Careers & Options
A wide variety of career opportunities exist for students with a background in neuroscience. With a bachelors degree it is possible to obtain positions in both basic or clinical research as well as in the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries. Students who go on to obtain a Ph.D. in neuroscience have the opportunity to enter similar positions at the senior level or pursue a career in research and/or teaching at a college or university. Students interested in clinical applications typically go on to obtain an M.D. degree or a Ph.D. in psychology with a specialty in neurobiology or neuropsychology. Some neuroscience students with interests in both research and clinical practice enroll in a joint M.D./Ph.D. program. Because of the rapid growth and recent developments in all areas of neuroscience, rewarding job opportunities are sure to undergo expansion over the next 10 to 20 years. As do most M.D. and Ph.D. candidates, many of our graduates spend the first 1-2 years after Williams working as research assistants before starting postgraduate work; below you can find examples of what former students are doing at different stages of their careers.
After graduating from Williams, Shivon Robinson (’11) enrolled in the Neuroscience graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently completing her dissertation research examining the neurochemical underpinnings of incentive salience for natural rewards and how these mechanisms are altered in animal models of anxiety and stress. Reflecting on her experience at Williams, Shivon says, “ The Neuroscience Program at Williams truly fostered my interest in studying the relationship between brain and behavior, particularly in respect to psychiatric diseases. Moreover, the ample opportunities to conduct independent research provided me with invaluable experience in the management and execution of various experiments, in addition to the critical thinking skills necessary for a career in academia.”
Erika Williams (’08) worked as part of a field research team studying social behavior of capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica for a year before enrolling in an MD/PhD program at Harvard. She is currently engaged in her dissertation research examining how the nervous system detects inflammation, damage and toxins with a goal of understanding how chemotherapeutics cause nausea. Reflecting on her time at Williams, Erika says, “The best teaching I have ever received was at Williams, and it helped me acquire the knowledge base from which all my subsequent work derives.”
Nick Bamat (’04) extended his honors research after graduating, working for two years as a lab technician at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He then completed his MD at Penn and his Pediatric Residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and is now a Fellow in Neonatology. Nick reports that “the Neuroscience Program at Williams provided an early appreciation of the ways in which concepts in basic science form the building blocks towards understanding human physiology, and when altered, the pathophysiology underlying human disease.”
Sarah Hart-Unger (’02) completed her MD at Duke University in 2007. She finished her residency in pediatrics in 2011 and completed a Pediatric Endocrinology Fellowship at Duke in 2013. Reflecting on her neuroscience experience at Williams, Sarah writes, “My thesis research examined the effects of early life stress on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and memory. This was a great experience in learning how to do independent research. The coursework was excellent as well. In particular, Hormones & Behavior was a highlight and has played an important role in influencing my career as a pediatric endocrinologist.”