Outreach programs are essential for sparking young students’ interest in scientific research. Spreading the knowledge, importance, and awareness of biomedical research is a passion that CAMB-GGR alumnus David Garbe has been pursuing as an outreach educator at the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research (PSBR) for the past year.
David began his scientific training in the laboratory of Dr. Greg Bashaw, where he studied developmental axon guidance in the central nervous system of fruit flies. After defending his thesis in 2007, he worked for the pharmaceutical company Wyeth for a couple of years. While he was there, Wyeth was acquired by Pfizer. During the merger, David decided that the corporate setting was not for him, and returned to Penn for an academic postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Amita Sehgal’s laboratory. As a postdoc, David taught as an adjunct professor at local colleges and universities.
David initially pursued a post-doc to obtain a faculty position, but for various reasons, he decided to focus on a different career path. He knew that he wanted to combine his passion for science and education, so he talked with Dr. Jaime Shuda, director of life science outreach at the BioEYES program. BioEYES is a successful science outreach program that started locally in Philadelphia, and has expanded its work both nationally and internationally. Dr. Shuda didn’t have any available positions at BioEYES, but suggested that David look into to PSBR, which had job openings for outreach educators at the time.
The mission of PSBR is to educate the public, specifically K-12 students, about the value of using animals in biomedical research. As an outreach educator, David’s job is to engage and excite students about science and biomedical research. Additionally he provides factual information about why animals are necessary for biomedical research in order to fight negative information that some animal rights groups distribute. As an outreach educator, every day is different for David. Some days are spent in the office, while others are spent traveling to different parts of the state talking to many people and interacting with students.
David’s teaching experience during his adjunct work helped ease the transition from a traditional academic setting to an informal science education environment at PSBR. Furthermore, he said that the many opportunities to present posters and give talks both as a PhD student and a post-doc helped him improve his communication skills. The biggest challenge for David at his new job was learning to distill information for non-scientific audiences, and presenting it in an understandable way. David likes interacting with people and building networks, and now he is in a perfect position to reach out to others and contribute to the growth of his organization.
For graduate students looking to go into outreach, David’s advice would be to join a group or organization on campus, such as BioEYES, that does outreach in the local community. David’s experiences in both the pharmaceutical business and academia demonstrate that there are a variety of jobs that require a doctorate degree, even though it might take some extra effort to find them. On a broader note, David’s advice to graduate students would be not to “feel like you have to pigeonhole yourself into a traditional academic postdoc and faculty path. There are a lot of opportunities to use your training for a wide number of jobs.” David’s career took many twists and turns, but ultimately led him to a rewarding and exciting job that he truly enjoys. He is more than happy to talk to anyone interested in learning more about non-traditional career paths similar to his own.
For more information about the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research, visit http://www.psbr.org/.
For those interested in speaking with David, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.