Embracing Change, Passion Touted at Grad School Career Day

By ChaseYavondaC

“The days of having one career where you work 40 years in the same field and then you retire – that is non-existent now,” said Jeffery H. Moran, Ph.D., CEO of PinPoint Testing and assistant professor of toxicology at UAMS. “Today, it’s about learning how to juggle. You have to be fearless. You have to embrace change.”

Moran was one of six speakers at the 17th annual Career Day for Biomedical Sciences, hosted by the UAMS Graduate School and held Oct. 12 in the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute. About 130 people attended the event, which was designed with UAMS students and faculty in mind, as well as undergraduate and graduate students from Arkansas and surrounding states.

Student holding up T-shirt

About 130 people attended the event, including UAMS students and faculty, as well as undergraduate and graduate students from Arkansas and surrounding states.

“The expectation used to be that the next generation would become clones of you,” said UAMS Graduate School Dean Robert E. McGehee Jr., Ph.D. “All of that has changed. Even back in 2000 when we started Career Day many of us recognized that, especially since a degree in biomedical sciences gives you the tools for a whole host of different things. With Career Day, we hope to give you a variety of examples of people who are successful in their careers, and not necessarily the traditional tracks.”

Moran is a native Arkansan and UAMS alumni. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a Ph.D. in toxicology. He has been working at UAMS in various capacities for 23 years, including teaching, managing labs, and conducting and publishing research. He has worked as a toxicological consultant, which is where he learned to take a business-minded approach. And he served as section director and branch chief at the Arkansas Department of Health, which is where he fine-tuned his sense of laboratory management.

Speaker at podium

Emily Roberts, Ph.D., owner of Personal Finance for PhDs, Seattle, Washington talks about ‘The Solopreneur Ph.D.: Charting My Own Path through Self-Employment.’

Fast-forward to today, and Moran is four years into the venture of starting his own toxicology company. PinPoint Testing LLC offers laboratory services, lab consulting as training for outside laboratories, and a product – a testing kit called ToxBox®. Revenue-wise, they are running a year ahead of their business plan, and Moran was visibly proud when he discussed being able to bring high-paying jobs to Arkansas and recently transferring production of ToxBox® to Arkansas.

Moran said it’s difficult to predict exactly where you might end up or exactly what you might find most interesting. It’s important to go in with an open mind and not base career decisions on what you think will bring in the most money.

“If you enjoy what you do, the money will follow,” Moran said. “No matter how tight the job market, there is always room for good people who are passionate about what they do.”

When it comes to mixing science and business, Moran said not to be afraid to think big. Moran encouraged the audience to think collaboratively, engaging with fellow scientists and professionals from different fields. Above all, he said to develop a thick skin if you want to go into business.

“Be prepared to hear ‘no’ a lot,” Moran said. “But once you get your first investors, have your first successes, it’s amazing how fast those ‘noes’ turn into ‘yeses.’”

Student talking to program rep

Participants had time between sessions to mingle with representatives from various programs.

Other speakers included:

  • Kristen Sterba, Ph.D., associate dean of the UAMS Graduate School – introduction to UAMS Graduate School programming
  • Joseph Underwood, J.D., Ph.D., associate director of licensing, Bioventures, UAMS – “Science and the Legal Profession”
  • John C. Lipcomb, Ph.D., toxicologist, Cincinatti, Ohio – “Toxicology and Risk Assessment: Who gets to say how much is too much? And … why would they say such a thing?”
  • Emily Roberts, Ph.D., owner of Personal Finance for PhDs, Seattle, Washington – “The Solopreneur Ph.D.: Charting My Own Path through Self-Employment”
  • Jennifer Konopka-Anstadt, Ph.D., team lead, Vaccine Development Laboratory, Polio and Picornavirus Laboratory Branch, Division of Viral Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia – “Transitioning from Academic Research to Public Health: Working at the CDC”
  • Craig Forrest, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, UAMS – “The decisions that led me to academic science … and herpes”

The event concluded with a tour of UAMS for undergraduate students and a career development workshop for graduate students and postdoctoral students by Roberts – “The Graduate Student’s Guide to Personal Finance.”