One of the differences between today’s Ph.D. students and those of a few years ago is their interest in being exposed to more career opportunities, says Kathryn E. Meier, associate dean for graduate education in the College of Pharmacy.

“It used to be they came into the program and expected to be prepared mainly for an academic research career,” Meier said. “Now they are seeking opportunities to acquire skills related to other career paths, such as the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.”

Meier approached the issue with the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) in response to a “Big Ideas” initiative. Her proposal to ASPET for summer internships in pharma/biotech for PhD students was approved, and institutions such as WSU will now be able to apply for the ASPET funding.

If funding can be obtained, the College has industry partners in Spokane potentially willing to provide the students with those internship experiences, Meier said. For now, the College is bringing in industry representatives from throughout the country to meet with the students and talk with them about careers.

Another difference with today’s Ph.D. students is they like more freedom to sample other research labs —in other words do a one-day micro-rotation— in addition to the more traditional way of selecting a lab. Traditionally, selecting the “best-fit” lab involves working many hours a week for many weeks during their first year of graduate school before being allowed to move to another lab. The micro-rotation option was established in the fall of 2014 in response to student suggestions.

“Graduate students look at the available mentors and the research when they select an institution,” Meier said. “They want to have multiple options. By expanding the way that we have and adding the faculty that we have, there is now more for them to choose from than we had in Pullman.”

The establishment of Ph.D. students on this campus is moving along, Meier said, with new research faculty now in place from various institutions all over the country. The College is gearing up toward the goal of admitting 10 to 15 Ph.D. students per year. Seven were admitted last fall. There are currently 22 in the program.

Both Meier and Sayed Daoud, director of the graduate program, have many years of experience. Daoud joined WSU in 1991 and Meier in 2003.

“Aside from recruiting top faculty, the most important method for insuring quality graduate programs is recruiting excellent students,” Daoud said. “Succeeding in attracting top students to choose our graduate program over other research universities requires hard work during the recruitment stage, along with attractive financial aid packages. We are very fortunate that the College is providing competitive funds to attract top students.” The College also has feeder programs, such as a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, which is another conduit to recruit the best students, Daoud said.

They are assisted in the recruiting, admitting and advising process by a full-time program coordinator, Lynn Turner. Meier is also assisted by an administrative assistant, Lisa Price.

[February 5, 2015] Lorraine Nelson, WSU Health Sciences Spokane