Adriana Bankston – From PhD to Science Policy

Leaving the bench doesn’t necessarily mean leaving science and the scientific community altogether. A rich universe of activities exists that are closely related to academia, be it within universities or in external organizations or governing bodies. Having gone through grad school and lived research from within, you are well placed to fulfill roles that bridge these two universes, be it in administration, knowledge transfer, or the policy domain. This week, we’ll hear about how Adriana Bankston navigated her transition from a PhD in biochemistry, cell and developmental biology into a policy job in DC.

Adriana Bankston

Adriana Bankston is a Principal Legislative Analyst at the University of California Office of Federal Governmental Relations in Washington, DC. Prior to this position, she was a Policy & Advocacy Fellow at The Society for Neuroscience (SfN), where she provided staff support for special and on-going projects, including SfNs annual lobby event and the society’s annual meeting. In addition to working at UC, Adriana also serves as the Director of Communications and Outreach for the Journal of Science Policy and Governance (JSPG) and is an Associate Member of the Public Policy Committee with the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). For the past several years, Adriana has also been an active member in the non-profit organization Future of Research (FoR), where she is currently the Vice-President and has previously served as the Associate Director of Fundraising and Strategic Initiatives. Adriana received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from Clemson University and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology from Emory University.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How creating a club or a seminar series can inform your career research and jumpstart your networking towards transitioning into it
  • Why you should get involved in the activities of national organizations in your domains of interest, or even volunteer in them
  • The importance of making choices that fit your personality, be it in grad school or in your professional life
  • How setting up informational interviews allows you to garner precious information about your domain of interest
  • Why you should practice talking about your science. Hone your storytelling skills around your subject and your research to be able to have engaging conversations about what you do
  • Project management as a skill you grow during grad school that will serve you in your professional life and that will be valued by employers out there
  • The importance of having a research background when working in policy
  • Where you can find different types of mentorship during your grad studies
  • The importance of women in STEM as role models and mentors for young researchers

This episode’s pearls of Wisdom:

“When you’re in academia, everyone is a PhD, and everyone is like you, but when you’re here, it’s not, because most people in the office have totally different backgrounds, which is really interesting – you get to work with people who are from different worlds and all work together in this space. And having that research background is useful.”

“Take advantage of university resources that exist or create them, if you can. Get involved with things that you’re interested in nationally, if there is an organization, which there probably is. Or talk to people who have jobs that you want to do.”

“I think you have to just have that mindset that your career is as important as your bench work, and that’s something you have to cultivate over time. It’s going to take a while to build your CV for whatever you want to do, if it’s not academic, so start early during your PhD.”

“A lot of jobs work through networking, so if you can get your name out there and people know that you are interested, and you’ve started building your CV, then once you apply for the job, you’re a little more ahead than other people. Because you can imagine that tons of people apply for the same job. So thinking about what it is that will make you stand out, but being able to have a network and people know you already before you apply, or when you apply.”

Adriana’s links: Adrianabankston.com; Twitter: @AdrianaBankston; www.LinkedIn.com/in/adrianabankston; www.futureofresearch.org; www.sciencepolicyjournal.org; louisville.edu/medicine/grad-postdoc/craft-seminar-series.

NOTE: This post represents Adriana Bankston’s personal views and not the views of her employer (University of California).

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