Paths Program

The revolution in modern biomedical science has resulted in an unprecedented wealth of opportunities for biology Ph.D.’s. Students at the Division of Medical Sciences are now interested in pursuing a diversity of career tracks, including biotechnology, law, consulting, science policy, science communication, and education. DMS is fully supportive of this, and to support our students’ career aspirations, we have established the Paths Program as an enrichment program. DMS Paths is an engaging and interactive program, allowing students to increase self-knowledge in the assessment of their own career trajectory by exposing them to a variety of non-traditional career paths, and by providing opportunities to hone the professional expertise necessary to succeed in these careers. The twofold aim of Paths – the expansion of career knowledge and the development of professional skills – is carried out through an interactive and innovative curriculum, consisting of professional development workshops, the Pathfinder Course, mentoring, and a certificate program. The Paths Program also works collaboratively to support many of our student led organizations. We believe that our students have invaluable insight and talents to contribute to many diverse career fields, and we are excited to see their professional development unfold.

The Paths Program allows students to self-navigate their individual paths of professional development with diverse opportunities for career education, preparation, and networking. The most formal of these opportunities is the Paths Certificate Program, although students make take advantage of many Paths-related activities without formal enrollment in the certificate program. The Ph.D. Pathfinder Course is an annually offered nanocourse in which industry leaders and experts share insights and guidance through reflections on their own career paths. The Paths Program also works closely with and supports many GSAS and HMS student organizations, including the Biotech Club, Science in the News, HPREP, JEI, and more. These student-run groups organize many formal and informal educational activities throughout the year, which can count towards obtaining a Paths Certificate. The DMS Paths program also works collaboratively with organizations and companies throughout the greater Boston area to create opportunities for internships, and to connect students with leading experts in various cutting-edge industries.

Paths Certificate

The DMS Paths Certificate Program is a rigorous and engaging career-preparatory program. Students who complete the program will have significantly honed the skills and expertise relevant to their desired career fields, and will have an advantage when entering the professional career market post-graduation. The DMS Paths Certificate Program curriculum is a collaborative effort among faculty, staff, successful professionals, and alumni. The goals of this unique collaboration are to identify the skills in each respective field that will truly set DMS graduates apart from other job candidates and provide the opportunities for current students to develop these skills.

The Certificate Program consists of five components, as shown in the visualization below. Each component represents a variety of requirements to complete the program. To fulfill the requirement within each sections, the student has the freedom to self-direct and select those activities in which he or she is most interested. In total, the student will complete 140 hours of work, equivalent to four full classes. The program is designed to supplement and enhance student’s primary responsibilities and goals; in light of this, the student may work at his or her own pace, and take between 2-4 years to complete the certificate.

Academic Coursework: The goal of this section is to ensure that students acquire strong knowledge and foundation for a specific career. This include courses at various Harvard Schools, nanocourses, quarter course, as well as courses offered on online platforms such as Coursera and edX.

Specialized Skills: This section is aimed at strengthening students’ candidacy. To be competitive in the job market, it is important that candidates demonstrate directly related skills required for the job. In this portion of the certificate, students should focus on honing the skills necessary to succeed in their given fields, and produce evidence of their mastery. For example, the Science Communication track might require demonstrable proficiency in writing, editing, and public speaking. One possibility of highlighting students’ aptitude could be writing for Science in the News, running a blog, or lecturing. The requirement for this section can be satisfied by internships, volunteer, or other types of field-specific skill development opportunities.

Professional Development: Transitioning to a professional setting can be challenging, especially when students have spent a number of years in the research laboratory settings. The Professional Development section is meant to help students prepare for this transition and excel in their careers, regardless of the fields they decide to pursue. Learning opportunities or activities that can assist with students’ professional growth such as participating in the PATHFinder course, networking events, and career-skill building workshops may fulfill the requirement for this section.

The Extra Mile: In addition to discipline-specific knowledge, the top skills employers look for in the new hire include critical thinking skill, motivation, and ability to solve problem, work on a team, and manage others. This section is to showcase the ability which go “above and beyond” the traditional graduate experience. It can include activities a student has undertaken that display leadership, management, communication, and conflict resolution skillls, among others. Opportunities to underscore such experiences include assuming leadership positions in student organizations, taking initiative to organize workshops or panel discussion, and services to the community.

Capstone: Halfway through the student’s progress through the certificate program (after the accrual of around 70 hours), students should plan to meet with one of the Paths faculty advisors to check their progress. After the completion of the program, the Capstone provides students the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. The format of the Capstone can be a poster presentation or a portfolio synthesizing the skills the student has learned and developed over the course of the program. It should include a reflection on how s/he has grown professionally and personally.

Mentoring: Building relationships with experienced professionals can be crucial in achieving one’s professional and personal goals. While having mentors are not a requirement of the DMS Paths Certificate Program, we highly encourage students to seek out mentors throughout their careers. Mentors can provide resources, support and guidance. Students can discuss a wide range of topics, from transitioning to careers outside of the academy, improving leadership skills, to seeking and maintaining a work-life balance. To make the most of your mentor-mentee relationships, it is important to communicate what you are looking for (advice, feedback, etc) and how often you hope to interact. Clearly articulating what kind of relationship you want to build with your mentors will help them decide if they want to take on this responsibility.

The Certificate Program is designed to be challenging, yet flexible enough to allow for student innovation and creativity. Some activities will probably be eligible to count for more than one section, and as such the student, in conjunction with feedback from the faculty, has the ability to choose where to allocate his or her hours to meet the overall needs of the program.

Eligibility: The Paths Certificate Program is open to all fully enrolled DMS students. This program is designed for motivated and innovative students interested in working at a Ph.D. level in a professional field, and who are seeking opportunities to take their graduate experience to the next level to give them an edge in the job market. In order to be eligible to participate in the DMS Certificate Program the following must apply:

  • Fully enrolled DMS Student
  • Students must be in good academic standing

The nature of the certificate allows students to be flexible and will grant credit for areas that have been completed retroactively to the start of the application. Students must show proof of completion of these fulfilled requirements to the program administrators for approval. Only hours accumulated during the student's time as a graduate student at DMS will count towards the Certificate Program.


Medical Sciences 316QC PhD Pathfinder
October 21-25, 2019
5:00-7:00 PM

In this course, Ph.D. Pathfinder, students will learn about the many career paths available to people with advanced degrees in biomedical research including academia, biotech, patent law, science writing/publishing, consulting/business, education, and science policy/regulation.

A Ph.D. education provides students with fundamental knowledge about the principles and practice of the scientific method and promotes development of problem-solving skills in ways that are quite useful for many different professions. Students will have the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals representing each of these paths, to learn about strategies for career development, curriculum enrichment, and networking opportunities that will make them competitive for their career of choice.

The course is open to all Ph.D. students interested in learning about the range of career options available to biomedical Ph.Ds. The course includes talks, didactic sessions, workshops and networking events to promote interactions between students and invited speakers. There will be a special emphasis on helping students with their own skill self-assessment to assist in career and professional development. After each session there will be a small networking reception for both the students and lecturers.

Students are required to attend all five sessions for course credit.

View last year's Syllabus