Alternative career workshops featuring scientists from industry, public policy, and teaching, essentially every profession that is not academic research – have become very popular among life science graduate departments. When I speak to graduate students and postdoctoral scientists about my career in science policy, I find many who tell me that their mentors discourage them from exploring these "alternative" opportunities. Many mentors seem to feel that anything other than an academic research career represents a failure, or a waste of the investment in training.

Graduate and postdoctoral fellows are typically presented with one career option: to follow in the senior researchers' role towards becoming a principal investigator. This is a laudable goal, as the highly skilled, independent academic researcher is an essential cornerstone of life sciences research. But it is not the only worthy goal available, nor is it the only way for postdoctoral scientists to use their training to...

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