Museum Blog

Yo Pearls of Wisdom: Answer for Chelsea

Posted 3/31/2011 12:03 AM by Nicole Garneau | Comments

Chelsea writes:

I am interested in learning about your career as a Ph.D. working in a museum and how one goes about preparing themselves for that kind of career path. While I enjoy research, I am more interested in a career that involves education and public engagement in the sciences. Recently I have begun considering career paths that would allow me to work in these areas and I thought that museum work would be a great avenue to consider.

Would you be willing to describe your career path? During graduate school did you volunteer at museums? What did you do after graduating? Did you have to complete additional degrees to be considered for your current position? Is your "story" typical of science museum curators? I am also very interested in what your job is actually like on a day-to-day basis. Colleen said that you are engaged in a small research project. How much of your time is spent working on that? What else do you do- exhibit development, fundraising, public talks? Do you spend a lot of time working with the public? Kids or adults?

As you can see, I have a lot of questions regarding this topic. I would greatly appreciate any advice or enlightenment you can provide. Thank you for your time!

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Dear Chelsea,

Thanks for your awesome questions. As a curator, I wear many hats from development (fundraising, working with donors), lots of outreach for kids and adults, and when I'm in the lab there are always dishes to wash, no day is the same, and it's very busy, but very rewarding.There is no direct career path for museum scientists in health, because there are so few of us currently across the world. I too knew I wanted to pursue a career in science outside of typical university setting, so I sought out mentors that could help me in addition to completing my PhD research.

What do I do every day? At DMNS they required a PhD because about 30% of my job is to still perform grant-funded research. In addition I work with youth and teacher programs groups to ensure that all health content the Museum delivers is accurate and up to date, I work with our Museum exhibits specialists to keep Expedition Health cutting edge, and I then there's always administrative (time sheets meetings supervision etc.) as part of every job.

When it comes down to it, to be a curator/scientists in a museum, you need to love working with people and communicating- giving talks, lectures, media interviews, continuing education courses, and lots more types of outreach. With that in mind you would be well served to volunteer at a local museum to get the lay of the land, you would need to demonstrate excellence in both professional communication (talks at nat'l and internat'l meetings) and in general public communication- this can be tricky, you need to be creative to find ways to get experience in this. Finally, you need to still be able to do bench work and publish, and love every minute of it.

Hope this helps, it was great to hear from you!

Yo Pearl the Science Girl

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