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Careers in Virology (formerlay Viral attachment?)

Dr. Joe S. Mymryk jmymryk at julian.uwo.ca
Tue Oct 21 10:32:53 EST 1997

First of all, I am rather glad to see that Rob G's posting 
made it through the moderation process (even though the 
subject line of the posting is a bit off).  

> Hi , i am sure this is a little uncommon but this was the only
> thing that i could think of. I am a second year biology student at
> McMaster university and i am fascinated by the field of virology. the
> only problem is that i really don't know too much about it all in the
> sense that i don't know what type of post-graduated institutions are > out 
there or even what kinds of jobs are out there. I would really > like to know 
how to get into this field and i would appreciate any > advice out there. 
> Thanx for taking the time to listen.
> ROb Gupta

Many may disagree, but this young man's interest in 
information regarding careers in Virology is something 
that deserves a chance on this newgroup.

Rob - I can only give you my opinion about a career in reasearch based
on my own experience. 
Get a good solid Bachelors degree, obviously you want to take all the
virology courses you can get.  Microbiology, genetics, biochemistry etc
are all important. (Mac's a good school, but hey I went there myself so
you can't call me unbiased).  Try to get a part-time job helping in a
virology lab during the year or just plain volunteer.  It will give you
a good idea of what life in basic science research is like before you
waste a lot of time.

For graduate work, go for a Ph.D. right off the bat.  An M.Sc. just
doesn't cut it and you will save time transfering instead of getting
both a M.Sc. and then a Ph.D.  Unfortunately, my own experience is that
a US degree is often more highly regarded in Canada than a Canadian
one.  I don't know exactly why, but you might want to keep this in
mind.  You should pick a lab that is doing work in an area that
interests you, that has demonstrated productivity and enough funding to
pay for your experiments.  Ideally, the guy running the lab should be a
pleasant individual, because you could be banging away in his lab for up
to seven years.  The idea here is to be as productive as possible, which
means lots of hard work.  If you don't like what you are doing or lack
motivation, you are probably not achieving as much as you need to if you
are going to eventually succeed in obtaining your own research program
and your own lab.

Then comes the Post-Doctoral studies.  If you haven't left the country
yet, seriously think about it.  A big name school and supervisor can
open doors when you start looking for a job back in Canada.  Again, you
have to achieve as much as possible, no matter where you decide to go.
Its very competitive.  I applied for many University positions that had
over 300 applicants.  That is a lot of Ph.D.s looking for jobs!  You
could be spending 5 to 7 years as a Post-Doc.  It may likely take more
than one bought of post-doctoral training.  A post-docs salary starts at
23.5k according to the Canadian Medical Research Councils grant
guidelines and only goes up slightly in later years.  In Canada,
academic science does not generally pay big bucks. Get used to hamburger
helper and maccaroni and cheese.

Overall, the I have been told that the key is to be successful (publish
lots) and to get training that makes you unique.  Unusual combinations
of skilles can be very good as people often have to fit more than one
set of job requirements and have a different way of approaching a
research problem.

All the above reflect my thoughts at the moment.  Clearly, you should
get as much advice as you can and weigh it carefully.

Dr. Joe S. Mymryk

London Regional Cancer Centre
790 Commissioners Rd. East
London, Ontario, N6A 4L6

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