Earlier this month on ASBMB Today, Dr. Bill Sullivan, from the Indiana University School of Medicine, presented a theoretical open letter to his parents. He writes, “If I were an undergraduate today writing a letter informing my parents that I want to become a professor and conduct research, I imagine it would go something like this.”
In the paragraphs that follow, Sullivan goes into depth concerning the magnitude of work, the meager pay, and the huge sacrifices that come with embarking on an academic research career in the biomedical sciences—all with the potential to bear little to no fruit. However, the opportunity for discovery drives his passion for moving forward towards his goal. He informs his parents:
I’m probably going to be behind on the usual timeline for things like financial independence and starting a family. I’m looking at roughly five more years of school to get the Ph.D. — the amount of time depends on whether my experiments are successful, which is impossible to predict. But it’s those unexpected results that usually lead to something amazing, and I want to be on the front lines of those breakthroughs!
That enthusiasm is familiar to us here in the Flinn Scholars Program. Despite the drawbacks Sullivan describes, a large number of current Flinn Scholars are in STEM-related fields—in 2013, more than 65 percent of Flinn Scholars had such majors.
Recognizing the challenges that Scholars may face in any career discipline, the Flinn Scholarship provides access to faculty-mentoring for current Scholars. Each university assists incoming Scholars in finding mentors that fit their academic interests and endeavors, enabling Scholars to interact with exceptional and often highly sought-after faculty and professors.
Additionally, the Flinn Scholarship includes a network-building component for Scholars and alumni alike. How does this work? On request—and sometimes before a request—we connect current Scholars to alumni that have similar interests, thus encouraging these relationships to grow and prosper over time. Simultaneously, we share information about internship and work opportunities with Scholars and career-opportunity news with alumni. This means that ties to the Flinn community won’t end after a Scholar receives a bachelor’s degree.
For Sullivan, his post-undergraduate plans led him to pursue bio research, enter graduate school, become an assistant professor, loop through a couple of postdoctoral fellowships, and finally become a tenured professor, all while continuing his research.
The takeaway? We are here to help. Whether you as a Flinn Scholar decide to pursue a STEM major or a fine-arts degree, the Flinn Scholars Program prides itself in providing access to world-class leaders at each university and in the community, faculty advisors and mentors, and a helping hand once you embark on life after your undergraduate education—wherever your career track takes you.