprising individuals who come up with solutions rather than complain about the problem. I had the brilliant opportunity to chat with one such individual Danielle Tomasello, Ph.D., the creator of The Social Scientist. Danielle is also doing a fellowship at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, associated with MIT.

Danielle, A fellow SUNY, Buffalo alum, says “I was very frustrated with how segregated the scientific fields are, and how impersonal networking events turn out to be.” The lack of a self-sustaining peer-led scientific community inspired Danielle to create The Social Scientist. On reaching out to her personal and professional connections with this idea, she was delighted with their advice and feedback. That got her initiative started; it has steadily been growing since, and how!

The scientific community is a closed one, and a fast-growing one at that. There has been a huge surplus of doctorates and post-doctorates in recent times. To add to this layer of complexity, obtaining sustainable funding has become increasingly difficult and there are more postdocs than faculty positions, making the competition fierce. Luckily, graduates have several options to choose from after receiving their degree. However, the major gap between possessing transferable skills and proving those in an interview to bag that perfect job is to find the perfect fit.

The Social Scientist proposes to bridge this gap by connecting current and prospective graduates with other science professionals. Danielle says, “What I think our field is missing are people who can give a complete view of their work, environment, and what it took for them to get here. Instead of cold calling or emailing, these contacts, working in diverse scientific positions, are readily available and willing to speak about their experiences. Specifically, this would provide contacts to science professionals that want to help others in order to create an engaging yet open scientific community. We want to support everyone from high school students to associate professors passionate about science.”

All 57 of The Social Scientist volunteers have different backgrounds and career trajectories. Inquirers have the ability to reach out to any of the volunteers from any career stage or domain in science. On being asked how Danielle will adapt her business model to the constant evolution in science and scientists, she replied, “as we continue to enlist future generations of volunteers, we will be able to accommodate these changes”.

Danielle believes that supporting one another will aid the scientific field. To practice what she preaches, Danielle collaborates with like-minded organizations, such as the Stem Advocacy Institute, The SciCommunity, Scismic, STEMS, and Career Support Group. With her brilliantly planned associations and with participation from the STEM community, she aims to grow her initiative. Her vision is to have a diverse set of volunteers so that she can provide a community for all STEM fields, and therefore accommodate each inquirer in their respective field. “I hope that within the following years The Social Scientist will grow into a large community that everyone can turn to for support. I picture a LinkedIn for STEM professionals,” Danielle says.

On being asked about the USP of the group, Danielle says, “Inquirers will be able to specifically contact a volunteer of their choice for a specific purpose.” In order to get their query, Danielle’s focus has been outreach since the past few months as she foresees her biggest hurdle is getting The Social Scientist brand to anybody and everybody in STEM.

This article was originally published on Club SciWri website: http://www.sciwri.club/archives/8976

About the Author:

Dolonchapa Chakraborty is a Postdoctoral Fellow at NYU Langone working on Infectious disease with a focus on cell wall metabolism to identify new targets for therapeutic attacks by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common opportunistic human pathogen. She also serves as the Co-Chair of National Postdoctoral Association’s Outreach Committee. She believes in the power of technical storytelling as an effective tool for scientific outreach and looks forward to practicing this art as an editor at Club SciWri. Follow her on Twitter.