Bruce Torbett: Science Knows No Bounds
Scientists Move Closer to a Personalized Treatment Solution for Intellectual Disability
In Memoriam: Aline Wilmot Skaggs (1926 – 2015)
6 Career Tips from TSRI Alumni



6 Career Tips from TSRI Alumni

By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt

Alumni from The Scripps Research Institute’s graduate program recently returned to the California campus for the second Biennial Alumni Symposium, organized by the TSRI Graduate Program and Career and Postdoctoral Services Office. The alumni shared tips for succeeding in academia, industry, teaching and related careers.

“It’s inspiring to see what our students can achieve,” said Acting President and CEO Jim Paulson, who attended the event.

Here are some tips the TSRI alumni shared for scientists who are establishing a career:

Make Your Resume Stand Out. Emphasize your unique skills and background to stand out from other job candidates, said Kristopher Koudelka (class of 2009), whose experience at TSRI helped him land a tenure-track faculty position at Point Loma Nazarene University. “Having that combination of biology and chemistry background makes you ridiculously marketable,” he said. Johanna Heideker (class of 2012) also said her experience at TSRI has been invaluable, helping her land a postdoctoral position at Genentech Inc. “I really want to thank TSRI,” she said. “It provides incredible training.” 

Be Open to Learning New Things. SusAnn Winbush (class of 2011) recently joined GlaxoSmithKline as a chemist. She enjoys her job, but being the youngest person in her group was an adjustment. She said this is a typical situation for many grads. “Wherever you go, be humble and open to learning new things,” she said.

“Know When to Head for the Exits.” Ian Thorpe, class of 2006 and current assistant professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, noted that letting go of a doomed project saves time in the long run. “You have to learn from that process,” he said. 

Practice Writing. To build writing skills—a must-do if you plan to apply for grants—Jolene Lau (class of 2011), who now uses her skills as a scientific analyst at BioMedTracker, recommended reading the brief review articles in scientific journals and offering to edit papers for lab members. “You can get ideas for how you can write,” she said.

Hone Teaching Skills. Competition for academic positions is intense, so Koudelka said aspiring professors must get teaching experience to show they can do the job. While earning his PhD at TSRI, Koudelka gained experience as a teaching assistant for a professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Network—It’s Easier than You Think. Nicole Kresge, class of 2001 and current science writer at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said volunteering for professional groups such as scientific societies is a good way to build one’s network. She also recommended arranging “informational interviews” with people to learn more about their jobs. “People really like talking about their jobs, and they’re very willing to help you,” she said.

To learn more about TSRI’s graduate program, see

Send comments to: press[at]

Class of '06 alumnus Peng Wu (left) speaks with TSRI graduate students about his current work as an associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. (Photo by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt.)