Whereas a few years ago the professional perspective of a PhD graduate in the fields of organic and medicinal chemistry was clearly biased towards a career in academia or pharma industry, today the current landscape is considerably more complex. It is clear that in view of the current globalization and lackluster economic situation, the number of traditional job opportunities in western and developed countries are getting scarcer. At the same time, new possibilities are arising; one of them is related to the emergence of new technologies and disciplines such as chemical biology, systems biology, or chemoproteomics. They are at the root of the appearance of new job descriptions, which demand other degrees of specialization. Other job options for future PhD chemists could involve areas such as economics, business, management, or communication, opportunities which possibly some years ago no graduate student (or supervisor) would have seriously considered.1,2 In this context, skills like creativity and independence (in equilibrium with team work capacity), solving-problem aptitudes, capabilities to adapt quickly to evolving objectives and projects, and entrepreneurial attitudes are highly valued. A PhD project, due to its intrinsic characteristics, provides (or should provide) a solid training, although perhaps in an informal manner, in all these skills.3
However, finding the best ratio between research and training for a PhD student is not a simple task. Training activities need to be balanced to avoid losing focus on the own research project and to have the experiments done. Creativity needs to be put in practice by participating in formulating the research strategy and experimental design, and independence should be stimulated by providing a framework of autonomy and freedom to operate. However, on the down side, this can increase the risk of failure and competes with the pressure to produce results and publications. In our Sunset Session all these aspects will be analyzed and discussed by a panel of speakers at different stages of their academic careers. They will give their perspective about these problems and the way to overcome them and, in conclusion, how to make the best use of the PhD period in order to obtain not only a title but also an invaluable training for many aspects of the future professional life.
1 McCook, A. Nature 2011, 472, 280. 2 Kaplan, K. Nature 2012, 485, 535. 3 Almeida-Souza, L.; Baets, J. EMBO Rep. 2012, 13, 189.
The Sunset Session will take place on Tuesday, September 4, at 18:00.