Sarah Wong-Goodrich graduated from Duke with a PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience in 2010. She also received an MA in Experimental Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. She completed a postdoc at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and went on to work in industry and as a freelance science writer. Dr. Wong-Goodrich is now an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Iona College, a small liberal arts college just outside New York City.
I was a bit discouraged by the funding environment when I graduated, and I had seen several of my friends struggle to even just get an interview for that elusive tenure-track position. At the time, I didn't really see myself in academia, writing grants for money that wasn't there or applying for academic jobs that were drying up. I had no idea about the diversity of non-academic jobs available other than working at the bench, so I considered just working in industry in R&D at a company. However, there weren't a lot of resources [for non-academic careers] and it didn't seem as though the faculty encouraged it. So I followed the natural academic path and took a postdoc at the NIH when I graduated. It wasn't until I got my first industry job as a scientist that I started to learn about all the different kinds of careers I could do with a science PhD. One thing I would have really benefitted from knowing as a graduate student was the diversity of careers available to people with STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] degrees. You don't just have to be a bench scientist: there are also careers in medical affairs, clinical research, science and medical writing, regulatory work, and consulting, among others. There are so many other options than just becoming a professor.
Read more about Sarah, including how her career path shifted, and advice she'd share with current Duke students, in her Alumni Profile, written by Ph.D. student in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Sarah Kleinstein.