ACCR: Chats with some job-seekers

For some, job-hunting is on their conference to-do lists. Here are some conversations with attendees at the career fair at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Atlanta,
Published in Protocols & Methods
ACCR: Chats with some job-seekers

You're ready for the next step, a job in academia or in industry or in a non-profit research institution. But it gets rather brisk in job seeker-land. Especially due to COVID-19. 

In 2019, at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Atlanta, with its nearly 21,000 attendees, I went to hang out at the career fair and spoke with some job hunters. Some excerpts of the conversations are below.

This year, part II of the all-virtual AACR annual meeting is underway. Virtual job-hunting is not any easier than last year. Part I of the AACR meeting had 61,000 online attendees and part II has just started. I caught up with one of the interviewees, Antonio Ward from the University of South Alabama. So I updated the pieces below into one podcast, which is here. 

In 2019, the job fair was crowded when I was there. People milled about and went up to small booths where there were representatives from academia, government, companies and non-profits who talked about open positions and the types of qualifications they expect from applicants. Here is a list of the exhibitors.

There was also less formal talk, it appeared to me. Applicants were given the opportunity to talk about their current research and the types of professional tasks they enjoy. And they asked about the work culture at a given organization. And they spoke with other job-hunters. Perhaps it was the relatively compact space made for a lot of interaction.

If you missed the career fair then and would like to make sure you attend next time–it’s free for career seekers—you can e-mail here to find out more:

Right now due to COVD-19, there is no on-site conferences but we can always hope for next year. 

Among the job fair attendees last year was one person who currently works at a company and, understandably, does not want his employer to know that he is looking for a job. We will call him Tim Smith but that is not his real name.

As Smith explains, compared to graduate school where life was all about lab-projects and papers, he found the working world a little mundane, he says. Coming from university, “I almost thought everything would be exciting or maybe that was because I was learning.”

For his employer, he handles partnerships with academic labs and other companies. He works in areas in which automation and software are now taking on hold and changing many tasks previously done manually. Tools matter deeply to him. “I think the choice between a wise man and a fool is the choice of his tools,” he says.

He is looking for a job with a little more structure than his current one and where he will feel recognized and valued. He wants a sense that through his work he can “make the world a bit of a better place,” he says, as he grows his skills in the new role.

As he looks at job ads, he knows there is no perfect way to gauge all of this before he is in the organization. So he is doing “due diligence in my research to the best of my ability.” Just as potential employers query him, he is querying on issues such as the turnover rate of employees at the company to see how that organization fosters employee growth. The next step after that is: “taking a leap of faith,” he says.


Here are conversations with some other job-seekers. And they are also in the above-mentioned podcast. 

Melat Gebru

PhD student at Penn State University



Antonio Ward

Post-doctoral fellow, University of South Alabama     





Research Associate, University of Bradford


Paul Tran

MD/PhD student, Augusta University









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