Museum Blog

Yo Pearls of Wisdom for Erin at CSU

Posted 11/13/2011 12:11 AM by Nicole Garneau | Comments

Erin writes:

  Your talk inspired me to venture out and find even more opportunities to pursue within my anticipated major.  Currently I am looking into earning my PhD in Genetic Research.  I also realize that life doesn't always go as planned so my back up is to work for a brewing company using my knowledge in the microbiology field. 

  The main reason for my e-mail is to as you a question.  How and or why did you go from a degree in genetics to a PhD in microbiology? 

  Since I am considering going the opposite direction I was wondering why you went this direction and how it has helped you in your life and how it has lead to your amazing experiences you shared with us in class.


Dear Erin,

Thank you again for submitting this question. For me, a genetics degree meant two things:

1. It was new, groundbreaking, and to me- incredibly interesting
2. It was a way to open doors to many possible career fields

When I decided that grad school was the next step, I realized I wanted something that built off my undergraduate degree, but that was more specialized and had tangible impacts to real people.  For me that was moving from basic science research in genetics to the genetics of how viruses interact with cells they invade. Interestingly, I no longer work with viruses, but now work in human genetics, but everything I learned about advanced techniques in genetics research, how to present scientific research, and truly how to learn and seek out credible resources, all of this I learned during my time working on viruses during my PhD. So again, building off the opportunities that were available to me has all contributed to my career as a museum scientist.

What about heading in the opposite direction, as you said, going from microbiology to genetics. I don't see any reason why this would close doors. Having a solid education in one of the country's best Microbiology Departments (yes, of course I'm biased, Colorado State University is my alma mater), means you have a broad knowledge of everything from bacteria to viruses to parasites and vector biology. Here's just one example of how you can build off your undergrad degree after moving into genetics:  the growing field studying microbiomes and the potential interplay of genetics and epigenetics on how microbiome communities symbiotically exist within us. Here's another: Gene expression systems that use bacteria to make proteins that can be used in the pharmaceutical and medical fields.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is an incredible amount of potential with the degrees you mentioned and more opportunities to come in the future. The key is to pick something you are truly interested in. Completing a PhD is incredible, but it's no cake walk. If you are absolutely invested and find yourself 110% dedicated to the research, because you in fact cannot wait to see the results of your work, then you are in the right field. So in short, find something that you love, something that when you talk to your friends and family about you get animated and you just can't help but share your enthusiasm.

Good luck Erin!
Yo Pearl

  If you have a question for Yo Pearl the Science Girl, please use the "Have a Question" form at to submit for an answer. I look forward to hearing from you!


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