By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
For a biology or chemistry graduate, there’s no shortage of opportunities. Environmental consultant, genetic counselor — even a quality control technician for a brewery.
“Students have no idea how much they can do with their degree,” said Todd Thorniley, a 2014 biology graduate of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, who now works as a quality control technician for Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, New York. “It’s not just medical. It’s not just research. You can go work with beer, too.”
Emphasizing the diverse career paths available to students was one of the purposes of the Career Roundtable for Biology and Chemistry Majors, a networking event hosted by the School of Science at Penn State Behrend on Wednesday, March 25.
Designed like a round of speed dating, professionals who work in science-related fields were seated at tables in McGarvey Commons. A group of six to eight students was also seated at the table.
For ten minutes, professionals discussed the tasks, challenges and requirements of the jobs they perform every day. At the end of ten minutes, the professionals moved on to the next table, and the process repeated.
“The structure of the event really allows students to hear about a number of career paths in a relatively short amount of time and begin networking,” said Beth Potter, assistant professor of biology who coordinated the event. “The event is great for freshman as well as seniors, who still may not know what they want to do.”
During the two-hour event, more than 100 students interacted with 10 professionals, many of whom were Penn State Behrend alumni, representing companies that included Michael Baker International, the Pennsylvania State Crime Lab, PerkinElmer Genetics, Southern Tier and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
One of the alumni in attendance was 2013 graduate Leah Wolfe, who attended the same event while she was a student.
“When I attended, I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be, what I wanted to be or where I wanted to go,” said Wolfe, who is now pursing a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics from the University of Pittsburgh. “But actually hearing from these professionals was so helpful.”
Denise DeVore, a sophomore biology major, was one of the students in attendance at the Career Roundtable. She hoped the event would have the same effect on her that it had on Wolfe years earlier.
“I’m interested in pediatrics, but I’m not entirely sure that’s for me,” DeVore said. “I feel like this is going to help me narrow it down to what I want to do because there are so many options out there for a science major.”